It’s February and it 37 degrees in Perth, Australia when we talk to Alex Brittan aka Kittling about his new single, ‘Joy’. Inspired by African rhythms, ‘80s synthwave, and armed with a bright, breathless falsetto, Kittling’s music is made for bodies that like to think, as well as feel. His previous work as a producer has received acclaim online and locally. We find Alex in a mischievous mood ...
MG: Is ‘Joy’ your first single?
AB: It’s the first under the name Kittling. I’ve released singles under my own name before, two years ago, and I wanted to try something new and change my sound. I released some stuff in 2015. That went quite well but I was entirely self taught and I wanted to go back to study, learn some more stuff, become a more accomplished musician, and then release some more music. So I took a year off music and went to study music production, working with Ableton, recording live sounds, and now it feels like a fresh start.
MG: In the old days people got into music for the sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll but now you have to work at it.
AB: It’s a lot more professionalised now. You have to be genuinely good at music these days to get anywhere. I think some people can get away with having an average singing voice If they’re really good at another aspect; if they’re a top songwriter, a great lyricist, great at production, or great at an instrument. You need to have that top quality skill, you can’t coast on good looks and an average voice. It forces you to keep upskilling.
MG: Do you play live?
AB: I played a lot live a year and a half, two years ago when I released my first EP. This time I want to release a couple of singles and build a bit of an online following, and then start playing when there is more of a demand for it. To build the demand before you supply. I am working on my live show right now. I’ve been reaching out to a few people, finding musicians. And I’ve to buy a few more bits of equipment. So I’ll probably start playing live in the later months of the year, in September, October.
This is a soft opening. We’ve got the first song out, I’ve got about three songs on the back burner waiting to be released. They’re all a bit different. They’re a bit ‘80s. They’ve got ‘80s synths and sounds but they’re quite contemporary as well. I’m working with other singers so not all the singles will have my voice. There will be guest vocalists. I want to push myself as a producer as well as a songwriter. I don’t want to go too retro, where you feel like you tuned to a classic FM station, but there is a nostalgic, comforting feeling hearing those retro sounds. And then it’s very modern in terms of the beats and the melody lines. I want to keep the songs lean, mean, and to the point, but lush and atmospheric. The ‘80s thing is very en vogue right now. A lot of my favourite acts are doing similar stuff.
MG: You’ve African beats in it as well.
AB: I was really interested in tUnE-yArDs. The great thing about her sound is all the African rhythms and African-inspired rhythms in her music, it’s really interesting. The traditional African instruments have this dry, wooden texture.
MG: The name Kittling is an old Scottish colloquialism.
AB: Apparently! So I’m told anyway. No, I'm fairly confident it is what it is. It's an old term that’s not currently in use. It’s had its day. It means to tickle or arouse. It's kind of mischievous. I like that it’s really cheeky. And it's got an accidental second meaning for me. When I told my mother the name she asked if it was to do with her family. Her German ancestors were Kittler and Schilling. So it has a double meaning for me now, being a throwback to the past and a bit mischievous. Even though it’s an old colloquialism it sounds very young, like a child’s word. It’s very percussive as well.
MG: I was going to ask if you had Scottish family but evidently they're Germans.
AB: Yes, Irish too, on my mothers side. Her dad's family are McEntees. And I didn’t find out until I was in my teens but my great uncle is Mark McEntee of The Divinyls. They were an Australian band and they had one big single, ‘I Touch Myself’. It must run in the family. No Scottish influence but I do love the Scottish accent. I grew up watching Taggart. That opening of the show when they say “there's been a murder!”
MG: Its always makes me think of that Fast Show skit with the gruff Scottish detectives.
AB: The Fast Show? I'll look it up. I love a recommendation.
MG: Speaking of recommendations, Can you recommend any other Australian bands?
AB: My favourite artist down under at the moment is an act that I don’t think too many people know about overseas, called GL. It’s a duo, a man called Graeme and a lady called Ella. I did a couple of singing lessons with her when I lived in Melbourne. She's got the most phenomenal ,soulful, pure-toned, velvet voice. Very soulful but very contemporary. They've got the ‘80s vibe, very lush, but her voice is so great, it holds everything together. They're my favourite act right now. And they do a great live show too.
In a similar vein, Client Liaison are really good fun. They’re kind of retro pop synthwave. I'm really into future based stuff like what Mura Masa is doing, Kilter, Palace, they're all great. They’re creating upbeat music, like pop music but more Interesting. Not mainstream, more alternative.