“The model where men control everything,” says Cicely Goulder, “and there’s a woman singing on top of music that men have produced, for men’s gratification, is breaking down.”
Enter Kaleida, who are here to help it crumble.
The electropop duo who write, record and produce all their music themselves met when Christina Wood, who had spent many years looking for a musical partner, was put in contact with Cicely by a friend. The creative chemistry was there from the start. “I feel like we intuitively get each other,” says Cicely, who was working in film music at the time but jumped at the chance to produce Christina’s vocal-led demos. Christina agrees. “We have a special chemistry that’s not something you find all the time.”
That perhaps explains why the first few months were so effortless for Kaleida (the band name was a happy accident evolving from a spelling error, though they’ve since discovered that it means ‘beauty in form’ in ancient Greek). The first thing they wrote together, the darting, minimalist ‘Think’, a song that makes you want to dance in slow motion, racked up 60,000 YouTube views the night they put it online. It’s about sex, says Christina, and wanting something you can’t have anymore – though it was the sinister edge to its sultriness that made it work so well in one of the most violent scenes in neo-noir thriller John Wick.
If those initial 60,000 views seemed overwhelming, its inclusion in the film’s soundtrack introduced Kaleida to an audience of millions, and earned them a seat at a table they knew very little about. “We were so naïve at the time,” says Cicely, “I didn’t know anything about the industry at all.” Finding their way since then, navigating the industry while maintaining their independence, “has just been an uphill struggle.” Touring with the likes of Alt-J and Roisin Murphy helped them better understand the industry they were now a part of, but it took a while for Kaleida to find their feet.
“Everyone has their two cents about what you should and shouldn’t do, and what the music should sound like. We struggled for a while with outside interference, but now we just do our own thing.” And thank goodness they do, because it’s resulted in dark, sensual dance music, with shimmering synths and elastic beats, shrouded in what they consider to be an inherent femininity. It’s a sound that’s clearly resonated with people – they’ve had over 31 million streams across the singles to date.
Tear The Roots, Kaleida’s debut LP, offers a deep, unsettling kind of pop. Their identity is partly informed by the music they grew up with – Cicely’s late godfather was an electronic composer, and Christina was in a church choir that sang Appalachian songs as a child – but they try not to be too influenced by the noise around them. They don’t listen to other people’s songs while they’re making their own, and even working with other writers and producers dilutes the formula. “We’ve had days where we’ve tried working with other people, but nothing has gelled,” says Christina, so they just stuck with the method that worked – doing everything themselves, even if it meant long hours (they both have jobs on the side) and sleepless nights. Tear The Roots was the result of “shutting the door and just seeing what came out. It’s basically a relationship of trust, because you have to be prepared to be stupid, or say something personal, or be sad.”
The lead single, ‘Echo Saw You’, showcases Christina’s sublime vocals over a muted, percussive bass riff. They felt it a fitting introduction to the album because “it’s a sound that says something about the album. I think with this song, we were trying to create a sound world, rather than it being a literal story.” They like the meaning behind their music to be ambiguous. The eerie ‘Coco’, with a beat that sounds like the tapping and scraping of medical machinery, as the falsetto spectre of Christina’s voice hovers above it, “is sort of like a psychiatric breakdown. It’s supposed to be quite mantric and creepy.” Sometimes Kaleida are drawn to darkness, other times they despair of it.
House Of Pulp, for example, which ripples with an anger that’s only become more relevant as the political landscape has become more disturbing: “What are we building here above the dead cement?” pleads Christina, “Out in the plastic sea, we drown the innocent.” Her work in climate policy filtered into one of the album’s threads – what she only half-jokingly refers to as “the apocalyptic future.” Another track, a cover of Nena’s ’99 Luftballons’, was recorded for the Charlize Theron-starring spy thriller Atomic Blonde – “She plays this female bisexual Bond” – but its political sentiment, and its unsettling, brooding sound world, “just fitted,” so they put it on the album too.
Ultimately, shutting the door to the outside world has served Kaleida well. “You shouldn’t do stuff to please other people. If you want to make something that really resonates with people on a core level, then it has to really come from you, it has to be really genuine.” Tear The Roots is just that – and now they’re ready to let you back in.