When Chordblossom came into existence, it was always our aim to shine a spotlight on the artists and bands that make up the music scene in Northern Ireland. We’ve been doing it for over ten years now and one of our favourite methods is our Introducing feature.
Put the kettle on, curl up on your sofa and and join us for a quickfire Q&A with some of our favourite new musicians. Who knows, maybe you’ll even discover your new favourite artists.
What was the inspiration behind your artist name?
I did at one point sit down in the summer of 2020 with a bit of paper and write down tons of name ideas. At one point I had a bunch of adjectives in one column and a bunch of nouns, mainly animals, in the other column. My artist name could well have ended up being called ‘Esoteric Sloth’ or something if it weren’t for one day shortly after this, I was reading a bunch of Spongebob Squarepants memes and in one of them, a fish character is ordering a portion of kelp fries from squidward.
The word kelp jumped out at me and I was like, that’s the name. It just brought up the exact right imagery for me and fit well with what I was doing. Unfortunately there are a couple of other existing Kelps in the music world which I only discovered when I began distributing my music on streaming platforms.
You’ve just released a new single. How did it come about and what does it mean to you?
This is a weird one. The latest single ‘Tundra’ was originally written for a foetus. The song was commissioned by the unborn child’s mother, and the original lyrics, written by the mother, were an ode to her baby. The commission didn’t work out in the end, and I was left with this song about a baby I’m unlikely to ever meet. Despite this, I thought it was a pretty good song, so I wrote new words for it, changing the title to a word that sort of rhymes with the child’s name.
After the rewrite I ended up with a song about perseverance and “being there” against all odds, which to me has a meta meaning in that: If you write a song for a foetus and it doesn’t get picked up, don’t give up, just change the lyrics and you’ve got yourself a brand, shiny, new song.
Have you any more releases or studio time lined up for later in the year?
I have one more release ready to go. I hope it will be out by mid-October. It will form the 3rd track of my new EP: 0H, ARE TH3Y L1KE wEE 90s P0P Songs 0r, no? which will include Tundra and WannabeNobody. As soon as that’s out I hope to jump straight back into writing and tying down a lot of floating ideas. I will hopefully be back in the studio at the beginning of 2023.
Tell us about your song writing process.
Sometimes it’s like going into a dark room and trying to chisel a sculpture out of marble, you can’t see what you’re doing, you can only feel it, and then at the end the lights come on and only then can you see what you’ve created. Because you’re the one writing it you can’t see what it looks like from the outside during the process, so you’re like chiselling in the dark, then you finish, step away, come back and listen, and it’s like turning the lights on. Most times though, I’ll start with a chord progression. I’m an absolute chord-nerd, I spend too much time thinking about chords. Then it’s applying words or writing a melody for lyrics later on. The lyrics are usually a combination of something I thought of 10 years ago, and something I wrote down last Tuesday.
Who were your favourite artists/bands growing up? Have your influences changed over time?
Growing up I was massively into hip hop: De La Soul, Jurassic 5, Tribe Called Quest, Biggie and Gangstarr etc. The thing that got me about hip hop, before I understood what sampling was, was how amazing the music always was. It puzzled me for years how this genre had such consistently brilliant music, but not even that, the music was only the backdrop to the focus of the genre. I was like, what an absolute flex, to write the best music ever and then hide it in the background, and that fascinated me. Years later, when the internet became a thing, I learned about sampling and realised I loved funky/disco music from the 70s and 80s because that’s what 90s hip hop was sampling predominantly.
I also listened to the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden and CKY back then, and had an overly long Elliott Smith phase, and an overly long They Might Be Giants phase, which for all intents and purposes is still going. My influences have changed, I still love 90s hip hop but if I had to pin down some names that currently influence me, I’d say something like Vulfpeck, Donald Fagen, Thundercat, Todd Terje or Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but I’m smack in the middle of a city pop, vaporwave and Cuban rumba phase right now. Song of the moment: PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) by Jeff Lorber.
With the NI Music Prize round the corner, what’s been your favourite album and single released this year?
I’ve really liked ‘I Have To Swim’ by Buí. It puts me in mind of pre-The Shins band, Flake Music, with simple and gorgeous melodies against a rough and ready guitar tone chef’s kiss. I’ve been slightly enamoured with them since I seen their music video for ‘Something Else To Talk About’, that blew me away a bit.
Favourite album on the year, and this might be the vaporwave talking, but, hands down ‘Hey’ by STAP Sigh Boys. Jesus, he’s in a league of his own, one of the most unique and entertaining albums I’ve heard this year. STAP Sigh Boys have my vote!
If you weren’t a musician, what line of work would we find you in?
If I wasn’t a musician, I would want to be working in quantum physics. Like, I might still give it a go someday, it’s the maths that holds me back. I was talked out of a physics A Level because my maths wasn’t there. If I couldn’t get into quantum physics school, I would give chemistry a go, or maybe it’s biochemistry…whichever one where they’re messing with plant genes to make them glow in the dark, that kind of thing, like breeding plants where their leaves unfurl when it starts raining so they form a naturally occurring retractable canvas in place of like a bus stop shelter.
If you could collaborate with one artist or band from NI, who would it be and why?
Maybe Beauty Sleep. I think in my poppiest of times we might hold a shared vision of pure dreamy, synthy, harmonious, adult contemporary, balladriness that would be something to behold.
It is intensely difficult to be successful in the music industry. What does NI need to do to invest in/develop to boost your chances?
Possibly a bit of a pipedream, but I’d love to see a similar scheme come into NI that they’re trialling in some US cities and maybe, in the south now, which is a universal basic income for artists. Whilst investing money into the arts is incredibly useful, investing time into artists, in my opinion, is invaluable.
One possible reason it’s difficult to be successful in the music industry, not just in NI, is that as an artist, you’re constantly dividing your time between trying to be a successful artist and scraping together for your rent and bills. Give the artists the time they need with a universal basic income, and the success will follow, maybe.
What does success look like for you?
It looks like freedom to create work and not worrying about the cost-of-living crisis. Success, therefore, might be 24K a year – made entirely from music. Success might be walking into the local Spar and buying a litre of milk without having to look at the price, secure in the fact that you can probably afford it. Success is exactly 334,676 streams on one of your tracks. Success might look like a large publication writing about your music without even being prompted. Success is elusive.
You’re going out on tour and can have anything you want on your rider, what would we find on yours?
I’ll try and keep this fairly PG in case my ma gets a read of this. Probably some kind of therapy lizard to hang out with, the smell of freshly clipped petals from a ylang-ylang tree, a copy of Leaving Las Vegas on Blu-ray, and then just some of the tears of Ra.
Where and when can we next catch you live?
The next time you can catch me live will be the first time anybody has caught Kelp live. Coming up to two years and still no live shows, comes down to the fact that I didn’t know what Kelp was going to be when I started it, and there wasn’t exactly any live music anywhere back then. But this summer I’ve been working on a fairly innovative new piece of hardware that I think will bring Kelp out of the ether and on to a stage near you in a way that will do it justice. I will cautiously say, 2023.
If you enjoyed this feature and fancy discovering some more new artists, we suggest you jump on over to our archive of Introducing pieces.
If you are a band or musician based in Northern Ireland interested in taking part in our Introducing feature, we recommend submitting new music to us via our Contact page and if we enjoy it, you’ll no doubt hear from us.