Interview With Vancouver Duo Sound of Kalima + New Single “Alien”
Sound of Kalima is a musical duo like no other, bridging the gap between electronic, hip hop, soul and dance music, with no respect for the limitations of genre. These guys are all over the place, to give you an example, they played a live set for Quarantine Songs and went from a pop/hip hop track to something I swear Daron Malakian of System of A Down could have written, but the one thing that ties it all together is authenticity. The duo doesn’t only make music for themselves, but produce a number of fantastic artists in Vancouver’s music, and to quote them directly “Whether it’s producing and collaborating with other artists or doing our own thing, if it’s not honest it doesn’t excite us.” In 2020 they released 16 tracks and 2021 sounds like it might be on cue for even more for the group. We had the opportunity to interview the duo about the group, their latest music, the Vancouver music scene, how to make talent shine, what they’ve got coming up and more. Click below to listen to their latest single “Alien” and keep scrolling for our interview!
Interview With Sound of Kalima
Sound of Kalima is a very unique project, can you tell us about it for any of our readers who haven’t previously heard of you, who is Sound of Kalima?
Sal: Sound of Kalima (SoK) is myself and Peter. We are musical partners in almost everything we do and we chose the name Sound of Kalima to put a label on what we do. SoK is mainly known as a production team because we make a lot of music and other people sing on that music. However, we help the people we work with on marketing, mixing, mastering, songwriting and many other things. That’s a sign of the times within the music industry, most people do everything without the backing of a big label or investments. It’s very punk and we like it.
Peter: Yeah, we do a bit of everything, but at the core of it is making real, honest music. Whether it’s producing and collaborating with other artists or doing our own thing, if it’s not honest it doesn’t excite us.
You’ve just released a new single “Alien” can you tell us about the inspiration behind the track?
S: I wrote the chorus that goes “I wanna go to space and escape, an alien on Earth”. It’s about feeling like you don’t belong on Earth, sometimes I feel like I’ve checked out of this world and I thought escaping to space and going on a holiday trip around the solar system would be the greatest holiday. It also comes from a place that I can’t really articulate with a bunch of influences. The song does pose a good question though in the second verse; “After beaming up, what’s to follow?” I think what we’re trying to say is that finding belonging is finding comfort within yourself rather than just externally. You can be beamed up but pretty soon you’ll realize, you’ll always be stuck with yourself so make the best of it.
P: I was introduced to Sal’s idea when I came home one day and he was like “yo, I need you to write something as catchy as the sax in ‘Careless Whisper’”. So I was like, “shit man that’s a tall order”, but I sat down anyways and started riffing some ideas until we had something with the synthy hook.
How does it feel to have your first track of 2021 out?
P: It feels great! One down, many many to go. By the time you’re reading this our second, third and fourth chunes will be out as well (“Oceans” by Carley Belfry, “Red Light” by Andrea Clute and “Don’t Take My Man” by Bella St. Clair).
S: Yeah it feels good, not too different to be honest haha. It’s just onwards and keep pushing our message out. I am really proud of the stuff though, we are under a bit of pressure to keep releasing but pressure creates diamonds. Or a really polished turd, we’ll have to wait and see!
Your first project was a punk band named after a vegetable, and you eventually started learning to produce, starting with Hip Hop beats for local rappers. At this point you’ve worked with many different genres for this project. You’ve mentioned you don’t want to be put in a box, what inspired you to branch out from punk into so many other genres?
P: I think a big part of it is that our inspiration comes from many different places. We don’t just listen to Hip Hop or Punk or whatever, we listen to everything. I might listen to a little country every now and then even just to see what’s good.
Another piece of it is the fact that I would hate to be predictable. The idea that someone could listen to an SOK song and guess the changes, or the vibes, or the rhymes, or whatever… we don’t want that. It’s almost like a challenge of… “I bet you didn’t expect us to throw some flamenco guitar in this trap chune… but we made that shit work!”
S: I think Pete is completely right, we enjoy being unpredictable. I would like to point out though, being unpredictable is a function of our songwriting, not the other way around. Our minds are scattered in the best way and this makes its way in our music. Furthermore, we really aren’t thinking about commercial acceptance or critical adoration with our music, we like it and that’s all we can control. In the end, maybe that’s still quite punk.
What can you tell us about Vancouver’s music scene?
P: Vancouver’s music scene is alive and well. People always focus on Toronto when talking about the Canadian music scene, but Vancouver always comes through with the undercover heat! We’re so so blessed to get to work with all the amazing artists we do, like Chris Clute, Andre Clute, Bella St. Clair, ekke, Pavy, Hoodie Browns, Carley Belfry, Victoria Groff, and whoever else I’m forgetting (I’m sorry!). And on top of all the frequent collaborators, there are more homies that are killing it, like Jamie Rose and Madalen Duke. Honestly if you spend some time poking around the scene here you’ll be blown away.
S: Oh man, the music scene here is dope! I can’t speak for many other music scenes but the stuff coming out of Vancouver is amazing like really amazing. I think the beauty is that it’s still small and not under the influence of some flagship artist kind of like Toronto with Drake. There’s a lot of creativity over here and Vancouver is a mix of a lot of things. There’s a lot of love for original music here precisely because it’s not a big scene, there’s no big money. You have to really love the art and it really shows in the music coming out of the city.
In 2020 you released 16 tracks in 12 months, which is quite an impressive feat. How did you find the inspiration to keep pushing forward during all the craziness that was 2020?
S: I think it wasn’t inspiration to keep pushing forward but what else could we do? I understand things got very hard for many many people when the pandemic hit but for us, there was a lot of time we got to make a lot of music. Another thing that I thought about was that the worldwide music scene got a little more democratized because of a lack of touring so everyone had to figure how to really see some financial returns. Necessity is the mother of invention/innovation and perhaps that’s where our inspiration was really drawn out of. Let’s push push push and it seems to be working so far. Pandemics suck though, no doubt about it.
P: Yeah man, it’s been a weird year. One thing about Sal and I is that we don’t put much stock in inspiration. Inspiration is a beautiful thing when it strikes but it’s fickle as all hell. We rely on the discipline to sit down and write every single day. Lots of time you come up with something a little shite, but every now and then you strike gold, and it’s only by putting yourself in that situation day in and day out that you’ll find it consistently. And we’ve been this way for years, so 2020 was no different.
The sign outside your door says things like “No Judgement” and “No self-deprecation zone”, why are these aspects so important to you and do you feel that mantra has contributed to your success?
P: A lot our studio rules have to do with the psychology of music / artist production, but on a simpler level, we’re really just trying to create a comfortable and safe space for everyone who comes into the studio. Singing, performing, and coming up with musical ideas is an incredibly vulnerable exercise. Sal and I have been doing it together for long enough now that we can laugh at each other’s bad ideas and it’s all good, but for all the artists that work with us, they need to know that there’s no such thing as a bad idea. That’s the only way we’ll get to a place where we try out truly wacky shit that pushes people outside of their comfort zone. That’s where the magic is!
S: Precisely that. We need to find comfort in the uncomfortable places otherwise what the fuck are we doing anyways. Art is about personal and external exploration, if we tread the same paths then all we are are robots with some blood inside. It can be scary and judgement is everywhere but when an artist or a person is with us, we need to make sure that nobody is being stepped on for presenting an idea. I would say the mantra has contributed to our success because it encourages collaboration and involvement.
You’ve said that your goal with all the artists is to make their personalities and their songwriting shine. How do you go about this?
S: Trial and error and therapy is the way for us to go about it. We want to make honest music – so we have to peer into people’s lives a little bit to really get to know them. We’ve sat down and had literal therapy sessions with notepads and all. Once the artist gets out what they want to say, we will present their thoughts as lyrical/musical ideas. We used to do that, we haven’t done that recently but I suspect it’ll be pretty popular after the pandemic is over. After we have a great emotional fundamental established then we move on to the actual sounds and that’s where the trial and error is done, seeing what people vibe with. We build songs that way and I’m happy to say that everybody we work with are incredibly open minded so no idea is a bad idea, they just have to make sense contextually.
P: I think first and foremost it comes from a place of friendship, like really getting to know the artists we work with. Sal and I don’t send beat packs to strangers. Most of the time when we start working with an artist we don’t even start working on music in the first session. We sit down, we get to know them as people and we build a base. The people we work with are all amazing people and truly great friends of ours, and from that foundation they become fantastic collaborators as well.
Can you tell us about your thoughts on hard work vs. talent?
P: Haha yeah this is kind of a cheesy line I remember hearing in sports growing up, but I think it’s a valid lesson, and obviously one that’s stuck with me. For me it’s helpful to remember that, even though we were gifted with a little musical magic, that’s only one half of the equation. If we’re to hit our goals with music, we can’t just rely on talent. We need to outwork every other artist that’s out there hustling for the same goal. You might be more talented than SOK, but you’re not going to work harder than us.
S: Talent is definitely required but man, talent can be a little unremarkable skill you have. For example, singing a melody, can you do that? Do you like melodies? Boom now start working hard to write good songs, study it, learn from it. Talent is good but it’s completely useless if you don’t know what a good work ethic is. We take immense pride in our work ethic because we’re inherently lazy people but I don’t want to look in the mirror and think damn I could have done so much more today, I want to think the opposite. Plus we’re young, let’s use our energy while we have it. I want to be able to look back on these years of my life when I’m 50 and say I don’t know how I was able to do that. I love hard work, I love struggling. The downside is burn out but if you’re smart with how you do things then you can manage that as well.
The music industry has moved completely online at this point, how have you used the internet to keep your music going during the pandemic and do you have any advice for anybody else looking to do the same?
S: Definitely. Well, we grew up in the internet age right? So music has always been an internet thing for us. I guess we like data and the global connectivity via the world wide web. It’s so exciting to see that our music is played in places we’ve never been to or, frankly, ever thought of. I love that we can connect so instantly to someone living on an island in the middle of the pacific ocean. It was like that before the pandemic and it’s like that now, it’s really beautiful to experience that. I think for anyone looking to do the same, please see the advantages you have at your finger tips to push your music. It’s easier now than ever. Spend some time, send those emails, connect with your supporters. And if that doesn’t work for you, work with someone who can do that for you.
P: Yeah, I think this is another situation where the pandemic hasn’t changed a ton for resource-constricted artists like ourselves. Maybe the big dogs were hit with the cancellations of their huge tours and things like that, but for us we’ve always relied on the internet to connect with people and chase opportunities. We’ve certainly done fewer shows, which is a shame, but we’re figuring this live stream thang out (shoutout Quarantine Songs for having us!).
What can fans expect in 2021 from Sound of Kalima?
P: A LOT of music. We’ll be continuing to release a single every 6-8 weeks or so. I think you’ll see our sound evolve a little bit as we explore some new ideas of ours. And with all the artists we work with, you’ll see more and more growth. Every single one of them improved as writers and performers in 2020, so you’ll finally get to hear what we’ve been lucky enough to be hearing over the last year and a bit.
S: Yeah a ton of music haha. Hopefully a COVID safe liveshow as well.
Do you have any last words for our readers?
P: Damn, if you took the time to read this whole thing god bless ya! Say hi on instagram… let’s be friends!
S: Thank you so very much for reading this and hopefully we can connect with you via our music or a message! Remember to keep up with Dropout entertainment. Tune in. Turn on. Drop out. Bye!!