It’s nothing unusual to do a side job to finance the one thing where you can really fulfill your passion. And that’s why Kaya Wilkins might seem familiar to you, even if you’ve never head a single song of hers. The Norwegian-born Brooklynite has been starring as an actress in Joachim Trier’s Thelma and more frequently starred in fashion editorials. Her true nature, however, lies in writing and recording music. She has been featured on King Krule‘s track Slush Puppy (highly low-pitched) and worked together with Travis Scott and Jamie xx (amongst others).
Having released critically-acclaimed debut Both in 2017, the follow-up is being released through JagJaguwar. It is, once again, a heavily witty and darkly reflection of life, love, and genital infections. It seems as if there isn’t a topic that Okay Kaya is not willing to sing about. Watch This Liquid Pour Itself isn’t just autobiographical though, as Kaya revealed once that there is a third person of herself in the songwriting. Although she balances herself through the depths of melancholy and panic attacks, there is a constant humorous side to her work. You can sense that especially when she sings about Netflix and her yeast infection in the same verse.
To some, her music might seem a little bit intense. And it is certainly meant this way, as the songwriter is exploring her emotions through songwriting, with topics you wouldn’t particularly share with your nearest and dearest.
“I sit with this really intense emotion, write something and then I’m able to look at a different angle a few days, which sometimes happens when you’re in a really intense mood. It creates a sort of sonic sort of personality, like I can, like, lean into one song and be like, oh, I was really bratty here. Like, let’s make this really bratty song or this would be cool if I contrast it with like a happy production. So it’s yes, it’s very personal. But again, it’s music. So it’s shaped to hopefully be beautiful.”
Considering the lyrics alone, Kaya’s words almost seem like Tweets turned into poetry.
“I think I work with texts in this way where I wanted to be sort of strong and graphic enough for it to stand on its own and then continue to journey because I think that’s not necessarily a requirement for a lot of pop music but I tried to make it mine. Sometimes I’ll kind of reconsider a lot of small ideas here and there depending and then sometimes I will just full on write a song and just from you know letting something marinate for a long time in the brain.”
On Helsevesen, Kaya signs in her Norwegian mother tongue. As Google Translate tells me, she sings about the daily struggles of a woman having her period and bleeding through all her pajamas. It is Kaya’s natural to sing about the most mundane situations and still maintaining a meaningful atmosphere. That’s what makes this record so exciting and unique.
“It just came out that way. And I think it’s it’s just part of me, and I liked the idea of having songs in different languages on my records and knowing that I consciously made it as like kind of eerie band hopefully interesting for people who don’t speak the language to understand but actually like the lyrics are pretty mundane. It’s really ordinary, but I was sort of leaning into. It’s interesting that not everyone will know what it’s about. It’s also interesting for the people who know what it’s about, maybe they’ll be like, oh my god.”
Mental wellbeing in the music industry
Another stark motive within Kaya’s music is mental health. While she doesn’t know either, what the music industry could do to help creatives struggling with mental health issues, she definitely knows what has helped her: changing her record label and creating a safe space through that.
“I’ve definitely struggled with it in the past also, I released ‘Both’ alone; before that I was kind of running around and seeing different labels and stuff. And I think why I wouldn’t I would say it was probably because of my own shame that I didn’t say a lot of things and therefore felt really alone and so for me and what I think is positive about being on this label now because I focus so much on my work. They have such a great understanding of that and support me in it and just like allow it for just being able to speak my truth. I think creating some place that feels safe for the for that sort of communication is really important.”
Of course, social media is also a big factor of how musicians work these days. However, Instagram & Co. have a not-so-great impact on our mental health. Ahead of the release of her debut album in 2017, she shared a photo from a stay at a psychiatric hospital. A memory she also candidly shares on track Psych Ward. Up till today, her relationship with maintaining a social media presence still revolves around mixed feelings:
“I feel like it’s a strange and a wonderful way to be able to reach out to people. So, it is very bittersweet. I do think it’s wild that we perceive so much information that we’ve given time and I think that’s a massive red flag in terms of like, how do we because we’re like constantly boosting our rewards instead of having real conversations.”
However, she still has a tip on how to handle your daily life besides social media platforms.
“Personally I’m stepping away from instead of checking how my friends are on Instagram. I will just try to hang out with them.”
Aside from thematizing mental health, sexuality and her identity in general, Kaya also has a big heart for… eating. She sings about popcorn, vegan peanut butter ice cream or ramen bars without any interaction. So what is Kaya’s favorite snack?
“I think it’s because when I grew up in Norway that was the food that was around, weird comfort food. Occasionally ice cream. Popcorn is good stuff. I think with this record, I tried to write a lot about some everyday experiences that felt really profound to me. So food is a big part of how humans survive. So it suddenly became a lot of food.”
With this in mind, we would recommend you to grab a bowl of your favorite ice cream and give Watch This Liquor Pour Itself a spin. It’s good stuff.
All Photos by Louisa Zimmer
Okay Kaya‘s second album Watch This Liquor Pour Itself arrives on January 24 via Jagjaguwar.