PLAYING MELBOURNE: KIT Premieres Video for “Stranger” and Discusses Solo Debut

Interviews|Playing Melbourne|Premieres
Photo Credit: Rick Clifford

Katie Wighton, the Melbourne-based singer/songwriter best known for fronting All Our Exes Live in Texas, was feeling sentimental, so she started going through old videos on her phone – some from a decade ago, others from the “Zoom era” we currently find ourselves in.

“I’ve got lots of lovely friends around the country and my family are in Queensland so I’ve missed them all a lot,” she says. “Going through all of my old videos made me feel so warm and fuzzy… and made me realise how much I’d managed to keep in touch with people thanks to technology.”

This, she says, felt like the same sentiment behind “Stranger” – the final single from her debut solo LP KIT, released November 13 – so she decided to collage the deeply personal clips together to create a video, premiering today via Audiofemme. “It’s super personal but I hope people can relate to that sentimental feeling,” she says. “Sometimes when things don’t go to plan you end up getting really good results… I think that’s been the case for me with this year – or at least, I hope so!”

KIT had planned to do an album next year, but the schedule for creating it was scuppered by the pandemic pandemonium. “COVID really cooked my plans to be honest. I had no plan to do an EP,” says Wighton. “We’d recorded about half of the beds (drums and bass) for an album but we couldn’t finish it because we weren’t allowed to leave our houses. We worked around it a bit – James Seymour and Dave Symes, my producers, are very clever and patient. I had a few people suggest an EP to kind of bookend this year. I’m really glad we did it this way now, even if it was slightly stressful pulling it all together.”

To call it a solo debut wouldn’t be totally accurate – Wighton collaborated with a number of impressive international talents, including Seymour and Symes, Jarred Young (Bad Pony), Liz Drummond (Little May) Merpire, Ali Barter, Jake Sinclair, and Jenny Owen Youngs. “Songwriters, producers, other vocalists… they all have their unique approaches to things and I really do love collaborating,” says Wighton, “I trust them and love their musical ideas too, which means I get a different (but excellent) perspective on things. It’s less pressure too.”

Wighton recorded the 5-track EP at both Golden Retriever Studios in Sydney and Small Time Studios in Brunswick, Melbourne, as well as in bedrooms, lounge rooms and homes while under pandemic conditions. There’s a beautifully rambunctious, lo-fi feel to the tracks, in which angular guitar chops about below bouncy harmonies while unedited sounds of a household in motion – laughing, clapping, talking – all add the atmosphere of a house party, though Melbourne hasn’t known one of these for at least eight months.

“I recorded this all over the place,” says Wighton. “James Seymour and I did a bunch of recording at his parents’ place (in his mum’s sewing room specifically) which was fun. There was a day when we did the drums for ‘You Act Like A Child’ and it was 40 degrees. Jarred (my drummer) was sweating so much and the three of us were so hot all day. But it sounds great!”

KIT has the low-key, intimate vibe of PJ Harvey’s 4 Track Demos, also famously recorded in her bedroom. Guitar riffs noodle fuzzily around, and its easy to imagine Wighton jumping around on an old couch while singing into her hairbrush on songs like “You Act Like A Child,” a track that examines our collective roadblocks to communication. “I just wanted to love you, and now I can’t forgive you,” sings Wighton on “Make Your Mind Up,” an ode to the lover who can’t commit, the dude who can’t help bringing up his ex as a constant ghost in the relationship. Earworm melodies showcase Wighton’s vocals – immediately identifiable to fans of All Our Exes. She is nothing but enthusiastic about going solo, though she has no bad words to say about band life either.

“I loved the fact that with Exes, we were a democracy,” she says. Formed in 2014, the four-piece indie-folk band saw Wighton, along with Elana Stone, Hannah Crofts and Georgia Mooney delivering four-part harmonies over ukelele, mandolin, accordion and guitar. The band’s sophomore album When We Fall won an ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Awards) for Best Blues and Roots Album in 2017. “We shared the workload and I always had someone to bounce ideas off. Everyone in that band brought such unique intelligences to it, which is why it was so brilliant to work with them all,” she remembers. “I love the freedom that comes with being a solo artist, though. I get to do exactly what I want, whenever I want to!”

There’s an overriding feeling of intimacy on KIT’s self-titled EP, like someone happened to be spontaneously recording a casual hang out with a couple of very talented musician friends. There’s no vocoder, no synthesisers, no warped and distorted post-production effects and no glossy, polished erasure of its humanity. There’s been a truck-load of fantastic big disco-pop productions released this year, including critically acclaimed, major chart busters by Dua Lipa, Lady Gaga, Ellie Goulding, Kylie Minogue, and soon, Miley Cyrus and Rihanna. By contrast, KIT is an old-school affair that exposes the scaffolding of songs in all their textural glory. But more than that, it’s an indelible, energetic first impression of Katie Wighton’s solo artistic vision.

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