Rules to live by in the latest from the ethereal pop producer.
As a vocalist with Crystal Fighters, Ellie Fletcher has built a sound and a following for ethereal, upbeat indie. On her own, as Kyiki, she’s a force of nature—delicate vocals, dark synth, and lush dreamscapes. Her latest single, “Make Love Live Free” premieres today on BitTorrent Now. Wild, soaring, and anthemic, the song was conceived as a response to the overwhelming pressure the artist felt to fit in and give up. “The people around me had secure jobs, skincare regimes, and were like: where is your stability? This song is about me choosing to live, to follow my heart; to not expect security or comfort, but to enjoy it, and see it as freedom.” We caught up with Kyiki to talk about her upcoming album and what it means to actually live free.
How did you get started?
My upbringing was eccentric; filled with musical family members, lots and lots of moving around, all over the country, and a lot of love and support throughout. My grandpa is a violinist and writes operas, and my Grandma is an opera singer. I learned the violin at 3, and the piano at 5. I always just sang. I have never, not even for a second, wanted to pursue anything else as a career. I was writing letters to record companies at about 10 years old, saying things along the lines of: “I know I’m young, but I think I look quite old for my age, so I believe it would be good for me to start my solo career now, thanks.” Jive Records was my favorite, because Britney, and I was 10.
When I was 14, I decided to move to London by myself, to go and do music professionally (much to my parents’ despair). I remember feeling about 24. I tried on a lot of different lifestyles, made a lot of mistakes, and embarked on adventures I won’t ever forget.
What role does music play in your life?
Music is a form of expression for everything and everyone. It creates an entire geography. Setting and feeling, with just sound. Music is so insanely important to me, as it's an outlet; the only way I can cope with things, or validate any negative situations I experience. At least if something not great is happening in my life, I’m able to tell a story, and have that to reflect on.
What inspired you to set out solo, after years with Crystal Fighters?
I’ve wanted to do this from a very young age, and I’ve spent that time developing, and planning, and learning. I’ve been a touring member of Crystal Fighters for six years, which has taught me a lot. This is a totally different feeling, though, because it’s my project. I’ve gotten to experience some truly amazing things, and the knowledge I’ve gained along the way is precious. But all that just made me even more driven to find success on my own.
What inspired you when making “Make Love Live Free”? What was your process like?
I was in LA at the time, feeling the overwhelming pressure of earning money to survive, the pressure not to just give up on creating. Everything had gotten a bit serious in general. The people around me had secure jobs, skincare regimes, and were like: where is your stability? This song is about me choosing to live, to follow my heart; to not expect security or comfort, but to enjoy it, and see it as freedom. I want to live magically and I want to live eccentrically and most important: I want to live happily.
A lot of my songs have quite a darkness to them. This song is more positive. I hope people feel freedom and a sense of everything’s actually ok. Even if your life is a bit fucked up. Because there’s beauty in that, too. I like going into the psychology of moments, dealing with emotion; embracing the negative aspects of life with a positive slant, creating landscapes to explain a point of view.
Artists like Grimes have been outspoken on the role of self-production and the need for gender equality in the music industry. Does the culture of music need to change?
I feel like it is slowly changing, but we’re on a long road. I showed someone an upcoming video of mine the other day and their response was: “You don't look as hot in this video as you do in the last one.” The video wasn't meant to be a display of any level of 'hotness'. It was a video of me playing an insane person who’s trying to run away from their own head.
We need to keep powering through, and continue creating what we believe in. If you stay true to yourself, you can’t go wrong. There will be moments of unfairness. But you have to power through, you have to stick to your beliefs, and you have to make them known.
What are you up to next? What are you looking forward to this summer, and in the next year?
I’m finishing off my album, which actually ended up being a conceptual thing. I'd been writing for so long trying to get things perfect, getting frustrated, and writing more and more songs. I remember coming back from a trip to LA, being super jet-lagged and moody, dealing with some things, and then busting out a lot of songs all in one go. I didn’t get dressed for a silly amount of time, but I came out of it with some really good stuff that I feel happy with. I can’t wait to finally release it.
In the meantime, I’ll be sharing tracks and EPs, which is also exciting. And I’m still performing with Crystal Fighters around the world. Which sounds hectic, but it’s pretty perfect for me, really. I can’t wait to do more shows as Kyiki. Live is my favorite part of it.