Since her first release in 2013, Danish experimental pop artist Kill J has come a long way. Her eccentric haircut, unique sound and impressive vocal range have led to her being named Band of the Week’ on The Guardian, in addition to a warm reception from Pigeons & Planes and Stereogum. We caught up with the mysterious pop songstress herself to find out about her new track ‘You’re Good But I’m Better’.
How did Kill J come about? What’s the meaning behind the name?
I had an earlier project that turned into a complete mess because we never threw any of our ideas away. It just got too complicated in the end. So when the blueprint for KIll J was drawn up, I knew that I had to create a character that would help me guide my inspiration. So to be a bit dramatic, I killed my personae to become someone else, hence the name KIll J as in kill Julie.
The combination of Hip hop, R&B and pop elements make it difficult to define your music as belonging to just one genre. How would you describe your style?
I wouldn’t and I can’t really. I have never really been big on labels. In my mind my songs are pop music. My label keeps telling me otherwise though. But if I had to put a label on it I would definitely just call it pop. My take on it anyway.
Which artists do you take inspiration from?
I always like to draw from Phil Collins and Mariah Carey. But I find a lot of music inspiring and I try to keep my head to the ground, there is just so much good music out there. But often I don’t find inspiration from current artists – maybe because its too easy – I don’t know. But for example, for You´re Good But I´m Better – For the back up vocals I was very inspired by the arrangements En Vouge did in the 90´s.
What’s the music scene like where you come from in Copenhagen?
Well, Copenhagen isn’t that big so I couldn’t say my specific area. But I think it’s sprawling with new interesting artists right now. We’ve always stood in the shadows of Sweden who are these kind of pop gods. But I see more and more Danish artists who are trying to make it outside of Denmark. Everyone is bringing their A game and it’s so cool to be a part of.
What’s the story behind your new track ‘You’re Good But I’m Better’?
You know the feeling of loving and hating a person so intensely? That’s the feeling I was trying to capture in this song. It’s this belittling and toxic thing. Loving someone and hating them for not loving you back – And turning to alcohol for clarity and relief.
Can you explain the creative process of writing this song?
It’s a simple song. The chords are simple. The lyrics are simple. I felt they needed to be to stay true to the theme of the song. Intricate metaphors and lyrical gymnastics wouldn’t really work, when you are trying to capture the drunken slurs of a broken heart. So I tried not to think too much when I wrote the lyrics.
‘You’re Good But I’m Better’ has already topped the Hype Machine’s ‘Popular Now’ and made it as Pigeons and Planes and Stereogum’s song of the week. How do you feel about this reception?
I am not completely sure I have taken it all in yet. I think the reception this track has gotten is far beyond what I dared to hope for. It was not an easy track to make, and we actually rescheduled the release because I wasn’t completely satisfied with the production. It’s always unnerving to do last minute changes, but in the end it seemed to have paid off.
You have a very unique image and look. Do you feel that aesthetics are an important part of the Kill J project?
I do. It was important to me when this project started to feel visually connected to the music. I wanted to look like the music.
Your first release ‘Phoenix’ was extremely well received by the press and led to features in the Guardian, Pigeons and Planes and Wonderland. Did you ever expect the success you’ve had?
Not at all. I don’t think you ever expect anything when you release your music, especially the first track. But I definitely hoped that someone would like it. The reception of Phoenix was overwhelming and we definitely weren’t ready for it. We had 2 or 3 songs and suddenly people were calling from all over to have us come play forty-five minute sets. So basically we made a lot of songs in a very short period of time and produced half of them on the road.
You previously trained as a classical singer. Do you feel that this training is valuable in creating music as Kill J?
Oh yes. I use my training a lot and I definitely feel that the classical is a part of my aesthetic.
You’re playing Ja Ja Ja Music at The Lexington on 29th October. Is this your first time playing in London? What can we expect?
No I’ve played a couple of times before, but I’m really looking forward to this one. I have some great musicians with me and I’m gonna dance like a crazy person so be ready to follow my lead.
How do you feel your musical style has evolved since your first release?
If you hear Phoenix compared to You’re Good But I’m Better, I think you can hear that the filter is off. A lot of things have happened since the project started, and I feel the music reflects that. I’m definitely more direct and more personal than I was back then. The project started as a duo, but we parted ways last year. I think that the feeling of being alone has definitely toughened me.
What’s been your most memorable moment of the past year?
I spent a lot of time writing music this year, but I think the most memorable moments were probably the NAKED concerts at SPOT festival in Aarhus. The concerts were held in a big classical concert hall and it was only myself and a pianist called Gustaf Ljunggren. It was very scary and exhilarating at the same time. The intense focus and extreme silence from the audience just adds to an atmosphere that I’m not used to. I did 4 songs but when it was over I was completely exhausted.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Justin Bieber and Drake, who isn’t?!
Do you have any projects lined up for the future? Well besides KIll J?
No. But I am releasing an EP early next year so I’m working on finishing that. I want to get out and play some more next year and hopefully I can return to London before long with even more music.
By Amelia Edgell-Cole