The multifaceted artistry of Kavya Trehan is something that's allowed her experiment and play with visuals, aesthetics and sounds that imbibe the very essence of the 'sysematic chaos' ethos that she adheres to while creating. From her early beginings as a member of Delhi experimental electronic-rock group MOSKO to her current artstic avatar as an independent artist, there's always been a deliberate attempt on her part to push the envelop further than many of her contemporaries would ever dare to and create art that truly measures up to her kaleidascopic vision.
We recently spoke to Kavya to talk about her artistic journey, her influences, her experiences touring the UK, her upcoming performance at the inaugaral Indian edition of Lollapalooza and much more!
As an artist, you’re a bit of a polymath and often find yourself blurring thearbitrary lines that exist between visual design, music, fashion and more. You’ve cultivated a niche for yourself that allows you to seamlessly meld with your contemporaries yet also remain a distinct artistic entity. How would you personally define yourself as an artist and what are some of the things that have contributed to shaping your identity so far?
I want to do everything! I am a very restless creative, one that’s often connecting dots, blurring lines between crafts and only content in a proactive state of mind. Being torn between acting, singing, participating in body movement therapy, and creating visuals is vigorous and for a type of artist like myself, this dovetailing is very energising. I feel the biggest contributing factor to this would be the company that I always find myself in. From my sister, whose world of visuals always fills me with wonders, to my mother’s inclination toward fashion that I often use as a tool while performing, to my friends who make films and build stories filled with characters and sentiment. It’s fair to say that from a very young age, I’ve been exposed to and intrigued by multiple industries. Now, it’s become a natural mode of conduct today to be a hyphenate. This balancing act is what fuels my creativity.
You’ve had a pretty mammoth year as an artist, with a UK tour, SXSW, and an F1 performance just some of the highlights. Could you talk about what those experiences meant for you individually as well as a collective representation of current-era Indian performance artistry?
Without a doubt, my debut international tour felt like a long-awaited wishlist come true. I’ve always wanted to travel with my music and test drive audiences filled with unknown faces. There’s something very notable about taking what you love, fighting away self-doubts, risking the current and owning it. And so, individually, I’ve come back home feeling confident, blissfully exhausted, thoroughly uplifted and yet wholesomely reassured of the direction my professional life is taking. I think/hope I was able to represent a side of Indo-futuristic artists that have absorbed influences from across the globe and turned them into something of their own and somewhere helped represent a new normal of pushing the boundaries for us all! I don’t want us to be surprised when we see an Indian artist on an international festival’s roster. It’s high time we build a bridge and explore newer territories.
How has living and working outside India and in the west shaped your art? Do you think it’s given you a deeper appreciation or awareness of your own cultural identity as a Homegrown artist venturing into global uncharted territories? Do you intentionally reshape aspects of what you create to suit your audience and environment or is it more of a case of you subconsciously absorbing and assimilating everything you’re exposed to in different cultures? Did touring the UK help shape what is still yet to come from you going into next year?
Firstly, leaving India and living elsewhere was a chance to detach myself and view my fundamental functionings as an outsider for the first time. This brought about astute revelations of just how ‘Indian’ I am in the way I think, articulate myself, and perceive my own audience. There’s a general knack of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ which I’ve been carrying with me on stage that has influenced the way I treat my listeners with immense gratitude. I never want to shake that out of my system. And so, just as a being, I do feel immense gratitude for the cultural upbringing I’ve had, which keeps me rooted and helps me adapt easily to newer things. Secondly, I am a sponge and I allow changes in my musical performances. However, they are more subconscious than the desperate attempts of ‘fitting in’. Being authentic is always the number one priority. Thirdly, this tour has changed me so much. It’s introduced me to newer genres that I love listening to and now can see being incorporated into my own songwriting. My persistence to develop a more immersive performance has been strengthened. The benefits of having a team and a solid infrastructure is going to be the focus in the coming year. And adorably enough, an overall acceptance of my place in the world has settled in.
How do you personally view the idea of creativity and what inspires you to create? Who are some artists, musicians or creatives that you look up to?
Fruition. I think the idea of creativity stems from bringing innovation and encouraging oneself to truly make something out of nothing. The root cause could be a variety of things, but what’s common is the absolute need to act on the ideas and lead them from thought to execution. I’m inspired by the mere 'go-getter' attitude that has been cultivated in me by my family of creative individuals. "Everyone gets creative ideas, but creative people make things happen" is my motto. A few artists that I look up to are, James Blake, Rosalia, Ezequiel Pini, Khyati Trehan, Sanchit Sawaria, Anna Yang, Tim Burton, Jordan Peele and so many more!
Could you talk a little about your most recent single? From a songwriting perspective, do you start with a melody and a hook and then work backwards or is it more of a patchwork process where one idea or motif feeds into the next? There are clear undertones of melancholy but there’s also a delicately understated and cautious hopefulness to the overall sonic tapestry you’re weaving. Is playing with emotional contrasts through your music something you try to do intentionally or does it just sort of happen organically? What do you aim to leave your listeners with over the course of a single or even an entire album or EP?
My recent single ‘Little Lie’ feat. Pranay Parti, which is scheduled to release in January 2023 has a fascinating origin story. It was written for my 2017 application for RBMA, which was later released in association with Stamp The Wax’s initiative of the 2020 Advent Calendar during the pandemic and only in 2022 I felt the timing was right to release it as my opening single to the new year to express the general attitude I carry of innocent rebellion as a female in the music industry. My songwriting has no formula, there’s always systematic chaos and a spontaneous approach to each track. Sometimes a few words strike an inspiration and other times it’s an instrumental hook I write by fluke! Eventually, my aim is always to emotionally exhaust myself in every single, EP, or album I write and I hope that it’s translated and felt by my listeners.
I’ve decided to honour my love for live instruments for the Lollapalooza gig. We’re pulling in Suyash Gabriel on percussion, Pranay Parti on keys and developing a high-energy live performance together. I’ve really missed playing with artists on stage, and I cannot wait to explore the chemistry we build! I’ve been tilting towards a more audio-visual setup designed by my sister and would love to see how to incorporate that as well!
I think the first time I saw you live was with MOSKO when I was still at university. I think what struck me the most was the raw dynamic energy of the entire band that was juxtaposed with the lush, melodic soundscapes of Moses’s playing and your grasp of melody, control and pitch. All of you definitely influenced me from a performance perspective. Are there any plans to return to band-based music at some point in the future, whether it’s with MOSKO or another project entirely? How much of that era shapes the music you make today?
Since going independent, I know this is definitely the path for me, but I always find myself pulling in instrumentalists. What happens when I do that is that the track becomes about not what a band can do together, but what these few individuals in the moment can do together. In that way, we have our independence, and we end up making something we wouldn’t have made separately. There’s a magical quality to collaborations which is surely the future for me. So yes, my intention is to perform my music live with other artists, but in a more fluid manner versus a permanent band setup. P.S. A MOSKO reunion tour would be something I’m always open to!
What are some songs that have been at the top of your playlist this year? What’s your Mount Rushmore of artists that you’d love to collaborate with one day?
1. changes (feat. Kehina) by one
2. This Is, Pt. I by Khushi
3. dj by Jim Legxacy
4. Dust Rises by Gabriel Gifford, Harvey Causon
I want to collaborate with JAMES BLAKE. JAMES BLAKE. JAMES BLAKE.
You can follow Kavya here.