This is super pleasing stuff” – Dave Ruby Howe, triple j Unearthed
“The new cut takes Rollins into starkly different territory laced with electronic, ambient and ephemeral elements that paint a picture of an artist in the throes of real-time maturation” – The Music
Strong emotions, syncopated beats and sultry vocals: Slow Traction is the highly anticipated second EP from Melbourne-via-Fremantle artist Kathryn Rollins.
Fans have already experienced the first taste of Rollins’ exciting new sonic direction – bold and dark, a stark contrast from her debut 2013 EP, Reckless.
The seductive single “Cut & Paste It”, released back in June, is a song steeped in empowerment and killer beats. “I wanted to present something really confident and celebrate growth,” Rollins said at the time of the surprising track. “I’ve written a lot of ‘angsty guitar songs’ in my time and I wanted to do something fun and upbeat. ‘Cut & Paste It’ is one speed – and the rest of the EP is somewhere else.”
Having fallen in love with the sounds of artists like Grimes, Fever Ray, The Knife, Ta-ku, Zebra Katz and Le1f, Rollins spent much of 2014 diving into new territory and recording in the studio with Kav Temperley (Eskimo Joe) and Steven Schram (The Cat Empire, Little Birdy). Now, Slow Traction is set to truly cement Rollins as one of the country’s most exciting new performers. Having played at The AU Review’s 6th Birthday Party at Brisbane’s Bigsound last September and recently highlighted as a Melbourne talent to watch by i-d mag in their online countdown, one thing is certain: for Kathryn Rollins, Slow Traction is just the beginning.
“Wild Violets” is Slow Traction’s earliest cut, the only song of the bunch containing guitar or live bass. Its genesis began a couple of years ago in Perth, Rollins’ originally envisaging the song as a simple piano number. In late 2013 alongside producer Temperley, the track was fine-tuned, the pair adding in layers of vocals, synths, and drum parts, colour and contrast, before Schram mixed it and gave it a finishing polish.
“It sounds pretty different from where it started, it’s definitely evolved,” says Rollins of the song. “My friend Libby Edwards, a photographer [who has shot Rollins many times for previous releases and shows], was going through a real period of change, taking a lot of self portraits. They were really beautiful – very vulnerable and feminine. I’ve always been inspired by Libby, and at the time I felt this connection to both her work and what she was going through. So I wrote this song for her. And it was the very first song in a while where I thought, ‘Hmm, this could be the start of something…’” she admits of her new direction. “It felt very much like a beginning.” With its instantly hummable chorus and cheeky lines (“Kissing in the morning…”), its playful sense of fun makes it one of the disc’s most immediate numbers.
Title track, “Slow Traction”, with its speak-song vocals, staccato beats and raw R&B burn, was inspired by Rollins’ love of hip-hop and modern music icons like Beyoncé and Drake. “It’s probably my favourite song on the EP,” the singer admits. “This was a really fun one to make, and was a very quick process from start to finish.”
“I wrote the lyrics on the train to and from work,” Rollins explains. “I’d been listening to a lot of rap, so that attitude, that bravado, all came into the songwriting pretty strongly. It’s a very confident intro to the EP I think.”
On a completely different note is the gentle “Call Me Closer”, which Rollins describes as “a necessary counterpoint” to bold confidence expressed on other numbers. While you wouldn’t necessarily think ‘sci-fi’ upon hearing the ballad – recorded with Roland 808 drum sounds and electric piano – inspiration struck after a viewing of Luc Besson’s classic The Fifth Element.
“I felt like the EP needed something a little more vulnerable, a little more stripped-back,” recalls Rollins. “I wanted to write a very simple, straight-forward song. So I put together a drum-machine-inspired beat, wrote the rest of the parts, and took it into Schram. One of my favourite times recording the whole EP, in fact, was when he brought up a vocoder plugin on his computer, grabbed one of the verses and made a bridge out of it. To me, ‘Call Me Closer’ sounds like a sad robot,” she laughs. “We got on this The Fifth Element inspired wavelength because I’d recently watched that movie. And similarly, you could say it’s got a lot of those feelings wrapped up in it!”
For Rollins, this EP marks a whole new chapter, one she can’t wait to keep on exploring live. “I’ve had the occasional person who’s been like (innocently), ‘Oh, are you going to write any more songs like ‘Who Shot The Bird Down’?’” she laughs of the 2012 triple j playlisted single. As Rollins says, “This is a landmark EP for me. I’m excited to put it out – and for whatever comes next.”