It’s sassy and seductive: that’s “Cut & Paste It”, the brand new track from Melbourne-via-Fremantle singer Kathryn Rollins. Fleshed out and ambitious, you can forget expectations forged by the acoustic, finger-picking feel of Rollins’ acclaimed debut EP, Reckless (released in April 2013). “Cut & Paste It” is the sound of an artist moving forward.
“This is so different… it’s going to be interesting to see what people think,” Rollins laughs. Reckless – recorded with producer Kav Temperley (Eskimo Joe) – proved the young singer/songwriter was a talent to watch with songs that tugged at the heartstrings, full with reverb and soul. Raised in WA with a jazz guitarist father who taught his daughter how to harmonise, Rollins first began writing songs as a teen, learning keys at 12 and guitar at 14. Winning 2013 single “Who Shot The Bird Down?” (lifted from Reckless) announced her arrival, scoring online love and write-ups from Yen to The AU Review and more, including national airplay on triple j and an appearance in TV series “Wentworth”.
Reckless was just the beginning for this young artist – and over the past 12 months, Rollins’ musical palette has continued to evolve. At 24, her latest musical step is as exciting as it is fresh, and new.
“When I went into making Reckless I was really new to recording,” Rollins admits. “I really didn’t have much of an idea of what people did in the studio. Making that EP was the start of me becoming interested in production, and over the next two years I began working on my skills, developing an interest in electronic music, parties, festivals… that sort of stuff.”
Inspired by the likes of Grimes’ breakout 2012 LP Visions and records by Fever Ray, The Knife, Perth’s Ta-ku and New York City rappers Zebra Katz and Le1f, after touring wrapped for Reckless Rollins got to work. Armed with just a MIDI keyboard and her laptop with audio software Logic Pro, the music in her headphones helped forge a new sound.
“Zebra Katz and Le1f, they’re really cool, grimy, and maybe even a bit dancehall influenced. I saw Le1f at Meredith last year, he was my favourite act – the beats were great, the raps were silky smooth,” Rollins recalls. “That really influenced what was I writing… As well as listening to Drake’s new album [2013’s Nothing Was The Same], which I don’t know if I should admit to or not!”
In the midst of experimenting with how to capture her fledgling new songs, Rollins picked up a copy of Beyoncé’s 2013 self-titled LP… and something struck. “I was listening to Beyoncé all the time, and the ‘female empowerment’ vibes that come out in a song like ‘Cut & Paste It’ are reflective of that. I was tired of writing songs that were from a victim’s perspective. I’ve written a lot of ‘angsty guitar songs’ in my time and I wanted to write something fun and upbeat.”
The lead track from her forthcoming second EP, “Cut & Paste It”, was produced with help from Steven Schram (The Cat Empire, Little Birdy), and was recorded in their respective home studios over a couple of days in January 2014. “It was all very basic – we literally used one microphone for vocals and did the rest on the computer,” Rollins laughs. “Steven and I are on a similar wavelength. We’re both a little bit left of centre, and we both like to work in a really organic way… not really forcing things to happen. He was really good to work with ‘cause he’s got a lot of experience, and I was looking for someone who was going to let me take the reins, but offer support. It was really fun.”
The pair worked on two tracks, while Rollins’ again enlisted the talents of Reckless producer Temperley for another song. “Kav’s biggest strength would be in pop songwriting – he’s a very good songwriter,” Rollins says. “I was really inspired to use a lot of subby, bass sounds from listening to Ta-ku, and I was having a lot of fun doing glitchy vocals: cutting them up, distorting them, using delay. They were the two main focuses for keeping a consistent sound across the EP.”
As far as new directions go, “Cut & Paste” takes no prisoners, all unapologetic bouncy and vital beats. “I wanted to be empowered, to present something really confident and celebrate growth and excitement.” Make no mistake: this is the sound of an artist making her mark. With street smart beats and infectious energy, Kathryn Rollins’ latest offering has the type of potency you just can’t ignore.