Los Angeles-based indie pop-rock artist Halo Kitsch recently dropped her debut EP, with You (in mind), a homage to her best friend Jillian who passed away in January.
Talking about the inspiration for with You (in mind), Halo shares, “This is not about popularity to me, this is about making my life, and my friend Jill’s life mean something. This is about turning all of my challenges into hope. This project took on something more important after Jill died and honoring her was the only thing that kept me sober through the pain of missing her. Being with her was like watching myself in someone else. We were so alike. She was stubborn and sassy, and strong – and too sick to see it. Too sad to see how awesome and amazing she was. You hear all of that in these six songs. It’s my story, but it’s hers too, and I’m sure it’s someone else’s.”
Written by Halo, and produced by Ben Zelico, who has also worked with Girlpool, Aly & AJ, Peach Tree Rascals, Nasty Cherry, and Lawrence Rothman, the new EP comes on the back of Halo Kitsch garnering over two million plays online, as well as being highlighted by Spotify across their Fresh Finds, Pop Favorites, and Indie Pop playlists, while also headlining sold-out shows for We Found New Music and Make Out Music, and opening for The Regrettes, Baby Queen, and Jackie.
Celebmix spoke with Halo Kitsch to find out more about the person behind the music, how she got started in music and her writing process.
What three things can’t you live without?
With the exception of music, because I think that’s obvious, I would say… 1. Dogs (Poodles specifically. I’m infatuated with poodles), 2. Sunlight (it’s cliche but my depression gets worse in winter or in rainy weather/fog – I hate it) and 3. Sleep… sleep is sanity.
What inspired your new EP, ‘with You (in mind)?’
I started putting together the songs in my early relationship with sobriety. I was doing a lot of looking inward and reflecting and I’d been writing most of these songs throughout active addiction so I finally felt like I had the clarity to bring them to life. As I was in the process of doing this, I met my friend Jillian… she was mesmerizing. She was the best friend I’d always wanted; we were either attached at the hip or in the middle of a heated text thread for seven months straight. We were so alike – and yet still so compatible. She was so unapologetically herself in so many ways, and in others, I had to encourage her to continue being that way. She brought out parts of me that I had shut off and taught me a confidence I’d only seen in other people before. I found myself starting to make music that I thought she might like – ‘hollywood *starlette’ being one example. She was a muse to me before I’d even thought that far. When she passed, I knew the project would be dedicated to her. I felt her edge, her power, her sass, and her attitude in the songs, and I also felt the pain we shared. After losing her, that’s what it became about and that’s what drove me to finish.
How did you get started in music?
I was a sing-in-the-car kind of kid. Singing always felt so freeing to me… nothing else really mattered with the window down and the radio on. My parents kept a piano in the living room, and it was just like a magnet to me. Learning other people’s songs eventually turned into writing my own and I never stopped scribbling lyrics in notebooks during class, or in the margin of my papers while I was waitressing, on cocktail napkins at bars, etc. I started recording in my friend’s bedroom studio mostly for fun, and I think that’s where I gained enough confidence to call ‘making music’ a dream. I sort of went from bedrooms to garages and eventually, I found Ben Zelico – who has produced everything I’ve released so far.
Where are you from?
Agoura Hills, it’s a little pocket of suburb north of Calabasas.
Did your hometown impact your sound?
Feels weird to say no to that question. I’m usually more on the side of ‘every little thing influenced something.’ But people from my town refer to it as ‘the bubble.’ It’s quaint and small, and the joke was that many people never leave. I’m sure that it must have influenced me in some ways – maybe in small ways like the music we all thought was cool enough to play at house parties. It was always a totally different playlist if we drove even half an hour outside of Agoura on weekends, and we liked our music better in the bubble. Maybe it was how we all thought it was cool that Linkin Park came from Agoura Hills (it is pretty cool) – teachers loved to remind us of that. Or maybe it was that when I did leave Agoura – I tried so hard to look like I wasn’t from Agoura that I ruined my life and went to rehab and now I’m covered in tattoos and writing songs about how drugs aren’t cool. Hahaha.
If you had to describe your sound to the uninitiated, what would you say?
Hmmm, this question always stumps me. There’s not an obvious person I can point to and say, ‘I sound like that!’ (Which to me is the whole point, and something I respect about my found). That being said I guess it’s sort of like… Machine Gun Kelly meets Julia Michaels. It’s the exoskeleton of a Scorpio who identifies as a Slytherin and yet whose quiz results have repeatedly come back as Hufflepuff. If you were blowing bubbles but they were poisonous or if you were running through a field of roses and bleeding from the thorns. It’s evocative and raw and if I’m doing my job right, they’re as powerful to everyone else as they are to me. Like if pop music was a bouncy ball, and say you threw it at a wall, by the time it made impact the ball was rock hard and left you sort of thinking… ‘shit.’
What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, or other media?
I usually write very personally about my own life. I haven’t really tapped into writing from somebody else’s shoes yet although it is a skill I can admire. I think I write with the purpose of making a product out of my experiences and I’m not sure writing from fiction would have that same reward. However, I often find sounds and songs that inspire me through television and movies – most of my liked songs on Spotify are things I looked up from early episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and other soundtracks. I think soundtracks taught me a lot. I have a deep curiosity for the knowledge and patience it must take to curate such a parallel collection of music from different artists and times, and I think admiring that ability translated into my own desire to create a body of art that felt like every little piece clicked somewhere into the puzzle.
What can you share about your writing process?
I’m very biased toward lyrics – I’m a lyric-first writer in almost every instance. Often times it’s just a single word that catches my eye, in a subtitle or conversation – and I’ll jot it down into the notes on my phone. I have probably hundreds of disjointed memos from over the years. If I can use the word in a sentence that feels relevant to me then I start to hum melodies as I’m walking or driving or showering (ha) and I’ll build off of that. It’s a little more rare that I sit down at the topic with a specific intention in mind and just let it flow – but that happens too – that’s how I wrote ‘Daddy’s Girl,’ I just sat at the piano and started right off the bat with ‘She’s so depressed, she’s sick of it…’
Which artists in your opinion are killing it right now?
First two that come to mind are Julia Wolf and Baby Queen. I’ve been following them for a dorkily long time and to have witnessed their journeys so far, it’s really a turn-on – it gets me so pumped. Jealous, ahaha, but pumped. I remember Julia’s reaction when Blackbear first commented on her post, and she just announced that he’s featuring on her next track – wild. Watching an artist grow or ‘blow up’ is such a cool experience. I am so happy for them. Also, Chlsy just released an album this year, another artist whose first tracks were on my Spotify wrapped years ago, and seeing Chlsy herself turn into a band and develop a whole new sound is really awesome. The album rocks. I’d really encourage people to go looking for their next favorite artist in the musicians who have fewer listeners. I always think to myself like – what if I haven’t even heard my favorite song yet? There is such an abundance of music right now, it’s daunting but really exciting to be involved.
How do you define success?
Relatively. I measure success in little wins. One message saying, ‘Your song meant something to me’ – that’s success. I have small goals and bigger ones. But I try to stay really close to the idea that my purpose at the core is to touch somebody else. If somebody relates to what I’ve written, that’s success. The first time I ever put out a project I think I had 500 listeners total for the year. That felt like success. That’s a fraction of what I have now. it’s important for me to remember that, to be grateful… I never thought I’d have the monthly listeners that I do now, it was just a dream and that’s wild to me.
Looking back over the last few years, what have you learned?
I could write a book on what I’ve learned in the last few years – starting this journey being Halo Kitsch, life throughout the pandemic, and my hot and cold relationship with sobriety. I’ll probably write an album instead. But for now – a few of my takeaways have been… to do what feels good, what brings you joy, and if it brought you true joy – it’s not worth regretting. Regret is stupid when you could learn instead. When people say, ‘Take it or leave it,’ what they really should say is, ‘If you choose to take it – you can’t change it. If you wanted to change it, you should have left it.’ Anticipate your own needs. Some feelings deserve time and others deserve a time limit. The right people matter, the others don’t, and it’s hard to figure out who’s who. And love is supposed to feel safe, that was a biggie.
What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? Music videos? Live gigs?
Yes, my listeners can look forward to at least a couple of music videos – a few are in action already. However, what I’m most excited about and I think what many of them don’t know yet is that I’ve invited 4 of my favorite artists – who also happen to be friends, to join in on some of the songs from the EP and so I’ll have four alternative ‘feature’ versions following up the release of the originals. I was so impressed and really touched by what these artists contributed to the vision – it felt so natural and validating to have these fellow musicians that I admire so much on board. It was truly a wild experience to witness how accurately they all expanded on what I was trying to say – and to call them all collaborators feels really special. I can’t wait to share what we made together.