Photo: Andrew Kaplan

Interview: Kerala Talks ‘Escapism,’ and Balancing Dreams with Being Present in the Moment

Denver, Colorado-based producer, and musician Kerala, aka Jordan Evanoff, releases his debut EP, Escapism, chronicling a tale of discovery.

Talking about the EP’s title, Kerala shares, “Often in life, we will think we need to escape our current surroundings in order to find ourselves again… when really, all we need to escape is the constraints of our own mind.”

He goes on to add, “‘Escapism’ is a story about love, loss, ambition, and finding yourself through traveling the world, only to realize happiness was within you all along. The storyline of this concept EP follows the journey of an individual coming to terms with this issue, through 6 distinct steps.” 

Kerala’s genesis occurred in 2018. While touring and playing with his band EVANOFF, Jordan found himself exploring new sounds of electro-pop and future bass. The first Kerala tunes, written in a small jungle village in Costa Rica, were followed by writing the songs on Escapism while exploring the Colorado mountains during quarantine.

From a purely subjective viewpoint, highlights on the EP include “What If,” featuring Marie Lang; the gleaming house track, “Calling Me;” and the dreamy, creamy suffusions of “Amor Fati.”

CelebMix caught up with Kerala to ply him with questions about how he got started in music, the inspiration behind the Kerala project, and which artists he’s listening to right now.

Hey Kerala (JJ), thanks for taking the time, and congratulations on your debut EP release. Could you tell us a little about how you got started in music? What’s the backstory there?

Thank you, excited to finally get this set of work, out into the world. I have been playing guitar for almost 17 years at this point. I showed a natural inclination towards music from around 10 years old, and I am extremely fortunate my parents supported and pushed me into developing this passion. I played in bands throughout high school and started experimenting with electronic music my junior year. Whilst attending music school at CU Denver, I met my bandmates and formed the electronic-rock trio EVANOFF, with whom I have been touring the country consistently since 2015.

After touring and playing with your jamtronica/electronic rock band Evanoff, what stimulated you to undertake a new project as Kerala?

Kerala started as a necessary creative outlet for me back in the summer of 2018. I had begun to write songs that were more uplifting and pop-leaning than what was ‘on-brand’ for EVANOFF. Instead of trying to force these songs in the style that was EVANOFF, I decided to give myself the chance to fully express this side of my creativity. When I traveled to Costa Rica in 2018, this side of my creative expression flourished, and I wrote the first official Kerala songs.

With the Kerala project being more electronic-leaning, how, if at all, has that affected your creative process?

Well, acoustic guitar is a big part of the Kerala sound, so the songs often start there! Also, this project has forced me to develop my ability to create and flush out full song ideas only on my laptop, and then go back later to re-record the parts with real instruments. Since the main premise of this project is to travel to exotic locations and write songs, this has been a crucial skill to develop.

Escapism is an ambitious undertaking. Would you say that the character in the story is based on you and your life’s journey?

Absolutely. The past year has been transformational for me in so many ways, and this album is a representation of that journey. Coming to terms with my health, mentally and physically, as well as reassessing what I want my future to look like. I have always struggled with the duality of having big dreams while attempting to be truly present. And while those things conflict in the moment… I think finding a balance between them is the key to happiness. That’s what “Escapism” is all about.

How do you know when a track is “done”?

Ooooo that’s a tough one. I used to have a lot of trouble “finishing” tracks, but that type of perfectionism is inherently unproductive. As soon as the track provokes the emotion that I was hoping for, and it sonically sounds balanced and crisp, then that’s all it needs. You can always add a million more things to a song, but in the end, simplicity is key.

Which of the tracks would you say is your favorite and why? Any BTS info you can share about the making of it?

While this wasn’t the case until very recently… I think the album’s title track ‘Escapism’ is my favorite. While it was the first instrumental I made for this album, it didn’t come together until the last minute. I was about to scrap it and just not include it on the EP, but I spent a week in early July re-imagining the song and finding a deeper sense of purpose in how it could progress the overall storyline. Now it’s my favorite track on the EP! So, to touch back on the previous question, sometimes to finish a song, you need to give it some space, and then come back to it with a fresh perspective!

What is the driving force behind your artist career? Fame? Metrics? Financial security?

I just want to lift people up and make them feel the way music has made me feel. The right song in the right context can completely turn your day around. I just want to add a little beauty into this crazy world… If I can do that, and affect people’s lives in a positive way, I will have served my purpose.

Here’s a fun one for our readers: if you could date any celebrity, who would it be and why?

Oh man… I’m a little obsessed with Dua Lipa, creatively and aesthetically. I think she is doing really good things for pop music… and she’s undeniably beautiful.

Who are some artists you have on repeat right now that we should check out?

Been listening to a lot of TWO LANES, Kasbo, and MEMBA. All pretty underground “indie-electronic,” but they are all artists that brighten my day when listening to them.

Where do you see yourself in a year?

I hope to be traveling SE Asia writing my first full-length album, as long as COVID chills out.

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Written by Randy

Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.