Forgive Me For My Frail Love: A Conversation With Cloves
Originally published on Slant.
Kaity Dunstan thinks you can learn a lot about a person based off of what they drink and Kaity Dunstan drinks gin.
The delicately bruised ballads that Dunstan crafts as Cloves go down smoothly, but they're laced with bitterness and regret. The music of Cloves doesn't come in a shot glass; it comes on the rocks as a nightcap at the end of a long night of missed opportunities and run-ins with former lovers.
While she's been quietly releasing music over the past year, she'll hit the festival circuit full-steam, looking forward to performances at Coachella, Lollapalooza and Osheaga.
I got to speak with Cloves ahead of a run of SXSW shows about happy places, structure, and Scandinavian Soothing Metal.
SD: When did you first start writing music?
KD: I don’t really know. When I went home, I found this little folder filled with songs that I used to write when I was really young. They were terrible. I think I started writing them when there was a singing competition at my school. That’s when I decided to put a song together and actually record it, and then send it into this competition.
My sister played guitar, so I was like, "I’ll do the words and the melody. You can do the chords." So we wrote a little song together and sent it in. We didn’t win, but that was the first time I really started writing songs. That must have been in grade seven, so I would have been 13. I always had these ideas, but that was the first time I put something down.
SD: Who were some of your musical heroes growing up?
KD: My biggest influence is Amy Winehouse, because I adore her — same with Etta James and Carole King. Then I got into more of the band-y side of things, so that was Arctic Monkeys and the Black Keys. I love Paolo Nutini, I think he’s fucking great.
SD: You’re originally from Melbourne, but you’re living in London right now?
KD: Yeah, I’m in London at the moment. I’ve been living here for about the last year. I’ve kind of officially moved over, but I grew up in Melbourne.
SD: What brought you to London?
KD: It was really writing. For some reason, I felt like I needed to move to London and make music. I found some people that I like making music with here, so I moved over and I’m just finishing up my album. I just really love London. It has this exciting thing about it that I really love.
SD: On your Facebook, you label your music as "Scandinavian Soothing Metal." How would you describe that genre?
KD: I describe it as potentially a joke gone wrong (laughs). We just put it up because we had no idea what to say — whenever people ask, “How do you describe your music?” I really don’t know how to describe it. So we just came up with Scandinavian Soothing Metal.
SD: I also noticed that on Spotify, you have a playlist under your profile, called “Songs to drink gin to.” Why gin, of all beverages?
KD: I think gin is my favorite beverage. It probably goes gin, then coffee and then I like cider as well. I just feel like gin describes me as a person — I feel like your drink choice describes you as a person. It’s almost like gin just chose me.
SD: When you write your music, is it strictly solo or do you collaborate with people? Is there a method to the madness? Or does it change every time?
KD: It does change around a bit, but at the moment I’ve been doing a lot of collaborating with Justin Parker. We just get in the room together and collaborate on a song, but I’ve had experiences writing with all types of people. I really love working with Justin, though. I think he’s excellent.
SD: What’s been the most fun part of going at this full throttle? And what’s been the most difficult part of the job?
KD: The most difficult part has been having not a lot of structure to my life, for quite some time. I never really know where I’m going to be, or how I’m going to get there. There’s not a lot of structure, really, living-wise. So that can be hard.
At the same time, it’s my favorite part. So, it’s been sweet because I’m one of those people who goes, "I wish I was at this place." And then I’ll get there and I’ll be like, "I wish I was back where I was." It’s really a bittersweet thing.
SD: Where would you say is your happy place?
KD: My happy place would be anywhere that has a dog and some gin.
SD: What’s next for you? What are you most excited for in 2016?
KD: I’m really excited to, hopefully, finish off my album, and I’m also really excited to play festivals because I’ve never played proper festivals before. I’ve always just done street festivals at home, and stuff like that. I’m really excited about SXSW and Coachella — there are a few in the cards and I’m really excited about that. I think it’ll be great.
SD: You opened up for James Bay when he was on tour in the States. Who would be your dream artists to tour with?
KD: I reckon — do they have to be dead or alive?
SD: Let’s do one dead and one alive.
KD: I’m going to say Paolo Nutini as the alive one — at least last I checked. I feel like his last album was really, really incredible and I really loved it.
Dead, it would have to be Amy [Winehouse], but then also I wouldn’t want to sing while she’s singing. I think I would like to just sit and watch. Just to shadow her and see what goes on.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
Cover photo: YouTube