“It was just a natural progression” says the voice of Lea Emmery down the other end of the phone, recounting with a certain Scandinavian understatement the tale of Kid Wave got to the point of releasing their début album, Wonderlust. It’s a tale which encompasses everything from all-female punk bands and classical to trans-European relocation and sound engineering courses.
In an age where bands often appear fully-formed, this tall tale of happenstance and adversity makes a refreshing change, beginning back in Emmery’s native Sweden where, already a member of a punk outfit, she decided “I really wanted to learn something about music, I thought the only way of doing that was through the local music college” where, following an audition, she got in (much to her surprise, by her own admission). It’s where she spent her time doing “a lot of arranging and composing for orchestras, pretty much because that was all I could do there. After three years I was starting to get pretty fed up and I’d always had that idea of wanting to write my own songs.”
That desire would lead to, perhaps, one of the most important decisions in the young Emmery’s life: to leave her native country and seek opportunities elsewhere, fuelled by a desire “to get away from where I grew up. A lot of my friends did the same and I think when you live in a small place you just want to move away from there.” Taking an objective approach as to where to go next, she went on to choose London based on the fact that “it had such a great music scene and in order for me to have the best chance of doing what I wanted to do – play in a band, writing songs – London was going to be the best place to be.” Not that it was that easy – Emmery recalls how she arrived with “a suitcase and a guitar”, no contacts and no existing social hub to effortlessly glide into. “I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t have a band” she recounts “and so everything I have now, I had to build up for myself from scratch. Those first couple of years were quite hard in a way – in a big city it’s quite easy to just disappear in it and be quite lonely so I spent a fair bit of time not doing very much at all. When you don’t have many friends you don’t have that great a social life either. It was quite depressing in a way but I’m really glad I managed to push through and carry on doing what I wanted to do.”
She quickly adds “those first couple of years in London were a lot more depressing than the last year or so, I’d say. I realised the importance of having friends and sharing experiences with people – it makes such a difference not being on your own with things.” She also freely documents the difficulties she had even having found her bandmates (Harry Deacon (bass), Serra Petale (drums) & Mattias Bhatt (guitar)), admitting “ It took a while for me to be able to trust the other band members, because I felt that it was my baby and I’d worked on it so hard. I was scared I suppose, to start with, because I’d been doing everything on my own and then there were all these people involved or who wanted to be involved and I started wondering how I could find myself in all of it.” Thankfully, on the cusp of the record release, she’s quick to attest that with the passing of time she’s “come to appreciate being part of a group and getting to work with a producer and it makes such a big difference compared to having to do everything on your own.”
That notion of ‘doing everything on your own’ during Emmery’s early time in the capital extended to production duties, thanks to electing to enrol in a sound engineering course. Looking back over the decision, she recalls with a mix of sheepishness and laughter that “being totally honest…I needed access to a studio to be able to record my demos! It sounds really sneaky I know, but that was really the case. It also helped me to meet other people – a bit, at least. It was never a career move to become a sound engineer but I’m glad I did it because. When I was making those first demos, I definitely had a sound in mind, but there was also a sense of experimenting and trying different techniques. When we were recording the album it was a good match because our producer, Dan, had heard the demos and totally got the sound we were after straight away, but was then able to use his experience to make it sound even better.”
The results have manifested themselves in a record blessed with a warm, hazy and accessible sheen underpinned by punch bass and drums – be it the irresistible ‘All I Want’ or propulsive ‘Honey’. “We went in the studio both with an open mind and also with an idea of how we wanted to sound like,” says Emmery “I didn’t want it to sound too poppy, but I do think it still has that melodic, pop element to it. I think on the album well came together to make sure we had the whole spectrum – it’s about getting the guitar sounding quite warm while at the same time having the bass and drums quite heavy, and the lead guitar’s quite jangly so there’s also this melodic sense to it as well.” It’s stylings have led to a myriad of comparisons across the spectrum of 90s music, from Dinosaur Jr to a whole collection of shoegaze protagonists, and while Emmery concedes that she “ can see why people use those as reference points” she’s equally quick to point out that that “I don’t listen to a lot of that music and I certainly didn’t before writing any of the Kid Wave material. It wasn’t on anyone’s mind,” she continues “and I think it was just how it turned out. I listen to a lot of music but I’d say that 90s shoegaze music doesn’t feature heavily, to be honest. I remember once being asked what my favourite Dinosaur Jr album was, and I had to look up their discography, it’s the same across the board – I don’t really have that great a knowledge of those 90s shoegaze. Maybe other people in the band do, but I’ve just never really spent that much time with it. I’m not saying it’s bad music, I just didn’t grow up listening to it.”
I was always the type of kid who was looking forward to things and wasn’t great at staying in the present.
As our conversation begins to wind down, Emmery again reflects on the circumstances that brought about Wonderlust and to what extent they’ve been instrumental in shaping it. “The record is a combination of moving to London and those first couple of years,” she muses “but also about growing up in Sweden and wanting to do something different, feeling that you don’t have the opportunities where you are. That was the case in there so I wouldn’t necessarily say the record’s totally shaped by my experiences in London, I was always the type of kid who was looking forward to things and wasn’t great at staying in the present.” As she rattles off a dizzying array of future plans – festivals, headline tours and shows that take them across Europe and America – it’s clear that the kid forever looking into the future is definitely still alive and kicking in Emery’s mind.
But perhaps, not entirely. Our conversation ends with her considering the themes and overall message of Wonderlust. With its birth having been such an adventure for its principal, it’s little surprise that in her eyes, the record details “a universal feeling that no matter where you are or your age people can relate to that sense of yearning for somebody else or wanting to escape or looking for something else. I hope people can see themselves in it a bit, and certainly I like listening to records and feeling that I’m not alone in things – it doesn’t have to be something extraordinary but sometimes you spot something that makes you realise you have something in common. Maybe, in that same way, other people can recognise themselves in our record.”