By turns psychological, shamanic and gloriously groove-laden, Kylesa’s soul-searching momentum has taken them through some of the darkest moments of their career.
Kylesa have spent their entire career resisting categorisation, wilfully melding the might of metal with the grim portents of doom, a psychedelic battle fought to the beat of two drummers.
Equal parts primal groove and cerebral angst, it’s a fitting soundtrack from a group named after a Buddhist term for delusory anguish.
‘Keep moving, don’t look back’ has become their motto, one that’s taken on added resonance following a period that both founding guitarists/vocalists Phillip Cope and Laura Pleasants describe as the hardest of their lives. The struggle was documented on their darkest record to date, 2013’s Ultraviolet, which met with a mixed response at the time. Laura describes it as a rough chapter in the band’s 15-year career.
“It was a difficult record. Some of those songs I really, really like, and some of them… aren’t my favourite.” She trails off frequently, considering every word. “Ultraviolet was dark. I was going through the darkest period of my life. I lost my mother to cancer and it was… epically terrible. I don’t wish that on anyone, but it’s part of life. It was a difficult time; we had to take a long break.”
Two years have passed. If Ultraviolet was the sound of Kylesa at their lowest ebb, new album Exhausting Fire documents their attempts to understand and overcome their difficulties, to start anew. It is by turns direct and ambiguous, the brazen riffs of old making frequent returns on a dreamlike journey, falling in and out of focus, lost in multi-instrumental hazes, and torn between optimism and melancholy.
“Phillip and I, ironically, were both going through heavy relationship stuff,” says Laura, “and it’s easy to get lost in your head; you’re totally lost and confused, you need escape. There’s a lot of that in the lyrics, and the music takes on different aspects of those thoughts.”
As well as recording Exhausting Fire, Laura has spent a “crazy” summer renovating her new home, symbolic fresh starts for both her band and her personal life. For Phillip, the studio seems a spiritual home, and at times during the writing process, a literal one. He’s “locked in” there today, and sounds affably tired, preoccupied, giving the impression that he spends a wealth of time here: “I write continuously, I never take huge breaks.” Laura spoke of needing escape, and it seems a pertinent theme for him as well. Did writing *Exhausting Fire *offer that escape?
“We’re not escaping anything,” he answers. “We’re facing issues head on, writing about them. The only escape was that I was so busy working on it that I shut myself off from everything else. I spent over a month in the studio – I didn’t leave! I woke up, worked on the album and then went to sleep. The album starts where *Ultraviolet *left off, moving into getting away from dark times, dark thoughts, trying to keep your head up. *Exhausting Fire *is a way of getting a lot out of your system, and moving on.”