Sometimes you just have to buy a slug mask to start seeing yourself in a whole new way. This was the case for 17-year-old musician KALI, whose new EP Maltman and Effie is out today. But the multi-instrumentalist and producer didn't only seem themselves differently because they slipped on a bizarre disguise. Rather, the gastropod mollusk inspired KALI to understand both the negative and positive intricacies of their personality.
“I bought the slug mask on a whim about a month prior to me making the songs which turned into Maltman and Effie," KALI explained. "I started wearing it as a party trick because I suffer from social anxiety like everyone else my age. After I finished demoing the EP, I began to realize that the songs were more about myself and my insecurities than they were about the physical circumstances that allowed me to reach this point of introspection."
The slug mask evolved past a funny talking point or disguise. "The slug represents my cynical but monstrous conscience, blending both my light and darkness, which is also correlated with my gender identity being ambiguous. The [EP] title comes from a street in Silverlake, but in my head, it sounds like 'Maltman' is my deviant and negative self-perception whereas 'Effie' is my lighthearted stability. The slug mask represents the unity in opposites."
Maltman and Effie not only gives us personal insight into KALI, but solidified them as part of the rising generation of musicians who are lending a fresh ear and point of view to rock music. Take the EP's closer "I Hope You Hate Me," which is a warped and sprawling rock-opera ballad that recalls a moody Elton John or lethargic Freddie Mercury. Tinny guitar, noodling melodies, and gently serrated riffs nod to KALI's upbringing performing Beatles songs. Aside from hints of classic rock, KALI's music at times recalls the experimental minds of modern classics by the likes of Tame Impala or Broadcast. They follow in the footsteps of artists flipping familiar melodies, chords, or song structures with more than a fresh coat of paint. KALI tears apart the standard into eclectic off-beat originals.
Listen to Maltman and Effie and read a track-by-track breakdown of the EP KALI shared with us below.
This was the first song I made on the EP with the intention of creating something cinematic that would represent my budding relationship and new experience of LA. I started this song with the verse progression played on bass with reversed drums and just wrote to that. At the time I was really inspired to create a guitar sound that sounded like strings but not strings, something synthy but without a high attack that had the cadence of a guitar. This was the first song where I felt like I had created a new sonic palette for myself to paint from. Going into finishing stages with [producer Tony Berg] allowed me to reassess my lyrics and pull from the moment in time I wrote this song and at first I was hesitant to change (since the demos I made for all the songs were very fully formed), but I adjusted and my ears matured to enjoying the changes.
2. "Anybody Else"
I made this song after "Flem," about a week after. All of the EP was birthed in a tumultuous seven- to nine-week period over summer break where I would put my entire body and soul into making hyper-specific demos, playing and producing myself and all the instruments while watching cars move on the 405. I started this song on a bad day and I was not ready to indulge in the high focus level it takes for me to create a full song. A week later I came back and started to chisel away at it every day, under the impression that I was going to make a swooning love song. Turns out, I didn’t.
I felt as though I was not being honest with myself and how I was feeling, which led to me feeling stuck for a few days. I came back to the studio to work on it during a day of high stress and anxiety, which did the trick in finishing it. I was writing about feeling insecure while someone I liked was on an international trip, and was uncertain if they were coming back. I finished the song saying “I wish I never trusted you” and after I closed the Logic session, I was planning on meeting my best friend for lunch outside my studio. I walked downstairs and looked for them, couldn't find them, but saw someone I recognized outside. I realized after a double take that the person I was writing about came to surprise me.
"Addicted" was technically the first song I made that wound up on this project. I was suffering from a lot of overstimulation from the process of releasing music for the first time and developed a very bad social media addiction. I was also experiencing a lot of ruminating upon past behaviors and relationships (platonic and romantic) and would find myself in this negative cycle of self-deprecation. When I started the song, like the others, I didn’t have a clear idea of how it would end, but I knew that the song would get finished. I sampled my voice to create these chords that echo through the entire song (only two chords) and just remember singing the hook over it and feeling like I had outdone anything I’d made before. This was the song that instilled the level of confidence and understanding I needed to make an EP afterwards.
4. "Different Way"
Throughout the making of the EP, I was reading Norwegian Wood by Murakami for the first time. The book reminded me a lot of the imagery of swaying leaves in the fall, which I was inspired to translate musically. Fall represents change and adjustment to me, which is what this song is about, how trying to approach a situation with a different mindset can be healing.
I started writing this song by recording the drum beat in the beginning. The rhythm of the drums has this chugging that represents this idea of struggling, but just continuing to push through it because there is a light at the end of a tunnel. This informed the rest of the song, also heavily inspired by the idea of someone looking out the window of a plane and the rush of bittersweet feelings that occur when you are leaving comfort to challenge yourself. There are a lot of weird electrical noises and textures that I kept in the song because it reminded me of a plane taking off.
6. "I Hope You Hate Me"
I didn’t even know if this song was going to make it on the record. I could instinctually sense when I knew another song was coming and getting finished, but this one came as a surprise to me. I started this and finished the demo in about two days. I knew that this would be the closer because it felt a lot different and stripped in comparison to the other songs, but also summarized the chapter of my life that this was closing. I’m pretty sure that it's the only song that has an obvious harmonic resolve at the end.