Keli Holiday's New Confidence: "I've found so much more of my own voice"
Adam Hyde steps out from Peking Duk as Keli Holiday and makes a statement with his impressive debut album KELI, a collection of tunes that are as personal as they are catchy
For over a decade, Adam Hyde has been conquering the charts and dancefloors across the world as one half of Peking Duk, releasing a slew of remixes, singles and two fan-favourite EPs, Songs to Sweat To and Reprisal. Known for their party starting antics, Peking Duk’s music matches the intensity and fun of their live shows, whether they’re teaming up with Laidback Luke, SAFIA, AlunaGeorge, Jack River, The Wombats or a stack of other iconic collaborators.
Enter Keli Holiday - a solo alias of Hyde that sees him keeping the infectious melodies but upping the personal approach to songwriting by a few magnitudes. Coming “from the mind of a man living off of nothing but New Order records, beer, sleepless nights and the sheer excitement and love of exploring an unknown city named New York”, his debut solo album KELI represents the most Hyde has dug within for inspiration, baring more of himself creatively than ever before.
With quite the story of how KELI came to be - including a little nudge from best mate Golden Features and working with the legendary K.I.M. aka Kim Moyes from The Presets, we caught up with Mr. Holiday himself to find out all about it.
So, “Keli Holiday” - you could say this alias was born out of a “holiday-not-holiday?”
Yeah, that’s a great way to put it. I was on tour with Peking Duk for, it was like a three month tour around the States and it was back-to-back shows. It was fun. It was great. It was incredible, but towards the end of it, amidst this tour I was in a relationship that was dissolving minute by minute, and obviously me being on the road did not help one bit. So it kind of went hand in hand - the more tired I got, the more this relationship was just falling apart, and like, it all kind of hit me one day in New York. I remember sitting in the back of the van just like going to the next show looking out at New York City and I was listening to a New Order song called Your Silent Face.
It came on my Spotify and I was like, "whooaa, this song is really resonating with me right now", even though I used to always hear it as a kid because my dad would play the record. But it really resonated with me, and I was like, ah, I feel like as soon as I'm done with this tour, I need to write some music that can kind of help get these… not these emotions.
I don't know what the word is, just kind of try and help me get out of this rut that I feel that I'm in this like, exhausting rut. And yeah, got back from the tour, everyone else went on holiday and they’re like “you should go on holiday”, I was like, “na, I think I gotta try and get this out”, whatever it may be that's inside of me, you know?
Yeah for sure - do you remember the last time you heard Your Silent Face before this, like, landmark moment in New York - had it been quite a few years?
Man, that’s a great question. I remember hearing it from the kitchen in my old childhood home, and I was in my bedroom, and I remember hearing this exact song because it’s got like a big synth, it's a pretty like, it's a pretty bangin’ tune like the synth is really loud. And like New Order, their shit’s always banging.
So I remember I remember sitting in my room and being like,”Ohh, adults are so fucking lame, what is thisshitty music” *laughs*. And then fast forward and I'm heartbroken in the back of a van moping going, “ohhhh my god, this song speaks to me”, you know what I mean? Funny the way it came full circle.
I had a very similar experience with The Cure to be honest *laughs*. So you got back and you got the guitar out - I’m assuming this is completely different to what you’d do with Peking Duk when starting to write tracks?
Yeah, 100%, it was a completely different process. I just bought this shitty little acoustic guitar, it’s like a small guitar - it's like a baby's guitar. And I was like “okay, well, fuck, I'm not gonna go on holiday, I think I should try to write some songs”. But the funny part was, I actually never thought about how I should try and write music right now, It just kind of happened.
And I picked up that guitar, and as cliche and corny as it sounds, it literally was like, I kind of opened my eyes and before I knew it, there was like, I had 12 ideas that were done because I'd kind of been in this weird haze of just like, pouring out the songs of me just singing with the guitar, and then I'd record it in, I put a drum machine under it.
And then kind of like, layer in some synths and then just go on to the next idea. And it all came out of me really quickly. And that's a super different process to how I'd work with Peking Duk. And it was all new to me in that sense as well, which I think made me feel like, well, what the fuck am I doing? What is this? What does this all mean apart from the fact that it made me feel a lot better?
I didn't know if there was actual substance to it all. But yeah, after going over to my homie’s house, Golden Features, and you know, playing him some of the songs… very reluctantly, but he squeezed it out of me. He immediately said “do you know Kim from The Presets? He just produced the DMA’s record For Now”. And I was like, “I don't know Kim, personally, of course I know of him, I’ve looked up to him my whole life”. And then he introed us and then me and Kim linked up like the next day, grabbed a coffee and listened to the songs and then that following week jumped into the studio and just hammered it out.
Sooo, have you ever thought what if you never showed Golden Features?!
Totally! 100%! It’s funny that, because like, I talk to him every day, like I was talking to him just before our chat here, and I don't know, I mean, him and I have a very special relationship where, you know, he's one of the most creative and beautifully creative people I know. And he's constantly got a million ideas bouncing around in his head, so he'll always send me anything and everything and kind of be like, just you know, it always helps to have someone to be the wall that you throw the shit at, you know what I mean?
And I'm the wall that all the shit gets thrown at a lot of the time. And I love that because his ideas are just next level, but he kind of squeezed it out to me kind of being like, “what are you working on right now? Like, I know that you're working on some other stuff, like, it's not this stuff that you're playing me”. And, you know, for him knowing me well enough to know that I had some other shit that I've been working on that I was too scared to play, and for him to kind of lean into that and “go come on, don’t be a pussy, play it for me.” And then I did and I thank him for that, eternally.
Why do you think with these demos in particular - and I’m assuming here - that compared to other demos you were particularly reluctant to show Golden Features, especially being such a close, long time homie?
Man, I'd say I was so reluctant to show all the music because it was so personal. It was like, really personal and coming from a place of like, not vulnerability, because I'm never scared to be vulnerable, but I guess maybe I was scared to be vulnerable on that stage in that sense of like, in a song format. Because all songs I've written prior were either about other characters or about situations that could be relatable to, you know, various things.
It could be about a relationship, a job, drug addiction, whatever it might be, but all of these songs, like, you know, one of the songs is about my best friend that passed away, just killed himself and we were 17. And, you know, another song has voicemails from the girl that I'm singing about, kind of cliche rap stuff *laughs*, but it's like, there's just like, there's things that are so personal that it's kind of like “Ooohhh, like this is really fucking, this is really from the closet”, you know what I mean? But I think in that, I've found so much more of my own voice and so much more comfort in not really giving a fuck anymore. Like, there's a lot of freedom in just letting go and saying “Hey, this is me, flaws and all, in song format - hate me or love me, it's here.”
Must be a liberating feeling! I’m still thinking about the origins of all of this - sleep deprivation after this hectic tour, relationship breaking down while also maturing - I guess this is a long way of asking, you’ve made something so personal that you were even reluctant to show your best mate, had this Keli Holiday solo project been something you’d thought about even before the US tour?
Man, that’s a good question and I actually have never even taken thought to it, so I appreciate you asking that. I guess it was always in me, because anyone that I know and love, and that I've known for that long, as soon as they hear the music, or they've seen the live show, the first thing that a lot of them have said is “this is you”, you know, “this is you and I'm so happy that you're sharing you”. And I guess in that sense, it's always been me, and it's always been in there, but I guess that whole collision of events happening was the catalyst for Keli to be born… and then it made sense to kind of grip and rip and just go for it.
Hell yeah. So you grabbed a coffee and had a chat with Kim, you’re probably like “this is siiicckk!” - what was it like to work together?
I mean, Kim is just a funny, twisted fucker and I think we have a very similar sense of humor. I immediately recognized that when we were walking around The Grounds cafe in Alexandria, which is a very hot tourist spot. It's like families everywhere, and people dressed up as Mickey Mouse and just bizarre sunshine and rainbows, ad Kim was wearing this Metallica Seek and Destroy shirt and just like, making really fucked up jokes, as was I, and immediately I kind of knew like “Oh, man, we're gonna get along - we're either gonna love each other, or we're gonna hate each other”.
And, you know, luckily, it was the former and it works musically, because I'm the type of producer especially or songwriter, anything, when it comes to my music, I'll always kind of be like, “oh yeah, there's that and that” and then, you know, I just kind of throw it all together and I'm like “Yeah, cool… we can fix it up later when it gets down to the mixdown, to the nitty gritty”. But Kim is so meticulous with every single process, every single part of each process along the way, whether we're talking drums, whether we're talking synths, guitars - everything has to match his taste level in his ear. And I think that, that alone, I was just like, “Fuck, this guy's like, he's serious”.
And for me to be able to sit on the couch, and take the backseat, whilst he's doing the production, is something I've never done before in my entire career. So to be able to do that alone, I just learned so much, but I also was like, “this is a completely different process”, you know? And from that, obviously, it's going to create different sounds and just a different vibe. And I think I wouldn't have done it with anyone else other than Kim. I think it all lined up perfectly and everything fell into place just as it should. And yeah, I couldn't be happier. Kim is just the fucking funniest person on planet Earth.
I love all of that and now I’ve also got Metallica stuck in my head - not a bad thing! You pretty much preempted my question by saying you probably wouldn’t have done this with anyone other than Kim, cos you’ve gone from not wanting to show your best mate Golden Features to letting Kim mix it down while you’re sitting back on the couch - that’s a lot of trust right there?
Dude, 100%, well said, and I think to answer your question, furthermore, your previous question, it's like, I at that point, once I was in Kim’s studio, I surrendered. You know, I was like, “You know what? Boom, here it all is. Whatever you want me to do, I'll do it, I trust you fully. The ball is in your hands now, run for the fucking mountains with it.” And he did, you know, and he would be like, “Alright, no, no, this is shit, redo that” and I'd be like, “Alright, cool”.
So I go in the booth, re-record that. “No, no, these guitars are shit let's like re-record, right now” so everything was just like, there was none of that like “hey, how ya going?” Yeah, like no small talk. It was kind of just like, if we're gonna do this, let's fucking cut all the fat off it, and make it a lean, mean dirty little machine - and that we did.
That’s so sick - yeah small talk while you’re having a coffee.
So you mentioned live shows a little bit, and I’m curious as to how a Keli Holiday live show works - I’m guessing it’s not just you by yourself with a guitar up there? Not that there’d be anything wrong with that!
*laughs* You’ll have to come through man. So I’ve got my boy Tommy Two Eyes on the synthesizer and sampler, and bass guitar. Then I’ve got my boy Jaguar Jackie on the electric guitar, and then I’ve got Magic Michael on the drums, and I’ve got myself on acoustic and vocals. It's funny, because the music itself isn't over the top raucous energy - some of the songs are, but with the show, Keli Holiday really is a character that I'll bring to life, especially with the live show, and you can see it in the music videos as well.
But with the live show, I'll really turn it up to 1200 on the "Keli nodule", and I'll like you know, jump in the crowd and make people rap battle each other, then make sure I get in the crowd and jump and mosh and crowd surf with them and just try and make it the most interactive, sweaty party that it can possibly be. And so far, every live show I've done has accomplished that. So I'm happy. But I'm constantly looking at ways to level it all up. So I've got a set tomorrow night actually here in Sydney that I'm going to be doing some new tricks. And there’s new dance moves that I'll be trialing. So if I have a broken leg next time we talk, we’ll figure that out.
*laughs* Brings a literal meaning to “break a leg”. So after everything that has been going on - and still going on - with COVID, is making the live shows as interactive as possible a pretty important component of them?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's funny, the first live show that I did was me playing at the Lansdowne. It sold out super quick, which, I was like, “Whooaa”, because I had only released two songs. And then I did the show, and it was a one hour long set full of the songs off the album. All unreleased music, essentially, and everybody was feeling it. I was like, really taken aback whilst performing. I was like, “Holy shit, this is like, this is really something here”.
And I could feel that energy being exchanged, as corny as that sounds, really it was palpable. And I'd forgotten that Example, the British artist was in the crowd. And yeah, I called out, I jumped in the crowd, and then got this random guy in the crowd to rap. And then Example, grabbed the microphone off the kid and started rapping. It became clown town, but it was great and I wouldn't have had it any other way. So the after that night of the Sydney show, that was the last show that Sydney could see for fucking ever, that was just before they went into that lockdown. And I was like, “Holy shit”, I can't believe that we were all hugging and kissing in the crowd.
And then I flew back to L.A. and started doing shows over in New York and L.A. with Keli Holiday, and it was like, the whole time Sydney was shut down and I was like, “fuck”, it was really sad because I live in L.A. so I was lucky enough to be able to maneuver around like that, but I mean, fuck, you know how it is been like that in Perth. It's just fucking madness, man. Like, and if it's not COVID, it's the weather. So like, no one can catch a break. Whether it's a punter trying to have a good time or an artist trying to just share their art, but if we all have each other we could be okay.
Beautifully said. So you’ve got the album out now, and there’s this dope custom vinyl version that’s not a normal circular record - do you wanna tell us about that?
Yeah, there's a love heart shaped vinyl that is very, very special and beautiful. Unfortunately you can't fitt the full LP on the love heart shaped vinyl because it's smaller, but you can play it on any record player. The love heart shaped vinyl was just so fucking sexy, it’s so cool, I want to do a lot more with that stuff down the line but, and we're looking at doing a vinyl release of the album for sure. But yeah, I think the music of Keli Holliday is best enjoyed via a love heart shaped vinyl, a nice spicy Margarita and a dance with your loved one.