Exclusive: Stream Tiana Khasi's debut EP, Meghalaya, with an EP walkthrough
The Australian future-soul musician strives on her debut, seven-track release, officially out tomorrow.
Header photo by Daniel Grima.
Brisbane-based future-soul musician Tiana Khasi is an act we've really come to love over the past year, breaking out with herself in the spotlight after collaborations with Golden Vessel and The Kite String Tangle in the past. Nuketown, her debut solo single which arrived in the latter half of last year, was the song that really cemented this love from us, with an "enchanting and near-airtight entrance that welcomed us into the jazz-infused world of Khasi, who on her debut single, offers a Solange-like trance with her soulful, culture-rich sound." It drew inspiration and influence from her Samoan and Indian heritages to create a woozy moment of pure art, something that on her debut EP Meghalaya - out tomorrow via Soul Has No Tempo - she's reinforcing.
Co-written and produced by her label mate, good friend and Pilerats favourite Sampology, Meghalaya is a seven-track ensemble of Khasi's strengths as a songwriter and vocalist, showing fierceness and confidence through a tone that contrastingly, is more tender, emotive and honey-smooth. It's built upon the jazz and soul influences that marked her debut single, but the EP's seven-track duration giving plenty of time for this sound to swell, warp and transform, showcasing her many sides as it welcomes a versatile artist with the range of our early comparative Solange, with a thicker 'traditional' jazz sound underlying Khasi's swooning vocal. "Meghalaya is both geographic and spiritual," she says on the EP. "It's a place I creatively resort to seeking affirmation of my identity and for true holistic inspiration. I wanted to create a body of work that honestly showed where I was at musically and personally. I felt the growing pains of being a young woman, mixed race/Australian born and studying jazz. I was neither here nor there."
It's a complex, nuanced and multi-faceted release that shines a light on one of Australia's most brilliant names, so in order to better grasp the concepts of the EP and how it was made, we're stoked to host Tiana Khasi and Sampology's walkthrough of the EP, decoding it one track at a time. Listen to the EP below, and stay tuned as Tiana Khasi continues to blossom as one of the best musicians this country has delivered.
Click on the embed below to stream the release.
T: A tribute to the landscape, symbolism and folklore of the Khasi people of Meghalaya (North East India). It's a place I visit frequently in my mind. Meghalaya transports and focuses me in on my values and intentions for the journey ahead. I start all my rehearsals and live shows with this song for that reason.
In terms of production and instrumentation, it might just be my favourite of the EP. It represents the hybrid/eclectic nature of my identity and music.
S: The first half of Meghalaya, Tiana is actually singing live in the same big room with the band and then it sucks inwards into a really intimate vocal over strings, percussion from sticks and leaves, as well as filtered re-samples of the original live recording. For me, this one is all about unique atmosphere, introducing you to a geographic & emotional location.
They Call Me
T: They Call Me was written to challenge the problematic depictions of women in history and literature. It’s also a tribute to the fierce women whose rebellion, fire and strength inspire me, especially my Tinā ole Tinā (Nana). I wanted this song to become an anthem for myself and other women to abandon shame, reclaim and redefine the names they have been given and be the authors of their own story.
In terms of the writing process, I had already written most of the song as a poem and I remember Sam showing me a beat that he was looking to repurpose. I instantly knew our two respective elements were meant to go together. It was also really meaningful to have a team of male musicians be so committed to honouring the song through their contributions to the track.
S: I think this was the first song T recorded at my place! The beat was a bit of a flip of my 'Friends and Fam' track, and T came up with the brilliant roll/ drum fill part by singing out the rhythm. Like all the songs it developed more and more through the gigging process with essential magic being added from Jessi (drums), Sam (bass) & Rohan (keys) in particular.
T: One of the worst offences you can commit against yourself is second-guessing your intuition. The focus of this song, for me personally, was to use hindsight to regain my power. It was important for the story to progress from that place of feeling betrayed and angry. We are all about growth over here! There needed to be a pivotal point in the track where I applied empathetic insight to the situation - at least for my own sake...
We were definitely going for an outer space heartbreak atmosphere here and I think the mix of live instrumentation, Sampology’s string arrangement and cosmic synths really took it there.
S: Strings were recorded with Meraki, a Brisbane based all-female Quartet.
The Band backing of Jessi, Sam, Rohan recorded this with T down in Mullumbimby for a two-day session early in the recording process. A memorable moment was when a rooster (iconic Khasi spirit animal) was suspiciously/serendipitously hanging around Jessi while sleeping on the ground outside in between takes.
T: I will never forget my Mum sitting my cousin and I down after a significant family conflict, she said something along the lines of “You can never hold onto things for too long. It’s like poison to the blood.”
Too many invaluable connections and opportunities for growth are lost In the midst of holding onto resentment and bitterness - so musically, we aimed for the build of the track to represent a brewing of tension and eventual release and resignation of negative emotions. I think the looped bass line/vocal melody and restrained drums helped achieve that pensive mood and tension.
S: Possibly my favourite background vocals T performed are in the second half of this track, really great rhythm and harmonies!
T: Nuketown was an effortless and intuitive track to write and record - I had vivid ideas of colours and visuals of slow-motion explosions and old 50’s “Nuketown” neighbourhoods/ test sites in my head whilst I was jotting down ideas, which I think informed the texture and delivery of the performance. This was one of the most cathartic recording experiences because it was about a situation that was quite consuming and at the forefront of my mind. It felt empowering to be in this supportive improvisation bubble with Sampology and Sam Maguire, just singing and committing to the first ideas that I laid on the track - they really trusted me and handed over the reins when I was ready to step into the session.
S: Nuketown was my favourite experience of the project. Sam Maguire and I were working on the track, and Tiana was sitting in the corner quietly writing and then grabbed a microphone (for some reason I had plugged into a clunky old tape delay) and recorded all the BVs and lead vocal in one sitting. We did re-record the lead vocal in a similar way, but the original BVs are all in the final version. I think it was a good thing the track didn’t get 'polished up' as I reckon it would of wrecked the spirit in which Tiana originally penned the narrative.
Whole Lotta Shine
T: I remember watching a Super Soul Sunday with India.Arie and she spoke about how she wrote songs that weren't true for her YET, but were reflections of where she hoped to be. Whole Lotta Shine became more like a mantra for me; pushing for growth, letting go of what no longer serves you and honouring the untouchable, infinite shine within us all!
I remember tracking live percussion with the rhythm section at Sam’s place, it felt like an old school studio session with all the guys crammed into the live room, playing afro beat, getting sweaty and stinky! I’d like to think this added extra flavour to the track.
S: T recorded a demo of this the first day we linked up and I actually just remembered it was the second half of another track originally, maybe Bitterness?? But it was appropriately fleshed out into its own song, and benefited from being performed live with Tristan and Matt on trumpet and sax to develop further.
T: Originally recorded as a sampled beat + vocal jam with a drummer, Jessi - Good Things developed into sampling Rohan on grand piano and fleshing out a full song written in memory of a lost loved one. I love the idea of vocal harmonies acting as a support network throughout the song; they chime in on some of the hardest emotional lines to sing. It's about appreciating the lessons, embracing growth and staying committed to love in moments of loss.
Same Drugs by Chance the Rapper was a track we referenced a lot when creating the track.
S: Tiana has her own unique voice and I think it's appropriate to have a stripped back primarily piano and vocals track. This one will hit you right in the feels!
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