Heaven or Hell: Kuren’s head-first dive into society’s most powerful ultimatum
Making a debut record is an artist’s chance to be truly brave. As if throwing yourself out there isn’t daunting enough, a debut album is really the make-or-break point for an artist on all levels, from personal to professional. But KUREN, the 19-year-old wunderkind enchanting listeners all across the country, is more than brave. His intelligence and self-awareness, coupled with a way of thinking that far surpasses his age, is promising for one of the most interesting Australian debuts we’ve had in years.
We caught up with him on the back-end of his supporting slot on Illy’s Two Degrees regional tour, and he spoke to us about heaven, hell, his new album and the visibility of Indigenous voices.
I’m not sure exactly how many dates are on the Illy tour, but I believe the correct term of measurement is ‘fuckton’. How have you enjoyed it?
It’s been so sick, dude. It’s been like a real change from normal touring.
Oh, in what sense?
Regional touring is just so much more intense, especially in this case. There was so many more dates. But on top of that, regional touring is a lot more DIY than touring in capital cities.
Did you find regional touring more challenging in that respect?
100%, it’s more physically challenging as well. You’re always on the go. It’s all one after the other but it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.
Yeah, I was about to say it has to be worth it, doesn’t it?
100%. So much fun!
That’s so sick, man. I just wanted to dive into ‘Mastercraft’ for a sec. The vibe that I got from it is that it was super dark, sonically speaking. My basic understanding of the song is the duality of good and bad in society which, as the weeks go on this year, just becomes more and more prevalent. Can you just take us through what you were going through at the time when ‘Mastercraft’ was written?
My initial idea behind ‘Mastercraft’ was about something that was built for disaster, and something that was so good and so amazing but it’s gonna go to shit, no matter what. For the last few years, I’ve been writing an album and the major theme behind it is about me choosing whether I want to go heaven or whether I want to go to hell. So ‘Mastercraft’ is the topic starter of that. It introduces everyone to what the theme of this project is going to be.
That makes so much sense, I like that idea! Following on from that, because it’s an album that’s very personal to you and your experience, do you think that it was necessary to have your vocal debut on ‘Mastercraft’?
I’ve been singing on the majority of the album. We actually had three other songs that could’ve been the lead single, but I chose ‘Mastercraft’ just because it was the closest one to my heart and it made the most sense – it got straight to the point. But we have so much other stuff I’m singing on as well.
What inspired that divisive and existential concept of the album? Because a lot of people’s lives are driven by that ultimatum.
Definitely, dude. For me, it’s been a massive personal change. I’m the kid who has come from a really small town. But I’ve been changing and trying to suit myself to this insane career lifestyle that’s so different. It’s made me get very real with myself, and made me question a lot of stuff in a lot of ways. As time’s gone on, I’ve been able to open up my mind a bit more and get more creative. I’m asking more upfront questions, and I’m able to put more of that stuff in my music. There was a time there in writing this album where I got a little bit depressed so I started questioning what reality was, and I started questioning if anything really matters because at the end of the day we’re all either going to heaven or hell. I began to think that would be an interesting thing to write about, so that’s where that initial idea sprouted from.
Just springboarding off of that, R U OK? Day just passed so everyone’s talking about mental health a lot more. Will we get an exploration of that depressive period in the album?
I’ve been able to use it for the good of the album. It’s been my outlet to get over it and work my way through it, because if I didn’t have music I’d be doomed. That’s why this record means so much to me – it’s helped me mentally so much. It’s been able to help me forget and help me move on.
I’m glad you’ve found an outlet for it and glad you’re feeling better. Just wanted to switch gears a little bit. With issues such as the death of Elijah Doughty and what happened in Charlottesville in America, the racial divide is just widening and widening as the year goes on. As an Indigenous Australian, do you think that major stakeholders are doing enough for the representation and inclusivity of indigenous artists?
I’m still really young, I’m only 19. But I feel like Indigenous musicians are becoming more outspoken with things which I think is great. More Indigenous people with a voice are using it to speak about these things a lot more than they were.
Do you think those voices have always been there, or do you think it’s just because society is apparently becoming more progressive?
I mean I’d hope we’re becoming more progressive. A lot of people I know are just now in the mindset of, “Well, we’ve got a voice, let’s just use it.”
When can we expect another cut from the album? Do we have a name? Do we have a release date?
So we’ve got another single coming out…..soon. [Laughs] It’s going to come out before the end of the year and it’s going to be the last single before the album is released. The album’s called Melting Conceptually and that’s all I’m gonna say!
Just to speed things up, This That is right around the corner. There’s a lot of heavyweights on the lineup but one thing I’ve noticed is that there is an absolute plethora of upcoming electronic artists on there as well. You’ve got yourself, you’ve got POOLCLVB and Kinder and Tigerilla and people like that. How does it feel to be included in such a lineup?
Aw, dude, it is like honestly the sort of shit I was dreaming about growing up. The craziest thing is I was dreaming about this before this was a reality, you know? I had no idea what it was gonna be like and now I’m in amongst it. It’s like the craziest thing. The Kinder girls are so awesome, Tigerilla’s my boy. It’s so much fun doing what you love with all of your friends.
Well combining that and the Illy tour, it seems like everyone in this industry are mates. How do you think that camaraderie has helped your come up?
I’ve found a lot of musicians are very open to great music, and I feel like anyone who’s willing to have a go the time of day. If someone’s got 20 followers but they can make a fucking banger, they can make a banger. That’s the way I look at the community and that’s the way I came into it. I was met with a lot of open arms, and I was so blessed that I was able to do that.
Catch KUREN at This That festival
Saturday, November 4th 2017
Wickham Park, Newcastle
Words by JACKSON LANGFORD