Sound of Kalima out of Vancouver, BC, a duo that consists of Sal and Pete, aim to escape the confines of any one genre. Bridging the gap between electronic, hip hop, soul and dance music, the group’s goal is to maintain a human feel in electronic music and to be fearless and honest in their songwriting. The two met while attending the University of British Columbia and have been making music together for over 7 years now. Starting out in a punk band they named after a vegetable, the two quickly learned to produce and began producing hip hop beats for local rappers. With a production style that encompasses artist development, songwriting, vocal production, promotion, live performances and more, they are very involved in every aspect of their musical endeavors and love collaborating with other artists, especially those in their local music scene. They see music as a way to spark conversations and hopefully be a conduit for change and discuss topics in their music that are important to them. Last month they released their single “Wild Trash” that discusses environmental issues. “The symbolism behind Wild Trash is a scenario that I made up in my head,” says Sal. “It’s a look at the world a thousand years into the future when trash, metal and nature have become one. It is a future in which all the things we used to destroy Mother Earth with has actually become a living breathing being with her and the world has no place for us anymore. It’s a future populated by smog goblins and plastic snakes.” Their most recent single, “Dumb and Useless”, a song which Pete says was inspired by the stretch of a few blocks that separate the richest postal code in Canada with the poorest, it addresses the disparity between the two areas that he and Sal see as heartbreaking. The song, says Pete, is meant to draw attention to the imbalances between this extreme contrast and challenges decision makers for answers as to why things are the way they are. With plans to write more music, their aim is to get to the point where they can score films, video games, etc. With such a vast musical landscape to explore, Sound of Kalima have great ambitions to keep going and growing as musicians. You can connect with Sound of Kalima via the following links:
You have talked about a desire to maintain a human feel in electronic music. What led you to incorporate a human feel in your music and in what ways have you tried to achieve that desire?
Sal: We wanted to incorporate a human feel because it feels good.
Pete: Yeah I wouldn’t trust a robot as far as Sal could throw it. Stick to what’s real. The best way to do that is to go out and experience life, and then be fearless and honest in your songwriting.
Your music is also a look into society and you want your music to be a part of the conversation. Why do you feel that music is such a powerful conduit to create change and spark conversations? What conversations do you hope your music generates?
Sal: I think music and humour are the two things that can create change and spark conversations without the outright use of violence or very harsh dramatic examples. I don’t really know if we see ourselves as that important that our music will generate conversations just by the fact it exists but what I would love to see is like if we’re talking about the environment on “Wild Trash”, maybe people will catch on to the story of the song or the imagery and just do a bit of self reflection.
Pete: Yeah, exactly. Music has taught me a lot about the world, and I hope to return the favour. It’s not in our music or even our personalities to be preachy, but we can certainly use music as our outlet to express how we see the world. If there is a listener out there who is challenged by a song or a lyric or a sound, then we’ve made an impact.
What led you to want to produce music and what can you tell me about your approach that encompasses artist development, songwriting, vocal production, promotion and live performance?
Sal: I think it was just a way for us to express ourselves in a way. People latch onto forms of expression which force them to be honest, music was that for us. I’m not sure if there’s something that encompasses the process totally. We just want to make catchy, honest music.
Pete: The need to learn to “produce” emerged from musical ideas in our head that we didn’t have the skillset to articulate, back when we were just a little punk band playing on two electric guitars. Producing expanded our sound palette in a big way. As we’ve always loved collaboration, it was a natural progression for us to use our production capabilities to support our friends in making their best music. The process of producing for other artists has forced us to expand our skill set even further, including the things you mentioned (artist development, etc.). For us it’s just doing whatever it takes to support the artists we work with. We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our journey, so we owe it to our friends to share those learnings with them.
You have done several collaborations with other artists over the years. What do you love about the collaborative process and how does your approach to songwriting and creating new music differ when collaborating versus for yourselves?
Pete: Collaborating is what gives me energy when making music. My own ideas tend not to surprise me, but when you work with someone else, a feedback loop is created, as they can take an idea, interpret it in their own way, and put a new spin on it. Then I feed off the new idea, and put another new flavour into it. Songs take a completely new shape when you work this way, and to me that’s the whole point. To create something that you didn’t even know was possible.
When we create music ourselves, it’s still a collaboration as Sal and I have the chance to bounce ideas off of each other. We both write songs and create ideas on our own, but for it to be an SOK tune, we eventually have to bring it to each other and see where it goes from there.
Sal: Yeah, I agree with Pete. Collaboration offers a whole new perspective on your idea, it helps chip away the fat to reveal a beautiful sculpture.
You have talked about how your writing style is very much centered around inspiration rather than working on a bad idea until you get something good. What inspires your music and have those inspirations changed over the years? Are there times when you experience “inspiration block” and if so, how do you go about reigniting your inspiration in order to write?
Sal: I don’t even know if we can really pinpoint what inspires us. Right now, we’re putting out our political leaning songs just because we’re angry and reflecting on things happening in the world. That same day we could write a song about love or a song about an alien on a rollercoaster screaming expletives at the ship that just left it behind on Earth.
Pete: Yeah, there isn’t really rhyme or reason to it. A saying that we often rely on is that inspiration is fickle, whereas discipline can be counted on. So even if we’re not feeling particularly inspired, we sit down and we write anyways. Often, it leads to something not particularly worthwhile, but we don’t dwell on an idea if it’s not good. We’ll move on quickly, but at least we tried. Sometimes the magic happens when you least expect it, but you’ve got to give it a chance to come out. The only way we know how to reliably make that happen is to write and create everyday.
You work with a lot of local artists in your live performances, which bring a lot of styles and energies together. What can you tell me about your live show and why it’s important to you to bring local artists into the experience?
Pete: Again, leaning on collaboration as such a powerful force in music. When we play live shows, we want the audience to have a great time, to be surprised frequently, and for us to do that we’ve got to make sure things don’t get too static. Performing with the talented artists we’re blessed to know, allows us to switch between styles and sounds with ease. We’ll trade instruments, trade off vocal duties, so that each artist gets to put a stamp on the show. Our hope is that this communal approach to performing encompasses the audience as well, so it’s just one big group of friends performing and playing to each other.
Sal: Yeah, the important aspect is that it’s a bunch of friends moving towards a goal together. It’s nice playing live with a revolving cast of people because it keeps everything fresh and everyone has their own little virtuosic elements which we can use to the benefit of the music. The fact that it’s local artists is also because it’s who we can reach out to and they’re homies available on short notice.
How have you stayed creative and inspired during the Coronavirus shutdowns and tour/show cancellations? What can you tell me about your decision to renovate your entire musical catalog during lockdown, deleting all of your old music to make space for your new music? How has the response and isolation process been in Canada?
Pete: Staying inspired during COVID hasn’t been a challenge at all. Although we miss performing, it’s given us even more time to sit down, write music, and create. The decision to renovate our musical catalog didn’t have much to do with the lockdown. It’s something we’ve done a couple of times now. Eventually we get to the point where the music that’s out there doesn’t feel like it accurately portrays who we are, what we sound like, or what we want to say. I like to think that with our last two releases, we’ve really settled into who we are, and that we’re laying a foundation that we can build from, but who knows. Maybe in a few years we won’t be feeling these songs any more and we’ll decide to start fresh again. We’re fickle.
Sal: Maybe we see our whole catalog as a breathing, living work of art. But that’s bullshit, yeah we didn’t really feel our old stuff and it didn’t represent us anymore. So out with the old, in with the new.
You have talked about how there is tension in your creativity, but that it helps you both to breed a better sound. What can you tell me about that process of creating music together and how you use the tension in a positive way?
Pete: Yeah, I think tension is always going to be a part of a productive creative process. If there wasn’t tension, it’d mean we’re surrounded by “yes men” who will go along with any idea, even if it’s shit, just for the sake of avoiding conflict, or because they don’t have a strong enough opinion to contribute their own perspective. Those are not people we’re interested in working with. Sal and I have been working together for years and years, and living together for most of that time as well. We’ve developed a relationship that goes deeper than your average friendship, and so we’re not afraid to battle a bit if we believe in an idea. At the end of the day, there are no egos in music making, so the best idea will always prevail. Sometimes it just takes a bit of coercing to get agreement.
Sal: Tension is great when it comes to art or business because it goes back to the collaborative, chipping away the fat bit of it all. To have something greater than its individual parts. And something different. For me, the process isn’t about the ease of it but the awesome reward at the end. With or without tension, that’s what we work towards.
You recently released SOKTV episode 3, which features a song that was recorded and produced in isolation. What can you tell me about the idea for the song and do you plan to do more episodes?
Pete: Well, Maria was actually a song we wrote around the winter holidays when we had a little party with the music crew. Bit by bit, everyone picked up an instrument and started jamming until the idea for Maria was formed. It was a nice tune, but nothing we ever really planned on fleshing out until COVID came along. Since we were all sitting around twiddling our thumbs, we figured we’d try to bring the song to life, even if we had to do it individually in quarantine. The video is cool because it shows everyone’s perspective on the song and how it came to be. We’ll certainly put out more videos like this in the future, most likely content around our recent releases, but right now the focus is on finishing up a few more songs so we can continue putting out music on a regular basis.
Sal: I don’t have much to add to that. I’m looking forward to what we can do for more video content, I think it’s the last bit of the puzzle we are missing for this whole rebrand but it doesn’t seem to play into the overall vision yet. I think we have to wait for it to slap us in the face and we can be like oh yeah that’s something worth doing now.
What can you tell me about the BLM movement response in Canada and Canada’s response to what is happening in the US right now? I know Canada has a large Indigenous Rights Movement, as well.
Pete: The BLM movement response in Canada has been overwhelming. At first, it was support for our neighbours to the south, but I think it led to a deep think about Canada’s own history and values. Often Canadians want to feel that the issues that plague minority groups in the US don’t affect people in our country, but the conversation around BLM has forced us all to reconsider that. Canada has a long, ugly history of mistreating our Indigenous communities, and the wounds are still fresh. There is lots of work to do in Canada, and the first step is education. I’m proud to see the conversations Canadians are having, but it’s got to go beyond just conversations for it to mean anything.
@jbthefirstlady, @butterfliesinspirit, @dakotabearofficial & @djkookum are all worth following on the gram to get involved in the conversation.
Sal: As a non Canadian, I am proud to see my Canadian friends stand up against injustices in their own backyards as all societies should do. Let’s clean our own houses before we go tell someone else how dirty theirs is.
You have said that art is a powerful way to get people to see things in a new way and/or to learn something new. What are some ways that you are trying to achieve this through your music and how do you see art changing and evolving in the wake of the pandemic? Art is especially important right now and is helping many people to cope with the pandemic and resulting isolation.
Sal: For me, art has always been a way of learning the truth about certain things rather than getting it from the news or from books. There’s something about the melodic information of a song that can reveal much more about the human condition than a simple headline or the content of a psychological research paper. Don’t disregard them but understand what art is portraying as well, I think that’s important because that way your brain and your heart are informed.
I think the pandemic will just push people who are aggressively independent and self reliant to see the advantages in how they run their business versus big labels. Right now the playing field is a bit more level and I think artists who don’t have the machine backing them will figure out ways to make great business decisions due to the change in landscape.
Pete: Definitely. The pandemic is going to force evolutions to the way business is done in our line of work, and like Sal said, it’s creating unique opportunities for independent artists to get creative and reach their audience in refreshing and exciting ways.
As for our own creative process, the pandemic hasn’t changed much to be honest. We still have a small circle of artists we work with, so that’s kept our social bubble small and compliant with the guidelines our beloved Bonnie Henry has bestowed upon us. Like anything in life, the pandemic has brought on new experiences that are going to seep into our songs eventually, but that hasn’t become a trend in our songwriting or anything just yet.
You recently released you latest single “Dumb and Useless”. What can you tell me about the song, as well as your previous track “Wild Trash, which focuses on the battle of two extremes-trash and nature-as they grow side by side?
Sal: Funny you say that it’s the battle of two extremes because Dumb and Useless, in a way, is similar. Where we live in Vancouver, the line between the richest part of the city and the poorest part of the city are getting blurred for several reasons and that’s what we see in our heads when it comes to that song. In Wild Trash, the battle of the two extremes starts that way until nature decides to become one with the trash and they endeavour to destroy humans.
Pete: Yeah, Dumb & Useless was very much inspired by the stretch of a few blocks separating the richest postal code in Canada and the poorest. It’s somewhere Sal and I pass through nearly everyday, and the disparity between these two areas is heartbreaking. Dumb & Useless is meant to draw attention to the imbalances between this extreme contrast and challenges decision makers for answers as it to why things are the way they are. Why are there people with degrees living on the street? People look down on people who are different from them. They might perceive them as dumb & useless or young & stupid, but people’s circumstances are often far out of their own control. They might have taken one or two different steps than this judgmental outsider, and it led them down a completely different path due to no fault of their own. The system is designed to benefit certain types of people, while others suffer, and we see it every day walking between Hastings and Water Street. So Dumb & Useless was a musing of sorts, although more concise than my rant just now, about the brokenness of political systems that led to such a disparity between the wellbeing of the residents of these two streets.
What’s next for the Sound of Kalima? Over the years, your skill as musicians has grown, along with your palette of sounds. How do you see your music evolving going forward? Do you have new sounds you aim to incorporate?
Sal: Not really sure what’s next for us, I see our music becoming more accessible but with our own twists thrown in there. Really digging Saharan rock, I would love to incorporate it into our music with respect to the originators of the art form. A collaboration would be incredible.
Pete: I hope that we’ll continue to avoid stagnation, tapping into fresh sounds, ideas, melodies, styles, etc. I want to continue expanding our network of collaborators, working with musicians who can challenge us to be better. Eventually, we want to get to the point where we can score films, video games, etc. There’s so much to do with music, and we’re just getting started.