After falling in and out of various New York City punk bands, Kassia Conway started expanding her musical horizons. The first thing was a move to Los Angeles and the next was a revitalization of her songwriting process. Bringing to fore her love of hip hop and electronica, Conway formed the band of the same name and things could not look brighter.
After releasing the EP Big Talk, Conway was asked to tour with Ellie Goulding. Speaking from Austin and in anticipation of Tuesday's gig at the Southside Music Hall in support of Goulding, Conway talked with DC9 about this exciting chapter in her career and how she believes Texas is a music loving state.
Why do you use only your family name as your band's name?
My first name is Kassia, but I think my last name is kind of relatable and easy. I think by using Conway, it allows people to interpret what the music is going to be like. People don't really know what it is and it allows them to think what they want, to figure out what it means to them.
Can you talk about how your music has evolved over the past few years?
I've started a bunch of bands that I played bass for and fronted. I worked with a lot of bands in New York before I moved out to L.A. I have kept working on my songwriting because I didn't go to a school for music. I am not a trained vocalist. I learned bass from an amazingly rotten bass player in New York who taught me how to play chords and write a little music. I am really in love with music and I taught myself how to sing. I kept repeating and repeating a word until I got the pitch perfect. I had a band called All Wrong and The Plans Change. We did two records and played a bunch. I wanted to expand my music vibe by moving in a more indie direction. My solo material took me in that direction.
Your music has been described as pop/punk, hip hop and electro. Does that about cover it?
Yes, I think it's so funny to read reviews. One person wrote about my music being electro-pop. Another said I was hip hop/alternative. I think it depends on how broad the reviewer's musical taste is. I think people who are attached to melody tend to say it's poppy and people who listen to a wider array of music actually think that there are some hip hop beats and some reggae bass lines. I am happy to have people call it whatever they think it is. I think it's really a mix of everything that I love.
How did you end up touring with Ellie Goulding?
Your guess is as good as mine. It's crazy. I knew that we had submitted a request to be considered for the tour a couple months ago. We hoped our agent could get us in the top twenty of those being considered. She [Goulding] kept saying no and no to people. I think another group was going to do the tour, but they decided not to do it. Literally a week before the tour started, we were told that Ellie wanted us to do the tour. I didn't think anyone was going to decide seven days before the tour went out. She choose us and we literally turned our lives around to make this happen. We dropped everything to quickly prepare to go on the tour.
How have the audiences responded to your music?
Oh my god, it's been so amazing. I was anxious about the tour. I knew that Ellie has these super fans that might not care for my music. Honestly, they have embraced us so much. We have gotten incredible responses. People have been screaming that they love us. We have meeting so many people after the shows. I am interested in making contact with as many people as possible because a lot of people are not familiar with me. I've met all this girls because a ton of girls go to Ellie's shows. We've sold some EPs and online people are going crazy. Someone brought us cookies at the Atlanta show. They had seen us in D.C. and had driven to Atlanta to see us again. I feel like we have been very lucky. It's about getting the music out there. If I have to carry it and put in in somebody's hand, that's what I will do. It's a lot of work, but we are grateful for this opportunity.
You recently played Madison Square Garden. Were you nervous?
That day was so hectic that I literally got ready with two minutes to spare. I didn't have time to get nervous. I got out on stage and you think because it's Madison Square Garden, the sound is going to be great. Then, during the first song, the vocal channel for my monitor blew on the sound board. It went completely out on the very first song and never came back the whole set. I did that entire show listening to the house speakers. It was like doing a punk rock show in Madison Square Garden. We did a good job. All of the guys in the band are solid musicians. We've played a lot of clubs and you learn to wing it. I was thinking, oh my god, why is this happening? We killed in on the second night. We came off that stage screaming, almost high from it.
You've also played a Natural History Museum. That is an odd place for a gig.
It was fun. They've been doing that a long time in L.A. and I didn't realize that. We played amongst the displays of these animals. I loved that because I love animals and costumes and being weird. The band dressed up like park rangers and we had a good time.
Have you been to Texas before with a band or as a solo act?
Well, my band played South by Southwest a few years ago, but as a solo act, I've never played Texas. I have never played Dallas ever. I am super excited about it. We are just psyched. I have no idea what the response is going to be. I know that Texas is a music loving state, so I am hoping for the best.
What do you think about often being compared to Bjork?
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The Bjork comparison might have to do with certain songs and the quirkiness of my vocals. I often get compared to a cross between Karen O and MIA. Those comparisons come up a lot, keep circulating around me quite a bit. People have the need to put you in some kind of box. I think that is what is happening. After they hear the music, that kind of goes away and just call us Conway.
Your Big Talk EP got a lot of good press. Are you recording a full length?
I am almost finished with that. When we get finished with the tour, I am looking to get back in the studio and finish it up in the next couple of months. We are going to release it this year. You will hear a lot of the songs when you come to the show.