Experimental electronic weirdos, show yourselves! Interview with Flung on growing up on music from Zimbabwe and exploring tide pools on her new album "Apricot Angel"
Read the interview and hear the performance by Oakland-based multi-instrumentalist Flung on Lower Grand Radio
Oakland-based multi-instrumentalist Flung, aka Kashika Kollaikal, has a new album coming out on Virginia/NYC label Citrus City next week entitled Apricot Angel. The music is a meditative, meandering collage of sparkling experimental pop, an exploration of nature, the world, self, and between states. Ahead of the release, we were proud to host Flung for a live performance and interview on Lower Grand Radio.
You can listen to the full show here. Transcript of the interview below.
When did your musical journey begin?
My mom always says that it was when she was pregnant with me and carrying me in Varanasi, India. My parents would go to these all-night concerts on the banks of the Ganga, the river in that city, and so she always says that’s where it started.
But for me—maybe I had done a couple piano lessons or something before this, and I’m sure I was always banging on pots and pans and annoying my parents—where it really started was playing shona mbira music from Zimbabwe. The person who brought shona music to the US, Dumisani Maraire, came and taught at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, where I grew up. And my understanding is that a mbira community sprung up around him and around his students at UW, including my teacher.
So when I was six, I saw my teacher perform with her adult band. Then my dad started taking classes and I would often be with him at these group classes. And I would just pick up the songs by ear and she saw me playing one of them afterwards and was like, “Where’d you learn that?” And I was like, “I don't know. I just figured it out.” So she was like, “Come to my house this Sunday.” And she gave me private lessons at her house for a full year. Then I joined her youth performing ensemble and met one of my deepest, longest time musical collaborators with whom I have another project called Honey Oat. And that project sustained from age 6 to 18.
And my teacher—we're still in touch today, and she's just such an amazing person. It was very important to her that we respect and understand to the best of our abilities the musical traditions that the music is coming from, and I respect her so much for that. Also, as we got older, she helped us make space for our own ideas and creativity and experimenting with different instruments and things like this. So, that was really formative.
Apricot Angel comes out on Citrus City Records on August 19. Where does the new album fit into your larger musical journey?
It definitely feels like the most focused thing that I’ve ever done. But it's funny because, in my mind, I'm already onto the next one. I'm already working on the third Flung record. So it’s like I finished this one a year ago and it already feels like old news to me. But then I have to remind myself the rest of the world hasn’t heard it.
I made the first Flung album in a two-week span and there’s 16 tracks on it. It feels frenetic and scattered to me, and that’s how I work so I don’t see that necessarily as a bad thing. But with this one, it took a whole year and there was a lot of editing and sitting with things and letting them take shape at their own pace.
There was a three-month period writing this record that I was not in a great mental space and I couldn’t even touch music. I was not moved by music, I couldn’t make music. These songs went on the shelf for a couple months and then I came back to them. So it really lived with me for a whole year and all the changes that happened.
How does the album connect to what you just performed live for us?
The funny thing about the live set is all the versions are really different from how they sound on the album. So let’s see. The first three were versions of things from the first record, Shaky But My Hair Is Grown. Then the bird-soundy one that was more ambient—that was improvised. And I loved it. I have a show next week and I’m trying to do a quieter set and I'm figuring out what that’s going to look like. And I'm like, “Ooh, this is inspiring.” So that was an improv based around a recording of birds from my grandparents’ veranda in India. And then the last three songs were all versions of songs from the new record but with varying degrees of similarity or difference from how they actually sound on the recording.
When I was on tour, some of my friends who came to see my shows were like, “I want to sing along! I don't know any of these songs.” I was like, “Yeah, sorry.”
“A walk down the shore, a twirl in the tidepools, the sound of settling and stretching.” I pulled this description from the notes to your new album. Is nature a central theme on the new album?
This record was very much inspired by the beach, and not the beach like, “Oh, sandy beach,” but like a rocky, tide pool beach. That’s a metaphorical and physical location that I've been thinking about a lot for the last couple years. Without getting too much into it, it has been an important imagined site for explorations of my transness and my music. This record really dives into that.
When I finish my own work, I don’t want to listen to it. And I probably hadn’t listened to it for close to a year since I finished it. And then I was listening to it maybe a month or two ago and I was like, “Oh, this whole album really feels like a walk down the shore.” There’s all these little moments in between songs. I'm very picky and particular about my transitions between tracks, and there are ways in which those little ends of puzzle pieces form a world. With this record, that world is very much one of tide pools and the shore. Actually, the cover photo for this album was taken on a day on the shore in the reflection of a tide pool.
Does the Bay Area influence you and your music?
Definitely. That’s a great question because this record is influenced by the shore and tide pools, but the concept of the new record very much has to do with things that I overhear in my neighborhood and the sounds of that space. So yeah, I think it would be impossible for me to be in any place and feel like it wasn’t influencing it. I think there are particular things about the Bay and there would be particular things about wherever I was living. That’s part of, for me, having a solo project: It is just so personal, and so much an extension of my life.
Are there any Bay Area artists that you would love to work with that you haven’t yet?
Yeah, I'm still trying to find my musical community here a little bit. I really love Beast Nest, Sharmi’s project. That record was amazing. We were going to do a show and then scheduling stuff came up. But I think hopefully we'll do a show at some point in the fall and it would be cool to collab in some capacity.
And then the folks who I am playing my release show with, pearl onion and mars kumari, I’m super excited to see both of their sets. It would be really cool to collaborate in some ways. So yeah, I think I’m still meeting my people and I’m having a blast doing it. I got back from tour and I’m like, okay, I want to have my whole musical community now. Experimental electronic weirdos, show yourselves!
Last question: Any artist, albums, or songs that you’ve been loving?
I played with some really incredible folks when I was on tour. Yeah, I'm just going to cop out and say people I've played with recently who I'm super inspired by. So I did a couple shows with my friend Blue toed. That's an incredible project. Also played a show with this band Belly of the Heart who are so cool and so fun, super dancey and just very bombastic in an awesome way.
Then I played a show earlier this summer with Kaina and her record has just been on repeat, repeat, repeat for me. It's such a beautiful, calming work. Finally, I would just have to shout out L’Rain who's probably one of my favorite artists ever. And the person who plays guitar with L’Rain, Justin, has a project called Strugglin’. I played a show with him in New York and it was just so moving and meditative and he has an album called Pitch Pine that everyone should check out for sure.