When Kaelin Kost moved to New York to study Textile at FIT her focus moved away from music. Post-grad she continued her art career at a print studio, but through it all Kalein was recording songs on her phone.
“After a few years I really felt like part of me was missing and I realized that even though it felt like a distant dream, music was something I really wanted to do,” she says.
So while on a business trip to Los Angeles when her mutual friend Nick Long, frontman of the band Dark Waves, needed a vocalist for a song he had written, Kaelin found herself in the studio. “I fell back into music almost accidentally,” Kaelin says reflecting on this somewhat coincidental timing. The song wasn’t picked up by the originally intended artist, but with positive feedback from labels, Kaelin continued working with her now executive producer Shaun Lopez; and in March 2021 her first single “Mulholland Drive” was released.
Since that time, Kaelin with her producer has built up an archive of songs, many originating from those years of phone recordings written whenever lyrics or melodies come to her. “So many were acapella voice memos on my phone… I recorded walking home from the train or earlier in the morning or in the shower,” she says. “Some were complete songs, others just choruses or versus.”
“Mulholland Drive” and her latest single “Lightning Love” are just the beginning of debuting her unique indie-pop sound. Her folky lyrics are influenced by songwriters like Jose Gonzalus, Bright Eyes, and Ugly Casanova. “With my music there’s always a bit of a darkness or edge. For me creativity always comes from a dark place or at least an uncomfortable place,” she says. Her spontaneous writing style brings a strong sense of vulnerability, as Kaelin often turns to music as a therapeutic process relating to very specific experiences in her life. “I like having sweet sounding sounds but there’s always some kind of bitterness or edge to them.”
These darker aesthetics come through in the the “Mulholland Drive” music video, inspired by the David Lynch film. The video uses original Go-Pro footage winding down the famous highway at night, and projects it over Kaelin herself performing in Brooklyn. “The video gives the idea that these things aren’t really happening. You are dreaming of this ideal night.” The vibrant, dreamlike overlay creates an element of creepiness to her beautifully classic aesthetic.
“I am drawn to a sense of nostalgia when it comes to writing. And even in my print design.” Creative influences like PJ Harvey, Sneaker Pimps, and the Mamas and Papas can be seen in her visual work and style developed over the years. “I remember my grandmother had this 70s wallpaper in Pittsburg so I always picture it and am inspired by that.”
Now at 27, Kaelin’s bringing this style and sound to fruition. Though the transition to the studio has been very different from what she is used to, it’s always been something Kaelin has wanted to do. “I’m like a raging Virgo. So anything I’m into I treat it like a job, but not in an unfulfilling way. I want to prove to myself I can learn and get better at a skill that I never really got the chance to develop.”
Bringing these influences, styles, and creative mindset together through music has been an overwhelmingly fulfilling experience for Kaelin as she continues to debut new tracks, videos, and an upcoming EP. “I’m super glad that all of these things that I have tucked away for years finally have a home.”
Top Photo Credit: Brittny Moore