When Kira Puru first released ‘Tension’, heads turned in all directions. Her first song released in two years, the track was a sharp pivot from the genre-defying riffs she’d shared over the years, diving face-first into the roaring swell of pop. It was bold and addictive, and people tuned in; ‘Tension’ clicking over one million listens in under eight months. Releasing her follow-up ‘Molotov’ just last week, Kira’s upcoming release continues to remain an enigma, with fans and friends alike throwing their weight to support her.
“I’m very proud of my new party banger, Molotov,” she wrote on a recent post on Instagram, “it is a punk-goth-disco anthem for people like me who struggle to fit in in the daylight hours but find solace and community on the dance floor, at the party, with chosen family, in abandon, in oblivion, in gin.” Catching up with Kira Puru ahead of her exclusive Collarts gig, we chat everything from testing boundaries, pop and the importance of asking questions.
Hi Kira, thanks for chatting with me! Firstly, l love ‘Tension’ so much. It really highlights your love for pop music. What has performing and writing pop music taught you about yourself?
Writing pop music is deceptively hard. Pop songs are often economic on the word front but seem to perfectly crystallise universal themes and it’s hard to do this in ways that seem fresh yet familiar. I think that’s what makes it such an intoxicating challenge. It’s like reinventing the wheel and trying to sell it as something new.
“Moving into the pop world really required me to hit the ground running.”
Sharing writing rooms with really incredible writers has taught me a lot about the importance of having confidence in your ideas and your work. You just don’t really have time to hold someone’s hand in this industry and although many people have been gentle and supportive to me, moving into the pop world really required me to hit the ground running. I’ve learned a lot but mostly I was reminded that confidence is key. I don’t feel like an overly confident person all the time, but I do feel assured in who I am, what I want to say and what I stand for and that feels like the most valuable asset to I’ve acquired.
“… I spend a lot of time uncomfortable. But I feel like the very best ideas are born in disruption. The thing that motivates me in life, like outside music, is to discover new things about myself and the world.”
Challenging yourself creatively has always been a big part of your work as an artist, be it in your music or your photography. Have you always been comfortable testing your own boundaries?
Yeah, I think so. It’s sort of less about comfort and more about the importance of discovery, experimentation, and play, you know? Like… I actually think I spend a lot of time uncomfortable. But I feel like the very best ideas are born in disruption. The thing that motivates me in life, like outside music, is to discover new things about myself and the world. I’ve always been a very curious person at heart, and I think the challenges I present myself with come as second nature in a way because of that desire to fuck with stuff, test boundaries and ask questions.
You often take portraits of fellow queer and PoC creatives in the industry. What’s your favourite thing about celebrating those in your community?
Well, I have always felt so securely embraced and held by those communities. It’s important for me to be near them because I find it centering and nourishing. It’s important for me to acknowledge them and centre them and celebrate them because if we don’t celebrate ourselves, there ain’t no wayyyyyy straight, white Australia is going to do it for us. I think there is so much brilliant art being made by queer, PoC, non-binary folk and it should be seen and heard. Those voices are revolutionary, those stories are inspiring, those people are so intelligent, articulate, powerful and fierce. It just feels natural to gravitate towards them.
I find portraiture such a lovely art form. It’s a beautiful challenge to try and capture all the complexities of somebody’s personality in one tiny splinter of time. It’s also an exciting challenge to try and take a picture of someone that they will like.., it’s a shame we are so quick to find fault in ourselves.
“We speak out, we push against, we make art and we wait for change.”
There’s a lack of mainstream POC representation in the Australian music scene, even though so many artists—Okenyo, Yeo, CORIN, Ecca Vandal, the list goes on—are doing incredible work. Were you conscious of this when releasing music, and how do you feel this has changed your experience in the industry?
Oh for sure, it’s hard to not be conscious of that. Like really it’s just an extension of the sad reality that people of colour, like most other minority groups are underrepresented in media in general, and that this country just has… so much catching up to do.
I feel like I’ve seen small changes during the course of my career but it does feel like those changes happen glacially. I don’t think it’s necessarily changed my experience in the industry but it has certainly coloured the way I have been treated and the opportunities I have been presented over time. Like, I think PoC artists have to work harder for the same opportunities in Australia.
I’m not necessarily even complaining. Like, I would not be who I am if those struggles weren’t etched into my personal and cultural history, but yeah, that’s just how it is at the moment. We speak out, we push against, we make art and we wait for change. I don’t know if I’m even answering your question.
Visibility is something you’ve always stood for publicly, along with challenging the longstanding problems in the Australian music industry. For young artists with the same values, what advice would you give in dealing with the media without derailing a cause?
First and foremost: listen. Centre the voices of Indigenous PoC, PoC, trans, non-binary and queer folk. Learn how to be better at being called out. Do your own research and refrain, wherever possible, from asking people less privileged than you to do your emotional labour.
You recently made an appearance in Her Sound, Her Story, a documentary on the Australian music industry as told by women. What was it like being involved in the project and what artists continue to inspire you?
Michelle and Claudia [the creators of Her Sound, Her Story] are incredible at what they do. And that was really what attracted me to the project in the first place. It’s actually phenomenal how many amazing artists were involved in that project though and just how candid the overall tone of the doco is. It’s super empowering.
There’s so many artists that inspire me and continue to do so. Just a few of them are: Grace Jones, Miss Blanks, Mojo Juju, Atong Atem, Nina Simone, Haiku Hands, Sampa the Great, Isabella Manfredi, Kate Ceberano, Ngaiire, Maribelle, Nayuka Gorrie, Vika and Linda Bull, Sia, Mz Risk, Bertie Blackman, Okenyo, The Veronicas, Clairy Browne, Tanzer and Ella Hooper… there’s SO many more though.
Coming to Collarts for a very special chat led by Ella Hooper, I’ve heard that you’re quite good mates and read online you often love to flip questions onto the interviewer. With all this in mind, if you could interview any person, who would it be and why?
I really would have loved to spend time with David Bowie and talk to him about his philosophies on art making and managing a personal life. Grace Jones is a constant source of inspiration and I think some time with her would feel empowering. And after losing my dad a few years ago, I have had time to think about the questions I wish I had asked him… and I would do most anything to ask them in person.
And finally, what should Collarts’ students and alumni expect from your live performance? Will there be any tracks from the mysterious EP you’ve been working on?
Absolutely. We’ll be playing a few of the singles and the rest will be songs you haven’t heard! I’ll be playing a special 2-pc setup, put together specifically for this occasion. And I can’t wait!
Kira Puru is performing at an exclusive Collarts gig today for students and alumni! Check out our 2018 study options at Collarts and get opportunities to network, study and work alongside industry experts.