Those who write about Charlene Kaye often describe her as “a powerhouse” and “a machine” and it’s easy to see why. In between enjoying a successful solo career that has seen her release two albums and an EP, Honey last year, she’s also a lead vocalist for San Fermin. The Hawaii-born, New-York based singer joined the 8 piece band in 2014, and has since been crucial in weaving dreamy vocals over undulating synths and punchy melodies. With the release of ‘Belong’, San Fermin’s third album, we caught up with Kaye to talk about performance, growing as a band and solo recording.
How did you guys come together as a band?
I joined the band when they were already a fully operational touring enterprise, in the middle of touring their debut album. Ellis and Allen had been friends since they were teenagers and found everyone else in New York, and found me through a mutual friend.
This the band’s third album, how do you feel that you’ve grown and developed in terms of your sound?
When I first joined the band, it was challenging to get away from the thought that I was replacing three absolutely phenomenal singers – I would align my singing style to theirs, as they had originated the versions that people had first fallen in love with. As the band has progressed, I’ve felt more comfortable contributing my own interpretation and personality into Ellis’s vision for the music – mainly stage diving whenever I can, you know.
This has been described as the most personal album to date, how does it feel to vocalise someone else’s experience?
Even though it’s Ellis’s songwriting, it feels personal to me as well. There have been moments onstage where it’s occurred to me that certain songs oddly align with my life and what I’m going through at the time.
You’re also a solo musician – do you prefer recording and performing in a group or alone?
If it’s my own stuff, I’ll often record my vocals at home in my closet! But I hate performing solo. That’s probably why I love our live shows so much, it’s just a giant group freakout on stage, and at this point we’ve spent so many thousands of hours together that the energy of friendship on stage is so strong, possibly just as potent as the music itself.
What’s your favourite track on the album?
I had an intensely emotional response to the song “Palisades” when Ellis first played me the demo – it describes this Lord of the Flies-like scenario where the glow of youth is preserved forever, everyone you love staying young forever – and I just found it unbearably sad and beautiful. That and Oceanica are probably my favorite two songs on the record.
What are your plans for the rest of 2017, and what are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to touring this record, and in the meantime I have a lot of new music of my own in the lab I’m excited to release.