Arts & Culture

Songwriting as a New Band: Ketyaluna

Where do you start right at the beginning?

Words by
b-side staff

Formed in 2017 and based in Melbourne, Ketyaluna is a trio of women who refuse to grow up. Their music can be described as metal, power, symphonic and doom. Indeed, it is not an everyday affair to find an all-female metal band.

There is Jikella on vocals, with Mya, originally from Singapore, and Bliss, from Canberra, on the guitars. Session musicians, or sessionists, come in to work on the drums and bass guitar. The three members write music in Bliss’ garage in Melbourne’s North West suburb.

Since they are relatively new and are still trying to find their brand of music, it might take them some time to get used to songwriting. The first step is always the hardest. So how is Ketyaluna going about it so far?

How long have you been involved with music?

Mya: I have been playing the guitar for 18 years now, since I was 12.

Bliss: I have been involved with music ever since I can remember. My dad helped me concentrate in school by introducing me to music, like Iron Maiden. I picked up the guitar when I was 15 and have been playing ever since.

Jikella: I wrote my first song when I was 14, so it has been about 19 years.

From when you first started to now, how has your approach towards music evolved?

Mya: I used to be quite stuck with rock and metal because those were what I had been exposed to while growing up. Then I met more musicians and they opened up my repertoire to appreciate more genres and virtuosos. I guess my approach towards music is now more eclectic and geared towards improving my own skills.

Bliss: I did not really know what sort of guitarist I was when I first started playing. I used to cover a lot of bands but have now developed my own style. I am constantly learning new styles to incorporate into my originals.

Jikella: When I first started writing songs, I would come up with the lyrics and topline melody, and I would get quite stuck on the notion that how they came to me is how they should sound. Over the years, I began to open up to the creative process of songwriting and discovered that experimentation is the best way to find the true potential of a song. I have learnt never to say no to an idea. I would never discount it until I have tried and compared it to the initial idea. Relinquishing my original ideas to a collaborator, who would seek to change them, was something I struggled with when I first started, but something I now relish.

Share with us your most comfortable approach towards songwriting.

Mya: For Ketyaluna at least, it is more of someone coming up with something, and everyone else having their hand in it, but Jikella works on the lyrics and melodies most of the time.

Bliss: I love sitting with the group and if one of us comes up with something, it sparks ideas and other members add parts that fit. It is fun to write like that and have a piece of everyone in the music.

Jikella: Songwriting for Ketyaluna has always been a collaborative effort. We do not have a set formula for how we write, so we are open to various approaches. We have written songs when the lyrical and topline melody ideas come first. Then from there we build the chords and instrumental arrangements. When the chord progressions, riffs and instrumental melodic ideas come before, we add the topline melody and lyrics. Also, when someone has a concept that we want to embody within the song, we build on the idea with our individual skills. I have no set preference for how a song is created. I just love to write.

What is one most misunderstood perception of songwriting?

Mya: That it is easy. The process is complicated and you will never be satisfied. There are always things to work on.

Bliss: Yeah. It is not easy if you force it. You become so frustrated if you cannot get what you want. It really is better when it happens naturally.

Jikella: That you need to wait for inspiration to strike to write a good song. When I first started writing songs, I would wait until I had the undesirable urge to create a song before I would pick up my pencil and write. However, this method will only create a few good songs in a year. As I began to write more and more, I found it easier and began to challenge myself to write on demand — to go search for an inspiration instead of waiting for it to come to me. I discovered that both actively seeking out inspiration and waiting for it to write can create songs of the same quality.

So my advice to any aspiring songwriters is to push yourself to find inspiration, or you might not discover your true potential.

How do you gain inspiration?

Mya: Anywhere, really. I guess my writings are more fuelled by deep emotions triggered by particular events; basically when I am thrown off my emotional equilibrium. But I know Blissy could get inspired just by listening to other songs.

Bliss: The feelings my favourite bands give me are amazing. I just love music, and making things I love that sound good is inspiring on its own.

Jikella: My inspiration is largely drawn from what I have witnessed throughout my life. I can either write based on my own personal experiences or find inspiration by placing myself into a conceptualised situation and then channeling similar emotions or circumstances in my own existence. I try to find inspiration everywhere. I like to watch and analyse human behavioural patterns, including my own, because they are the main source of inspiration for my writings.

What is one key towards honing your songwriting skills?

Mya: Just keep writing.

Bliss: Learning new things and skills.

Jikella: You cannot fail if you do not give up.

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