It can be hard to bounce back from a one-hit wonder—especially when the song in question, "Somebody That I Used to Know," wins record of the year and best pop duo/group performance at the Grammys and garners over 600 million hits on YouTube. So it's not a huge surprise that, throughout 2012 and a little while after, Kimbra was almost exclusively known as "that girl covered in paint in the Gotye video." But now, we're happy to report, the 25-year-old chanteuse is officially back with bells on (or, more literally, mirrored panels), with a critically-acclaimed follow-up album The Golden Echo, another in the works, and two outstanding performances at Coachella under her belt.
For the uninitiated, the New Zealander's sound is like a mix of jazz, pop, and soul (Kimbra prefers to call it "rock pop"), and that's exactly what makes her smooth-sounding voice lend itself so well to a range of other risk-taking artists—most recently electro group Big Data. "I like to use structures that are well-known in pop music: the verse, chorus, hook, and melodies," Kimbra tells InStyle. "But the palette of sounds are slightly more experimental than what you might hear on the radio." We caught up with the singer in the midst of playing back-to-back weekends at Coachella. Here's an excerpt from our conversation:
Your Coachella outfits were pretty out-there this year. Do you dress like that in the day-to-day? I tend to go all out onstage, and my preference generally leans towards vintage. In the early days, I used to buy clothes, rework them, and develop them for performances. I love Jet Rag and Fairfax Market when I'm in L.A., but Melbourne has a lot of great stores as well.
What music did you listen to growing up in New Zealand? A lot of soul and R&B. Steve Wonder, Michael Jackson, and Prince were big influences for me in terms of writing and performance. Currently, I listen to a lot of St. Vincent. I think she’s extremely innovative.
Are you sick of "Somebody That I Used to Know" yet? For a while there, I was so tired of that song. I could never have predicted the success of it. I knew it was very catchy and emotionally powerful, but that's different than it going to number one in 18 different countries.
Do you and Gotye still keep in touch? We email sometimes. I played a show down in Melbourne, and he brought David Byrne along, so I got to eat lunch with him and Byrne, which was awesome. I'd say there's definitely a possibility of us working together in the future. We have great chemistry as artists.
Do you and Lorde hang out too, seeing as you're both New Zealanders? I saw her perform at the Echoplex, which was great, but I haven’t gotten a chance to hang out with her yet. That would be really fun—we should make that happen. I see Alisa Xayalith [of The Naked and Famous] sometimes in L.A. There's something about socializing with New Zealanders that feels like family. You instantly feel like you’ve known them all your life.
Watch the video for "Miracle" below, and purchase The Golden Echo for $11 from the iTunes Store.