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When Blusher Met Sarah Kinsley

Ahead of their appearances at SXSW Sydney this week, Rolling Stone AU/NZ got the US alt-pop star and the Melbourne trio together for a fun conversation

Blusher Sarah Kinsley interview

L-R: Sarah Kinsley, Blusher

“Get in loser, Blusher are going dancing,” we wrote in August about the exciting titular Melbourne pop trio, acknowledgement of their ecstatically fun and exhilarating debut EP, Should We Go Dance?.

One person who’d most definitely go dancing with Blusher – although she’s far from a “loser” – is US alt-pop star Sarah Kinsley.

Ahead of their appearances at SXSW Sydney this week, Rolling Stone AU/NZ asked Kinsley and the Blusher trio of Miranda Ward, Lauren Coutts, and Jade Ingvarson-Favretto to get to know each other better, and they hit it off immediately, discussing tour memories, difficult songs, vivid dreams, Australian animals, weird American culture, and so much more.

Kinsley, who released her fourth EP in five years, Ascension, in June, has been raking in huge streaming numbers with addictive singles like “The King”, “Oh No Darling!”, and “I’m Not a Mountain”. She’ll be showcasing her music at the AMEX and Universal Houses at SXSW Sydney, while Blusher play their final SXSW spot at Spotify House tonight, Thursday, October 18th.

Read Kinsley and Blusher’s full conversation below. More information about SXSW Sydney can be found here.

When Blusher Met Sarah Kinsley

Sarah Kinsley (SK): Hello Blusher – it’s so nice to speak with you and get to pick your brains about your music, your process, and journey as a band so far.  

Blusher (B) (Miranda): Thank you Sarah! It’s so great to chat to you, we’re such big fans. You’ve recently been touring with Gus Dapperton and you’re also about to tour with Mitski which is so cool! What’s something about life on tour that you think would surprise people?

SK: Thank you! I would say that touring does feel very beautiful and glamorous as it may seem online but that it also makes the days feel very blurry and much of the same. It becomes hard to make the days special – that is, unless you choose to – and my band and I have found little ways to clear the fog: whether it’s making the drive a little longer to stop at a diner or find a vegetable amongst the sea of gas station junk food, or by pranking the other band we’re on tour with during our last show of the run!

What has been your favourite touring memory so far whilst on the road? 

B (Jade): Supporting Aurora was our first tour together, and that first show we did in New Zealand was so special and electric! The Aurora crowds were so loud and supportive. We met such beautiful people there, and it was wild seeing people singing our lyrics and wearing our merch for the first time! Afterwards we climbed to the top of this huge hill with a beautiful lookout and ate sushi. Then back at the hotel we all hopped into one bed and watched High School Musical together.

What’s your favourite lyric you’ve ever written and what does it mean to you?

SK: Right now I’d say my favourite is, “Am I the dream or is this how it is?”, from my song “Ascension”. The idea that reality is a dream and the dream is a reality just thrills me as much as it makes me question who I am – is any of it real? – how should we know. The lyric really summarises the existential pondering into a few sweet words.

What was one of your hardest songs to write or finish?

B (Miranda): Our song “Limelight” went through a lot of different versions before we settled on the final mix. We had a strong vision for how we wanted it to feel – like you’re on your way to a night out with the nervous energy of a crush confession bubbling away in your brain. It was a cool challenge to try and work that energy into every sound and make it come across sonically. The song definitely lived many lives (and many different Ableton sessions) before she became her true self.

SK: And further, do you find that the three of you as friends learn more about each other as you’re writing? Have there been any surprising revelations that have occurred throughout your writing process?

B: (Lauren) For sure, we definitely learn more about each other through writing, and also just spending all those hours together in the studio. I’ve learnt that Miranda doesn’t take milk in her tea and Jade likes the mug with the pink handle. It all comes back to tea, really.

Your music is so cinematic. What would be your dream film to write the soundtrack for?

SK: Thank you. I do love a melodramatic rom-com, or period piece. Sabrina, the 1995 version, for example, or Pride and Prejudice, obviously the Keira Knightley one. I would love to write soundtracks for something along those lines. 

What kind of film do you see your music scoring? What would be the dream TV show scene or film sequence for your music to be playing behind?

B (Miranda): We write a lot of songs that could end up being part of a Flight of the Conchords sketch if we just leaned ever so slightly more into the ridiculousness. But really, I think our dream scene might be something out of Euphoria. There’s an element of teen nostalgia that we channel into our songs and that show really paints those feelings in such a sensationalised, visually stunning way. A party scene or a dream sequence would work well.

Do you have vivid dreams/do you remember them? Have you ever written a melody or lyric idea in a dream that has made it into a song?

SK: Oh yes, absolutely, I think the dream world makes up most of what I eventually end up writing. I think dreaming can be equally therapeutic as it is haunting. Makes for great songwriting I suppose. I once had a sort of dream-vision that I was a very majestic horse running through the world very unapologetically – this eventually turned into my song “Black Horse”. Had another where I was falling through a vortex and as I fell I was a baby and a teen and an old lady – this influenced another track called “Oh No Darling!”.

Your music videos are very bright and explosive in colour, complementing a lot of the sonic shimmering pop songs you create. Do you have an idea for the visual palette as you’re writing or does it often appear after?

B (Jade): The Blusher colour palette and visual world is so intertwined with the songwriting process! We get lots of visual inspiration from textures in the production, and we often picture music videos while we’re writing lyrics. When we were writing “Hurricane Chaser”, we were watching videos of tornado chasers and trying to create elements in the production that felt glitchy, chaotic, and stormy. Having a combination of ethereal and grittiness is something that’s become a big part of the Blusher visual and sonic DNA.

You played SXSW in Austin last year and you’re coming to Sydney to play this year. How has your live show changed since then, or even your feelings around performing?

SK: When I played SXSW last year, I had only played one other headline show with a full band a few months prior – so I was still really a baby in terms of understanding how I wanted to conduct myself on stage, how to give the music to people. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind since then – a much more intense and complicated set list, a massive shift of confidence in myself, and a really overwhelming sense of joy from getting to play to crowds across the country and world. 

B: Which Australian animal do you resonate with and why?

SK: I think Joeys are very cute. Supposedly they are very friendly to people unless we get a little too close. Koalas are also beautiful creatures. I got to hold one when I was a kid in Australia about ten or so years ago. I admire their sleeping habits.

What piece of American culture do you find the most interesting/ridiculous/funny?

B (Miranda): Ambrosia salad. Makes me question the whole concept of a salad.

(Jade): Tailgate parties. I feel like Australians would really get around those.

(Lauren): Hummingbirds. I find them so interesting and beautiful.