Okay Kaya sings the truth through clenched teeth

Trip through Tokyo with Hot Charity Recordings’ new songwriter star

New York-based Norwegian artist Okay Kaya is the latest addition to Hot Charity Recordings, writing spacious, bitter songs that put her somewhere in the realm of King Krule (conveniently enough, she's also been working with Krule producer Rodaidh McDonald). Her latest is “Clenched Teeth,” premiering exclusively above: complete with a Tokyo-meandering video, it's a knock-kneed, awkward confessional song that's even more arresting than her slow-burning debut “Damn, Gravity”. And we kind of didn't think that was possible. 

Keep reading for Kaya's catch-up with Dazed; on lucid dreaming, Miriam Makeba, learning Satyricon songs on guitar as a teenager, and how she learnt to make music quiet and patient enough to make the listener lean in closer.

What’s making you clench your teeth in this song?

Okay Kaya: The song is just about laying next to someone and drifting off into a lucid dream where they’re finally able to confess everything to you through clenched teeth. Does that make sense?

Tell us about this video - how did the idea come about, and where was it shot? What was the shoot like?

Okay Kaya: The shoot was one of the shortest, most easygoing, creative experiences I've had. It all came from an idea of Ricky (Saiz, director). We were in Tokyo for New Years Eve and he just sold it to me right away - one take, walking through the streets of Shibuya.

You started out playing with your brother’s black metal band - do you think playing metal has had an influence on the way you compose your own songs?

Okay Kaya: I wasn't actually allowed to play in his metal band, but he would teach me how to play songs by Satyricon and we would make a lot of noise together. I guess I was just influenced by all the music my brothers were making and listening to. But every time you hear something you love, regardless of genre, I think it has to inspire me on some level as a musician.

What’s the music scene like where you grew up in Norway?

Okay Kaya: I grew up in a peninsula called Nesoddtangen outside of Oslo, Norway. The first shows I went to were just kids playing local gigs. But my mom loves music and would go to concerts all the time and I remember once she took me to see Miriam Makeba do a free show in the city. That was a big moment for me.

Your music is so spacious and gradual. What are your main points of influence for that?

Okay Kaya: Just this idea that if you say something quiet enough, people will lean in. But I like searching through old demos and bits of ambient music and nature and trying to figure out how effective the absence of sound and a gradual build can have in my music.