Women to Watch – March: Kaya Herstad-Carney

By Ngaire Ruth

It’s a challenge holding back to critique Science of the Lamps new single, ‘Straws’, especially in video format: that pre-chorus into chorus thing, try not to raise up your arms by the second lap, singing with wild abandon. Then there’s the joy and freedom singer-songwriter Kaya shares as a performer, on screen or live. The fact that the Kaya in the video is the same person you see around the Academy of Contemporary Music campus on a miserable Monday morning, where she is a senior lecturer in voice and artist development. No wonder she’s a woman to watch.

You need to know Kaya Hersted-Carney because the backing singers (and ACM students) that feature in the video of ‘Straws’ wear tutus over their normal clothes for the filming, like kids in role-play (and to Kaya that’s a good thing). You need to know her voice is a secret blend of Eartha Kitt tone meets Madonna pop clarity; that mostly, her lyrics in award-winning band Science of the Lamps, are often decidedly Nordic sensibility and silliness wrapped up in a (re-cycled, rather tatty now), ribbon of good old British puns – I reckon to avoid passive listening (to that voice) and encourage interaction, not adoration. (Live shows forthcoming, April.)

The band describes themselves with a made up name, and names of favourite things: “Nordicana, wine, flamenco, trip-hop, music boxes, Paris and whiskey bars.”

You want to love them, with that bricolage bounty.  

I sometimes struggle with silly band names, want things to matter all the time, even if we all know sub culture and its glorious textures are simply giving us an illusion of free choice. My personal struggle continues after reading how they came up with the name, puns, obv, and dark and stormy nights, but as mythmakers and myth-breakers we have a responsibility to make better ones up. And please don’t refer to yourselves as quirky anymore, since plenty of music journalists will do that for you.

There’s no joking-around when it comes to Kaya’s opinion about looking after your voice, and the responsibility for every working creative to become self-aware and pro-active about their mental and emotional health. She’s a specialist in the field, which feeds into her role @ ACM.

Her songs have featured in actual plays and films, and she directs the music Liverpool-based festival, Threshold with her partner Chris Carney. I sense a kindred spirit and knowledge of theatre theory and practice, particularly the Carnivelesque, (the celebration in every action), elements of Commedia dell’Arte (the gestures, and exaggerations), and a soft spot for flash mobs, at least taking the notion of giving the public a sense of music in the making and applying it to the production of the single’s video.

When I reference Kaya’s creative and entrepreneur skills and thrills, her own professional targets and roles, as a creative, right in the same paragraph as I describe the single, with The Band – the family, the circus, the gang against the world – it’s because my personal manifesto allows it, since it’s all clearly Kaya led, which is probably just the natural order of things, not like, a big decision. Anyone who can rock a charity shop (guessing) sparkly butterfly cap-sleeve top deserves to get their own way, all of the time. And ideas people don’t realise other people don’t have tons of ideas all the time. Girl crush incoming.

‘Straws’ is available to buy

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