Australian singer-songwriter Cloves – real name Kaity Dunstan – is a powerhouse. Towing an aptitude for emotive lyricism and a soothing but powerful voice behind her, the artist’s new EP, Her, is an intimate peek into her inner thoughts and feelings. Having finessed this signature style throughout a discography harking back to 2015, the recent release exudes the confidence and control of a musician who is carving her own space in the industry. Her soul-baring ability has, understandably, led to a pretty staunch fan base, accumulating over 500,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and 400 million streams across platforms worldwide.
Speaking on the EP, Cloves explains that the inspiration comes from the transitional nature of her life at the time of writing. Coming off the back of a long-term stint living in Australia, she was reminded of her past and future, realising she didn’t fit into either version of herself anymore. Leading to an exploration of existential themes like life and death, as well as identity and independence, the seven-part sonic exploration emphasises the significance of living in the most truthful way you can. Effortlessly coating atmospheric melodies with smoky and haunting vocals, this EP is sure to pull on your heartstrings.
Garnering critical acclaim seems like an old hat for Cloves. Receiving acclaim from an impressive plethora of publications – Pigeons & Planes, i-D and NME to name a few – she has also toured the US with Grammy award-winning artist Michael Kiwanuka. Not a stranger to unique collaborations, her sophomore album sported distinctive features from Hudson Mohawke and Jacob Portrait, a member of the psychedelic rock group Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
2024 is set to be a year decked out in Cloves, with this offering being the first she has released independently. The up-and-coming artist has hit peak creative freedom and we can’t wait to see what she does next.
Here, we sat down with Cloves to chat about all things aesthetics, what has shaped her music taste and the album she would recommend to an alien.
1. Who is Cloves?
“I am her, she is me.”
2. How did you come up with the stage name?
“From a packet of clove cigarettes. I needed to think of a name to put my first song out under so I went with what was staring me in the face, I wish I had a more romantic story for you but it was just up to chance.”
3. You’ve taken quite a break from releasing music, how come? And why was now the right time for you to make your comeback?
“Honestly I was just creatively drained and overwhelmed by my experiences in music so far creatively and on the business side, I needed some time to understand where I was going and what I wanted. I’m now happy to say that I feel like I am finding that more and more, not to play victim but being an artist is very mentally unstable, it’s highs and extreme lows which can genuinely run havoc on your mental health, I needed to feel like I was doing it for me again.”
4. How would you describe your sound in just a sentence?
5. What are the elements of your go-to aesthetic when it comes to dressing?
“I’m really inspired by ’90s aesthetics, women like hope Sandoval and Fiona Apple, I reference them more as an aura than direct styling. I like the idea of story in clothing and I’m inspired by the “why” in pieces, why am I wearing something and what does that represent to me. What can we expect from the upcoming EP “her”? It’s existential, I titled it “her” because I see this project as a time capsule, one I’m happy to distance myself from but has forced growth from me creatively and personally so that I can appreciate.”
6. Which artists were instrumental in shaping your music taste and personal sound growing up?
“I’ve cycled in and out of influences but my roots always fall back to ’90s artists like Mazzy Star, Radiohead, Zero 7, Sneaker Pimps etc I just think they cultivate the perfect escapism. That and the classics like Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin. There’s about a million influences in-between (haha) but they’re my childhood foundations.”
7. What’s one album – not by you – that’d you’d recommend to an alien?
“So Tonight That I Might See, by Mazzy Star.”
8. What does your ideal Saturday night look like?
“It purely depends on how I feel that day, I’m like half introverted and half extroverted so I just gotta see what person I am that day, I’m not a last minute canceller though, don’t worry.”
9. What kind of secret society would you start if you could?
“I do not have the mental and emotional energy to take on the problems of a secret society.”
10. What five people are you inviting to a fantasy dinner hosted by you, dead or alive.
“Ziwe, Lana Del Rey, Keke Palmer, Jennifer Coolidge and my dog, Woody. I feel like a dead person at the dinner party would kill the mood :(.”
Photography courtesy of Cloves.