By Colin Gallant
CALGARY — Sarah Kelly has been living in Calgary for about a year now. In that time, she’s brought her Tigerwing project to stages for highly dramatic performances, which centred on her enormous voice and boldly dark productions.
After growing up in both Newfoundland and Northern Alberta, the visual artist and musician made the move to Calgary to wrap up an arts degree at ACAD. Attending the school was a process that gave her freedom to explore the Tigerwing identity across a variety of media.
“I do all the visual artwork. All the drawings and, as well, any photos or videos,” she explains.
A great recent example of Kelly’s work in the visual realm is the uneasy and alien video for “Coax.” The video sees a model in a viking hat, surrounded by exotic taxidermy while lights flicker over the scene.
You can expect to hear “Coax” on her forthcoming debut LP, the release date and title for which are to be announced.
“I definitely have way, way too much material. It’s really nice to come back to, even after a year, and just find out how relevant [the tracks] still are… I think I’m going to do a full length-release in June,” she says.
The record will be self-released. Kelly seems largely uninterested in ceding any control over the project, and why should she? Through crafting an “aesthetic” to define the project both musically and visually, it seems she’s caused some confusion among potential audiences.
“I’m really working on straddling two different worlds which are pop music and visual arts. It’s weird because I really don’t see them as separate worlds at all, but I’m constantly fighting to be in both,” she says.
Whether someone “gets it” or not, it’s a component she intends to push even further.
“That’s kind of the big thing for me, now that all the music is practically made and ready to go. I think the part I find important and even more fun is working on this overall concept and contextualizing everything.”
To summarize the relationship she says, “I find that I might go a month without making music but it’s like things are gestating while I’m making visual art and vice-versa. They’re always complementing each other.”
We also discussed how female artists are often pinned down into identities by the press based on their appearance. In the case of Tigerwing, though, the look is an important component to the overall identity of the project.
“The thing that I never can get down with in a review about a female musician is the suggestion that there are these inherent traits. Like, ‘she was behaving this way’ or ‘she was shy’… I think the words I try to use are uncompromising and present, disturbing in a way that’s not being passive and not really trying to be entertaining necessarily,” she says.
While the conceptual methodology of the project was an easy subject for the artist, putting the influence of sound into words was something a little more convoluted.
“It’s hard to speak to speak about the sonics… It just keeps going back to musicals. I’m constantly referencing The Phantom of the Opera or Jesus Christ Super Star. It’s weird. I don’t think I’ve even seen that many musicals but there is something about the theatricality that really plays into the sonics. I definitely find it can be really exciting to write a structured pop song with all these textures. When I say cinematic, hopefully you think of strings and really heavy, bass-y drums.”
Looking ahead at her debut LP and a fall move to Ontario for grad school, Kelly has a clear and ambitious vision of Tigerwing’s future.
“It’s like a new season of Tigerwing,” she says. “This is my first year, really, with this project and now I just think I see all the possible trajectories. I’m really excited to treat it as an extensive project that goes in a lot of different directions and I think one thing that can tie it to a certain timeline or just organize some sort of chronological order to this project is just something as simple as an aesthetic or just one type of performance.”
Tigerwing plays at Broken City on May 2nd.AB, Alberta, Broken City, Sarah Kelly, Tigerwing