For Canberra alt-pop/punk rapper Kirklandd (Daniel Kirkland), lockdown was both a blessing and a curse. With all other parts of his life put on hold or cancelled completely, Kirklandd decided to take control of an unavoidable situation and focus on his most ambitious project yet – a three-part EP titled ‘The Love Divide’. Kirklandd’s style takes influence from a colourful blend of genres, from melodic alt-pop, to smooth hip hop, to catchy punk. Last year he was announced as Triple J’s Unearthed winner, chosen to open for Canberra’s Grooving’ the Moo 2019 Festival.

I sat down with Kirklandd to chat about past relationships, life during lockdown, and the first chapter of the trilogy ‘SIIYE’ which drops today.

What first got you into music and how did you start?

My two older cousins are Shaka, a rapper and break-dancer, and Mutu an R&B singer. When I was in primary school. They were my idols and they put me on the path to music. Mutu gave me Lupe Fiasco’s 2006 album ‘Food & Liquor’ when I was in primary school and that changed the game for me – it showed me what hip hop could be like and how poetic and expressive music could be.

How would you describe your typical sound and the music you’ve created up until now?

I guess I would define it as a very genre-less sound- anything and everything. I always have hip hop as a core element, but my producer Cam (Cam Bluff, of Amy Shark’s ‘Adore’) and I see things that exist in alt-pop, indie, or electronic realms and try and draw inspiration from them so people can find it accessible and enjoyable. We love when people who wouldn’t typically listen to hip hop come to a show and appreciate the live acoustic elements, the musicality, and production and resonate with the music as a whole.

What artist have inspired your music?

Old school artists like Nas taught me flow, rhythm, and lyricism. More recently I like artists like Dominic Fike, who exist in a strong alt-pop realm with a more eclectic style and a broader range of influences, but with tight lyrics and relatable concepts. I like drawing from the more informed  influences in alt-pop and pushing myself in different ways.

Who are some other Canberra artists that you admire?

I admire all of them, I admire Canberra as a whole, it’s come so far and its continuing to go so far. This year is gonna be great for Canberra music. Groovy Daughter, Jedbrii, Slack, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers, Archie Band, Miroji, and Shaka. It’s such an incredible scene, we all do different things. I love being part of such a supportive community and building up the music culture here.

What does your lyric writing process look like?

When writing I try to really channel my feelings and not question or judge any ideas that come out. Writing time varies for sure – from 20 minutes to weeks. The more intricate hip hop takes more time to create something I’m proud of. Impulse featuring Zellow took a lot of time to write. ‘Rise’ took 9-months to get the production perfect. Themes that I write about all the time include self-discovery, uncovering true potential, and figuring out who you are. I try to document my emotions, experiences and decisions in my music.

You’ve had some really colourful reviews from both critics and fans. Do you typically read reviews?

I care what my fans and my team think. I used to really care what critics thought, but I’ve gotten over it – I have no control of the outcome.

You bring so much energy to your live shows – does it come out as soon as you go on stage?

It comes from being mentally prepared – I meditate and eat well before hand, then I feed off the energy from the crowd. Bringing energy is an important part of what I do, and I want to give everything and be defined by my live performance.

What are your favourite venues to play in Canberra?

I love Mr. Wolf, Transit Bar, the UC Refectory, and Smiths Alternative. I think it’s important to read the energy and adapt accordingly as each show is a unique experience that I share with my audience. Playing Groovin the Moo last year was such a specific goal I had for years. It was a great experience, they made me the feature artist and interviewed me in the studios and after the set as well. It was my first festival and such a great experience – it was a turning point for me playing live.

You’re about to release an upcoming trilogy called ‘The Love Divide’, with the first track ‘SIIYE’ set for release this Friday 14th. When was the project created?

 During COVID, I got let go from my job and my agent got made redundant on the same day – all of our projected income went out the window. So, I went for a bike ride and thought, this is totally out of my control, but what is in my control?

“I asked myself ‘Why do I keep coming back to music? Why am I doing this?’”

And from those thoughts, ‘The Love Divide’ trilogy formed.

 ‘SIIYE’ has a much darker sound than your previous songs. How has your sound developed?

I wanted to make my previous songs including ‘Knowbody’ uplifting, fun, and empowering. The punk undertones of ‘SIIYE’ on the other hand, make it grittier and grimier and it has a feeling of regret, guilt, and frustration. It’s about going crazy in your own head and wondering why something has happened. I tried to choose key moments, be specific to the emotion, and capture that in the music and the melodies. All three songs are emotionally focused and feeling driven.

Kirklandd has partnered with Support Act for ‘The Love Divide Sessions’, a 3-part conceptual live series to raise funds for Support Act’s COVID-19 music industry emergency appeal. The sessions will feature Kirklandd’s 8-piece band and some special quests. The story takes place over 24 hours in different locations around Canberra, creating a whole world.

‘SIIYE’, the first chapter of the trilogy, comes out today! Find it on Apple Music.