by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Kloos

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Kloos

‘Keen, loose and a bit of a recluse’ is neatly shortened into stage name Kloos by Tāmaki Makaurau rapper Mel Bailey. As an artist, he shows laid-back restraint in his personal brand of hip hop. New single ILU, is what you could call a ‘brand appreciation track’ showing some love to his personal favourite, homegrown fashion brand I Love Ugly. NZ On Air Music added the song to their NewTracks compilation this July.

What’s your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Mel Bailey (he/him/his). I’m originally from Cape Town, South Africa. I don’t play an instrument but use Logic X to create music.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I didn’t undergo any music training per se but the Crescendo Trust of Aotearoa provided the foundation for me to get started.

Any other projects that we might we know you from?

Little Village – a rap trio that included Beau Jeffries, Gino October and myself.

What’s the background story of how Kloos came to be? Who else has been involved?

It’s been quite the journey but in short, I set out to make a mixtape in 2014/2015 which led me to find CTOA who offered me free studio time. It was there that I recorded my first single titled Tweety with Dave Atai. During this time I’d left a job and received a healthy payout which I used to fund the music video I created with a handful of my film mates. In the end, the visuals turned out surprisingly well and I fell in love with the process… nine years on I’m still addicted to doing this, day in and day out.

This question was really difficult for me to answer as so many key moments and individuals have led me to where I am. A special shout-out goes to Zaidoon Nasir, Chris Bunt, Marcus Powell, Beau Jeffries, Gino October, Jonny Dyas, Sash Samaratunga, Nathan Foon and Elton Noyer for being a part of my journey.

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

In the early days, I tried to be someone I was not and that was reflected in my writing, whereas now, I do my best to bring myself to the table. Speak on life as I know it. I feel a lot more comfortable with being vulnerable on a track.

How and when did you come up with the name for the new project?

Haha! Well, 22-year-old me defined himself as being keen, loose and a little bit of a recluse – that’s how I ended up with my name.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

Having shot a music video with both my mum and my grandmother. There’s something so special about sharing your passion(s) with the ones you love and them enjoying themselves.

What makes ILU stand out for you as a single?

To be honest, when I initially wrote ILU – I didn’t think too much of it. I set myself the challenge to write a jingle for a brand I appreciate and there was no vision beyond that. I viewed it more as an exercise, so it stands out to me because it earned ‘single’ status over time.

What is the story behind ILU?

If you really know me, then you’ll know that I’m a huge I Love Ugly fan and advocate of the brand. I simply wanted to capture their aesthetic through sound.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

I love the twinkling keys that feature throughout the track, shout out to Jonny Dyas for his contributions.

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where? 

I wrote the lyrics myself and co-produced the record alongside Jonny Dyas and Beau Jeffries. Actually, we were 95% done with the first version when Beau decided there was too much going on and recommended we simplify what we had. It set the release back a month, which was painful for me, but I trust my man’s judgement so we re-addressed the beat and I’m glad we did because this version hits the mark. It reflects the ILU aesthetic a lot better.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

I want them to feel good about themselves, their vibe, the energy they’re putting out to the world. To use that same energy to go after their dreams and desires. When I feel good about myself, what I’m wearing, that gives me the confidence to put my best foot forward and that attitude has an impact on everyone around me. Positivity is infectious, so let’s start with ourselves and then share it with others.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

I go with what my gut says and run it by a close circle of friends, a lot of whom make music themselves. If I don’t cringe whilst listening to it with them in the same room then I know I’ve got a good one on my hands.

Who else is in your release team? 

Outside of those who contribute to the music, Nathan Foon is my go-to guy. Whether it’s logo design, music video concepts, merch ideas, album artwork – he and I will happily discuss all of it for hours on end. He is a humble and extremely talented individual. I owe a lot to my bro.

Is there any other music you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

Yes, you can expect a Kloos and Gino October collaboration in the near future and a follow up to my debut EP ‘Black Canvas’. 😉

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song. 

  • Name ULRed Eye
  • Raiza BizaWassup
  • Gino October – Memories

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

Yes – I applied last November with a track I really believed in and was rejected. My advice to others would be to put in the work and be consistent. Don’t let a failed attempt discourage you, use it as a learning opportunity to come correct the next time.

Applying for NewTracks wasn’t a struggle, it was more of a challenge meeting the criteria to apply for NewMusic Single funding which I missed out on in July. Ticking 10/33 boxes has taken me a number of years to achieve. It really is a test to see whether you’re serious about pursuing a career in the music industry. I strongly believe if you’re willing to sacrifice the time and effort to make a proper go of it, you will hopefully reap the rewards. 

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I love this question. I frequently visit the NZ Musician, Sniffers & Wordplay magazine websites. Podcasts! The I Love Ugly Audio Show with Valentin Ozich, Diaries Of A CEO with Steven Barlett and The Cheat Code with Wendy Day, Ferrari Simmons and Rapjuggernaut (Kingpin) are incredible. To aspiring musicians, I can’t recommend The Cheat Code enough.

Any last words?

Thank you for providing the opportunity for me to share my experience and for the support you offer musicians across Aotearoa.