The Real And Fantastical Kaleidoscope Horse: By Hallie Switzer
It is no surprise that Toronto band Kaleidoscope Horse was recently asked to open for rock garage rock goddess Shannon and the Clams. Kaleidoscope Horse (or Kali Horse for short) fronted by Desiree Das Gupta and Sam Maloney has the kind of powerful, compelling and raw energy that locks in an audience. Much like Shannon of the headlining act, the vocal talents of Desiree and Sam are enough to peak anyone’s interest, but their approach to songwriting and their distinct stage presence makes Kaleidoscope Horse completely unique.
Their music has been called psych-rock, with long and winding, emotional and intense lyrics. They are defined by Sam and Desiree as: "a 5 piece psychedelic art-rock band. 2 reverb-washed guitars that speak to one another, off-kilter drum beats, brought together by tight bass lines. One strong voice, one gentle one, backed by tight 3-part harmonies… We’re constantly expanding the genres we pull from, so what you hear is a bit of a sonic-cabaret". (Yes it is as amazing as it sounds).
Their live shows are one of a kind. They travel to shows with a costume trunk of sorts. The whole band transforming into personalities that are equal parts unruly and glamorous – animal prints, silk robes, smeared glitter and eyeliner, and tossing gender identifiers aside. As Desiree explains: "Once Sam and I started writing together, we
knew that we wanted to create a full audio/visual experience. The stories we write with our music explore fantastical time-periods, and are so rich with colour, we definitely wanted to align ourselves with that. I also think that to don a character is a way to explore different sides of the self, and allows me to be more brave. Making bold artistic choices is comfortable for me, to be a larger-than-life version of me invites me to be unafraid. As the other members joined us, also all with theatre experience, they were just down to have a good time initially. They have grown closer to their version of this experience, and now contribute to the vision. A lot of our closest moments happen pre-show, getting dressed and doing each other’s make up. It’s where we have our most intimate conversations, it’s where we meditate, and it’s where we get our brains ready". The magic manifested by the 5-some before they hit the stage infuses their entire performance with visions of imagined pasts and futures, mystical energies as well as the darkness of a dream. Expressing sides of themselves (and us all) though their performance. As Sam writes: "The comfort and flow of our costumes represents our need to feel safe when expressing ourselves and the more dark aspects of the makeup represent the intensity and tole bearing all it takes on all of us. It’s another outlet to fully immerse into the concept or feeling we have going at the time".
For Desiree and Sam the writing process is intimate and very personal. Having met while attending Seneca College for the Independent Music Production (IMP) programme. As two individual artists carving our their own identities, meeting at this foundational time, and from there growing together with other band mates Kyle McDonnell, Sean McDonnell and Taylor Barber. I asked Sam and Desiree about what their first impressions of each other were:
Desiree of Sam: "She was understated, and didn’t need to say much. She was a doer, and I wanted to do more. What started as me looking for a new way to get into trouble actually turned into such an incredible friendship and creative partnership".
Sam of Desiree: "She felt sure of herself, strong and comforting in her energy. I wanted to be a better musician, and she helped me be just that. She encouraged every weird idea I ever had matching with hers and the rest just flowed from there".
The depth of emotion and musicality, and the element of theatricality present in Kaleidoscope Horse's music motivated my final question to Sam and Desiree. If they were to write a rock opera, what would it be about? They write: "Ultimately we don’t want to give away too much of what we’ll be releasing this year, but we have fully developed stories within our music that all connect to one another. We combine the styles of many eras, the ebbs and flows of living in relationship with one another, mental illness in various forms, and experiencing life in multiple states of being. Everyone would probably die, or already be dead. And there would be some sort of personal transformation or ritual involved. It might not make any sense to anyone else but us". The pieces of this narrative exist in the music of Kaleidoscope Horse already, and I can't wait to watch their world of magic grow in the coming year.
Experience Kaleidoscope Horse January 13th at the Horseshoe Tavern.