Their debut video contained weird, white goo that was definitely meant to be vomit. Their next saw them writhing on a bed of snakes, the accompanying lyrics containing lovely tales about drinking blood right from your mouth. Say hello to Sälen.
This wonderfully in-your-face band emerged at the start of 2016 out of nowhere, wasting no time in letting the world know what they’re about; glistening hyper-pop, bizarrely vivid lyrics and an all-round aesthetic that’s impossible to ignore.
For a band so sure of themselves, Sälen’s inception was slightly ramshackle, but fits them nicely. “Basically, me and Simon [Milner] were really drunk one day after a lock in and he was like, ‘Yeah I’m working on this new project, can you sing?’” laughs vocalist Ellie Kamio, crammed into the tiny dressing room of an East London studio along with bandmates Simon and Paul Wale, just around the corner from their Hackney base.
As is often the case with conversations made during the small hours, Ellie wasn’t entirely telling the truth. “The next day he asked me and I was like, ‘I don’t know why I said that, I can’t sing, sorry!’”, she continues. Simon was persistent though, believing that if someone says they can sing when they’re pissed, then they must be able to. Just about every karaoke bar the world over would possibly disagree with this blind faith, but he was right.
After sending Simon a voice note, the vocalist for Sälen was born, much to the surprise of anyone who knew her. “Not even her boyfriend at the time knew she could sing so we just started and he was like, ‘Er, can she sing?!’” teases Simon before Ellie elaborates that this was pretty much the reaction of anyone who knew her, including her mum.
“On one of our new ones we’ve got whale sounds and for percussion, Ellie is stroking a carpet.”
Despite having one foot planted firmly within left field, Sälen aren’t afraid of fully embracing pop. Paul is fascinated by the production of top-tier songs, while Simon loves Drake. It’s the blandness that Sälen want to avoid, and avoid it they do. “We like to add something to each of the songs,” explains Simon. “On one of our new ones we’ve got whale sounds and for percussion, Ellie is stroking a carpet. Another one has somebody crying all the way through, but at the same time the rest of it kind of fits with pop structures”.It’s clear then that Sälen aren’t afraid to leave their comfort zone.
Their upcoming project is the ultimate test of this, a collaborative EP that’ll see them both relinquish and seize control in ways that are only possible with outside contributors. They’re keeping things close to their chest but are set to gather rappers, producers and singers from around the world. “I think [it’s] a good way to explore different stuff, see what vocals work with Ellie and different production,” says Simon. “It’s a good way to share ideas and then I guess people are gonna see what sort of artists [we] wanna be. There’s no master plan, we’re not trying to take over the world!”.
Photos: Emma Swann
Taken from the February 2017 issue of DIY, out now. Subscribe below.