Kadhja Bonet’s new album ‘Childqueen’ sees the Fat Possum-signed singer return to a child-like state, away from societal expectations, all set over soulful, dream-like soundscapes that it’s impossible not to envelop yourself in.
Following on from the singer’s 2016 debut album ‘The Visitor’, it sees her continuing on a path towards self-acceptance, closing the gap between where she stands now, and where she wants to be.
From its creation to her standing now its finished, we talk through the record with the singer. Listen to ‘Childqueen’ in full and read the chat below.
How long has ‘Childqueen’ been in the works?
Just about a year. But it was on and off because I was on tour. I did a few months, and then was hoping I’d finish it before I started tour, so I had to drop it for a couple of months, and then I got really antsy and started working on it while I was on tour. And then once I came off tour, I started again and mixed it, mostly in Berlin.
Do you think that fragmented approach to writing and recording changed the album, and can be heard in the finished product?
I was working on every song throughout, and it’s all layered, so not too much. I can’t really separate it chronologically.
You also worked on [debut album] ‘The Visitor’ alone - was it a case of continuing a way of working that you’d enjoyed first time around?
It’s really hard to find people that you work well with. It’s really hard to put all of your faith into someone else like that. And to be honest, I’m a control freak. I like having control, and I like having my hands in everything. It’s hard for me to let go. And even if I do something totally myself and it ends up being awful, I still enjoy the process enough that it’s worth it for me.
You’ve been quoted saying that your “ego was damaged” a bit my writing this record - is it good for you to make yourself feel vulnerable as you’re writing music?
I didn’t achieve what I meant to achieve, and always having to acknowledge my own shortcomings was really defeating. And so when [the album] was finished, I finished because I was defeated. I didn’t finish because I was victorious. It was a case of ‘I don’t think I can make this any better’. So I let it go. It’s an honest representation of me, and an honest representation of what I was going through, so I grew to accept it, but I also felt like I could do better. When I have to listen to it now, it feels like an ex. We haven’t had enough time apart yet. We can’t be friends yet. You go your way and I’ll go mine, and maybe in a year or two we’ll…you know.
Did you feel the same after the release of ‘The Visitor’?
Absolutely. I accidentally had to hear a little piece of a song recently, for whatever reason, and it’s brutal. Even vocally, I feel like I’m much stronger now, and I cringe so much. But, you know, it’s ok. I wish I was one of those people that felt proud of themselves all the time, that sounds super rad.
“It’s a perspective that I’m trying to achieve, of being able to incorporate and embody the person that I was at birth.”
‘Childqueen’ has a really strong atmosphere throughout and feels very calming - is that what you were aiming for?
I feel like my brain doesn’t feel calm [laughs]. Maybe I compensate by making calm music, because it’s a fucking mad house in there! I make the music that I need to hear. Which is funny, because then I’m the one who can’t listen to it after it’s done. But that’s how it works.
So I guess the thing you need from the music comes out in the process rather than the finished product?
Exactly. It’s in the work, not in the result.
And as such, do you feel like a different person now the album is done?
That record was part of my evolution, but I’m always evolving. We’re all always evolving. I feel like a different person today than I did yesterday, you know. It’s just part of my chronology, and it’s because I was living through that record, and changing all the time.
Do you see the two albums as separate pieces of work, or do they interlink?
They definitely link for me. I knew where I wanted to go with it. The first record, thematically, was supposed to be about being visited by your true inner self, and having this reflection of who you wanted to be and who you were meant to be, and realising how far away from that you are, and thinking ‘Oh shit! I’m like a tenth of the person that I wanna be’.
And so ‘Childqueen’ is about starting the journey of thinking about how I start moving towards that, and closing that gap between who I want to be and who I am. And I definitely did not close the gap. Well, maybe a minute level…
There feels like there’s a lot of childlike innocence to the record - does it feel like you’re taking yourself away from all the shit that’s around you while writing it?
It’s a feeling that I’m chasing, but not sure that I ever really feel. It’s a perspective that I’m trying to achieve, of being able to incorporate and embody the person that I was at birth, before all of the social expectations and limitations began to way on me. It’s a perspective that I’m striving for, and making art is my identity, which sounds so so cliche, but…
I am the happiest and the most ‘me’ when I’m able to do tactile, creative things with my hands and my body. That’s the closest that I can get right now to feeling like my real self.
In thinking about that state at birth - where societal factors didn’t impact you as much - did that make you reconsider quite how many limitations we’re all under?
I’ve been hyper-aware. Maybe because, as a woman of colour - or maybe not - I’ve been very hyper-aware of what’s expected of me, and what I’m expected to be able to achieve, and how that’s changed my expectations of myself, and how I’ve under-valued myself for so long. And then having to defy it, and how difficult it is to defy something that you’ve been raised to feel.
‘Childqueen’ is out now via Fat Possum.