Kerala is the solo project of Colorado-based electronic artist and producer, Jordan Evanoff.
Evanoff's debut solo EP, Escapism, was released on August 18. The EP is an uplifting combination of electronic sounds and humanity, and was influenced by the likes of ODESZA, Kasbo, and Forester. Escapism mirrors Evanoff's travels and exploration of world cultures, as well as his extensive storytelling and writing abilities. The release was first conceptualized in Costa Rica, and was developed in the Colorado mountains during the global pandemic.
In a statement about Escapism, Evanoff shared: "Escapism is a story about love, loss, ambition, and finding yourself through traveling the world, only to realize happiness was within you all along."
The six tracks of Escapism each bring something fresh and fascinating to the table, from seamless and original collaborations to cohesive motifs interwoven throughout the EP. The first song on Escapism, "What If," showcases both Marie Lang's impressive vocal performance and Evanoff's skills as a writer and producer. Title track "Escapism" is dynamic and attention-grabbing. The song begins in a vulnerable space, building steadily into an exciting explosion of synth sounds and electronic beats, before dropping back down to a pensive, mellow energy level.
We talked to Kerala about his musical influences, travels, and his debut EP. Read the full interview below, and check out Escapism. Let us know what you think.
How are you today?
Great!! Just finishing up yoga and about to dive into a songwriting session!
How would you describe your sound?
Euphoric Indie Electronic… It’s kind of a middle ground between pop and acts like Flume/Odesza.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Well I grew up listening to the greats, such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and The Who. This had a big impact on my ability as an instrumentalist and songwriter. As of more recently, my production style is very influenced by producers like Kasbo, ODESZA, Flume, and Rufus Du Sol.
Where does the artist name “Kerala” come from?
Kerala is a state in southern India that I have always dreamed of traveling to. Since the project revolves around traveling to exotic places to write music, I wanted to name it after the place I am most ambitious to travel to… and it’s just a really pleasant word. It rolls off the tongue nicely.
Which experiences, specifically, do you express in your music?
When I spend time in nature, or time in another country… basically just anywhere that breaks up the repetition of everyday existence… my head is filled with sounds and melodies. My songwriting is usually an attempt to manifest the symphony of sounds that natural experiences provide me with.
"My songwriting is usually an attempt to manifest the symphony of sounds that natural experiences provide me with."
What is your favorite place to which you have traveled?
That’s a tough one, but I would have to say Cambodia. It was quite a humbling experience to see people with such a dark history be so positive and optimistic about life. That attitude, paired with the raw natural beauty of that country, was life-changing. I guess that has been an occuring theme in my travels–that the places with much less than a westernized country (like America) seem much more present and content with life.
This is your first solo endeavor; how are you feeling pre-release?
Very excited! Escapism is a snapshot of who I was during the pandemic. It captures the specific mindset of a specific period of my life. While I love these songs to death, I'm also excited to move forward and work on all the new songs I've been writing.
If you had to pick a favorite song on the EP, which would it be?
Definitely the title track, "Escapism." I feel like it captures the feeling I had originally intended for this set of songs, and ties all the songs together by utilizing melodic elements of all the other five songs. I feel like it’s the type of song that goes unnoticed to the average listener, but will be a favorite for people who truly resonate with my music.
The songs flow together seamlessly from start to finish, with the light ticking sound through the end of "Escapism" and into "Different Light." Was this intentional? How did you come up with the idea?
Absolutely! This comes from my wanting to take the listener on a journey, similarly to the albums that inspired me growing up: Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," The Who’s "Tommy,"... I have always believed that individual songs have more power when they are listened to within the context of a larger work of art–like an album–instead of music that is randomly consumed, song by song on a playlist, as we often do today.
"I have always believed that individual songs have more power when they are listened to within the context of a larger work of art–like an album–instead of music that is randomly consumed, song by song on a playlist, as we often do today."
Describe your songwriting process.
For Kerala, I'm usually trying to manifest something I hear in my mind. I then start laying down chord progressions and melodies I hear on an acoustic guitar. From there, I'll start to build out drum parts and an overall song form. Next, I lay down vocal melodies and write words. Once it's in 'demo' form I bounce it out and listen to it in my car a bunch–until I've formulated what the song needs to to take it to the next level. This part can take a day, or it can take months!
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the creation process of the EP?
COVID-19 allowed me to lean into what I really wanted Kerala to be. My band, Evanoff, wasn't on the road touring, which gave me a lot of free time. During the pandemic, I also leaned into my physical and mental health, diving into yoga and meditation, which had a direct positive effect on my creative abilities.
What was the biggest challenge in making Escapism?
I have always had trouble finishing songs. Each song was probably written in a day or two, then fleshed out into its current form over the next couple weeks. They then sat there for a while, with me not knowing what they needed in order to truly be 'done.' They all started to come together at around the same time.
What do you think the future of electronic music looks like?
I think high quality songwriting will begin to shine through, rather than the formulaic EDM we see a lot of nowadays. People often try to copy a song that's already popular instead of writing music that makes them feel truly alive.
What’s next for Kerala?
I just finished the next EP, called Viejo, which should be out in the next few months… In about a month, I am traveling to Oaxaca Mexico for a few weeks, then moving to Medellin, Colombia for about 3 months. I am taking myself on a self-imposed ‘writing retreat’ in places that I have always dreamed of traveling. My goal is to start 100 new song ideas in 100 days and to document the process. I'm also hoping to improve my spanish! It's going to be intense, but I can’t wait to see what kind of music I write in these insanely beautiful places.
"My goal is to start 100 new song ideas in 100 days and to document the process."