Thereâ€™s no-one in pop quite like Kelli Ali. A straight-talking Birmingham girl with exotic good looks, a rock chick who first found fame with an understated trip hop band (Sneaker Pimps) and a singer/songwriter who has recorded with a diverse selection of artists from the king of funk, Bootsy Collins to Skate punks, Linkin Park and experimental dance giant, Satoshi Tomiie.
Ask Kelli about the six months she spent working on her new album and sheâ€™ll tell you about magical days and nights on a beach in Malaysia with an acoustic guitar, playing vintage synths and computers in bedrooms in London and meeting psychic cats in California. Itâ€™s no wonder Kelliâ€™s sound isn't easy to pin down. But then, that's just how she likes it.
Kelli AliSince leaving Sneaker Pimps in the late '90s, after a hit debut album, a clutch of classic singles and a successful tour of the States that found fans in the likes of Madonna and U.2., Kelli has launched a solo career that harks back to her rock roots - she grew up playing in guitar bands in Birmingham. With her first solo CD to be released in the States, Psychic Cat, Kelli has uncovered her own vision, mixing electronica, rock 'n' roll and beautiful melodies to create a collection of tracks that shimmer and swagger in equal measure.
â€œI wanted the album to be rockâ€™nâ€™roll, but with a modern, electronic edge,â€? explains Kelli. â€œAnd it had to sound spontaneous, not studied, so it was written and recorded in a matter of months. I started writing a few tracks in London at home at the start of last year â€“ â€˜Hot Lipsâ€™,â€™Psychic Catâ€™ and â€˜Graffiti Boyâ€™ - that set the tone for the record. Theyâ€™re quite tough, but theyâ€™re also good fun and quite playful. â€˜Hot Lipsâ€™, in particular, is from-the-hip rockâ€™nâ€™roll. Itâ€™s a trashy love song with a sense of humour.â€? â€˜Psychic Catâ€™, on the other hand, reveals a more mystic side to the singer.
â€œThere is a mystical side to all my music,â€? admits Kelli. â€œLife is a very mysterious and magical experience, I often find myself in very trippy little scenarios and I enjoy trying to translate those dreamy moments and stories into music, like the cats I met just walking down the street in Santa Monica. They were all dressed up and they had this little machine that told your fortune. Iâ€™m not joking! They would tap this machine with their paws and out would come a card with a reading. I dreamed of that cat long after I met him and ended up writing an album in his name!â€?
Kelli, you may have guessed, isnâ€™t one for soppy love songs. â€˜Speakersâ€™ pairs a groovy, grinding, Ecstacy-inspired party track with a slinky protest song that draws from â€˜70s anti-war demos and takes a stand against modern-day, money-obsessed society. â€œThereâ€™s a line in the lyrics of Speaker that goes â€œHoney, donâ€™t talk to me about money, diamonds and gunsâ€?. I hate the way so much music these days teaches kids those are the things that make you someone special. Rockâ€™nâ€™roll is about being real and having an attitude and your own ideas. Itâ€™s not about possessions. It never will be.â€?
After a break in Malaysia where she wrote the albumâ€™s closing track, the sweet, but stinging â€˜Last Boy On Earthâ€™, Kelli returned to London last summer and began completing tracks with producer Dave McCracken. The two had talked about working together for some time but their schedules had clashed. This time, McCracken tracked Kelli down and invited her back to his bedroom.
â€œRather than book a big studio, we just worked in his house,â€? explains Kelli. â€œThat way, there was no pressure, we could try out different ideas and be more relaxed about recording. We were like two little kids with new toys to play with.â€?
Only one track was written before last year - â€˜Idealâ€™, a blistering, techno-rock song featuring Primal Scream guitarist Andrew Innes. â€œThe song has real spirit,â€? says Kelli, â€œbut it wasnâ€™t quite right before. I knew it was special, so I wanted to save it until I could do it justice. Andrew is a stunning guitarist and writer and he inspires me with his way of playing, the song couldn't have happened without himâ€?
Psychic Cat is an album that is hard to pigeonhole, but distinctly Kelli Ali,â€œI didnâ€™t want to stick to a single style of music, or make a record where all the songs were similar,â€? explains Kelli. â€œI donâ€™t see the point of that. I love raw guitar music, but I enjoy new technology too. It's an exciting time for music and musicians and I would like to keep developing and exploring new streets of sound as much as possible, that's what I live for.â€?