Stockholm-based quartet Kate Boy’s ascent to swoon-worthy blog curiosity has been strikingly sudden, but than again, the group recorded their single “Northern Lights” within three hours of meeting each other.
Kate Akhurst, an Australian singer-songwriter who had spent her early 20s writing on her own in Los Angeles, traveled to Stockholm in late 2011 and was introduced to Hampus Nordgren Hemlin, Markus Dextegen and Oskar Sikow Engström during her final two days in the city. “When I met them, it was something about the sound, who they were as people — our visions just met and were perfect together,” Akhurst tells Billboard from the group’s Stockholm studio. After logging two sessions with her new acquaintances, Akhurst traveled home and immediately applied for a visa in order to stay in Sweden for a much longer period of time. “It just made sense,” she says. “When you’re doing something on your own… this team that we had, this Kate Boy thing, was such a collaboration, and the first time I didn’t feel separated.”
A little over a year after forming, Kate Boy issued its debut EP, “Northern Lights,” last January on the indie label IAMSOUND Records. Although the release only features two tracks — “In Your Eyes” and the title track — and a remix for each, the songs’ filthy synthesizers, slickly processed percussion and piercing vocal harmonies earned coverage on Pitchfork and NME. Meanwhile, the shape-shifting video for “Northern Lights” has garnered 383,000 YouTube views since its November release (the track has sold 2,000 downloads thus far, according to Nielsen SoundScan).
Akhurst, who knew IAMSOUND founder Niki Roberton during her time in Los Angeles, says that working with the label was a natural fit — yet no one expected Kate Boy’s early singles to provoke such a strong reaction upon release. Dextegen adds, “We had no idea what to expect when we put ‘Northern Lights’ out there.” Now that the song and video have connected, the group is focused on finishing new songs for a debut full-length — and road-testing those tracks to see which ones should make the final cut.
“It’s a process of feeling them out,” Hemlin says of the group’s unreleased songs, which will be performed at their first-ever live shows. “It’s easy to end up in a studio for a year and not really hear the music, except through your studio monitors. But to get it out and play it for people is an important process for finishing the songs.”
With that in mind, Kate Boy will make its live debut on May 4 at the Popadelica Festival in Sweden’s Huskvarna Folkets Park, and then kick off a full tour through Europe soon after. Dextegen says that the band is still in the “starting process” of putting together an impressive live show, which will possibly make its way over to the U.S. for shows in New York and Los Angeles within the coming months.
“I think, within the year, we want to have an album in stores,” says Akhurst. “We’re going to release more singles and maybe another EP before putting out an album.” Hemlin chimes in that, despite the already-rapid rise of Kate Boy, the group still has a lot of self-discovery to do before dropping an official album. “It just feels right to try some things out,” he says, “and let people know, slowly, who we are.”