Energetic, enticing and joyful, Kédu Carlö are the electronic duo comprised of Jess Penson and Carly Gill, both born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau/ Auckland in New Zealand. Their driving sound explores different upbeat realms in every song, dipping their toes into various lush dance music genres. Kédu Carlö has been on the rise since 2020, touring and headlining across New Zealand.
With Jess on vocals and synths and Carly, the pair are best friends, constantly sharing their delight of being on stage together with their audiences. Together they write music with light-hearted lyrics about cheeseburgers, talking shit and Russian spies among other subjects. There’s a lovely cheekiness about them whilst remaining topical and in the now.
Kédu Carlö always sports an updated array of gear, from analogue synthesizers to drum machines and sequencers, acoustic drums, Ableton Live and CDJs, they utilize all the gear they can get their hands on, be it on stage or in their home studio. On the eve of their Melbourne tour, they gave us insight into how they carve out their unique energy and sound.
How do you describe your sound and how has it evolved?
Our sound seems to have birthed naturally from starting the creation process without a clear intention of what the outcome should be. We let each song meld as new parts enter the picture. We allow our hive-mind subconscious to lead most of the time. It’s a very intuitive process and we trust in it, and in each other. This definitely shapes our sound, although it’s hard to put a finger on what that actually is, it’s really just our relationship to music and each other finding ways to express itself.
We have a few go-to analogue drum machine samples, recorded through tape machines which are often the building blocks of our drum tracks, especially 707, 909, LinnDrum, and CR-78. Our percussion sample library continues to grow with a variety of recorded and processed instruments from live drum breaks to one-shots and loops all providing a good build-up of textures and organic tones, and a cohesive sound across projects. When writing rhythmic patterns, I often draw upon Latin drum training from high school and got hooked on the intricate syncopation of traditional Cuban and Brazilian rhythms.
When it comes to synths the Behringer Deepmind 12 has been creeping more into our productions. We’ve always enjoyed creating our own synth patches from scratch, it has been great for us to be able to start bringing what we did previously in VSTs and apply them to our analogue gear.
What pieces of gear are essential to your sound?
We go through periods of trying out new gear and seeing what resonates. Over time we do have a pattern of gravitating towards a few key pieces of kit. The 303 has been a staple from the get-go. We’ve cycled through a few different models, and use a few different 303 emulation VSTs, often layering them for a fuller sound. We often utilize the Behringer Deepmind and Nord Drum 3P. We love the analogue sound of these synths. The ear candy is real, especially live, everyone in the room can feel it. There’s comfort in having a few reliable pieces of gear that make an impact when you hear them.
How does your live set-up differ from what you use in the studio?
Our live rig is in a constant state of flux. We switch up our assortment of gear depending on the venue or vibe. We always have the Nord 3P Drum pad and vocal mics. We like to run either my drum pad or the Deepmind through a Korg Kaoss Pad for fun effect-play. Sometimes we use CDJs with backing tracks that we create using mastered stems where, otherwise, we use Ableton Live with an Akai APC MkII to trigger clips. Jess uses the Arturia Keylab MIDI keyboard to play an array of soft synths. We’ll also sync a Roland TB-03, and Carly uses the Arturia Drumbrute sequencer too. However, I’m currently browsing for a new drum machine for our live setup. Carly also utilizes acoustic drums for performing breaks.
One key difference between our live set-up and studio is that we do produce in-the-box, and then later recreate the parts for live settings. Many of our hardware synths are recorded into work along the way. Most drum programming in the studio happens in the box first. A lot of gentle strokes and layering takes place to get the right tone when producing in the studio whereas it’s all about the feel and the impact when playing live.
Do you hoard gear, is there an emotional connection to some instruments/music technology?
We have a pretty high turnover of gear. We try, we buy, and if it’s not getting used or we stop using it regularly, we sell it and make space for a new toy. But if we fall in love with a piece of gear, we become true devotees. Some synths are only destined to be short-term relationships, whilst some become family.
I definitely feel a connection with the Nord 3P. I have been a big advocate for it since I bought it in 2020. I could never opt for a sample-based drum pad over my Nord 3P because nothing beats the richness of a drum synth. The bass drums on the Nord Drum 3P sound so fat, and the depth of its sound-shaping capabilities make it a real asset, live and in our productions. I’m just so emotionally attached to my Nord 3P. It was one of my first pieces of kit, and I’ve used it in just about all of our KC shows because it just sounds great.
As strange as it sounds the Yamaha P-115 keyboard I bought before I knew anything about synths is probably still my favourite piece of gear. It just feels so good to play, and that’s so important when I’m sitting down to hash out ideas or jam.
If you could create your ultimate instrument or piece of music gear, what would it be, what would it do, and how would it work?
Okay, it may not be a piece of music gear but one thing that we have been wanting to try and make for a while is a volume rider for our TV sound system. Have you ever been watching an old action movie; everything is all good you’re enjoying yourself and then BAM you are in an action scene and have been hit by a wall of uncompressed car crashes and gunfire? Stressful stuff. Wouldn’t it be great to have a little volume rider sitting next to you where you could mix on the fly? We know volume buttons exist, but it would just be so much more satisfying to have a master volume fader! We would chuck in 3 EQ knobs as well because sometimes you want the highs softened and the lows boosted for comfy listening.
Who would be one artist/producer you haven’t worked with (alive or dead) that you’d love to work with?
We absolutely love Paula Tape! Her productions are so unique and fun, we really resonate with her production style so it would be so fun to try and create something together. Also, Daft Punk, because it’s Daft Punk!
Do you both have secret superpowers the world doesn’t know about yet?
Carly: I’m secretly really good at guiding people through breathwork to achieve an epic group ohm. Aligning our vibrations with the universe.
Jess: Chatting to a bunch of old men about yachts is my superpower. Oh, a 36-foot yacht you say? Must fly through the water. Bet you use hardly any diesel, what about 1.5 litres a trip? Terrific, and it’s done circumnavigation?! That’s a piece of history right there. Can’t put a price on that.
Catch Kédu Carlö in Melbourne
Wednesday, October 5 at Inertia, Colour Club
Thursday, October 6 at New Guernica
Friday, October 7 at Music Room
Saturday, October 8 Live at Club Aqueous at The Gaso
New Zealand dates:
October 15: Christchurch – Flux, live show
October 29: Auckland – Rise & Shine Festival