Featuring songs written through different life phases, The new EP from the Brooklyn indie-pop artist is about the freedom and expansion born out of centering, and anchoring, oneself


Life could, perhaps, be described as a series of stages. Consecutive chapters in the novel of your life. Linked but distinct periods characterized by where you are, who you are, how you’re doing, what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with. And the thing about these phases is that for a new one to begin, an old one often has to end. Whether we’re talking about a relationship, a home or, hell, even a haircut.

Of course, that’s not to say you can’t get back with that girl, go back to Boise or grow out your bangs, but you will never be exactly the same as you were the last time. So neither will your experience. Change, of course, is inevitable. We shed old skins and play new parts. We miss old times and mourn past lives as we embark on different journeys and embrace new eras. Beginnings can be exciting but scary while endings can be both sad and good. But all the while, if done right, we grow in as we grow up, learning to ignore expectations and disregard opinions in favor of finally finding, having faith in and staying true to our own selves.

That brings me to Silence Like Sirens, the new EP from Kalen—the solo project of Kalen Lister, also of Death by Piano and Late Sea. Out everywhere today, the record doesn’t serve as a musical time capsule representing one specific stage, but is a collection of songs whose meaning and making have roots in many. Drawing on experiences real, borrowed and imagined over the years, the record was written as the artist’s life, responsibilities, city and circumstances changed. As she lived other places, took on new roles, traded toxic flings for a more true love. And as, throughout these developments, she continued to become more in tune with, and at home in, herself.

“The songs on this record cover a lot of ground from my life – from singledom through motherhood,” Kalen shared of the record ahead of its release. “If I were forced to extract a throughline, I’d say it’s about centering oneself, becoming less swayed by others, and less at the mercy of my own emotions. Ultimately, it’s about the freedom and expansion that is actually born out of that anchoring.”

Ahead of today’s release, Kalen sent over a track-by-track breakdown of the six-song EP, touching on the different points and places in which the album was written and recorded, the experiences that sparked and steered each song and the influential individuals—artists alive and dead—who made their marks on this music by way of challenges, ideas, inspiration and collaboration.


1. “Like a cloud

In my sky at twilight / You are like / You are like a cloud

“Upon finally being in a positive, healthy relationship, my close friend Izzy (from the band Late Sea) challenged me to write a happy love song. Naturally, I was at a loss. So, I enlisted the help of some dead poet friends: Rabindranath Tagore and Pablo Neruda, reworking the latter’s interpretation of the former into yet a new form. I often see mood and music in color and the words in this piece capture all the bruised beauty of the dawn and dusk of love, of the ways we reflect our partners and refract and diffuse, spill and fill our canvases with the other and the sense of self we have with one another. Sometimes this love is narcissistic, sometimes it is selfless. At times it’s lit up with desire. At times it is platonically blue, cloudless, and still, and at others times it’s stormy. No matter, we are inextricably part of the other’s landscape. 

Izzy and I ended up working together to record the song. We changed the key like four times, playing it over and over on the grand piano in his loft in Williamsburg. We ended up recording my incredible rhythm section at the time – Jason Nazary on drums and Jackson Hill on bass – at The Bunker in the B studio which is my favorite! (It’s where John Davis mixed Fallen From The Sun and recorded Bluebird with Kalen & The Sky Thieves.) 

Written by KALEN / Produced by Izzy Gliksberg / Drums by Jason Nazary / Bass by Jackson Hill / Mixed by Abe Seiferth /  Mastered by Alex De Turk”

2. “Phoenix”

Your laughter gets me high / Like wings, your smiling eyes / Over the valley we glide /We let the light inside

“‘Phoenix’ was named for a friend’s second child after losing her first. I couldn’t fathom the pain they went through. Now, as a mother myself, it’s even more difficult to imagine. This song, however, is about redemption and healing. 

Izzy and I recorded this one at the Bunker, too, with Jason Nazary on drums and Jackson Hill on bass. I love the way the bridge really came to life on this one with that rhythm section! The most magical thing that happened on this song, though, was the choir that sang on the choruses! Maggie Collier arranged sick BVs and led six incredible singers. I was eight months pregnant and the world was about to shut down, but we didn’t quite know it yet. We were all talking about whether or not we should hug goodbye (which we did).

Written by KALEN / Produced by Izzy Gliksberg / Drums by Jason Nazary / Bass by Jackson Hill / Mixed by Abe Seiferth /  Mastered by Alex De Turk”

3. “Honeysucker”

“I take my sugar high / Sink low when you say goodbye / Wanting to believe / Can drop a sucker to her knees”

“This song is a PSA about denial. About hearing what you want to hear. About being a honeysucker. God knows how many times I rationalized some sexy guy’s shit behavior because of the few good moments that essentially got me high. 

I initially had a very bluesy acoustic treatment of this song with a busy bassline. Eric Zeiler brilliantly extracted the story truth of the song and transmuted (maybe more like muted, haha) the bassline into a sick drum pattern that makes up the backbone of the track. Johnny Butler (a dear friend and frequent collaborator) came into the studio to play some saxophone on the song. He doubled some of the bass but also did a lot of cool synthy effects through his double H9 pedals, one of which is named Johnny and the other Geney, for my husband who gifted Johnny his first H9. It was a fun studio session, throwing a lot of paint at the wall which Eric masterly mixed in later. I also had a lot of fun layering harmonies on top of harmonies for the intro and outro. For live shows, I typically use my TC Helicon harmonizer for these parts (unless I have a kick ass vocalist friend like Clair London or Scarlet Barreto around to sing harmonies).

Fun fact, this was the last song that Eric and I did at the studio on 18th St before it went out of business. In fact, I ended up buying a bunch of the studio’s clearance custom furniture which now resides in my basement studio in Crown Heights. Eric and I also worked on Lighter in that same studio. Atlantic and Hendrix Rose (from my Atlantic EP) and Silence Like Sirens we did remotely during the pandemic. True Love was a combo of remote with final vox recorded at Eric’s new studio.

There is also a dope, dub remix of ‘Honeysucker’ by No Surrender. Both the single and the remix have gotten a lot of playlist love on Spotify. 

Written by Kalen / Production & mix by Eric Zeiler / Sax by Johnny Butler / Master by Alex DeTurk”

4. “Silence Like Sirens”

Come back to bed, I cry. It echoes off the wall / Come back to bed, I gasp.  Only darkness comes to call / Come back to bed, I say to nobody at all

“This is a song that was first born many moons ago. I always thought that there was some there there but that it was never quite there. I remember playing the song for Andy Marvel (of Celine Dion fame). He was the one who suggested I take the verse and basically make a simplified chorus tag. The lyrics had initially been about a breakup that felt like ancient history, so I kept reworking them. Eventually, I wrote them from the place of imagining breaking up with my now husband in order to be able to sing them from a place of rawness.  

I shared the stripped-down piano demo with Eric over the pandemic when I was living in Maine. It took us a few back-and-forths to feel that the recorded version was on track. Then, suddenly, the pieces solidified and it quickly became a favorite. (There was always patience and trust in the back and forth that it would get there.) As is often the case with my songs, the producer (Eric in this case) at first wanted to cut my bridge – too weird, not pop enough, too much a departure from the song. However, as is fortunately often the case, he ended up coming around and connecting with it. I recorded the final vocals on an inexpensive mic in an Air B&B in Portland, ME while my infant slept.”

5. “I Miss Home”

“I can taste your blood orange sunsets / I can taste the stars in your concrete bones / Walking down Meserole / Too much to carry I’m going slow / Got a song in my pocket I took from home / It’s all bruised and sad (and) blue and gold

“This is a song that I wrote while living away from Brooklyn – in Maine and then upstate NY – during the pandemic. The first part of the idea came from a little poetic postcard social post I did on my Death By Piano instagram with some found footage that I took traveling over the Brooklyn bridge (most likely en route to a show on the LES). Then, I extrapolated and made it into a full song that explored memories of pre-pandemic and pre-motherhood Brooklyn – mostly my old rehearsal stomping grounds in Bushwick and my neighborhood of Crown Heights. It was me missing Brooklyn while also realizing that I had fundamentally changed in its absence. I was yearning to go home but knowing that it would be a new chapter, a new relationship with my music and the city upon returning. 

For this song, I worked with my friend Will Bradford of SeepeopleS, one of the most talented songwriter / producers I know. He breathed a cool, more electronic life into the song, laying the track with tons of electronic and acoustic elements. Most of what we did, we sent back and forth, but we did have a fun recording day at his home studio in Portland, ME where he and Sparxsea live and work, their huge (RIP love song) Great Pyrenees panting on the floor. In later sessions, he laid down David Yearwood on upright bass and Devon Colella on cello. Abe Seiferth (another favorite producer) mixed the track.”  

6. “True Love”

You be my mourning and I’ll be your dove / You be the mountain I learn to soar above / You be my heartbeat and I’ll be your song / You be my sunset and I’ll be your dawn

“Unlike all of the other songs on the EP (which started with me and the keys), this started with an instrumental that Eric Zeiler wrote. I remember I was going for a jog around the back bay in Portland, ME when I first heard the track. I thought it was sick. It sounded so big and so complete – and yet, there was enough space on it for a melody. We thought it might be fodder for a Death By Piano piece, however, once I laid down my topline, we both felt that it was more in line with my solo music, even while blazing new territory in terms of process and sound. The instrumental was so fresh and sexy that I needed something sensual and positive. I decided to take on Izzy’s challenge to write a happy love song once again (especially since I felt I cheated the first time by piggybacking on famous poets’ lyrics). With the lyrics, I was exploring the positive ways in which intimacy and sexual desire change once in a deeply committed relationship. For a long time, I think I was playing out a rather two dimensional script about desire – a cat and mouse game, which while fun never really reached new depths. I wanted to say something real about sexual chemistry and physical love. Something that hoped to capture new vulnerabilities that can only be unearthed with the trust of a more mature love. 

‘True Love’ has gotten more Spotify playlist love than any other song of mine thus far. No surprise seeing that Eric Zeiler’s (the producer / co-writer of the track)  project Young Saab has been getting tons of love as of late.”

7. “Honeysucker – No Surrender Remix”

“No Surrender is my dear friend and longest time roommate, Darius (Jamal) Van Sluytman. He grew up in St. Thomas listening to Reggae music. In fact, No Surrender made a Spotify playlist of his inspiration for the remix – early Dancehall and Reggae from the 80s:

In some ways, the remix was a long time in the coming. I first wrote Honeysucker when we lived in a spot on Clinton Ave in Clinton Hill, BK. Jamal lived in the room adjacent to mine and I remember asking him what he heard production-wise on it. He heard this type of production on the song from day 1. When Eric and I finished the song, I knew I wanted a remix and I knew I wanted No Surrender’s treatment according to his first instinct. I also loved Jamal’s last remix, a version Death By Piano’s (my electronic project) Bender.”

Silence Like Sirens is out now! Celebrate the record release TONIGHT at The Sultan Room with theSHIFT, Pale Ramon and Reliant Tom. Grab your tickets here.


Follow Kalen at @kalenkraze, add her songs to your Spotify playlists and find all things Kalen at

Feature image (provided by the artist): Kevin W Condon

Leave a Reply