Moving to the other side of the world has led to a different kind of Holiday for Peking Duk’s Adam Hyde.
The Canberran musician relocated to the US pre-COVID, and found himself alone in an apartment on the opposite side of the world, post-tour and post-breakup: not the best situation for most.
Hyde, however, was struck by inspiration, and from the miasma of depression (and probably some stale beer) emerged Keli Holiday.
An alter-ego of sorts, Keli Holiday is someone Hyde sees a lot of himself in. Not quite his Dr. Jekyll, though: Keli Holiday is “a very confused, heartbroken man that still thinks he’s the shit.”
“It’s kind of like this flamboyant dude who is heartbroken from a relationship, but he’s decided to embark on his own journey through holidays, as you can see in the ‘December’ video,” Hyde said.
“Is it art imitating life? Is it life imitating art? Who knows? All I know is it’s a fuckin’ fun time, and I can’t wait to bring this show on the road again because the live show really, really encapsulates all that is Keli Holiday, and I feel once you can see it in the flesh then you can kind of get a feel for it more.”
Keli Holiday performed a full 75-minute set at Sydney’s Landsdowne Hotel in June, which Hyde described as a ‘strange, bizarre’ experience for the simple fact barely anyone in the room knew more than two songs of the set. It was also one of the most beautiful nights that he will remember forever.
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“I kind of took them on this journey and I turned it into a party and they turned it into a part, and before we knew it, the whole room was singing, clapping and jumping, and I saw one person crying and I was taken back,” Hyde said.
“I even cried after the show, because to me it was like, the reaction to this music that I never thought I would even release has completely changed my life. And changed the way I look at music in general. It’s completely refreshed my mind on everything.”
‘December’ is the first song Hyde wrote for the project, but the fourth he has released as Keli Holiday. He said he feels as though it is the perfect introduction to the ‘sonic palette’ that is the forthcoming Keli Holiday album (due for release in January 2022).
“It didn’t feel right to open up the project with this tune for some reason,” he said. “Maybe a part of it was my own insecurities about how personal the song is, for one, and for two, the fact that it was just me writing, recording and producing it.”
Watch Keli Holiday’s new music video ‘December’
The track – along with the rest of the album, including previous singles ‘We Don’t Have To Know’, ‘Where You Feel’ and ‘Song Goes On’ – ended up being co-produced by The Presets’ Kim Moyes.
But this one was initially ‘straight from the bedroom to the speakers.’ A process, Hyde said, that was mentally challenging to work around.
“It felt like I was taking a step backwards, but in the most beautiful, pure way when I started this project, because the bones of it were just this shitty little guitar I got here and throwing in drum machines and that was kind of it,” Hyde laughed. “Then I’d bang it together on my laptop and sing into my iPhone and boom.”
Hyde said he was in ‘a weird kind of trance’ when he started writing these songs.
“It was just like, picked up the guitar – obviously heavily influenced by Joy Division and New Order and those kinds of cascading riffs – and like, got down on it and enjoyed it,” he said.
“And then there were 12 tracks… 12 very shitty sounding, rough demos, I might add, but with the help of a few tweaks here and there you can actually polish a turd.”
Watch a stripped-back version of Keli Holiday’s ‘Song Goes On’
Hyde’s stream-of-consciousness ‘fuck it, let it flow’ writing of those 12 tracks will soon be known as Keli Holiday’s debut solo album.
“I like the rawness of that; I like that there was no over-thinking,” he said.
“There was no, ‘Ooh, that needs to be like that, this needs to sound like that, ooh, change that high hat to this.’… I think the most beautiful part of the ride has been the creation of the songs.”
That thought process fell to Moyes when Hyde brought him the 12 tracks to work with, which were essentially gutted then replaced with ‘all these beautiful, shiny parts.’
“I’ve always been a producer, songwriter, done vocals on tracks here and there, but to be able to sit back whilst he did the production, and I would go in and track some vocals and record some guitar – he kind of called me up when it was my time to shine,” Hyde joked.
“Kim really is a genius; his ear is so perfect, and his vision for everything so so on par with where I was at, so it was a dream to work with him.”
Having been inspired by Moyes prior to working with him, Hyde said spending time with him in the studio had taught him that he would never be as ‘meticulous’ as him – which was testament to Moyes’ professionalism – but that he could benefit from paying more attention to detail.
“(Moyes) will go in with a fine-toothed comb and he’ll put it through the microscope and make sure every single thing is hitting right: frequency-wise, feel-wise, vibe-wise, sound-wise, everything just sits perfectly with him, and I love his passion for making sure that everything fuckin’ hits right,” Hyde said.
“I’m the type of person that’s like… I’ll slap it together and be like, ‘oh yeah that’s good’, then I’ll listen the next day and I’ll be like, ‘no, that’s shit I’ve got to change it, oh yeah now it’s okay’… but then the day after… You know what I mean?”
While the majority of the tracks were written when Hyde was exploring New York, rediscovering Joy Division and New Order, and recovering from heartbreak, a couple were finished after he moved to Los Angeles. It’s a transition you can hear in the music.
“It’s kind of funny because it started out as this really melancholic music about, you know, being heartbroken and kind of like, ‘fuck you’ to this person – I’m better now, I feel good and I don’t need you,” Hyde said.
“As this record progressed in the writing period, then it turned really sunny; so it’s like a funny journey throughout the mind of this Keli Holiday character going from a really sad dude to… actually the sun is shining now, we can have a boogie.”
Hyde said his new home in Venice Beach was good for both creativity and his mental health.
“I guess I’ve kind of fallen in love with it in a way: Venice Beach is such a mix of people, like there’s a billionaire and then there’s a crack head and then there’s a dude who’s selling mix tapes,” he said. “Then there’s a guy who’s a professional cart wheeler and then there’s a guy playing Yoho Diablo screaming at you with a boombox on his shoulder, it’s like, whoa!”
For all of its urban sprawl, Los Angeles is a small place when it comes to its music community. Hyde said he has been discovering some magic amongst the mania.
“I’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing people that I’m going to be doing some great work with, and that wouldn’t happen anywhere else in the world,” he said.
“I feel like LA is this bizarre place, but you have these magical moments where things happen and you’re like, ‘Holy shit – how did that happen?’ It’s bizarre but it’s beautiful as well because people really look out for each other here, people really big each other up.”
As cathartic as the whole creative process has been to Hyde, he said he initially wasn’t going to release Keli Holiday’s music at all.
“It was kind of like a personal thing, and Golden Features, god bless him, he told me, ‘Get it done, Son!’,” Hyde laughed.
“But now to see that people are connecting with the music and (are) reaching out to me saying, ‘Hey this made my shitty day really good,’ or, you know, ‘You put a smile on my face,’ it’s pretty amazing to see.”
Hyde said whilst mental health wasn’t as obvious a focus with Keli Holiday as it may be for the solo project of his Peking Duk co-creator Reuben Styles, he felt that if they were lucky enough to use their platforms to talk about ‘something that isn’t discussed enough’ they were going to do it – and it’s something he’d like to do a lot more of.
“I praise Reuben for what he’s doing with Y.O.G.A.,” Hyde said. “We’ve both been through a lot and suffered a lot due to both mental health ourselves, and also our friends around us – a lot of people we know have tragically taken their own lives due to it.”
On the surface Keli Holiday may be a heartbroken dude ‘who thinks he’s the shit’, but on the whole, the project ‘spat in the face’ of toxic masculinity ‘in a beautiful way’.
“I think throughout the character himself, that’s shown as well – like in the ‘December’ music video,” Hyde said.
“Although it might be a little bit ambiguous as it’s me just dancing around in short shorts through Yosemite, but that is the underlying theme of it all, I guess.”
Seeing people connect with Keli Holiday’s music has been ‘mind-blowing’ for Hyde, who said he already has album number two pretty much done already. Be prepared for ‘a journey through the wild world of Keli Holiday’ as the music is released.
“I was thinking about this the other day, because I listened to album one, which is coming out January 2022 – I was listening to it and then I was listening to these tunes I’ve got for album two,” he said. “And I was like, ‘Wow, okay, this is definitely a different sonic world’ – and I like it, because it’s a progression, you know? Why do you want to do the same shit twice?”
With two solo albums pretty much in the bag, there’s no sign of Hyde slowing down with Peking Duk, either. The duo released ‘Chemicals’ mid-year, after much deliberation on both their parts.
“At that time, there was a lot of shit that was more important, I think, than us dropping a dance banger, you know, such as the racial injustice issues, the pandemic, and just a lot of problems in the air that should be talked about before dance music, I think,” Hyde explained.
“Then it was like, okay, well people need music so fuck it, let’s get this show rolling – and we did, and it was met with open arms, which was really surprising.”
The dynamic between Hyde and Styles hasn’t changed, despite living on opposite sides of the planet these days – Hyde had lived in Melbourne prior to moving to America, while Styles is still based in Sydney. In fact, their writing style is an ‘integral’ part to the machine that is Peking Duk.
“The way me and Reuben have always worked is I’ll work on an idea or he’ll work on an idea and it’s like this friendly competition where we won’t show each other the idea until we think it’s shit hot,” he said.
“Then once we think it’s shit hot enough to show, we’ll kind of be like, ‘Hey, do you dig this idea?’ And if the other person says, ‘Fuck yeah, let’s work on it,’ then we get in together and we’ll hammer it out and get it sounding as dope as we can.”
Hyde said he loved how different the writing process he has used for Keli Holiday is to the process he uses with Peking Duk and the other artists he works with.
“I could cut a sample of a random vocal off YouTube and then turn that into chords and layer it and then throw some drums that are thrown through like a grain delay and all this production nerdy shit that makes it like, ‘Woah!’,” he said.
“But [the Keli Holiday approach] feels more bare bones, more rock’n’roll […] which I really love because it’s a different angle on creation. And what’s better than learning and having fun at the same time?”