Class of 2007: Kira Lynn Cain

Pub date August 29, 2007
WriterTodd Lavoie
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

CLUBS Film Appreciation Society, art club, Existential Smokers Alliance

QUOTE "It won’t be honest if I decide from the beginning what the song’s going to be about."

"Growing up, I was never really exposed to much pop culture that came out after the ’60s," haunted-dream singer-songwriter Kira Lynn Cain reveals as an explanation of her elegant — and occasionally sinister — torch songs from bygone black-and-white eras. "I was raised in a hippie household, where we mostly listened to old folk songs, medieval music, crooners and stuff from the ’40s and ’50s. And that’s still what I listen to the most.

"My friends are always shocked by how little I know about pop culture from the past few decades — I’m like a special project for them!"

So, while Cain is being schooled in the finer points of hair metal and cheesy sitcoms, she’s returning the favor by sharing her love of Peggy Lee and Jim Thompson — which informs her bewitching musical excursions into the shadow-cloaked intersections of romance and violence. Describe her forthcoming debut, The Ideal Hunter (Evangeline), in five syllables or less? Chiaroscuro. Talk about juxtapositions of light and dark: in one moment Cain guides her characters through tender waltzes under a golden glow, and in the next a knife gets pulled. Vibraphones twinkle amorously, only to be knocked around by a raging cello or a stab of Link Wray–worthy guitar. Timpani and brushed drums portend looming misfortune while Cain floats above it all, a temptress detached from the sordid drama below.

If this all sounds very filmic, it should. Meeting me in a Mission bar over whiskey and wine, Cain waxes enthusiastically about movies, as well as composers such as Ennio Morricone, Bernard Herrmann, and Henry Mancini, all of whom have had a profound influence on her songwriting. The German expressionists and surrealists play a pivotal role, but of course there’s also film noir, gritty westerns, Dario Argento’s stylized horror freak-outs — and while David Lynch’s name never enters the conversation, there is an undeniable Blue Velvet dreamscape feel to Cain’s sublime creations, helped in part by a similarity to the director’s siren, Julee Cruise.

I’ll ask her another time, perhaps. But in the meantime, how would she feel about scoring a film? "That’d be like a dream come true," she says, beaming, eyes growing wider as she grabs my arm. "I’d do it right now if I could!" (Todd Lavoie)