Artist Spotlight: Cryalot

    Cryalot is the new project of Sarah Midori Perry, who has put out three LPs and multiple shorter releases as the lead singer of Kero Kero Bonito alongside Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled. For her first solo outing, she collaborated with producer Jennifer Walton, who she met while she was a member of Kero Kero Bonito’s touring band. Drawn, in part, to the darkness of Walton’s music, she channels that same anxious, aggressive energy in ‘Hell Is Here’, the post-industrial centrepiece of her debut EP Icarus (out Friday), which was written while she was going through a dark period of depression for the first time.

    The 5-song collection is an exploration of the Greek myth of Icarus, which Bonito was first exposed to through a songbook at school, and captures the many potentials the metaphor continues to hold for her; choosing to celebrate the fierce glory that defined the protagonist over his ultimate failure, but guiding us through the entire journey. It’s a bold concept to pull off in just a few tracks, but Icarus is by turns bright and vulnerable, glitchy and sweet, gentle and explosive, always managing to catch flickers of hope and catharsis in the midst of turmoil. It’s a world that’s distinct from the one she’s built with KKB, and it’s not hard to imagine it growing into its own musical universe.

    We caught up with Sarah Bonito for this edition of our Artist Spotlight interview series to talk about the origins of Cryalot, working with Jennifer Walton, the Icarus myth, and more.

    How do you feel about the singles that are out ahead of the release of the EP?

    It’s been really fun creating the whole Cryalot world from scratch, and I’ve been really enjoying seeing how people respond to it. It’s been a super personal thing as well. Like the ‘Hell Is Here’ video, all the paintings you see in there were all done by me, and it has a really close connection to me personally. It’s been really exciting putting that out.

    I wanted to ask you about the genesis of Cryalot, but the personal nature of it is kind of already suggested in the title of the project. Can you talk about the story behind it?

    I guess the name was quite in your face, and I wanted it to be like that, because Cryalot was born when I was going through a really dark period of my life, and I was crying a lot. [laughs] So I wanted to name this project Cryalot – I guess it was my way of trying to take back control of those moments and reclaiming it. I didn’t want those tears to just be tears. I wanted to make something creative out of it. It actually started from a Finsta, I just wanted to make an Instagram account to post stuff where it was not really a Sarah Bonito post, and it’s my little outlet. And then when I was touring as KKB, I met Jennifer Walton, she was a live member of KKB from 2018 to 2020. I really got on with her, and I just fell in love with her music. That’s when I started thinking I really want to write music with her. And that’s when I was like, I want to do it under Cryalot.

    I’m curious if the name Cryalot has a whole new meaning for you now that it’s kind of removed from its original association.

    Definitely, that’s true. I guess before, it was like, it would remind me of those dark moments. But now because I release stuff under it I don’t really think about that. I’ve associated it with something really creative and fun. It’s weird because when I started writing music, I thought, maybe when this music is released and gone out of me, maybe I’ll be out of this dark period. And in a way, it’s kind of true. I’m not in the same kind of headspace from when I started the project. Creativity really helped me.

    What excited you most about the idea of working with Jennifer Walton?

    Yeah, definitely. It started in a really natural way, because before we even started writing music, I was with her 24/7 on tour, and we would get to know each other and talk about, I don’t know, silly things. We had that really solid foundation even before we went into the studio. And I think it really helped because I wanted this project to be quite personal to me, so I don’t think I would have been able to write those songs if it was just someone I didn’t have that foundation with. And also, her music, it’s really hard to pinpoint what made me like it, but I just really liked her music. It has this darkness that I was really attracted to. It’s like one of those things where I feel like you just know. When I was thinking about writing music, it just felt really right and I kind of followed that gut instinct. And she’s amazing. We’re really good friends as well, so it really made sense to work with her.

    I read that you were first exposed to the myth of Icarus when you were seven years old, and you would always choose this song to sing in school that had a different interpretation of the myth – less as a cautionary tale and more as a story of human potential. What made you remember the significance it had for you? Is it something that’s always been in the back of your mind?

    That’s an interesting question. I guess it’s always kind of been in the back of my mind, this Icarus thing. It’s kind of my philosophy of life. I’m not trying to say I’m the example of it, it’s more like I always try to live up to that kind of mythology of, like, trying to become more. And I feel like what made me want to write about it through this project was, when I was going through the dark period, I think that’s when I actually forgot about it. I think that was the first time in my life really that I didn’t find enjoyment in things I used to. I think I’m a really creative person, but that period made me really not enjoy anything. To write about that was my way of trying to go back to it, trying to remind myself of the Icarus mythology I fell in love with. And I think that’s why I wanted to write a whole EP about it. When someone gives me a song to write, I always naturally want to write about flying or want to write about something related to Icarus. So it’s kind of like my go-to place when I want to express something.

    I imagine you’ve developed a different perspective on it as an adult, but actually knowing what that fall can feel like, that darkness – instead of losing hope in that philosophy, it actually makes it more powerful.

    Yeah, definitely. With the EP as well, I don’t want all the songs to be about like this, It’s all gonna be fine, we’re gonna fly really high. I wanted to write about the successes and failures of it. I think that’s what makes living beautiful in a way, being human – there’s always the possibility of failure and success. So you will experience failure, but when you do experience success, it feels really nice because you did experience both sides of it. I feel like that’s an amazing thing.

    I was wondering if exploring ancient mythology, and also, more generally, the narrative potential of the EP format, with Kero Kero Bonito played a role in you wanting to dive into the Icarus story and take that route with Cryalot.

    I don’t think I would have been able to do this if I didn’t do KKB. It really feels like I’m in this really lucky place where I can explore these things I’m really interested in, because I think doing a whole EP about mythology is quite out there. I’ve been doing music for a while and I know amazing creative people around me – for example, the director of the ‘Hell Is Here’ video [Joshua Homer], he’s amazing director, he actually directed ‘Only Acting’ in KKB. Also getting to know other creative people who I managed to work with, it kind of made the vision come to life. I feel like it has really helped me dive into like this passion project I always wanted to explore. I feel like I got to do that because of being in KKV and having that experience. And Gus and Jamie, they also have solo projects that I’ve experienced the whole journey, seeing them work on it as well, that really inspired me.

    Listening to the first song, ‘Touch the Sun’, I wondered how much you relate that moment of glory that Icarus desires to the feeling of transcendence that music can give you, the ambition that drives you in your creative life. Is that something you feel more strongly now as a professional musician, having made that leap?

    ‘Touch the Sun’ is honestly the most optimistic song out of all of the EP. I wanted it to sound like you’re going for something, and when have this unbreakable belief that everything’s gonna be fine. And you’re not thinking about failing, you’re just thinking about what you can be. And I definitely had those moments in my life as well. When I feel like that the most I’d say is when I’m creating something, and doing music has given me more opportunities to do that. What’s that word people use when they’re creating and when they enter God-mode? That flow, I feel like that’s very transcendent. I feel like I live for those moments, in a way. Everything can get so stressful when you’re working on something, it could get quite insane, but when you hit that moment, it feels like it was worth everything. For example, playing music that you wrote to a huge crowd, or – it’s really hard to pinpoint, but the flow feels like everything was worth it. That’s what I live for.

    When you were young and related to the story, did you ever imagine what those moments would feel like? Maybe that was music, maybe it was something else, but obviously there was some strong pull there.

    I’ve always been a creative person all my life. I didn’t really do music until I joined KKB. Before that, I was really into painting. I really wanted to be a painter, but somehow life took me to become a musician. [laughs] I used to write stories as well when I was 17-ish, I really wanted to be a writer. I like putting my hands into lots of creative forms. And I also am really kind of attracted to people like that. That’s one of the reasons I really wanted to write music with Jenny, because I saw that in her. Also, this is such a weird – I can’t think of a better example, when I see people like that, I get really emotional. Like, I was watching that Netflix show Cheer; this group of kids, they train for like a year just to perform for two minutes. Those kinds of things really get to me. I remember the last episode I was crying because it was so… [laughs] I don’t know, this is a bad example, but I’m really attracted to people like that and I really get inspired by that kind of energy.

    What is that moment of connection like, where you know the other person shares that same energy? Is that something you can put to words?

    I guess everybody else has the potential of becoming more than a human – I don’t know how to explain it, but you can see it when they’re playing live or you can see it when they speak about something. It’s everywhere in the world, it’s just hard to pinpoint it. I think when people try to fly high, close to the sun, that kind of feeling really inspires me.

    I feel like there’s a parallel here, too, to the myth of Sisyphus – the idea that the struggle is persistent, but that’s what makes it worth it. The difference is that in Icarus there’s this dream that you’re chasing, which is what the song ‘Labyrinth’ homes in on – this idea that there’s more to this than what’s in front of us.

    Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think everything is possible. We have this ability to dream or imagination, and I feel like it’s something that’s really powerful and also has many potentials. Going through the dark period, it really open my eyes up to how your reality can quickly change to hell or heaven – there’s so many possibilities, even though you’re living, like – I’ll be waking up and eating breakfast, it’s the same act, but it can feel like hell, it can feel like heaven. It made me realize that maybe these possibilities are not, like, a different world; they all coexist. And really, you have the power to kind of go either way. Whatever you want to do, it’s possible. Going back to the ‘Labyrinth’ song, it’s like, you have the power to change it, and imagination is the first step to do that.

    I think there’s even a phrase on the final track that translates to “endless possibilities.” But another reason that song, ‘See You Again’, stood out to me is that it foregrounds the importance of storytelling, of passing down these stories and how they resonate through time and across cultures. The project was born from a dark period, but you’re also participating in that effort of reimagining the myth through your own experience.

    The Icarus story, I keep like hearing it in TV shows or films or people mention it in real life and they’re like, if you fly too close to the sun, you’re gonna fall and drown and you’re gonna die. With that song, I wanted to see it in a different way, like, yeah, maybe he did die, but we’re still talking about him and the story’s been passed down. The sea he drowned is called the Icarian sea, and if this didn’t happen, it wouldn’t have been named like that. He flew the highest of any human being, we should look at it from that direction. I feel like he is immortalized by his actions, and death doesn’t mean the end.

    How does it feel like for you to think that for some people, this might be their introduction to the myth?

    I mean, I guess that’s how I got to know the mythology, so it’d be a really great thing. I’m happy about that. I don’t think there is one true interpretation of the mythology, or any mythology. If a song can get like a similar feeling from when I first heard the Icarus song when I was like seven or something, l would love that. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it as well.

    Do you have any specific ambitions for Cryalot going into the future?

    Yeah, it’s been really exciting. I feel like a new door has opened. I want to keep working with Jenny, and I feel like this is the beginning of something.

    This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

    Cryalot’s Icarus EP is out September 2 via AWAL.

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