Music / Features
Track by Track:
Kissy Fleur - Ripened Fruit
Words by Hannah McKittrick
Wednesday 2nd May, 2018

TW: Sexual assault, rape

Kissy Fleur’s debut album Ripened Fruit initially impresses as a dreamy soundscape of childhood innocence. Flutes, harp and angelic vocals weave together seamlessly to conjure the imagery of spring time and youthful femininity. Her lyrical references to swing sets and gardens work to produce a depiction of joyful naivety, only to be juxtaposed against the album’s dichotomously confronting narrative; the story a fifteen year old girl’s experience of sexual assault.
Ripened Fruit’s tracks and their tastefully delicate production unfold organically and bleed into each other, portraying the horrific story of rape through a through-composed, floaty, heavily layered branch of dream-pop. The interweaving of sing-song repetitive parts for glockenspiel, flute, harp, whistling and whispery vocal harmonies see Kissy setting a scene where victim and predator coexist. Lyrically, Kissy switches narrator perspective between the characters which confront the listener with the internal dialogue of desire and fear. Lyrics like "girl I’m gonna make you understand that I’m a man" and "now he needs another hit" describe the slippery desires of the offender in commanding first person perspective. Similarly, "my body was my very own" and "my youth, wasted" provide us with a small slice of insight into the enormity of sexual trauma for victims.

It is Kissy’s subverting of expectations in this album that is perhaps what makes it so striking. Contrasting instrumentation and imagery are employed heavily, alluding to the large scope of where and how sexual assault can transpire. Airy vocals surrounded by ethereal ascending string lines and samples of ambiguous ambient nature sounds as textures are all anchored by deep piano bass notes and melodic repetition. Gently unfolding melodies and musical symbols of childhood are juxtaposed against the dark minor key they are played in; and, her playful vocals are in constant battle with the lyrics that they carry, referencing intuition, fear and graphic descriptions of the physical reminders that the protagonist is left with.

This correlation between innocence and the subsequent loss of childhood is confronting and heartbreaking. But Kissy’s treatment of the story, encasing it with such sparse production, makes this contrast stark yet accessible. In Kissy’s words "I hope those that are unaware of the suffering that comes along with sexual assault will be confronted by the lyrics and I hope that those who can connect with the story can find healing within the songs, the same way it helped to heal me."

Opening: Little Girl

The album opens to the sound of birds chirping in a forest. This sets the scene for the words of the rest of the album. The theme of nature will be prevalent throughout the songs as is evident in this opening track. The lyrics “I would dance upon the garden soil” and “the flowers now are overgrown” are my way of introducing the many nature metaphors that arise throughout the album to detail the sexual assault of a fifteen year old girl. Although this is the first song, in many ways it reveals what which will occur after the assault. The victim is reflecting back on her childhood, a time when it felt as though her body was still her very own. A sexual assault creates a dent in the timeline of a life. There is the ‘you’ before and the ‘you’ after the assault. This song details the desire to feel the way you once felt prior to the event. A longing for a youth that was taken before it could fully blossom, “some flowers grow but never bloom”.

Interlude: Where Are You Going Darling?

I chose to name this album Ripened Fruit as an ode to youth and the lustful intent it can attract. This interlude (the first of three) is focused on starting to introduce the uncontrollable desires of the perpetrator, reflecting on the ripened fruit. I chose to sing from his perspective almost as though the victim was recalling his intentions. “Where are you going darling, I need you now” is a repeated mantra, a thought that cannot be ignored. By singing the thoughts of the male perpetrator I forced myself to step into the belief systems one must have to do such an act. I made this album alone so was sometimes confronted by the thoughts I had to trace during the album making process. For me, there is such beauty and such suffering to making an album by yourself, especially one that touches on such an intense topic.

Hope is a Hungry Stomach

The title and repeated lyric in this song ‘Hope is a Hungry Stomach’ focuses on the thought that when you crave something so much, you are blind to the reality of its nature. You only focus on the hopeful wanting of your own satisfaction to occur. Nowhere can this be seen more than in the mind of a perpetrator. The act of being able to sacrifice someone else’s body and mind, for the sake of your own pleasure, is a sign of this thought process and a confronting insight about the lack of remorse many attackers feel for their actions. “He’s hungry, wants to be pleased.”

I love the string section on this song, I am always mesmerised by beautiful string compositions, so you will hear many cellos and violins throughout the album. Not to forget the flute which too is present throughout this project. Although this album was composed and produced within the walls of my bedroom, I actually sent an email to Tom Moth (the harpist of Florence and The Machine) asking if he wanted to play on this track and he did. You can hear his magical harp sprinkled throughout the song.

Interlude: Look Inside

This track is focused specifically on the young man who assaults the girl. I chose the lyric “pretty girls will come and go, your cravings are all your own” as a way of analysing the nature of the attacker. It’s an observation on how despite his need to seek satisfaction outside of himself, at the end of the day he is the one who still carries the empty feelings of lust within. He is a victim of his mind and in turn creates victims of his actions. “Look inside and you will find what hides behind those blinds” is my way of saying that you never quite know who has been a perpetrator of sexual assault or who has been a victim. It is a taboo act that is hidden from the eye of the public. I sometimes wonder how many people I know who have been involved in a similar experience but have carried it within themselves for many years.

Tic Tac Toe

I am currently studying psychology and philosophy, so you will notice that I tend to analyse the perspective of the perpetrator throughout the album. This song is no exception. I have decided to keep this figure faceless but to focus on directly addressing his inner workings. The chorus of this song “no purity in your promiscuity, lust is a symptom of your insecurity” is my way of showing the true weakness of someone who believes they are getting power by being a predator. The psychology student in me can’t help but wonder whether underlying psychological issues play a large role in leading the perpetrator to intentionally assault his victim.

The Garden Way

Each song in this album flows into the other with certain transitions going so smoothly that the listeners may not even be able to notice that a new song has commenced. This decision was made so that the project would be seen as one whole narrative, a complete concept album. Every song depends on each other to tell the fullness of the story. This certainly made the mixing process more challenging as I would have to put hundreds of stems into an Ableton file so that the songs could overlap. The beginning piano chords of ‘The Garden Way’ are part of one of my favourite transitions in the album. It instantly changes the mood and prepares you for the confronting, repeated statement “girl, I’m gonna make you understand that I’m a man”.

Conversations with Past Lovers

I recorded all of the vocals for this album in my little home studio on a microphone surrounded by mattresses. I love dreamy layered vocals and am a big fan of perfectly panned harmonies. Sometimes it would take days just to record one song. I would record so many layers that there were several times where my computer decided to give up on me and crash mid vocal take. In ‘Conversations with Past Lovers’ there are around 100 different vocal stems, you can hear this most prominently in the outro. Despite the many layers, this song is definitely one of the most vulnerable. I get chills whenever I sing the line “I try to speak, my voice dissolves”. A common experience with sexual assault victims is to freeze, unable to move or speak due to the sheer shock and trauma while the experience is happening. Many people ask victims “why didn’t you say no? Why didn’t you just push them off?” ...but when you are in such a state of fear and shock you feel stuck inside your body as if you are observing the event but unable to stop it. Your limbs become heavy and your voice cannot be heard.

The harp in the bridge of this song is, in my eyes, one of the stand out moments of this album. I adore playing it and cannot wait to perform it live on the harp.

Interlude: You are Falling Down

‘Falling Down’ is made up of four words “you are falling down” repeated over and over until song 9 arrives. Whilst ‘Conversations with Past Lovers’ details the interaction the rapist and the victim have with each other, it is this song that symbolises the otherworldly state the girl falls into as the assault commences. During an assault you can experience this sense of urgency to escape your body. The mind does not want to experience this trauma so it tries to leave the present moment. A lot of victims cannot remember many details of their assault and are seen as pretending to forget what had happened. I feel that the sheer trauma the mind experiences, while in this situation, is enough for it to want to block out the images and fall into a state of emptiness. ‘You are Falling Down’ symbolises this.

I found this particular homemade plug-in for my Ableton that creates the strange pitching and auto filtered sound that you hear on a VHS tape. I threw it on the master of each song to make it all sound even dreamier. You can really hear its presence in this song.

Sedated (Forbidden Fruit)

The lyrics “I faded for you” and “I wasted for you” signify the feeling of sacrifice and guilt. It is the thought of having sacrificed your body, your self, to the incomprehensible act of violence of another. It is difficult to feel as though your body is still yours once another has entered it without your permission but an important part of healing is knowing that you have the power to make your body your home again. “You wasted my youth” touches on the fact that so much of youth can be taken by these moments. It is difficult to feel the joy of being young when such an act has taken place within your own body.

You may have noticed by now that the album is filled with imagery of fruit and hunger. Lyrics such as “each skirt you peel”, “cheeks are the colour of tangerines”, “he’s hungry” and “a victim of his appetite” are used as metaphors for the lustful nature of the assault. The disturbing desire of the attacker to attain that which he craves is symbolised through these words. ‘Sedated’ finishes of with the lyric, “ripened, I grew, you craved my forbidden fruit”, a reference back to the meaning of the album’s title, Ripened Fruit.

Two Teaspoons of Trouble

This was the first song I wrote for this album. I was fifteen years old at the time. It is the first song I ever wrote about the subject and the song that is responsible for the telling of this story. Each song on the album builds up to this... the exact moment of the assault. Much like the other songs on the album, ‘Two Teaspoons of Trouble’ opens up with edible imagery; “eat me up, spit me out, that’s okay” and “such a sight, her fruit’s ripe, that boy’s got a big appetite”. Again, these lines symbolise the feeling of desire and being seen simply as something to be obtained. The song is 6 minutes long and tells the story in great detail. I would do it a disservice to explain it here as I believe it truly does speak for itself. The closing line of the song and the closing line of the album is “it goes without consequences”. I never intended for there to be any closure in this album as I know how difficult it is for victims to find closure themselves. Instead, I felt the only way to end this album was with the honest statement that most of these acts go without consequences for the perpetrators. They walk free and are able to live life without any guilt of the act that had taken place, while all too often the victims are left feeling the guilt that the attacker should carry. They are drenched in shame and filled with suffering. It can be a lifetime of healing.

There were many days where I decided to give up on this album. I thought it would be too intense for both me and the listeners but every time there was a part of me that told me that this album carried an important message for others and it needed to be heard. This sense of purpose kept me going despite the isolation and self doubt I felt whilst making the project. The strange thing was that even though I wanted to move on from the topic and write an album that was much easier to digest, I couldn’t stop writing about the story and the heavy emotions that were connected to it. It was almost as if my mind was purging these feelings from within myself with every song I wrote. Then a few months ago, after years of making this album I was suddenly able to disconnect from the project. I had written all the emotions I needed to write, sang all the words I needed to sing and found myself emptied of the suffering I felt. I was able to let go of the album, I no longer needed to work on it and it no longer needed to heal me. The job was done. Once this moment occurred I was able to step back and realise what a beautiful healing journey I had been on to make this album. Although it was a lonely process, those many moments of isolation allowed me to completely unravel. It is now time for the album to travel to those who need to hear its story, I hope that by releasing the album into the world and out of my own mind it will now bring healing to others the same way it brought healing to me.

Listen to Ripened Fruit above, and keep up to date with Kissy Fleur by following her on Facebook.