INTERVIEW: Kirin J Callinan


You can’t put KIRIN J CALLINAN in a box, he’s a man who knows just how to stand out in a crowd and he does this by presenting intricate tracks with just enough guts to push down those walls of typical pop music.

Releasing his debut album Embracism today, KIRIN J CALLINAN has been travelling and gallivanting around Australia presenting the music of Embracism to everyone attending his shows, but before that the man was overseas and we were lucky enough to chat to KIRIN J CALLINAN and see what’s what in that world of his.

So where are you at the moment?

I’m in El Paso, Texas, just outside the Mexican Border.

How was that last show?

Played a show last night in Austin, yeah that was good, it was really good, but yeah everything is good, I like playing shows here, the sound systems are good [line pops and crackles, can’t make out a word]

And you’re playing a bunch of shows coming up in Australia?

The whole country and New Zealand as well, starting in Wollongong on the 26th or the 25th or something.

Are you looking forward to coming back home?

I’m a bit sad that this tour is ending already because it’s lots of fun. I am of course always looking forward to coming home, to come back to Australia and come back to Sydney is really nice. I’m in my element when I’m on the road, so you know, the tours been great and I’m looking forward to touring Australia as soon as I get back; I think I have a day off and then back on tour, no rest for me.

Well I’ve been watching the evolution of Kirin J Callinan over the years since a show you played for a burlesque night at Helen Rose’s Schauserberger Laboratorium..

You were at that show?

Yeah funnily enough, at that show, I was watching this guy and he was watching you when, I think you came out in a dress or something. He looked up at you and was just shaking his head and whispered to his friend… ‘What the fuck is this?’ or something like that then got up and walked out and from that moment I though ‘fuck, this is awesome, this guy [Kirin] is on the money’. But yeah, from that show till now how do you see the evolution of your music?

Well it’s definitely changed a lot I think back then it was very fast paced, but it still comes from this internal personal space it’s quiet child like, especially life. You have to kind of find this inner child and go with it and act instinctively and just kind of free, so in that sense I have to kind of find that same place, I was definitely much more naive back then.

Over the years, I now understand, even though I don’t want to understand, I do understand the bigger picture, the bigger picture I’m trying to paint, and it’s, you know… I understand the process and I want to keep people glued to world, this whole thing, not give it all away. It’s grown, I’ve written a lot of songs over that time and I think the album is split 50/50 with songs that people have heard before and songs that I’ve been doing live for a long time.

Then again making a record is totally different to playing live so they may not necessarily be recognizable or they may be recognizable but obviously very different to the live counterpart. Yeah I mean I’m looking forward to the album coming out I mean that will be a big step in the evolution and then we’ll see where it goes to from there. Watching it germinating and developing and seething in the pond but finally a frog is climbing out across the moss.

Cause it’s a pretty big pond for you, I mean you’re making a huge sound compared to the loops that you used to make and now it’s all happening for you.

Yeah well I mean originally I started writing songs because I just wanted people to feel as sad as I did, it was very spacial and that kinda stuff and I’ve found more and more that it’s about having fun. So I hope to think that it’s still heart wrenching and depressing and awful at times but also a lot of fun whether you’re indulging in that emotion or literally jumping around having fun, I want my music to be as shallow as it can be deep.

When I hear your recording I seem to always think of your live performances, so what part does performance play when you’re writing music or how does it impede on your thoughts about making music? Do you write for a live setting or..?

I don’t wrote for a live setting, I just write whatever the core idea is and I just hang onto that and same with recording it’s about framing that idea as good as you can because live is a totally different thing that is a moment in it’s time and it’s place, it’s expressive, it’s communicational. And some songs will work like that and others wont, some work exceptionally well live and others are harder to capture, truly or honestly on the recording.

It seems like such a visceral process..

Yeah it’s a completely different process each on has nothing to do with each other, it’s kinda strange to me that musicians as artists are expected to do both equally as well. So if someone thinks ‘oh the record is great but they are shit live’ or ‘I saw them live but the album doesn’t capture that live quality that they have’ that’s shit for me because the two have nothing to do with each other, all they have to do with each other is that the live performance is a vessel to make some money to tour and make some money and connect with your audience and play those songs off that record or visa versa; to develop those songs live and go into a studio. Apart form that it’s like comparing theatre and a film or something you know, that’s the difference.

Yeah it’s a very demanding art form compared to most. Though to bring some light to this interview, do you have a favourite tattoo? [Kirin hears this as cartoon]

Yeah well Rocco’s Modern Life was a good one, I liked that as a kid, I liked that he was a wallaby, a rock wallaby I think, that’s a good one I think.

Oh Cartoon? I meant what’s your favourite tattoo…

Oh tattoo. I thought you said cartoon, I though that’s a fucking odd question. okay.. uh I don’t have a favourite tattoo of mine or anyone’s. Different times in my life, different people, different experiences and documenting that in a way that I’ll never lose it as a reminder of something really fun or beautiful or bad, I mean my tattoos are all really shitty but they’re not really about aesthetics apart from maybe be there layout on my body you know, some sort of architecture some shape but the tattoos themselves I don’t care what they look like.

Yeah totally, it’s more about the memory, well when I say ice cream what does your inner psyche revert to? Any childhood memories or such?

Ice cream?

Ice cream.

You’ve just reminded me of a song that I wrote and forgotten about and I’ve been trying to… Oh my god. I should say that you reminded me of a song that I wrote years and years ago in 2009 and I couldn’t remember doing a recording of it and there was something about ice creams.

Just sparked that, so hopefully I can recall that after the tie warp. The first thing I thought though was when I was in Washington DC, there was an ice cream store called You Scream Ice Cream and I didn’t go in but I stood outside and looked at it for a while so that’s the other thing that came to mind.

And what’s Kirin J Callinan’s flavour, if you were you be a flavour?


You’d be chocolate?

Oh if I was a flavour? No no I’m not chocolate at all, no my favourite flavour is chocolate but I don’t think I’m an ice cream. I can’t answer that question I don’t think.

We’ll save that one for another time. Alright what’s on the horizon?

The record comes out and I’m touring for the next 12-15 years, for life. Though I think I’ve gotta go now buddy.

It was good to speak to you man.

Thanks mate.


Sat 29 June – The Zoo, Brisbane
with Standish/Carlyon, Scraps and Per Purpose
tickets available via

Thursday 4 July – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
with Standish/Carlyon and Jonny Telafone
tickets available via

Friday 5 July – Jive, Adelaide
with Steering By Stars and The Scarlet Ives
tickets available via

Friday 19 July – The Bakery, Perth
with Usurpers of Modern Medicine
tickets available via

Saturday 20 July – Mojos, Fremantle
with Usurpers of Modern Medicine
tickets available via

Words By Joshua Daydream





Brisbane based photographer and writer who will judge you first and foremost on your music taste. Likes mint slice and a damn good cup of coffee.