Wonderland.

Sälen

The gut churning lyricists distorting the definition of pop.

(LEFT) All clothing ARTIST’S OWN
(CENTRE) Dress and boots BURBERRY, earrings DSQUARED2
(RIGHT) All clothing ARTIST’S OWN

When I ask London trio Sälen why they’ve remained so enigmatic they look puzzled. Simon Milner, Paul Taylor Wale and Ellie Kamio put out their first track, “IILWMBF” (that’s “I’m In Love With My Best Friend”) a year ago but despite radio play, online love and melodies that hook themselves into your every thought, they’ve kept things pretty low-key. “We didn’t play loads at the start,” says Milner, searching for a reason for this “mystery band” branding aloud. “We haven’t done many interviews.” So I’ve taken it upon myself to share the story of Sälen. Like all good things, it starts in a bar.

Milner (guitarist of electro-rock group Is Tropical) and Wale are old friends who’d wanted to create together for half a decade. After Milner met 21-year-old Kamio working in the aforementioned bar, he knew she was the mouthpiece they needed to front their deliciously sinister alt-pop outfit. The next day Kamio sent over a voice note of her singing “IILWMBF”. “I didn’t think I was going to be a good singer,” she shrugs. Even her mum wasn’t convinced.

The listeners disagree. “People started to like it so we got loads of messages,” grins the quietly charming Wale. “So we got a manager, we had all these messages from labels.” The group signed with Island and have been developing their sound since, chopping Kamio’s saccharine vocals with gut- wrenching lyrics and club-ready beats. “I don’t know another way of singing!” She proclaims, “I’m still learning how to sing. I think this is the way we all write and how we think. I don’t think it would really work if it was pop-y music with a sweet voice, then add cheesy lyrics.”

(LEFT) All clothing ARTIST’S OWN
(CENTRE) Dress and boots BURBERRY, earrings DSQUARED2
(RIGHT) All clothing ARTIST’S OWN

Their newest single, “Pretty Fake”, released in March (with an updated version featuring DanielOG) is as scathing as the rest of their back catalogue. “I know me,” Kamio coos sweetly in its chorus, before asking, deadpan, “Who are you, anyway?” Earlier tracks verge on the surreal, with Kamio’s siren call convincing you to “bite until our lips are split” on “Copper Kiss”. She verbalises my literal nightmares via “Diseasey”, spitting, “I can taste the teeth dying in your mouth”.

“Yeah a lot of the time we’ve had to stop ourselves and be like, ‘What is this?’” Wale laughs when I ask what their lyrical limit is. “You take stuff from experience,” Kamio reasons. “Although, I’ve not actually bitten someone’s lip until it bled.” Currently working on a pre-album four-track EP, collaborating solely with female artists, you can bet on more stomach-turning imagery coming your way soon.

Taken from the Summer 17 Issue of Wonderland; out now and available to buy here.

Photography
Liam Hart
Fashion
Hali Christou
Words
Lily Walker
Hair
Joe Pickering at Stella Creative Artists using Bumble and Bumble
Makeup
Louise Dartford at Stella Creative Artists using Kjaer Weis
Thanks to
KIDS Adventure Playground Hackney
Sälen

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