Vonnie Kyle
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Vonnie Kyle

Portland, Oregon, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013

Portland, Oregon, United States
Established on Jan, 2013
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"The Brink of Breaking Down Single Premiere"

Portland, Oregon-based alt-pop/alt-rock artist Vonnie Kyle unveils the music video, “The Brink of Breaking Down,” a track lifted from her forthcoming album, Imperfect Parts.

Akin to a musical memoir, Imperfect Parts chronicles Kyle’s three-year passage through a series of life choices—sometimes difficult, sometimes thrilling—to come out capable of not only self-love but romantic love.

Kyle explains, “I make it a goal when I write my songs to engage with those who might have similar experiences. This record addresses my past faults and traumas in ways I feel a lot of other people can relate to. It’s about processing the pain, but also learning to heal and accept that I will always be an extremely flawed person who, no matter what, still deserves to be loved.”

Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, followed by living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Kyle’s music mirrors characteristics of the places she’s lived.

According to Kyle, “When I think of my old life in Minneapolis, I think about riding my single-speed bike to bars to see shows that ranged from rock to hip-hop, to folk-pop to metal.”

She goes on to add, “I think the beauty of New Mexico heavily influenced my lyric writing, but a lot of the music comes from the person who wanted to play noisy pop songs in a noisy city.”

Previous to going solo, she played with the band Skittish, who released their double album, The Perfect Shade of Green, in 2010. Since then, Kyle has dropped three of her own EPs, along with touring abundantly.

“The Brink of Breaking Down” opens on retro ‘80s pop-rock guitars riding a cogent rhythm featuring finessed, crunching percussion. Reminiscent of Pat Benatar, the tune sizzles with sonic oomph, pushing out raw, angular harmonic textures topped by Kyle’s evocative voice backed by radiant “ooh ooh” harmonies.

A gleaming, shimmering breakdown shifts the flow and then ramps up to growling, surging layers of sound capped by Kyle’s scrumptious wailing tones, imbuing the lyrics with urgent fervor.

“‘Cause I’ve got hands, and you’ve got hands / And I can’t pull away / And you can stand / And I can stand / With our clothes in the way / But I can’t stop from slipping up / With your hands on my waist.”

The video, directed by Joshua Rivera, depicts Vonnie Kyle on the verge of hysteria, confirmed by her cutting gracefully into a cake, followed by holding a huge slice of cake in both hands, and then plunging her face into the cake to chow down.

Vonnie Kyle turns it loose on “The Brink of Breaking Down,” rolling out luscious pop-rock with gusto. - The Young Folks


"Say You're Alone Single Premiere"

Today VENTS and Vonnie Kyle are pleased to join forces for the premiere of her new single “Say You’re Alone” off her new album Imperfect Parts. A track packed with some incredibly catchy riffs, easygoing and slightly raw vocals that harkens back to the late 1990s and early 2000s pop rock era.

About the song, Kyle comments “Several years ago, someone I knew who was my same age, dropped dead out of nowhere from an aneurism. That was when it first truly hit me that you can just… die. “Natural causes” doesn’t have to mean “unsurprising”. The event left me constantly wondering and overthinking what was happening within my own body that I was unaware of, which brought me to the emergency room a couple of years later, convinced I was having a heart attack. Even when it turned out not to be the case, I continued to live in constant terror of the inevitable fate I was certain was looming over me. Creating a loud, guitar-driven song as a way to cope with this thanatophobia felt appropriate, during a time when I felt like I was screaming but not being heard.”

Kyle’s forthcoming, genre hybrid of a record boasts a program of diverse songs that sound cohesive because of the well-defined artistic identity of its creator. Her prismatic musicality is influenced by Sleater-Kinney, Jenny Lewis, and St. Vincent—artists whose hooks are as distinct and strong as their musical identities. In addition, Kyle’s personal and artistic outlook has been shaped by the places she’s lived. She was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and spent a formative time as an adult in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“When I think of my old life in Minneapolis, I think about riding my single-speed bike to bars to see shows that ranged from rock, to hip-hop, to folk-pop to metal,” she details. After Minneapolis, Kyle spent time in Santa Fe where she wrote most of the songs that appear on Imperfect Parts. Vonnie continues: “I think the beauty of New Mexico heavily influenced my lyric writing, but a lot of the music comes from the person who wanted to play noisy pop songs in a noisy city.”

Imperfect Parts was written while Kyle was retreating from the music career grind, and reassessing her path in life. Kyle and her fiancé, at time, decided on a clean-slate beginning in Santa Fe. However, their marriage was short lived, and with that rupture came some serious soul searching. Thematically, Imperfect Parts spans the unraveling of that relationship, the self-questioning that came in the wake of the divorce, and, ultimately, the healing that has brought Kyle back to centered and joyful living.

The album’s second single, Imperfect Parts, is a graceful pop-rock track with subtleties of 1980s new wave. It makes a powerful statement on self-love and how it relates to romantic love. “The song deals with finding someone new as you’re emerging from a place of pain. You want that person, you know they’re meant for you, but the timing isn’t right yet. For me, personally, it was about finally seeing how far from perfect I was, and accepting those imperfections along with those of the person I wanted to be with,” Kyle details. The lyrics here are a potent mix of romantic and realistic. She sings: We’ve never been conventional/Never been on time, no/It’s enough to make ‘em/Wanna know just who we think we are/Never said I was perfect/I never said you were/But I’d build a city using all imperfect parts. If you listen closely to the song, Kyle manages to sneak in some intriguing chord changes in the song’s structure, making an almost jazzy harmonic sensibility feel totally rocking. - Vents Magazine


"Review: Say You're Alone"

Buckle up indie fans, the powerful new single, “Say You’re Alone”, by Portland songwriter Vonnie Kyle is an extremely candid story about mental health, and it’s an unwavering emotional journey. No mind-bending metaphors at play here, rather this singer lays bare her personal tale. This inspired by daunting real events account is soundtracked by a sound that’s an indelible blend of folk, 90s alt-rock, and just enough grunge that it has a vibe all its own.

Kyle was kind enough to share this song’s heartbreaking origins with the GTC, “I had a massive panic attack in 2019. Fully convinced I was having a heart attack, I made a friend drive me to the hospital, where I was told that there was absolutely nothing physically wrong with me, and was sent on my way. I decided that they were all liars and that I was definitely going to die soon, either in my sleep or alone in my house where my cats would likely eat me within the day. I made my partner at the time check my breathing in the mornings before he went to work. My greatest fear was that my body would fail me and that if I was alone in that moment, I’d miss my one sliver of a chance for survival. Say You’re Alone was written from a place of helplessness, with no option other than to make a bunch of noise about it in hopes that someone who cares might hear.”

And to bring the feelings of fear and hopelessness to life, if you will, this single has a nightmare of a music video. Watch as Kyle navigates the darkness, scary entities, and self-reflection… all alone (or is she). But these visuals aren’t without moments of the kind of off-kilter humor only dreams can produce. Kyle explains, “Adam Sweeney helped portray this feeling so incredibly well in the music video. It’s like I’m being haunted by something that’s definitely real and present, and eventually, it will come for me, but… I don’t know, it’s such a peaceful and slow-moving presence that maybe it’s not really something to be so afraid of. Maybe I wouldn’t even be seeing it there if I wasn’t constantly drowning in my own fear of it.”

Whatever it is that haunts you, “Say You’re Alone” is, unironically, here to let you know that you’re not alone in those seemingly unspeakable experiences. And you can see the chilling what-goes-bump in one’s mind music video before anyone, here at the GTC. - Global Texan Chronicles


"VORTEX PDX Song of the Week"

Vonnie Kyle in Vortex Music Magazine - Vortex Music Magazine


"Vonnie Kyle: A Tale of Imperfect Parts"

A friend recently introduced me to Vonnie Kyle, a Portland-based indie singer-songwriter who just released a new music video for her single, “Imperfect Parts.” As of late, I’ve been a pretty hard sell when it comes to new media. The surplus of available content has left me feeling fairly jaded, so I initially resisted sitting down and listening to a new artist. But when I listened to this song, I was immediately shocked.The song opens with a simple four chord electric guitar riff that is completely unadorned: no reverb, no special effects, no excess. It was almost jarring, as I’ve become accustomed to excessively overproduced music. After the intro, the bass, drums, and vocals file in, and the song becomes something more familiar and recognizable.

Stylistically, this song reminds me a bit of Sara Bareilles—the thoughtful, dramatic structure, as well as the poppy, upbeat chorus. The clarity and diction of Vonnie Kyle’s vocal performance resembles a kind of rock and roll feel with a musical theatre sensibility; it’s precise and cutting but isn’t campy or over the top. By the end of the song, her voice becomes something else entirely, but more on that later.

A Disarming Gaze
The primary narrative of the “Imperfect Parts” music video depicts Vonnie Kyle on a solitary journey. She travels with a brown leather suitcase and deposits various items from its interior along the way. She leaves behind what is no longer necessary, and by the end of the video, the suitcase is empty.

The music video and the song both emphasize hands: holding, tossing, dropping, and stabilizing (this is also true of Vonnie Kyle’s other single, “The Brink of Breaking Down”). It calls to mind the very human desire to touch and hold, but also to be held, steadied, and contained by another. It’s also playful: throughout the video, Vonnie hands herself various fruits, and even drops one on her own head. In these scenes, she’s often staring at the viewer with a serious, even austere expression. There is something disarming about her gaze; it’s hard to tell whether she is going to laugh, sing, or scream, and her eyes and expression never cease to provoke something in me. It’s like she is silently challenging the viewer: “This is who I am. Who are you?”

One of the most striking things about Vonnie Kyle, in addition to her obvious musical proficiency, is her ability to communicate complex emotional states with her body. Somehow, she is able to tell a story simply by walking with a suitcase or staring into the camera. Her gait, gestures, facial expressions, and even the movements of her eyes are pointed and deliberate; they effectively tell a story without words. For me, these moments are more powerful than the louder, more familiar scenes where she dances or sings into a microphone.

There is another moment in this music video that passes so quickly you might not even notice it, but I think it encapsulates the underlying drive of the song. In this brief scene, Vonnie lays on the ground and rests her head on her suitcase. She is encircled by several yellow candles, disc-shaped pieces of paper, orange flowers, and scattered bits of debris. It’s like a vigil, but for a missing self or a lost feeling of belonging rather than a missing person.

This scene depicts the way we call out to the cosmos with offerings and sacrifices when some essential fragment of our being has gone missing. Vonnie rests here, protected and at ease within the circle. I imagine that, before long, what she is seeking will come home to her. Smoke passes over the scene and before we know it, it’s over.

Building a City
“Imperfect Parts” tells the story of an unconventional relationship rooted in acceptance, both of self and other. But for me, the song and the video also depict the shaky, vulnerable beginnings of an artist willing to take risks and try new things in order to get closer to the edge of who she really is—or to glimpse who she might become.

There is something triumphant about this song. The whole piece builds and progresses toward the final seconds when Vonnie Kyle finally arrives at her destination, somewhere both geographic and emotional. This arrival is signaled by the transformation of Vonnie’s voice. She sings “I’d build a city using all imperfect parts; I’d live in your city made of all imperfect parts.” She drops her voice and lets loose. Whenever I hear this moment, something in me says, “Yes, this is you, this is it!” But in order to get to this place, she had to build a city, piece by piece, with bricks made of words and sound. And, most importantly, she had to say, “Perfectionism be damned.”

I’m looking forward to following Vonnie Kyle’s career and future successes. Just like her traveling persona in the “Imperfect Parts” music video, Vonnie Kyle is a seeker on a journey—although I’m sure she won’t be alone for the ride. I get the sense that we’re all welcome to come along, as perfectly imperfect as we are. - TV Obsessive


"Interview: Vonnie Kyle Talks Self-Acceptance, Writing Process, Tone, and Guitars"

Vonnie Kyle’s latest album, Imperfect Parts, documents a transformative three-year journey during which the Portland, Oregon-based artist made some painfully complex decisions, and bravely emerged to embrace self-love and true romantic love. The 10-song album is a thrilling mix of vulnerable self-disclosure and visceral, hook-laden alt-rock.

Produced by Vonnie and engineer/producer David Badstubner, Imperfect Parts features the talents of Jillian Rae and Eric Martin, both of whom performed on, and also provided significant tracking and production for, the record at their home in Minneapolis.

Originally from Minnesota, since 2013, Vonnie has released three EPs. She began by playing DIY and taproom gigs, selling CDs out of a suitcase. Prior to going solo, she played in Skittish, and was featured on their 2010 double-record release, The Perfect Shade of Green. Since then, Vonnie has become a successful touring artist.

Vonnie’s sound blends alt-pop, alt-rock, and folk-rock with her expressive voice, producing luscious sonic concoctions. Entry points on the album include “The Brink of Breaking Down,” brimming with pumping guitars topped by Vonnie’s delicious vocals backed by glowing harmonies, the finessed guitars of “Say You’re Alone,” the tender, evocative strings of “The Hell Did We Do,” and, perhaps the best track, “Better Than Me,” with its creamy flavors of SoCal soft, country rock.

Guitar Girl Magazine caught up with Vonnie Kyle to discover more about the person behind the music, the inspiration for Imperfect Parts, and her songwriting process.

What three things can’t you live without?

A good pair of sweatpants, my cats, and ramen noodles.

What inspired your new album, Imperfect Parts?

The theme is learning to accept and love the flaws about oneself. I was in a failing marriage that I took a long time to get out of, because I didn’t feel like I deserved better. I eventually realized that while I may be a flawed person, so are most other people, and it doesn’t make me any less worthy of love. This record was my documentation of the personal flaws I needed to recognize and either accept or let go of.

Walk us through your mindset as you approached recording the album.

I honestly had zero idea what I was in for when we started this. Any records I had previously made were done over a few days in the studio with my whole band. Initially, that’s sort of what we were planning on doing, but then the pandemic hit, I moved from Minneapolis to Portland, and things got a little more complicated as we had to work remotely with a lot of people. Sometimes it was frustrating, but mostly it was nice to be able to take our time and be really picky about how we wanted different elements of it to sound. It was all very new and refreshing for me and I feel like a better producer now because of it.

How did you get started in music?

This might seem really cliché, but I honestly don’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t know that I was going to be a musician. I started piano lessons when I was six, guitar when I was 15, and basically started singing the moment I knew what singing was. I think I was eight when I wrote my first song.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Northfield, MN, and moved to Minneapolis immediately after high school.

Did your hometown impact your sound?

I suppose you could say that, yeah. There were a surprising number of bands and cool all-ages venues in my little hometown. Musically, I kind of always did my own thing and I don’t think I truly figured out what I really wanted my sound to be until I left Northfield. One big characteristic of my music though has always been lots of different harmonies and vocal layers, and that was definitely a result of years of singing in various choirs there.

Which singers/musicians influenced your sound?

Oh, that’s a real mixed bag. Ani DiFranco, No Doubt, My Chemical Romance, Alanis Morissette, Rilo Kiley, St. Vincent to name a few.

What kind of guitar do you play?

My go-to now is a 1995 Telecaster. I also do a lot of acoustic shows, and I switch between a few different acoustic guitars, but I have an old Washburn I played very regularly for almost 20 years.

What is your definition of tone? And has your tone changed over time, or remained pretty much the same?

I guess for me, tone is just an element of a song’s personality. I don’t really have a specific one that I consistently use, and honestly, I feel like I’d get bored if I did. I like there to be a lot of versatility between all of my songs and experimenting with tone gives me that. I have, however, been using the same amp for years (a Fender Blues Jr) that has never done me wrong and has always sounded great with every guitar and pedal I’ve used.

What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, TV, or other media?

I would say mostly places, relationships (romantic or otherwise), and experiences. There are definitely a number of artists who have helped shape the way I play or write lyrics. Sometimes if I listen to a really killer record and get amped up about it, I’ll shift my plans around so that I can crank out some new material while the energy is there.

What can you share about your writing process?

It constantly changes. There was a long period of time where I would carry writing materials around with me all the time, and basically, just write down every little thing that popped into my brain. Then I would snag pieces of that writing later on and build chords and melodies around them. These days I like to just play around with tones, riffs, and chords, and just spit out lyrics as they come to me.

Which artists in your opinion are killing it right now?

Jenny Lewis, St. Vincent, Strange & the Familiars, and Nick Costa are all doing some pretty badass stuff right now.

What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? New material? Live gigs?

Lots of plans! Since my record just came out, I’m trying to play out as much as possible for the next few months. A couple of shows I’m particularly stoked about are 6/11 with LOUIZA and Scout Harris at the Alberta Street Pub, and 8/11 with the Hugs at the Mission Theater (both shows in Portland). At the same time, I’m working on new music videos, and am even starting to write material for the next project. It’s a busy and exciting time for me. - Guitar Girl Magazine


"New single + music video from Portland artist VONNIE KYLE"

Vonnie Kyle’s latest album, Imperfect Parts, documents a transformative three-year journey during which the Portland, Oregon-based artist made some painfully complex decisions, and bravely emerged to embrace self-love and true romantic love. The 10-song album is a thrilling mix of vulnerable self-disclosure and visceral, hook-laden alt-rock. - Amplify Music Mag


"Vonnie Kyle Returns With a New Single “The Brink of Breaking Down”"

Portland, Oregon-based alt-pop/alt-rock artist Vonnie Kyle unveils the music video, “The Brink of Breaking Down,” a track lifted from her forthcoming album, Imperfect Parts. Vonnie Kyle’s latest album, Imperfect Parts, documents a transformative three-year journey during which the Portland, Oregon-based artist made some painfully complex decisions, and bravely emerged to embrace self-love and true romantic love. The 10-song album is a thrilling mix of vulnerable self-disclosure and visceral, hook-laden alt-rock. - HONK Magazine


Photos

Bio

Where the hell did Vonnie Kyle come from?

That’s what the residents of Portland were asking as they all emerged from their quarantines after the long, disquieting era of the pandemic. As venues reopened and the music scene began to rebuild itself in 2021, a new voice was being heard amongst the members of a longtime familial community. With this voice came a bold and distinguished sound that had been brewing in a decrepit-garage-turned-studio for a couple of years.

No, Vonnie Kyle didn’t just appear out of thin air, as it had seemed to those in her new milieu. Over the years, the lyrically confessional, alternative pop-rock artist had quietly released a few EPs and demos. Her following mostly resided in her two previous home bases - Minneapolis, MN and Santa Fe, NM. Prior to the pandemic, Kyle spent much of her time on the road as a touring solo artist, selling burned CDs out of a suitcase. In March 2020, as the pandemic arrived and she prepared to relocate to Portland, the decision to shift her focus from constant touring was made for her; it was time to make a new record.

Imperfect Parts was an apt title for the songwriter’s first full-length album. The process from which it was constructed was anything but perfect. Notes were exchanged between Kyle and her production team from different sides of the country. Parts were tracked remotely. Schedules were clumsily coordinated. What was originally meant to be a month-long process became that of nearly two years. All of that work paid off over the course of several months as Kyle began to release singles and music videos leading up to the record’s release. 

Her debut single, The Brink of Breaking Down, was an explosive rollout of her musical artistry. Forcible vocals and layered guitars reminiscent of My Chemical Romance, with a discernible nod to 90s rock established Kyle as not just a skilled singer-songwriter, but a commanding rock performer with undeniable staying power. She had arrived and she had peoples’ attention.

This was followed by the album’s title track, Imperfect Parts. While slightly more subdued than The Brink of Breaking Down, the pop-rock track has an anthemic energy, with a chorus supported by ubiquitous and infectious call-and-response background vocals. Confessional lyrics describing the acceptance of flaws (ahem, imperfections) about oneself and their loved ones made this track intensely relatable to the many listeners who were discovering the new artist. The accompanying music video depicts Kyle wandering between various places with an old suitcase (the very suitcase she had previously sold DIY CDs out of during her pre-pandemic travels), leaving small tokens and trinkets everywhere she goes. The video not only represents pieces of her past, but the ever-evolving path she continues to follow as a human being with a growing self-awareness.

The entire much-anticipated record was released in April 2022, to a rousing reception from Portland radio and online critics. Guitar Girl Magazine stated Kyle’s sound “blends alt-pop, alt-rock, and folk-rock with her expressive voice, producing luscious sonic concoctions.” The ten-song record well-exceeded the expectations of those previously familiar with her work, with some tracks daring to dip their toes into surprising genres. The country-pop slow-burn, “Better Than Me,” was written about the divorce she went through just before Covid, and gave listeners insight into her own personal struggles.  The closing track, “Cereal Bowl,” is an unexpected piano ballad that conveys the trauma of a sexual assault that occurred in 2014. Balanced out by a plethora of high-energy pop-rock tunes, Imperfect Parts leaves listeners with the satisfaction of having been in the passenger seat of a truly special and scenic ride.

Vonnie Kyle’s “imperfect” era may be coming to a close, but the singer has big plans for the future, including the release of a new single and video in August of this year. The forthcoming tune, “Is It,” encapsulates the ache of those with seemingly unseverable ties to addicts, and the slow but steady toll those ties begin to take over time. While her love for guitar-based rock remains obviously intact on this track, Kyle is clearly venturing into new territory, with her sights on a broader audience. For those with a love of Jack White, the Black Keys and Kings of Leon, now is the time to set a new place at the listening table.

Band Members