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Growing up in New Zealand—a country famous for its idyllic landscapes as much as its dreary working-class conservatism—Kelleher spent most of her time as a child absorbing whatever caught her interest. Hanging out with her brothers and friends, riding around on her highlighter orange BMX, and singing along to her father’s records was as much a part of shaping her imagination as were da Vinci and Giotto, TLC and Boys II Men.
Part aversion to tribes, part artistic manifesto, Kelleher resisted taking instrument lessons or studying music theory, allowing her instead to cultivate a refined and cultured naivety that expresses her sense of musical purity and artistic individualism. Not interested in replicating what’s already been done, Kelleher combines her intuitive take on melody and vocal layering with a technological approach to the production of sound: in addition to being a serial autodidact, she is also one of New Zealand’s few certified female audio engineers.
Kelleher’s aesthetic is built on the juxtaposition of art and sound. A former gallery curator and art history graduate, Misfit Mod’s music and attitudes reflect this philosophy: teaming up with Swedish fashion designer Josefin Arnell, Kelleher created the live score for a fashion, music and performance-art hybrid; and at a recent show in London, Kelleher worked with mixologists to invent a cocktail that mimicked the feel and taste of her music (crushed lavender, violets liquor, sweet cherries).
In 2007, still in New Zealand, and following a string of shitty events that Kelleher would rather not talk about, Sarah began spending most of her nights in a makeshift studio in a small corner room of an apparel factory. For 6 to 8 hours every day, Kelleher would go to her office and record, eventually laying the foundation for Islands & Islands, a record she would continue obsessing over for years. Escaping New Zealand in 2008, Sarah would spend the next couple of years traveling across Northern Europe, tweaking beats in Oxford and Amsterdam, writing and rewriting her lyrics in Paris, polishing her vocal melodies in Berlin.
Sharp and precise, Misfit Mod has built a collection of songs that cut straight to her aesthetic core. From the rich and chocolatey ‘Sugar C’ and mantra-like ‘Cars’, to the unearthly “Ghost Me’ and sun-blurred ‘Valleys’, Islands & Islands is an album of subtle variety and aching beauty. For all of those who are misfits too, Islands & Islands forms not the vanguard of some new tribe, but the spear tip of one artist’s journey into a raw, eclectic, and vivid interior world.
Stream or Embed Singles from “Islands & Islands”
“[Misfit Mod’s] layered vocals give me goosebumps” — Tom Robinson, BBC Introducing
“Fragile dream-pop that builds on layers of simplicity and repetition” — New Zealand National Radio
“A breath of earnest simplicity” — The Line of Best Fit
“Modern, modular, modest electro pop minimalism” — Impose
Named one of 7 New Zealand Bands That Deserve a BIG Breakthrough — MTV Iggy
“A perfect example of electronic minimalism done right” — Philthy Mag
“We’ll take Misfit Mod’s heartbroken realism to chocolate and roses any day” — Refinery 29
“You begin to realize how someone could start up a label almost purely to release her work” — GoldFlakePaint
“The new queen of moody dream pop” — Earbuddy
“Haunting… like it was recorded after a late night of fending off unworthy suitors” — The WILD Magazine
“Sweet and intoxicating as a cheap navy rum, but with the elegant tonality and finish of a more refined spirit” — Snipe