This Toronto sunshine-y indie-rocker talks about the meaning behind her title, her love for Paramore, and near-future projects.
Indie-rock singer-songwriter Kicksie, or Giuliana Mormile, has always been drawn to music. The Toronto-based artist was heavily influenced by her older sister's music taste, growing up with the tunes she had downloaded onto her third-generation silver iPod Nano- including indie-rock and pop-punk acts like Paramore, The Used, Blink-182, and Owl City. Kicksie started creating music at the age of eight, her first track being a song about a house burning down.
"I think I named it something like “Fire”, and then I asked my sister if I was going to get sued for using a song title that was already taken," said Kicksie. "I wasn’t really sure how that worked. Over the years I kept writing a lot, and the first time I recorded a song was when I was in the seventh grade. It was called “I Guess”, and I still have the audio file on my computer now- and no one will ever find it! I remember the feeling of writing being cathartic. I wouldn’t say that I had many friends, and I wasn’t really a big fan of telling my family things, so songwriting was my space to talk genuinely about what was going on inside of me, and get it out in the world without actually having to say anything to anyone."
Kicksie says she never had that "this is it" moment, she just knew music was a passion she had to pursue.
"When I was really young I would always say that I wanted to be a “rock star”, and everyone would laugh and think it was cute," said Kicksie. "But when I got older, and my passion for music never faded, a lot of people told me to get over it and find something else to follow. I would write my own songs for my guitar class assignments in high school and my teacher told me, “I really hope you never try to pursue this as a career." I laughed, said, “No”, and then he told me how relieved he was. I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t realistic, and I would just make music for fun. Up until college I had that mindset, and I took graphic design instead of following my dreams. It ended up being one of the worst years of my life, and I dropped out halfway through to enroll in the Independent Music Production program at Seneca College in Toronto, and everything turned around for me. I knew then that this was what I had to do forever, without a Plan B and without wavering."
Heavily influenced by her family, the musician discovered her title after brainstorming with her older sister.
"I went through a lot of names over the years before landing on Kicksie," said Kicksie. "I released music that’s still on the internet under a bunch of different names. Around 2017 I was going through this phase of making lists of all the words or name ideas I thought were cool, and honestly I didn’t like any of them, and no one else did either! I did that for weeks and it was really tiring so I eventually stopped. Then one night a short while later, I was doing the dishwasher with my sister, and I asked her what a good band name would be. She said “Kickstart”, and I thought it was terrible- but in my head, I played around with the word a little bit and I finally came up with Kicksie. I texted my friends and asked what they thought, and they all loved it, so I kept it."
Although there isn't any special meaning to the soft-rocker's title, the name has earned its sentimentality over time.
"There wasn’t much meaning behind it at the time, but I feel like now it’s become a part of me," said Kicksie. "A lot of people that know me just call me Kicksie instead of my actual name, Giuliana, I guess it’s easier for people- and I don’t mind. But I’m glad that of all the people who could've given me the name, it was my sister. She’s been a huge role model for me my whole life, and she was the person that really showed me the music that shaped me in the first place, so I feel like it came full circle."
Although she grew up on pop punk and emo, Kicksie takes inspiration from all styles of music.
"It’s hard to stick to one general sound when you want to do everything," said Kicksie. "My sound does fluctuate from time to time, but to me it’s a mix of all my favorite aspects of all my favorite styles. It took a while to come across and I made a lot of really bad, experimental songs before I was able to grow and make the good stuff. I really love the dreamy sound of guitars with chorus, and guitars with distortion as well, so when I blended the two together, I got such a cool sound from it- and I add electronic/synth wherever I can because that’s instrumentation you never hear in rock or band music. A lot of people also love to hear about how I pick chords for songs, they call them “Kicksie chords”, which I think is really funny."
"I don’t know much about music theory, although I’m trying to learn, so I build my own chords around what notes sound good together, but I don’t really know what I’m playing," said Kicksie. "I make some pretty cool sounds that way and people love it. I’m always trying to evolve my sound and make it better, so I’m excited to see where I can push the boundaries of what I can do next."
Paramore played a huge part in the formation of Kicksie's sound and style.
"At the time, Hayley Williams was the only female voice in a sea of men that was really being heard in those genres, so I clung onto Paramore’s music and held on for dear life," said Kicksie. "Nowadays I really look up to artists like Soccer Mommy, Oso Oso, SZA, Tyler the Creator and more importantly, my friends. There is no one that I’ve learned more from, or have been more inspired by than my peers in music. They push me forward, they help me, they challenge me to be better than who I was yesterday. I’ll name drop Mei, Oh Hey Kiddo!, Isaji Riq and everyone from the 2019-2020 school year that I spent at Seneca."
Before Kicksie was Kicksie, she released an EP called "Green Tea EP" under the moniker Soft Serve.
"I recorded the whole thing on GarageBand on my phone- the first time I moved on to an actual laptop and microphone was to create a full album, about five to six EPs and some singles later for the “Doghouse” album, my first release as Kicksie," said Kicksie. "I always had it in my head that one day I would be the guitarist in a band, but no one wanted to be in a band with me, so I had to pull it together and learn how to sing, play the bass, drums, and do everything else by myself- plus record, mix, master, and promote the songs by myself. It was really hard at first, but after I really started to get good at what I was doing, I had other people ask me if I could help them. It’s such a good feeling to be able to work on someone else’s music for them, to be able to take something that they care about so much and make it exactly how they’ve always dreamed of. It’s something I want to do forever, and I want to get better at."
The artist is currently working on a variety of musical projects. She's writing singles, working on her next album, and some secret stuff that she's not quite ready to share yet- but she promises they're great.
"One of the things I’m most excited for is a side project I’m starting up with some other musicians- we’re going to be releasing some music soon, and it’s sounding really good so far!" said Kicksie. "I can’t give away too much yet, but just know that it’s way different than normal Kicksie, and I always love showing people other sides of me."
Kicksie has plans to return to school for Independent Performance and Songwriting.
"My short term goals are to go back to school for Seneca’s other music program, and to push out more content of different kinds- more music videos, lyric videos, things I don’t normally do," said Kicksie. "Having a lot of content is so always important as a musician, especially now when people can only see you over the internet, so I’d love to be able to focus on that stuff a little more."
When it comes to long-term goals, the singer-songwriter hopes to eventually make a living off of music.
"I don’t have to make it big, although of course I’m not opposed to it, I just want to be financially stable enough with just my music to be able to do it for the rest of my life, and nothing else," said Kicksie. "I’d love to play some big tours on some big stages, meet a lot of people and see the world, and make music I never thought I’d be able to make. That’s really all."
You can help support the musician by following her socials, streaming her music, or by purchasing from her Bandcamp linked below.
(Postponed due to COVID-19.)