Kira McSpice’s debut album Prodrome marks the beginning of an ambitious project: a series of four albums, each using one of the four phases of a migraine as a vessel to explore the depths of an artist’s life and mind. 

The pain of a migraine takes place over four distinct phases: prodrome, aura, attack, and postdrome. So enters Kira McSpice’s debut album Prodrome, which marks the beginning of an ambitious project: a series of four albums, each using one of these four phases as a vessel to explore the depths of the artist’s life and mind. 

Kira describes the prodrome, the beginning phase of a migraine, as “this heavy anxiety, the start of an awful journey that you have no choice but to follow. You’re slowly creeping towards something you know is coming, a pain that you can’t escape.” Staying true to its inspiration and namesake, Prodrome is built around a thematic core of anxiety, helplessness and inevitability.

For both listener and creator, Kira’s music is not an easy or casual affair, and Prodrome is no exception. It is a testament to the power of detail, intent, and faithfulness to an idea, and dedication to its execution. Every lyric, loop, and vocal layer is meticulously and purposefully constructed to communicate the experience of a life shackled by the ever-present weight of mental illness. The album is a diary that shrouds the most human of experiences in a haze of seductive mysticism, and compels its listeners to return for those subtle sounds and lyrical complexities that slip the notice of a first or second listen.

Prodrome draws on a wide range of sonic influences, woven together with the help of producer and engineer Tyler Skoglund. Kira’s vocal and guitar-based compositions are married with layers of ethereal electronics, revealing her love of those in the realm of Leonard Cohen, Kate Bush, Grouper, and Broadcast. Having cut her teeth in the Allston DIY scene, the influence of punk, doom, and shoegaze is heard throughout the album, especially in the punishing screams and guitars of the title track. Kira’s classical cello background seeps in through her use of an eclectic mix of orchestra staples. 

She says:

I was very ambitious with my instrumentation. I had a full choir, marimba, harp, strings, a saw. I wanted them for their specific sounds, each for their distinct beauty. The choir has such a massive, grand sound, like you’re entering a church or something huge. The saw has an eerie, ghostlike sound, and the marimba has a dark, grounding feel that can bring you into the depths of depression. I needed the harp to give light and beauty to the darkness that underscores the album.

Kira McSpice and band debuting Prodrome at Somerville’s Pink Noise Studios

Though the album is steeped in migraine-related symbolism, it’s important to note that Kira does not suffer from migraines herself. In her late teens Kira was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a diagnosis that fundamentally and inescapably altered her life. Since receiving her diagnosis, and watching her family members struggle with migraines and mental illnesses of their own, the theme of Kira’s fate being “carved out by [her] genes, being unable to escape that fate” has been deeply embedded in her work, a theme central to Prodrome’s third track “Fates”: “In your genes in your dreams in your day to day schemes / You are paralyzed / What are we supposed to do / You get what comes to you” 

Kira is a very open and honest lyricist, but seldom are her words straightforward or literal. The decision to write through the lens of migraines came about to facilitate her metaphorical approach to her storytelling. On choosing to write about a condition she doesn’t have, Kira reflects, “It seemed like a good vessel for a lot of other things to pass through. My mom has migraines and I was told that I might get them too since they are genetic. I am terrified of them. It is something that looms over my head. I feel like any day now I might get one.” 

To say the least, Prodrome is a complicated album, and one with an origin story to match.

Catch Kira at her next show: August 5th at the Dorchester Art Project

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