What I like about the story of Charlene Kaye’s musical career is that it represents an inner struggle many artists face. There is a lot of second guessing and often times you lose sight of not only your goals but yourself. Charlene had a budding solo career that she purposely put on halt, as she was putting a lot of pressure on herself, feeling unhappy with what she was creating. When the opportunity arose to join San Fermin, she took it and never looked back. This decision ultimately helped her to find herself and is evident in her new EP Honey, which debuted recently under the new moniker, KAYE. The EP is really great, and it’s the type of pop music I wish was in the mainstream. It’s unique, genuine and 100% Charlene Kaye. I was able to catch KAYE in action during their headlining EP release show at Mercury Lounge.
I arrived at Mercury Lounge minutes before KAYE’s set time. It was a full house and I made my way towards the front. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect, then Charlene appeared almost like a superhero, dressed in a tight black vinyl romper and a bright yellow jacket full of frills. I knew right away that this wasn’t going to be some piano, acoustic guitar type of solo performance. Backed by a full band, KAYE kicked off the show full of energy that got the crowd going from the first note. I immediately noticed how tight they sounded. I could hear every note from every instrument, from synth samples to guitars to their flawless vocal harmonies.
KAYE’s sound was an eclectic mix of influences. Synths, blazing guitars and modern beats cohesively came together, culminating in a musically dynamic sound which can only be achieved with a live band. Yes, let’s talk about the band! Inbetween songs, Charlene shouted out her extremely talented team that includes seasoned NYC musicians Bruno Esrubilsky (Drums) and Grant Zubritsky (Bass, Synth) manning the rhythm section. She also pointed out two members of the band backing her who usually serve as front woman/man of their respective bands; K. Marie Kim (Keys, Backing Vocals) from Blank Paper and Kiyo Cato (Guitar, Backing Vocals) of Kiyo Co. (Kiyo Company).
For the title track “Honey”, Charlene urged the crowd to sing along, initiating a sing-back of the opening melody line. There was a particularly memorable moment when she slowed it down a bit and sang “A Million Years” from her first solo record Animal Love (Released as Charlene Kaye). A girl next to me jumped up in excitement as she whispered how that was her favorite song. I had assumed the whole time that most if not all of the audience were there via San Fermin, but they were simply fans of Charlene. KAYE put on a stadium worthy complete performance that will excite any room. None of us know yet when a full album will come out, but I do know one thing – It will be huge!