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What’s In Your Bag, Kimbra?

Purposefully pared down

Photography by Amelia Holowaty Krales

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What’s in your bag? is a recurring feature where we ask people to tell us a bit more about their everyday gadgets by opening their bags and hearts to us. This week, we’re featuring New Zealand singer and actress Kimbra.

When The Verge meets Kimbra in a quaint Brooklyn apartment, we discover she doesn’t carry a lot of things with her. Well, now she doesn’t. She used to, but as she explains, she lost things. A lot of things. The oversized bags she adored became bottomless pits that mysteriously devoured her belongings. So now she’s pared down her haul, purposefully bought a smaller bag. But, there’s still a streak of Kimbra’s wild scramble present. In the well-worn spines of her notebooks, for example, or the hasty scribbles across her LaCie Rugged drives.

One of these LaCie hard drives is incredibly important. It contains every file for her recently released third studio album Primal Heart. (Quite literally every file — “if I lose this,” she says, “it’s like... *gasp.* Everything is on there.”) A deeply eclectic body of work, Primal Heart puts all sides of Kimbra on full display, swaying between bright and poppy to growling and intimate. The single “Top of the World,” previewed months ago, was a glimpse into this with eerie, processed, and layered vocals paired against darkly minimal drums.

The rest of Primal Heart dances between genres, with a dash of electric dance pop here, a handful of hazy, downtempo crooning there. And, it’s all backed by production that’s razor-sharp and obsessively intentional, without getting in the way of itself. Sure, Kimbra may be familiar to many through her 2011 Grammy-smashing collaboration on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” but the beautiful depth on Primal Heart cements her as somebody you need to know. Get familiar through her things below.

Kimbra: There’s an iPhone charger that also charges my headphones and my iPad. I have an older model. I always carry sunscreen because I have a little bit of vitiligo on my skin and I always want to make sure I protect it. It’s really sensitive to the sun. There’s a comb to keep my bangs super fresh. And there’s my wallet... that’s pretty straight up. It should always be in my bag but sometimes I lose it. Right now it’s in there. And my inhaler — I’m asthmatic and can’t go anywhere without it.

I have some basic makeup. I try not to have too much with me. Deodorant, some gum... a single bobby pin... and that’s me in a bag! If I’m on tour my handbag usually stays pretty much the same. These are my basics.

Kimbra: I got this bag in Melbourne, Australia, when I was over there touring. I just remember thinking it was a good size. I’m trying to downsize things in my life so I don’t lose as many things. I have a bit of a tendency to collect bags that are really big and they turn into black holes. This was my attempt to try and be a little more concise with what I take with me.

Kimbra: I always carry these two books. These are my personal and my “order my life” books. One is a personal journal. There might be lyrics, or there might be general journal entries about all kinds of moments in my life, or things I’m working through emotionally. A girl’s best friend is her journal! You can’t go in it, it’s very private!

As for the other one, I’m a manic list-maker so I call this the “let’s get creative” book. It’s all about problem-solving things in my career, like upcoming shows, things I want to buy for my studio, various things I’m planning, merchandise, what I need to do for the next tour, what I need to talk to my manager about, things like that. I’m always note-taking because I manage every aspect of my career so this organizes my life.

Kimbra: I recently got these Beats headphones. I’m usually a Sennheiser girl and have my studio headphones with me, but again, in efforts to try and minimize I wanted to try wireless. [Beats] gave me these and I’m super impressed. They sound great and they fit in my handbag. They’re adaptive noise-cancellation headphones and they really do cancel out any noise in the room. Say there was a coffee machine over there, these would cancel it out and EQ it.

If I want to listen to podcasts, sometimes I use the EarPods instead of the Beats, like when I’m doing photo shoots and I don’t want the hairstylist to have to deal with big headphones.

Kimbra: This is my iLok I use to produce all my music. I have to use that when I’m using the computer so I always have it on me. In order to use Pro Tools, which is the software I use to make beats or smart demos, you have to have this little key. You inject it into the computer and it’s got all your licenses for all of the things that you’ve been collecting, like plug-ins. It’s basically my life. If I lose this, I lose access to all the software and instruments I own. I can’t work on music. It’s actually a pretty important thing, so that has to be on my key ring.

Kimbra: These are two terabyte LaCie Rugged drives. They’re the best, most solid models that you can buy in terms of external drives. I’ve tried other brands and once I had a drive die, so I moved over to these.

All the work for the whole Primal Heart album is in one. I take these with me quite often because if I’m working on things regarding the album, it’s helpful to have the whole drive there. It holds, like, every photo shoot for the record, all the sessions, and so on. I never know when I might need something from the album that I don’t have on my computer. But of course if I lose this it’s like... *gasp.* Everything is on there.

The other drive I’ve freed up to start new music for when inspiration hits. And it has all my installers. So if I did lose the iLok I could reinstall all of the instruments and plug-ins that I own for production.

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