Like many young musicians, twins Kalia and Keeli Javan liked to perform at school talent shows. Unlike other musicians, it was a talent show performance that inspired the Javan twins to take music lessons, form a band, and record their own songs.
The Javans have always been fans of music and recall singing along to Disney films and singing in talent shows just for fun. Both girls started out as self-taught singers and Kalia also learned piano while Keeli took to the drums. After they learned how to play, “What Do I Have to Do,” by R5 for a talent show, the twins realized that they wanted to devote more effort into their music. They have since taken guitar and songwriting lessons on top of honing their piano, drum and vocal skills.
“It wasn’t until our seventh grade talent show that we realized we wanted to be more serious with our music because that was the first time we sang with instruments and that’s when we started taking lessons,” Kalia said. “When we played in the talent show that year I just learned the song and I didn’t know how to actually play piano. After I started taking lessons music felt a lot different because I actually felt like I knew what I was doing.”
Initially, the Javans took lessons at Keyboard Galleria Music Center in Canyon Country but eventually moved to Paramount Academy of Music for three years in order to be closer to Hollywood. From there, the girls began to write their own songs and play them at shows in addition to cover songs, especially those from their favorite bands R5 and Hansen, another band comprised of siblings.
The girls didn’t actually have a band name until their first performance at a Relay for Life opening ceremony. They chose the name “KiKstart” on the spot because both of their names start with the letter “K” and they were the first act kickstarting the performance. Since then, KiKstart has performed at more than 50 shows, including many charity concerts benefiting organizations like the SCV Food Pantry, SCV Pregnancy Center and the victims of Typhoon Haiyan and have performed in Los Angeles venues like Lucky Strike and the Whisky a Go Go.
“One of the biggest reasons we do shows is so that we can help get people to donate to those different causes,” Kalia said.
In February 2014, KiKstart released their first single, “Heart Might Break Again.” Shortly after, their father and manager Joel was contacted by the “Stars of Tomorrow” radio show from Sydney, Australia, via the band’s Facebook page to enter the single into one of their contests.
“The timing was perfect because the single just came out,” Joel said. “Each month about 40 songs are sent into the station from all around the world and the listeners vote for the top three songs each month and those songs qualify for awards. Then in January 2015, out of the those top 36, KiKstart was voted one of the top five artists and got a lot of play over that station in Australia.”
In 2016, KiKstart released an album of Christmas cover songs, “Our Savior’s Birth,” as a way to allow relatives who lived far away and couldn’t attend their shows to hear them sing. That experience was an inspiration to KiKstart, who are working on producing another album titled “flashbaKK” that is mostly original works with the exception of two covers the sisters like to perform. They raised almost $6,000 in an initial Indiegogo campaign to produce the album and will soon hold another Kickstarter campaign to raise an initial $4,000 to help further reduce the out-of-pocket costs.
“I would say our style and the album is pop rock but more towards the pop,” Keeli said. “People have told us we sound country and blues before, but I don’t really see it. We’re hoping to have the album released by summer.”
Both sisters enjoy the personal aspect of writing music, but Kalia prefers the control and perfection associated with the recording process while Keeli’s favorite part is performing and sharing her creations live with others.
While being in a band with a twin provides benefits for the Javans, it also creates some tension.
“There are days when we don’t get along during practice, which makes things awkward, but by the end of that we’re able to chill out,” Keeli said.
Sibling rivalry also comes into play and Kalia added that she often finds herself comparing her work to her sister’s.
“Sometimes I’ll catch myself thinking, ‘Oh, people like her songs better,’ and that’s one of my biggest challenges because it discourages me from wanting to write more if no one will like the song anyway,” she said. “It is rewarding to hear people compliment my songs and it helps me realize that some people like her songs better and some people will like mine and we can’t help that.”
Currently, the sisters, who attend College of the Canyons, say their priority is school and work, but still make time every week to record and work on the album. Though they are unsure how far KiKstart will take them, both girls would like to increase their fan base and have their songs make it into the mainstream.
“One of my favorite parts of this is being in the spotlight and seeing people who know the words sing along,” Kalia said. “Who doesn’t want that?”
KiKstart will hold a free concert at Vincenzo’s Pizza in Newhall on May 11 at 7 p.m. To listen to or purchase the music visit the band’s Facebook page @KiKstartBand.