Mount Kimbie Talks EDM on the Radio: "You're Just Trying To Buy Shoes And It's Like, What?"
It starts with a tap. And then another tap. A one-two, one-two, bouncing beat. A snare? Maybe, but it's muted. And then more pulses. The beat is shrinking--but somehow, it's still sharpening. More filters now, the beat is getting warmer. Skitzy. Slippery. A swirling echo rises underneath, led by a horn. And then, as the bumping grows, the bottom drops out. Three minutes later, the dark vocals finally hit:
Shadows turn to grey
A slave today
He cowered beyond reckless tracks of impulse
Made to stray around rough coasts
When grace is close to home
That's "Made to Stray," the lead single from British duo Mount Kimbie, a.k.a. Dominic Maker and Kai Campos. The song comes from the band's new album, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, an excellent collection of post-dubset from South London, an area that's sprouted the likes of Burial and others in the rising underground electronic music scene of the past few years. It released yesterday, and the band takes the stage at the Bowery Ballroom on Thursday.
With Cold Spring, the band's second full-length album, they've arrived--more focused, more precise, but still very much their own sound and voice. Adding more vocals (including two guest verses from King Krule), the record could be (and has been already by some critics) looked at as more of a push to the mainstream, but that remains to be seen. Last month, I called England and chatted with Maker and Campos about the perceptions of their music, the Americanization of dub-step, and when that bass will finally drop, man.
How was the recording process for this record?
Dominic Maker: Probably started writing songs for it about a year, going on maybe a little bit longer. Like with the first one, it actually only really came together in the last three months of the process. We didn't want this one to be a rush, and in the end it was exactly-- we were kind of writing songs whilst we were doing the mixing and things like that.
How did you arrive onto this nontraditional sound?
D: I was thinking about this today as I was listening to the record -- you've got to figure out a song's life, played on different instruments, and I think the songs are, actually, kind of pretty. I don't think they're massively ground breaking in a lot of ways, but we got here by accident--just figuring out a lot of stuff by yourself in a lot of ways. Starting off as being very technically proficient forces you to develop, and you develop something kind of individual.
Was it difficult?
Kai Campos: Just that we were using a wider palette of sounds for the songs. We were very influenced by rehearsal and practice and going out and playing them live, and other songs were more entirely studio recorded, which all of our first album was. The woman who was doing the mastering, when she was first listening to it, she was like, "It sounded like three different bands or something." But I do feel like it's there. Obviously, you'd hope it's a closer record to what you want to achieve, and hopefully the next record will be even closer.
What's it like being a perfectionist who makes such odd music?
K: I think over time I tried to definitely become less of a control freak in terms of what's actually going on in the studio. Any time in front of the computer, you can get obsessed with stuff that people wouldn't even notice, stuff that isn't even audible. Really technical stuff, the shapes of things--stuff that no one hears or cares about. I've sort of let that go. I never used it before, so, which is just a stupid thing to do, so I've just kind of let go of that.
The first album requires a lot of closeness and an ideal environment, like really good speakers. Unintentionally or not, I think this one is definitely more direct in certain ways, more confident, exploring ideas. I was listening to the old album yesterday for the first time in a long time, and if we now had these hooks, we'd have made much better songs out of them. We kind of ran the pipes more with this album.
How does confidence affect your creative process?
D: I think we were always confident, but we weren't during some stages of writing of the record--some pretty big lows of not making what we wanted to make, and not feeling like we knew where the record was going to. Getting to a point where you feel quite low about where the record is going, the only way to go is up. It just kind of swings back the other way, and then everything starts making sense. I guess this is the second album, so people have expectations for it. That's kind of a negative thing, but it's also easier to put what you're doing in context. If people heard the first one, you can take things a little bit further, and people know where you're coming from.
Your first record was really well received. Do you feel pressure?
K: I'm more excited than anything else. It's really happening, and more so than the first album. We're excited about getting to play them, and just having the album out there, really. Sitting on these songs and waiting to get them out when the record label and other people think it's the time. The first thing that came out got a good reaction, and it's perhaps not representative of the rest of the record, but it's quite different from the first album.
How do you feel that that changed you as a live band?
K: We just got a lot better. It's great what technology can do, but I don't think anyone has time to go see a band and then see them apologize because SoundCloud isn't working or something. It's not that rock 'n' roll. I think we've got better at just plugging in and starting playing.
How many pieces of equipment would you estimate that you have onstage?
K: Seven or eight. No. Wait. Nine or 10 things that make noise, and then other things that kind of loop it or process it.