Like topiary experts, Mount Kimbie deftly clipped the UK’s electronic genres off their excess twigs and overgrown foliage, creating a masterpiece in the artful Crooks & Lovers, JUICE’s favourite UK album of ’10. The debut album was also a favourite of other critics and publications, listed on 10 too many Top 10 lists of the year, thus following up such a critical darling with a sophomore album was indubitably a daunting task. Yet Cold Spring Fault Less Youth managed to not only subvert our expectations, but did it in a way that wasn’t too dissonant from what was established prior. Dominic Maker and Kai Campos added new layers to their music; live drums, guitars, and bass enhanced their electronic ambience, and Kai sung on a good number of songs. These weren’t hackneyed attempts at making electronic music ‘realer’ though, they were artistic choices that complemented the overall production. Performing at Singapore’s edition of St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival this month, JUICE talks to Dom on their live sets, collaborative efforts, and the decision behind Kai’s more vocally active role.
How’s the tour been?
It’s been great – very long.
Sounds very extensive. You guys ever suffered from performance fatigue?
Yes. But the key thing for us is to gain momentum, so we work off the energy from a good show and then work out why it was such a satisfying thing for us and take that into account.
A lot of electronic acts try to sound as they are on record, do you guys do the same or do you change it up a bit when performing live?
It really goes from song to song, but I think it’s a general theme throughout our live shows that we try to [sound] like our recorded material. This album is slightly more conducive to being played live whereas with the older songs we had to adapt them quite heavily to the setup we had. Some of the tracks we play are very similar to the recorded version, but we just get itchy feet, we want to be constantly prepared with what we are doing on stage.
You guys utilised your own voice more on Cold Spring Fault Less Youth. For a lot of other similar acts, they do this to put a more personal stamp on their music, what was your personal reason?
It’s to find a way of assessing another layer to the music. We had a lot more time to dwell on the songs we were making and we were in better condition in terms of the equipment that we had – we knew what we were doing. With the first record, we were very unaware with the feel of what we wanted to do and what was going on, we didn’t really put much thought into what we were doing. Interestingly, it was only when we sat down and mastered it that we realised how much the record had our vocals. The explanation would be that we sat with the ideas for a lot longer, we hummed the melodies – had no lyrics to it – and it was towards the end of the process that Kai wrote the lyrics for the songs he sung on. It was definitely a challenge because I prefer leaving it to the listeners to decide the meaning of something. When you have lyrics you tend to direct people, but I’m glad that they’re still sort of incoherent on the record.
You guys aren’t big on collabos, but you did work with King Krule on the sophomore, which resulted in a fairly incredible track. Why did you break that one rule then?
We shy away from it because Kai and I work separately, then we go to the studio and work together. It’s quite an internal thing, we’d struggle to describe what we want to achieve to [potential collaborators] because it kinda leaves the magic of the idea you had lost, or tainted, when describing it to someone. With Archy, it is slightly different. For starters we are massive fans of what he was doing as Zoo Kid and then King Krule. So, we went to see him quite a while back, had a chat afterwards, and invited him down to the studio, he listened to the ideas that we had for the record and chose those 2 songs that he eventually sang on. He had a really confident exterior, I mean, he’s an amazing talent, and he really started the songs to finish the record, and he pushed the idea we had through to make full complete songs. Having him was unbelievable, we’d definitely work with him again.
Would you consider working with other artistes in the offing?
The thing with Archy is that it was natural and it felt like we were both tied to a vision. When we gravitate towards someone, we look for some kind of personal connection – you’d want someone who would get as involved in writing the songs as we are. Archy actually helped constructing these songs as well, we were told ideas about it and we really incorporated some of them into what we were doing. So yes, you need to be really talented but also, we don’t want to be just “We want to work with you because we really like you,” that’s not how it’s supposed to be, instead it should be “We really like you, and we feel like you can add something to what we’re doing.”
One constant we noticed from all the acclaims your sophomore has gotten is the word organic. Was that something conscious on your part to make Mount Kimbie sound more ‘band’, so to speak?
Firstly, I don’t really like the term ‘organic’. I think we’re in a weird position where for the first time ever we actually have some kind of backing behind us so we could explore ideas that are a little bit bigger, try out things we’ve never done before. That’s what we like in doing music – changing our souls and working with sounds that we are not necessarily comfortable with. Working with drums, guitars, and bass guitars is a massive thing for us, a real challenge, but again, similar to the vocals, it’s just another challenge and layer that we felt needed to be there. It wasn’t a conscious effort to bring all these different instruments, it just so happened that way. The next record might just be made on a drum machine or just the bass guitar or something, you never know.
Speaking of which, any ideas yet for the next record? Bagpipe IDM, maybe?
Um, no. Not really (laughs). We never really think ahead. But the general feeling with what we want to do next is we want to do something better. Be it the live show, recording, or whatever, we just want to progress and stay true to what we want to do. I’m very excited but I still don’t know yet what would come out next (laughs), hopefully it will be good.
With the live instrumentation of the second album, that translates into your live performances as well what not with a drummer in the mix now. Will we see you guys expanding to an even bigger band?
At the moment, I like the trio thing and we haven’t come into any problems in terms of achieving what we want to achieve – we haven’t found our boundaries yet. We’re really happy with what we got. Sometimes we do work with a trombonist and saxophonist on stage as well, it works great but I like it as a special occasions kinda thing. We’re probably staying as a trio for a good while, but adding more people isn’t something we’re ruling out.
At one point critics dubbed you guys as post dubstep, but these days your music is more or less genre-less to them. Do you feel relieved that you’re out of that pigeonhole?
(Laughs) Hmm, this is a tough one. We never described ourselves that way at all. In some ways, when we first started out, dubstep was a very different type of music to what it is now. It made more sense around that time in 2008, but time has passed and that whole genre has changed so much, it’s been f*cked up by money, really. For us, dubstep has long gone. There are still people around who still make stuff that we’re into but that magical time circa the late 2000s is long gone. When we first released Crooks & Lovers, the post dubstep genre was just coming out and people seemed to love finding out about new genres they never heard before with interesting names that combine two parts of music. Whatever, it’s not something we identify with. I don’t know what to call the new record, hopefully someone will come up with a new name for it (laughs).
We’ve never experienced a live performance by you guys before, let alone one in a festival setting like Laneway Festival Singapore. What can we expect?
Hopefully, you’d hear a band that is tight – you should be (laughs) – I feel really confident in the live shows that we’ve got at the moment. We’re really excited to come over that way, it’s gonna be good.
Mount Kimbie will be playing at Laneway Festival Singapore on Saturday 25 January ‘14. For more information, visit www.singapore.lanewayfestival.com.