Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kiss Kiss - The Musical Idealists

January 27th, 2009

Recently I sat down with Kiss Kiss before a show at a small bar in New Haven, Connecticut before their show in a basement that had “luscious” carpet and finely decorated walls. As some cold brews were sipped on, Kiss Kiss explained the difficulty of the new album, The Meek Shall Inherit What's Left, the downfall of the music industry, and the need for audiences at live performances.

Karyn Danforth: What have you been up to in the past two years?

Jared Karns: We made a new record, and have a new bassist, Mike Abiuso.

Karyn: How long did it take to record the new album, The Meek Shall Inherit What's Left?

Josh Benash: It happened over the span of nine months, but probably four months were actually spent recording. We spent a month in the actual studio.

Karyn: What does the title imply?

Josh: There's meaning behind it, it's pretty obvious what it means. What's left.

Karyn: I know you guys are involved in current events, the last time we spoke about your global warming Christmas album, and how you were 'ahead of the curve.'

Rebecca Schlappich: It's along the same lines, the inevitable destruction of everything.

Josh: It's not inevitable though, it's self fulfilling. It's a choice, people choose it.

Jared: Generally speaking, we have a very fatalistic outlook toward things overall, I think the title reflects that.

Karyn: What kind of tomfoolery occurred in the making of it?

Patrick Southern: There's a lot of videos on my hard drive, a lot of stuff people haven't seen, there's probably things you shouldn't see.
Jared: We grew mustaches, Patrick would walk through the studio with only a skirt on.

Patrick: You act like I'm the joker, like 'this guy just came along for the ride' what with my underwear, skirt and mustache.

Rebecca: There's a progression of his facial hair in pictures, it's pretty funny.

Josh: You know when we have no place to stay we don't shower? We should just not shower on this tour because we're going home everyday.

Jared: To counteract the fact that we're going home?

All to Josh: You can not shower.

Josh: Fine.

Karyn: What does it sound like compared to Reality Vs. The Optimist?

Josh: It's thicker, when we were actually trying to do the opposite. Tried to make it more slimmed down, less arranged, naked and bare, instead there's strings, horn, choir, twelve different keyboard arrangements, and several vocal tracks.

Rebecca: It's a pretty dark album, moreso than the last one; it's a lot heavier and even more orchestrated.

Karyn: Is there any specific inspiration for the album?

Josh: Obligation? (laughter from everyone) That was mine for most of it, I didn't enjoy making this last record.

Jared: We enjoyed making Reality Vs. The Optimist more, this one was a pain in the ass. It was like shitting on a brick.

Josh: On a brick or out a brick? Because shitting on a brick is not that hard.

Rebecca: I enjoyed it because this was the first one I'm on. I love the studio, it's like band camp. You get to stay there for two weeks, and all you do is get up, start recording at noon until midnight, drink, go to sleep, then get up and do it again.

Jared: Writing it was tough because Josh was on vocal rest, so we were doing everything on the chalkboard.

Rebecca: He had a vocal node, so he didn't talk for four solid months, so the entire album was written in mime. Once you have one person miming things to you, you catch onto it.

Jared: I was the one that couldn't pick up the new language. I just wanted to talk! Then they'd write on the chalkboard, 'on this beat'...

Patrick: Yeah, and Josh had five year old handwriting.

Mike: You can hear that it was hard to make, it has this difficult vibe to it.

Rebecca: Underlying desperation.

Josh: We're better musicians on this album.

Jared: This time it felt like a real band.

Karyn: How has the fan base been?

Rebecca: The fans that we do have, I'm amazed at how loyal they are. The fan base has been stagnant, but it's because we haven't made an album in a long time, or toured. The hardcore fans are what keep me going and make me want to keep playing shows, because I know there's always one person there that is so in love with us.

Patrick: It might not look like we've been working, but we definitely have been.

Karyn: How hard is it being a band in the 'economic crisis?'

Rebecca: It's not just that, but the downfall of the recording industry. The roles have switched, it used to be bands would play live shows to sell albums. Now, people find albums free and the only way to be a successful band is to play live shows and get people to go to them. A band our size, we're not really making any money with album sales anymore.

Josh: Or show sales either, we can't even fill up a tank of gas; no one is buying merchandise. It's like a hundred thousand hours of uncompensated work, and you see the kids come up to the merch table and are like, “Oh I can get that for free” They even tell it to your face, and end up not buying anything.

Patrick: Or they ask, “Do you know where I can get this for free?”

Karyn: It seems these days it doesn't take much talent for acts in the Top 40 to get big, that it doesn't mean much anymore to learn the skills of becoming a real musician.

Rebecca: That's the truth, there are brilliant local musicians that are having just as hard of a time as we are.

Josh: You go back in the day to the fifties and sixties, you had professional arrangers who were amazing at arranging instruments, singers in bands that were incredibly talented, great producers, and then there was engineers who were trained in audio technology who would make amazing sounding records. Now all you have is a bunch of people recording on pro tools in their basement and releasing it onto Myspace, so the majority of music is mediocre. There's not that love of art and craft. It's going to get worse because record companies are going to crash and who is going to fund these things? Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys spent 24,000 dollars on just Good Vibrations alone, but it was worth it. You're not going to have that anymore.

Karyn: The generations that are being raised on the current mediocre music enjoy it, but when you see a twelve year old who likes Led Zeppelin, you're taken aback.

Rebecca: Speaking of that, we played a show last night, and the show before ours was for the School of Rock, started by Paul Green, and they're kids that go to this extracurricular music school and they learn rock music. They had a two set entire Doors cover, and they were incredible to watch these kids totally loving classic rock. It inspired me and actually gave me a little hope.

Josh: Yeah, kids not playing Guitar Hero that aren't brainwashed on pop.

Rebecca: They were genuinely into what they were doing, and doing an amazing job.

Karyn: Did anyone like Inauguration Day, politics aside?

Rebecca: There was a classical quartet that played, and Itzhak Perlman is the soul reason that I started playing violin. I saw him at three years old on the television, and I turned around to my parents and said, “I want to do that!” It totally ruled, I got a little choked up seeing him play again; he was my total inspiration. God bless my parents, violin is the worst instrument to start a child out on, because it just sounds like crap, coming from someone that has taught violin.

Karyn: Is there anything you'd like to urge your fans or the general public in terms of supporting the band, or music in a broad sense?

Rebecca: We thank them for their patience, and hopefully we will be working with new management soon that will promote us in the right direction. We're really grateful for everyones support. I don't have a job right now and can't make my rent, so please help us out!

Jared: Don't live on the Internet, actually go to shows. I used to go to every single one in my hometown when I was a little kid. I didn't care or know who the bands were, but I'd always go hoping I'd see a band I'd like and buy a CD and discover something I loved. I feel like that spirit is gone, people find a band on the Internet by accident, and when that band comes through their town, they might go to the show. It's backwards, it used to be the Internet was an afterthought; it's a great tool but when people do all their music life on it (using Itunes and Youtube) it's disheartening. Also, buy the records.

Josh: Buy vinyl, the compression sounds better, the sound quality is rich.

Jared: Our new album will be on vinyl, and the old one is being re-released on it. What we're hoping we can do is include a download card with the vinyl where you can download the songs to your Itunes, that way you have it in two places. That's the way we think albums should be released nowadays.

Rebecca: The Internet is one medium, but it's so important to go see music live, so important. You're never going to get the experience you hear from compressed shitty Mp3's that you're going to get at a crazy show where they break drums. You're never going to see it.

(There was a half hour more of us discussing politics.. I'll transcribe it some day.)

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