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28 March 2013

Interview: Kindest Lines. Interview conducted by Ellie Sleeper.

When The Sun Hits 
Kindest Lines
Interview by: Ellie Sleeper

Covered in Dust, the debut LP from Louisiana’s Kindest Lines (recently reviewed by WTSH's Ellie Sleeper - read it HERE), opens suitably with a beat that sounds a lot like like an industrial rendition of The Ronettes’ ‘Be My Baby’. Brian Wilson cited that song by the legendary New York girl group as the greatest pop recording ever, and many refer to it as the perfect example of Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” production. Those artists established many of the templates for how modern music is made, but what still stands out is the sense of that music having been simply dreamed-up. With organic washes of layered melodic guitars and lush songcraft, this New Orleans-based trio is definitely doing some dreaming of their own. Kindest Lines are blazing a unique path into an enchanting realm of darkened electronic indie pop that is at once welcoming and foreboding.

Lead singer Brittany Terry expertly navigates the listener through these terrains with a voice that’s never so cold as to sound detached, and yet never saccharine. Her sultry earnestness effortlessly compliments songwriter’s Jack Champagne and Justin Blaire Vial’s moody, punchy compositions while her diary-like lyrics and unassuming delivery invite the listener into her charmed universe. Keep reading to learn more about this very talented up and coming band.
How and when was the band formed?
Justin:  Me and Jack started playing together in late 2009 I think.  We had grown up together in a small town just south of New Orleans, and had lost contact for a couple of years.  I had moved home from San Francisco to deal with some health problems, and Jack’s previous band the Public had just broken up.  We kind of started playing together again by accident.  After a really long time of dealing with flakey musicians, I eventually broke down and bought a keyboard off of Ebay (I had only been a drummer previously).  I ran into Jack shortly after, and he agreed to help me learn how to play it.  Anyway, instead of teaching me how to play, we just started writing a bunch of songs.  I had heard about Brittany through a friend, and after stalking her for a while, I approached her about working with us.  We’ve been at it ever since.

Can you tell us what the band has been working on and what you've got coming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc.)?
Jack: We’re just currently working on new Kindest Lines stuff, and also trying to get a few side projects finished. We realized we had a lot of material in the works that didn’t really fit with the vibe of Kindest Lines.  Though I feel that Kindest Lines fits a lot of open territory, some of the stuff we were separately working on was just a little too out in left field.  Justin is working on a dark atmospheric thing called Pretty Bleak, and I’m working on more of a post-punk/apocalyptic folk project that you should be hearing soon. 

Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?
 I think every artist fears being labeled, but we’re definitely influenced by shoegaze and dreampop.  We’re probably equally influenced by everything from film soundtracks, to 60’s psych, old school goth, Phil Spector girl groups, 70’s punk, Italian horror movies, and countless other things.
Jack:  When one of us begins to write what will later become a finished song, the other band members tend to take it in their own direction, which is usually a far different place from where we started.
Britt: Our separate styles of sound seem to create something familiar, but strangely unheard of. Genres are just another way of generalizing ideas so people can understand. I say ignore them altogether. Like the weather forecast - incorrect most of the time.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
Jack: I’m not really familiar with any.  I like to stick to what I already listen to, and I don’t want to take influence from what’s going on currently.
Justin:  I’m constantly looking for new stuff.  Even though they’ve both been around forever, I still really love Dead Meadow and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.  Some newer bands that I like are Wild Nothing, Screen Vinyl Image, A Place to Bury Strangers, the Soft Moon, and Sleep Over.  But I’m still mostly into 60’s stuff.  I think one of my favorite records of all time is from this band called Gandalf.  It’s so dark, creepy, and ghost-like.  I’m also really into the 2 Electric Prunes albums that David Axelrod produced, as well as Ennio Moriconne’s more freakout-psych type scores.  They’re all just really bizarre and beautiful.

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?
Jack: I usually write everything on my Rickenbacker 330, but always end up recording with my Jazzmaster for some reason.  I recently got an Eastwood Sidejack VI, which I’m using on a couple of new songs.  Other than that, my pedals change from day to day.  I have about 20 in my apartment, but depending on my mood the pedal board will change from show to show.  I guess my favorite thing to do is to run a Small Clone chorus into my Roland JC 120, which thickens the sound to a ridiculous extent. 
Justin:  The rest of our sound is all synths and drum machines.  We try to keep everything as analog as possible. Brittany plays a Korg R3 virtual analog.  I’ve got a few more I use.  My main synth is a DSI Prophet 08, and while it’s not an exact replication of the vintage Prophet 5, it gets me really close to vintage horror movie/John Carpenter sound I was always looking for.  Lately I’ve been also using an Arturia minibrute, which I use in combination with an Oberheim SEM synth module.  I control both synths via control voltage coming from the minibrute, and then I run the minibrute’s output through the filter of the Oberheim, which creates a really strange, unique sound.  I addition to that I use a Roland RS-09 string and organ synth on just about everything. It has a certain cold and ghostly sound that works well for what we do.  All of the drums are done by layering one-hit vintage drum samples from an Elektron Octatrack, with analog drums on an Elektron Analog Four, and effect loops from the Octatrack and A4 are running to all instruments via effect sends on our mixer.  I haven’t played real drums in forever, but also have a vintage 70’s Ludwig in massive sizes (26” bass, 15” rack, and 18 and 20” floor toms).  I was originally supposed to just play drums in this band, and I’d like to re-integrate live drums back in at some point. 
What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
Justin:  I originally started out using Ableton Live to record, but since I’ve switched to all hardware instruments, I’ve started to use Logic instead.  We’re demoing new stuff right now, so at the moment we’re just recording everything straight into logic via an Apogee Duet, one track at a time.  As we start tracking the next album, I’m going to experiment more with microphones and live recording. Going forward, we want to do as much as possible “out of the box” with real instruments and effects. 

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway; how do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?
Jack: To be honest, I kind of gave up on caring.  I’m writing music for myself, whether people hear it or not.  I don’t really have the patience to look up new bands on bandcamp or anything like that.
Justin:  I think it’s a double edged sword.  On one hand, music making is totally democratic and it’s going to make it accessible for so many more people to make music and get their music to people that want to hear it.  On the other hand, it’s near impossible to make any money making music these days.  I don’t think anyone should be rich from writing songs.  I think music is meant to be shared with as many people as possible as a way of sharing ideas first and foremost.  But it does get difficult to do things the way they should be done when you’re spending your food money on equipment.  At the end of the day, I don’t mind being poor in order to make our music, but I do wish there was more of a middle ground that didn’t involve winning the lottery or landing the ever-elusive iPod commercial. 
Brittany: Today's radio play is mostly junk, as it often is. It's always been my way to seek out the obscure anyway. Now, small and new name bands must try much harder to be heard. Creating their own merch, pressing and sometimes self-production. It's worth the digging efforts to me, knowing the efforts the musicians put in.

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
Jack:  I’d prefer to have a record out on a label if it will help it be heard.
Justin:  I wouldn’t be surprised if some bands on Bandcamp make more money on their recordings than bands on more traditional independent labels. 

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?
Brittany:  Vinyl all the way!
Jack:  I just buy what’s available.  And I stress BUY.  I think it’s unfair to steal music.  I’m not much of an audiophile. 
Justin:  I’m good with MP3’s.  Vinyl, of course, is always better, both from a sound standpoint as well as an aesthetic one, but I really like having 5000 songs at my fingertips at any given moment.  I also have the tendency to be very obsessive about things, and I’m worried that if I start getting into vinyl it’ll take over my life.  I’m actually getting my first record player this week, so we’ll see how it goes. 

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
Jack:  Robert Smith, Ronny Moorings, Steve Albini, Geordie, Douglas P, and Robin Guthrie
Brittany:  I really liked James Figurine, Lali Puna, Radio Dept. in my early 20s. I got deep into electro anything. Everything is an influence... Aaliyah to Blossom Dearie to Sam Cooke. 
Justin:  All of the great Italian film Composers: Ennio Morriconne, Goblin, Riz Ortolani, Fabio Frizzi.  Italian horror movies have been my biggest obsession in life for about 15 years now.  John Carpenter holds his own against all of the Italian greats.  Phil Spector and David Axelrod are pretty important to me as far as production goes.  I was in a marching band growing up, so there is a little bit of that in everything I do… Mid-80’s Dischord-era punk like Rites of Spring and Embrace…Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Black Heart Procession, Blonde Redhead, Glass Candy…60’s Psych, 70’s punk, 
Krautrock…this list could really go on forever so I’ll just leave it at that

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc.)?
Brittany:  Got a Wreckless Eric record just recently. Been gaining more older vinyl. Don't go to movies much, but I suggest "Valet Girls" - hilarious. More into cooking than books... Mexican Cokes and enchiladas verde. 
Justin:  South Korean horror movies. 

If you had to choose one track that was the ultimate definition of your sound, which would it be and why?
Jack: Probably “Dark Dream”, although we haven’t played that one live in a while. 
Brittany: Our newer track which derived from Jack's large brain.  Titled “A Life"; the sounds flows so perfectly between us.  Feels truly balanced and almost effortless.  
Justin:  Our sound is always evolving, so I can’t really think of one particular song that defines us.  I will say that although most of our songs have a bit of a dark sound, I think there is an underlying thread of hope that ties them all together. 

Can you tell us a little about the band’s song writing process?
Jack:  Usually one of us comes up with an idea, then we get in a room together and work on it until its finished.
Justin:  We record a lot, adding things, taking things away, until we feel like we’re done.  I think it’s important to take a step back and look at a song from a distance, and only keep things in there that need to be there. 
Brittany:   Yes, I write. 
Having personally lived in Louisiana for almost a decade, I can attest to the very unique energy in the southern half of the state. Has being based in New Orleans had any impact on life as a band for you all?
Jack:  As a guitarist, it was very hard growing up in this town trying to find people to work with.  I can’t stand blues, I can’t stand funk, and I can’t stand virtuosity.  To be honest, I hate the way every guitar player in this city plays.  They all play exactly alike.
Brittany:  I wouldn't say it's impacted our sound, but definitely where and when we book shows. Not a massive scene in electronics here yet just enough to fulfill.
Justin:  A lot of people think we don’t sound like a “New Orleans” band, but the truth is New Orleans is in everything we do.  We just don’t wear “New Orleans” on our sleeve.  I think a lot of musicians move to this town with a stereotypical idea of what New Orleans music is supposed to sound like.   It’s never really crossed any of our minds to do a “New Orleans” version of some other genre of music.  We really just all get together in a room and try to make stuff that we think sounds good.  But New Orleans is always there, you just have to look really deep to find it. 

Have you had any particularly memorable live moments or any interesting studio stories? Are there any fascinating behind-the-scenes things worth noting?
Jack:  I read in the review you wrote that in “No Perfect Focus” there was an ebow solo.  It was actually just tremolo picking through a Big Muff.  I was very flattered when I read that.  Other than that, we’re just really goofy and argue a lot. 
Justin:  I think my favorite live memory was when we first played the Weird night in NYC.  At the time I was in the midst of a really prolonged bout with Crohn’s disease, and I had basically been a shut in for about 7 years. It was our first show out of town, my first time in New York, and I was extremely nervous to be that far away from home playing in front of so many people, and on an instrument that I was still learning  how to play.  The crowd was so warm and welcoming.  Everyone seemed to be having a great time, dancing and screaming along to our songs.  It really felt like we belonged to something.  The next day was my birthday, and Pieter from Weird met up with us and offered to put out our record. We had written and recorded all of these songs in our bedroom and never expected anyone outside of our circle of friends to hear any of this, so it was a dream come true.  Anyway, it was just a really bright moment  in the midst of a lot of heavy times  for  me, and I’ll never  forget  it. 
Brittany:   He's gettin' all sappy. Jack gets me every time - when you look over to see him kick his amp or jump off short things on stage.   Sometimes when the sound just isn't good and I look over at Justin and we both start laughing.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?
Jack:  I don’t have any. 
Brittany: " You can't be a pussy your whole life," as my Dad says. 
Justin:  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Keep it simple stupid.  It could always be worse.  Skate or Die.