Interview: This Is The Kit

"After all these thousands of years on the planet, we're still getting caught out by the same shit!"

The G-Man speaks to This Is The Kit's Kate Stables...

Having popped up in most of the album of year lists with latest knockout record Moonshine Freeze, This is the Kit return to Ireland for a couple of dates next week starting with their third The G-Man at Cyprus Avenue on Tuesday, 16th January followed by a Whelan's date in Dublin on Wednesday, 17th January. This Is The Kit's driving force Kate Stables spoke with the site ahead of the Irish tour.

The G-Man: Where in the world are you right now and what are you up to?
Kate Stables: Good question! I'm in Philadelphia. We're on tour with The National until mid December. We've just finished some gigs in Canada and the northwest of the USA and tonight we start the east coast leg of the tour.

Congratulations on the new record. It was described by The Irish Times as ‘a five-star stone-cold instant classic’. Be it a review or compliment by a fan, what positive reactions have pleased you most?
Ha ha! Well my favourite bit of feedback I must say was from the musician Marcus Hamblett. When he heard the album he sent me a text saying "raging sax solo? Don't mind if I do!"

What has it been like working with Rough Trade and how have they helped you get the new album into people’s ears?
Rough Trade have been great, they're such a great bunch. They've definitely opened things up for us in terms of the number of people who have heard about us now. I guess their reputation means that people pay attention when they sign a new artist. And that reputation has been earned over the years from them doing a great job of supporting music they believe in. They know their stuff!

Swimming, especially in an ocean, is a theme that pops up in your songs such as in Bullet Proof.
I think it's pretty common to feel a strong draw towards water. It's often where people want to sit or walk or watch. There's something about water (especially outdoor water) that's just so inviting and mesmerising. And then of course there's the draw to just jump in. It's an excellent reboot physically mentally and emotionally. A kind of washing or new start, especially cold water. And the deeper and darker the better.

I’m not a strong swimmer so I took lessons during the summer, one of the best decisions I’ve made in ages! I know with your schedule it’s tough but have you had a chance to do something for yourself in recent times?
It's a very good point! There are so many classes and courses I'd love to do but I never can as I'm very rarely home for enough of a solid stretch of time. I'd love to do a dance class of some kind, and learn Arabic, and take swimming classes too. There's loads of really great courses in off in Paris and in my neighbourhood. Maybe sometime the year after next I'll get a long enough gap!

How important is it to keep learning?
Maybe the most important thing. And goodness knows there's no shortage of life to learn out there.
What else is there more worthwhile to do in this life than keep on learning and loving. That's how humans grow and get better!

Living in such an urban area like Paris, what do you do to keep connected with nature?
Well I just try and have as much outside time as possible. There's a lot of nature in cities. The people, the parks, the plants and trees. It's just a different kind of nature. But getting enough solitude and sky time is important I think. Just being out under a big bit of sky. Which isn't always easy in Paris, to find a big wide bit of sky I mean. But there are some spots to be found in between the tall buildings.

It’s both an ambiguous and incredibly personal record. How do you approach striking a balance of giving so much yet also protecting your privacy?
I don't know. It's hard to know what people hear when they listen to it. Probably all sorts! I think in everyone's lives there are tough times and sad times and new times and times of joy and all the other types of times so there are some pretty universal themes in there that people might identify with. Humans don't need to know full details of peoples lives to understand that everyone experiences similar puzzles and struggles in life. After all these thousands of years on the planet, we're still getting caught out by the same shit!

The brass adds an extra dimension to TITK. Who provided the brass and what was it like to write the parts and hear them come to fruition on your songs?
Jesse [D. Vernon - guitarist] really enjoys writing horn and string arrangements for the songs, and so for a while we'd been gigging with a few sax players. Terry McLeod (who's moved back to Australia now) and Melanie Wickham we met through Jesse's community project 'the fantasy orchestra' and then also Kevin Figes and Lorenzo Prati are two great Bristol based players who it's always a joy to have on board. So it made sense to have them along for the making of the album. Their playing and Jesse's arrangements really lift the songs up into a different place.

How did John Parish get involved in the project?
Well, it had been about ten years since we last worked together on our first record Krulle Bol. we were looking to make Moonshine Freeze with someone and I was just really hoping that John would be able to do it. So I asked and amazingly he had a gap in his schedule at just the right moment. So we jumped in and booked the studio time. It worked out very well!

What did you feel was his biggest input into the record?
Tough one. Well everyone all put in so much. The whole band have been really involved right from the early stages of a lot of the songs. It;s been more of a team effort than some of the thisisthekit records that came before so the collective effort was probably the biggest input. That and the life that happens, what the universe dishes out to you which leads to the writing of the songs. That's quite a big part of it too I guess!

With Aaron Dessner producing Bashed Out, TITK have started linking up with high profile names which obviously must be a great help but the relationship still must fit together constructively. What is it with both Dessner and Parish that suited them to your music/personality?
Mmh, hard to say. It feels like it's more to do with the fact that when you work in music you meet people and make friends and some of those people end up making quite a name for themselves. It's true that "big" names probably do help in terms of catching people's eyes or ears. But for me the only thing that matters is the friendship or human connection and the music that comes out of that. That's the starting point for me. How much I love someone and love what they do and make. And so that's what it is with John and Aaron. They're very great people to be in a room with and to hang out with and they both make beautiful music and have a real skill for listening and producing music. They know their craft.

You’re currently touring the United States, playing high profile shows with The National. Good or bad, what surprises has the current tour presented to you?
Well, we've opened for The National a few times in the past and it's very normal for the audiences to be big (obviously) and chatty, understandably as they're about to see the national play! But so far on this tour the audiences have been amazingly quiet, attentive and responsive. It's been amazing. And the venues have been beautiful! It's a new touring experience for us to play in such huge grand spaces AND to get to play to such welcoming and listening audiences.

I can't think of any bad surprises off the top off my head. But Neil's had a couple of bad luck moments, broken strings, mystery amp problems. But they're all gotten sorted out pretty swiftly. So all good!

Whenever I visit a new place I always try to visit the local shops. Have you had a chance to experience some good local places in the U.S. and if so where do you recommend?
Oh yes! Well the freshest memory in my mind is of the swimming pool - Templeton Park Pool - we found in Vancouver. It was so lovely there. The size, the vibe, the staff, the fact that there was a sauna and hot tub! and loads more besides that I won't go into now. But it was great. Also, we've developed a fondness for places that we end up revisiting en route. Places like Bellingham Food Coop, the Locks and Fish Ladder at Ballard in Seattle. Oh and record shops! So dangerous on tour but it's hard to resist! Bop Street in Seattle is an INCREDIBLE second hand record shop. And Red Cat Records in Vancouver is brilliant. Places like that really stick with you and it's great when we get to pass by on subsequent trips and revisit.

Why is it important to you to shop in local stores?
Well because nourishing local communities is how we look after the wider world! Think global, act local. And you can't beat the human interaction that you get from going into an actual shop. Humans need it and the planet needs it. Our communities and the people around us in our neighbourhoods that we see everyday. The part we play in that environment is really important and makes a big difference.

The last time we bumped into each other in Dublin I was gifted a lovely bar of chocolate by Rozi! Besides the Cadbury’s, what are you most looking forward to on your return to Ireland in January?
Ha ha! Yes I remember! We were just driving along and spied you out of the window. Swims! I'm aware though that it will be January so a bit nippy. But some sea dips would be great! Or failing that just some local swimming pool action. But also just the colours and land and getting to revisit cities and friends that we've grown so fond of over the years.

What are your top 3 favourite albums of the year?
Well..I'm not sure I can honestly answer this question as I haven't been listening to or reading much that was released in 2017.  Oh but hang on! Peasant by Richard Dawson is a beautiful, beautiful album. I love it. Very exciting, fantastic stuff. Wonderful.

Did the Sir Was album Digging a Tunnel come out this year? That is a really beautiful album and I've been listening to that a lot. Let me see if I can find a third....

Oh no wait, I remember! An AMAZING album that my friend Sam got our household into. Interventions by Horse Lords. Such a great record. Beautiful music delivered with ninja skill and precision!

As for books, I've not read any that have come out in 2017 but as per usual I've been reading a lot of Ursula Le Guin. I recently reread Tehanu which is the fourth book of the Earth Sea series and it blew my mind. Way more than the first time. Really powerful writing that everyone should read. Important writing, important reading.

And films?
And as for films and maybe it actually came out in 2016 but Hunt for the Wilderpeople and other than that I've not see any new releases. But I have been watching A LOT of Grace and Frankie on Netflix.
Films haven't had a look in since I discovered that show!

It’s been a tough news year. What are the most positive events that you’ve seen happen or been a part of in 2017?
Yes a tough year in many ways. And it doesn't help that the media choose to do/say whatever they want with whatever "news" they want. It's hard to seek out the honest and honourable journalism out there and to find the positive change that is going on. But it is! There are strong inspiring people making positive things happen and one thing that sticks out in my mind and that is definitely worth mentioning is the amazing movement that came out of the Labour party's general election campaign. So many people getting involved in canvassing and finding out more about politics and sharing knowledge and experience. A real sense of solidarity and hope for the future. I just hope we can keep that energy and enthusiasm alive. It's easy to feel crushed by what these crazy governments and manipulative media monsters get up to but if we stay on the ball and involved in our local communities I really believe we can shape a better time.

For more on This Is The Kit visit: 

- This is the Kit play Cyprus Avenue, Cork on Tuesday 16th January 2018
- Tickets are €17.50 (excl. booking fee) and available here

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