Cascine darlings Kisses have been one of our favorite acts of the year, so you can imagine we’re pretty excited to be bringing them to DC this Saturday, July 20th. Our own Peter Collins had the chance to chat with the L.A. duo before the show. See what they had to say after the jump and then grab your tickets for their show with French Horn Rebellion and San Fermin at LivingSocial’s 918 F Street space.
STREAM: Kisses – “Air Conditioning”
The first Kisses song I heard was “Bermuda.” I loved the DIY, lo-fi balearica sound of that song, like kids in a city apartment trying to create a romantic tropical escape through music. That feeling is still there in your new album, Kids In LA, albeit with bigger production. Could you say a bit about how your sound first developed, and how it’s evolved between the two albums?
Zinzi: The first album was recorded entirely by Jesse in the garage of a house he was living in at the time. Sure we were both learning about and loving Arthur Russell a lot at the time, but the lo-fi was something that came from necessity/a certain degree of slovenly recording techniques. Because the project is sort of silly, tongue-in-cheek and all that, these songs were originally meant to just be demos for really overwrought, overblown disco songs with too many members. In fact, I was only supposed to play the triangle. Turned out no one else wanted to actually be in the band, so here we are now as a duo. Anyway, for the second record, we really wanted to work with skilled producers who could help elevate the sound to a level we couldn’t on our own, even if we’re still a major budget bump away from the horn section we truly desire.
My favorite track of yours is “Air Conditioning” off the new album. The song starts out with a sort of sparse, eerie arrangement then opens up suddenly and becomes really lush and pretty. How would you describe the feeling you were trying to capture in that song? Is it about anything in particular?
Jesse: I remember working on production for that song at Cameron’s (from Superhumanoids) studio and he had a rhodes. I ran through a memory man pedal and i just loved that sound. I ran everything through that pedal to give it a haunting quality. The song is about misspent youth, this kid is totally irresponsible, buying music and clothes on his dads credit card. But what I really wanted to do on this song was capture the artificial feeling of air conditioning, with the wind gusts and sort of lazy, pulsing beat. It just was also supposed to revolve around that feeling.
I really like the aesthetics surrounding your releases. The album art and press materials for Kids in LA remind me a bit of how Wes Anderson stages shots in his movies: very static, almost like a painting, but with facial expressions and mysterious little items that maybe tell a story. How heavily involved are you guys in creating those materials? Is there a particular theme or themes that ties the Kisses aesthetic or the Kids In LA aesthetic together?
Z: Thanks—glad you’re into it. We are heavily involved in creating them, but we rely on a crack team of talented friends, like our photographer and graphic guru (and lamp-making extraordinaire) David Kitz and video director Adrian Buitenhuis. The album art was inspired by pulpy print ads from the 70s. Lots of ladies with perfectly set hair blowing cigarette smoke into the faces of men wearing mock turtlenecks. Drinking a lot of rum drinks without irony. Their poses are super wooden and staged and the style of photography almost looks like illustration it’s so static. So that’s what we were going for. Also it’s convenient because we have very little camera charisma. Admittedly, the KILA and general Kisses aesthetics are different, but I don’t think they’re entirely disparate. I think the best amalgamation so far has come from Adrian in our video for Huddle. It’s so Kisses—the clothes, the lobster, the Porsche—but it’s also nail-on-the-head perfect for the specificity of this record.
You recently signed with Cascine, which is my personal favorite label and a favorite of everyone here at All Things Go. What’s it been like working with them?
Z: Cascine is the best! We’re super happy having signed with them—it’s a great fit in terms of style and personalities. We gel. Also our labelmates are rad. We recently played a label showcase as part of Northside fest and it really felt like there was some magic in the air with this group.
Two songs on Kids In LA remind me a bit of the Talking Heads. The first single off the album, “Funny Heartbeat,” has an airy, almost flamenco sound that reminds me of “Nothing But Flowers,” and the sort of weird electropop vibe of “Air Conditioning” brings “Lifetime Piling Up” to mind. Maybe it’s just that Jesse’s vocals sound a bit like David Byrne to me on those songs, but could that maybe be a conscious influence? In general, what are some bands – new or old – that you like or that inspire you?
Z: God I hope so. Well, I’m a big Talking Heads fan and I always want to force feed Jesse opinions about percussion and dancing like a weirdo. He’s into it, too, to a certain extent, but it’s not really a conscious choice and I think only once came up as a reference when we were sending through production notes to Pete and Tim. But yeah, I’m living vicariously through Jesse, who gets some Byrne and some Bryan Ferry comparisons, which would be a total dream if anyone ever said that about me.
If you guys covered a children’s song which one would you pick?
Z: Hm. Maybe we could do a Dirty Projectors’ Rise Above thing and recreate that seminal Raffi cassette from memory. I have a feeling we could do a stirring rendition of I Like To Eat Apples and Bananas.
What are some of your favorite things to do and places to go in LA?
Z: In a true Life-Imitating-Art-Imitating-Life move, Jesse very much enjoys going to Trader Vics. The problem is he likes going to the weird new one in the Staples center, which is confusing. If you’re going to spend $19 on a tiki drink I think you should obviously be at Tiki Ti’s. I mostly like going to Home Depot.
If you were stuck on a tropical island with one member of a British Invasion rock band and one dessert who and what would they be?
J: It would have to be John Lennon. Out of the whole british invasion, he seems like a worthwhile guy who would be fun to share a couple chocolate chip cookies with.