INTERVIEW: King Black Acid and the Starseed Transmission
Psychedelic Rock With A Pop Twist (Cavity Search Records)
By: Kimberly Berhorst
It's been a few years since King Black Acid, Portland's prince of psychedelic rock, produced their last record (Royal Subjects, 1997; Cavity Search Records). Talk of an "upcoming" and "imminent" full-length KBA release has been bandied about for more than a year, and when an anticipated spring date came and went with no record, KBA fans got a little antsy. For some months, leader Daniel Riddle's answer to inquiries has been, "Soon. Very, very soon." Now, a fall date seems to have gelled, and to give fans and onlookers a glimpse of the album to come, the band independently released a new EP titled Into The Sun.
Into The Sun, released through Riddle's new label Starseed Records, is one good bit of evidence that KBA has hardly squandered the three years span between records, and that a late record will be a better record. The five-song EP provides fans and onlookers a glimpse of the new album in a smooth collection of songs with haunting melodic qualities, rich rhythmic layers and effects-driven emotion.
Into The Sun is a sensual backdrop for introspection, sex, emotion and frustration. Featured are two mixes of the EP title track, in a tasteful blend of strings, electronica and powerful distortion. Favorites "Wherever It Is You Are" and the liquid "Born To Sleep" instrumental follow with characteristic KBA drone-and-build effects. Leave track four running, and you'll find a spacey instrumental featuring singer Kaitlyn Ni Donavan's effeminate vocals. Other notable Portland guests include Jeff Saltzman on guitar and keyboards, and former KBA bassist Bobek Djeyfroudi.
Produced amidst reassembly and reconstruction, Into The Sun exhibits an altogether new quality in KBA's sound, one that's been observed steadily emerging through this year's intensely accelerated club schedule. That it's taken KBA awhile to move beyond the pre-production phase of their recording agenda is understandable. In February 1999, Djeyfroudi and keyboardist/guitarist Brian Foote's left the band, necessitating a search for new members in order to continue work on the record. Trying to meet a release date set six months in coming would suck, as would promoting a record without a fully-assimilated band.
The newest members are keyboardist Pete Ficht and bassist Erick Alley, who joined August 1999, and synth keyboardist Sean Farrell, who debuted in January. With guitarist Sarah Mayfield (circa 1998), they've incorporated catchy new backup parts and poppy hooks, engaging all but veteran drummer Scott Adamo in new singing roles. Combined with Mayfield and Riddle's finesse for experimental guitar effects, the added vocals are simple and unmuddying. Ficht's whimsical harmonies and small lead parts add new texture to Riddle's resonate lead, and KBA's dynamic interaction overall.
Under Riddle's leadership and Adamo's unfailing guidance, KBA has made diligent musical strides to enhance their live performances with pop versatility and increasingly complex structuring. The past year has seen them coalesce, distilling a cool, trancey, hypno-rock ensemble into an impressively tight machine that has made them one of PDX's favorite live bands.
In an interview just before one of their three weekly practices, the KBA members trickled into Riddle's house to talk about the new record, graciously pose for photos with their favorite house plants, and talk about space rocking into the future.Goings-On and Into The Sun
(Daniel and Sarah, the only members present so far, hospitably offer me my own panther-shaped ash tray. With the other KBA members yet to arrive for practice, we chat in a cheerful sitting room decorated with rock memorabilia, hip vintage collectibles and lots of plants.)
In Music We Trust: Now that you've released Into The Sun, what's your focus?
Daniel: Well, we're focusing on trying to finish a record, and we're trying to focus on playing live.
In Music We Trust: You've been playing tons of live shows lately. How much are you playing these days?
Daniel (looks up at the ceiling): Um - a lot (grins) We've been more successful at playing live than finishing the record.
In Music We Trust: How goes progress on the album, and what are the main obstacles to its release?
Daniel: Well, the way we decided to make the record. We recorded all the bass tracks onto two-inch analog tape dubbed down to ADATs so we could do overdubs at the house. So we're doing it sort of half at home and half at the studio.
In Music We Trust: So you have a lot more leeway to put it out when you don't have a session schedule.
Daniel: Yeah, that and when you're responsible for and own the equipment, stuff breaks, and you have to borrow stuff. And we don't have a lot of equipment, we're just using what we've got. We play live, make a few dollars maybe, and then buy another piece of gear...(trails off with a "what's a guy to do" look).
In Music We Trust: Come up with a new song with the new piece of gear...
Daniel: Oh yeah, for every piece of gear we've gotten we've gotten at least one great big song out of it.
In Music We Trust: So the new album is set to come out this fall?
Daniel: I will say that we've got dates in June that we're targeting to mix and master. Probably around October. That'd be our guess.
In Music We Trust: Back to the Into The Sun - it's your first self-release through your label, Mazinga Music/Starseed Records. How did the execution and distribution process go?
Daniel: We just printed 1000 copies of that as a promo to the upcoming record, just to let people know we were making a record. We gave about half of them away, we sold a few at live shows, and we still have a few left.
In Music We Trust: 'Into The Sun' is definitely more poppy and less droney than previous albums - there's a lot of new structuring taking hold. Is this the direction that your music is going?
Daniel: Yeah, (laughs, raising his eyebrows at the floor) I have to say, pretty much. I mean, words don't constitute a lot of aspects of early King Black Acid, you know, with spacey keyboards and droney guitars...We're sort of just developing as musicians. We're all just learning how to play our instruments together. We'll keep learning to play songs, get a little more distilled. So, in the newer material, we seem to be able to make a statement in a shorter period of time. Some of the newer material, that is. (He looks at Sarah, almost sheepishly. She smiles.)
In Music We Trust: Do people seem to like it, or have there been more negative comments?
Daniel: Yeah, people seem to like it. As for negative feedback, well, I think people are a little - oh, I don't know what the word would be - concerned, maybe. (A wry smile and a shrug.) They seem to be concerned about the fact that we're changing, that our sound is changing. New members bring new songs, and you know, we're a band of songwriters. Every time we change, make a new record, people get concerned. There are always the folks who say, 'I liked the last album best.' Some people are afraid of change.
(Daniel, whose skinny frame and pale face seem barely able to contain an intense energy, looks down, then back up, and his eyes light up.) And then when you make new records and new songs, you get new fans as well as those that hang on. So if I've heard any criticism, it's been about the change in the band.The Beginning: KBOO, the Womb Star Session and Cavity Search
In Music We Trust: Scott Adamo's been with you since KBA's inception?
Daniel: Since the first recording (Womb Star Session, 1995; CS). He joined the band just before that first recording. Up until then there were no drums in the band. Just keyboards and guitars and bass. Loops, guitars samples and stuff.
In Music We Trust: Some people have the impression that KBA's initial lineup was made up of members of your previous band, Hitting Birth.
Daniel: No, that was with Melinda Dicillo (keyboards), Roger Campos (guitars) and Nathan Jorg, our first bass player, and myself. In Music We Trust: So then you added drums and it totally changed from a droning jam-kind of thing, to a more traditional band, so to say?
Daniel: Yeah, slowly over time, the songs started to distill and get a little more focused. The first band had drums and percussion, then we went through some lineup changes and sometimes percussion wasn't there, and we'd switch bass players, and then we made that first recording which is live at KBOO. Joe Trump (percussion) and Scott (drums) had just joined the band maybe two weeks before...Yeah, that was an interesting recording. I have a hard time listening to that. There's some moments on there (laughs).
In Music We Trust: How so?
Daniel: It was really interesting recording. Before [the KBOO show], we smoked a lot of pot and ate a lot of pizza, drank soda pop...We didn't know we were gonna record. You know, we were 'just playing live on the air.' We practiced two blocks away from there, it was a Sunday night, and we just hung out eating pizza before we played. Some friend of ours recorded [the KBOO show] on a cassette, and gave it to the guys at Cavity Search (Denny Swofford and Christopher Cooper), and then they came to us and said, 'We want to make a record out of this,' so we basically took the cassette and mastered it onto CD, and that's the Womb Star Session. Only the cassette deck was recording kind of fast, so when they played it back, they played it back on slow, and so the tape's real sludgy and kinda hissy and compressed, and the drums had a pretty interesting sound.
In Music We Trust: That's not all bad.
Daniel: No, no, it's interesting. You know? It sets an atmosphere, the tone of that record. It's very interesting.
In Music We Trust: So you met Christopher and Denny by chance?
Daniel: Yeah. They either heard the KBOO show, or somebody recorded it and gave it to them. And then they came to see us live a couple of times, and were just like, "You guys are fucked up. We like what you're doing."Sarah
(...looking perfectly at ease, in jeans and a bright red BTO t-shirt, slouching in a vinyl and chrome bench, smoking a cigarette. As on stage, she's self-contained and hard to read. But she smiles easily, with a genuineness that makes it impossible not to like her. Periodically, she pushes her long hair back from her face, annoyed. Onstage at an April show at Berbati's, Daniel announced that he had offered Sarah ten bucks to wear her hair down. )
In Music We Trust: Sarah, when did you first join KBA?
Sarah: January 1, 1998.
In Music We Trust: Having been in the band longer, do you feel kind of like an older sister to the three newer members?
Sarah: Um, I never really thought about it. When we were going through a lineup change and the new members were coming on, I felt kinda like I was showing them the ropes a little bit, kind of preparing them for what to expect. Other than that, after the first couple of weeks, no, it was the same.
In Music We Trust: Was it hard for you to be in that position, and had you been in that position before?
Sarah: No, that was pretty much the first time. The only thing - I mean, I love the guys that we have now - the only thing that kinda bothered me was the loss of momentum. We were out and playing, everything was going great, and we'd gotten the basics down on the record, and then we had to kinda back up and try all these new people.
In Music We Trust: How do you feel being up front, singing, and with this new, "core-member" status?
Sarah: It's nerve-wracking. I had only realized a couple of weeks ago that I was 'up front.' I don't think it'd ever really occurred to me. And uh, it's scary.
In Music We Trust: Why is it scary to you, and what made you realize your role as a front member?
Sarah: It was people coming up to me and saying shit like, 'Oh, you're such a rock star,' and saying all this weird stuff. And I just never thought of it that way. I kind of was just like, 'I have to keep to the walls,' to help me combat the nerves. It's like, 'Okay, they're watching me but they can't touch me.'
In Music We Trust: Maybe it's because you started wearing your hair down.
Sarah: All that does is make me hot. I don't think it has anything to do with wearing my hair down-
Daniel: -It does make you hot, baby. You rock! (whistles and laughs.)
Sarah: I never thought of the hair thing, either, until Daniel brought it up. I just wore it up for convenience.
In Music We Trust: When you came to KBA, had you been playing in another band?
Sarah: Yeah, I played in a band called The Atoms for almost three years. And then, suddenly, I wasn't playing in the Atoms, took a few months off, and then hooked up with Daniel.
In Music We Trust: Had you known each other through other people?
Sarah: We'd hung out before. Our old drummer for the Atoms was really into KBA and used to take me to all their shows. And I kind of got into it through him. So initially, I was a fan. I wasn't too familiar with it, though. In Music We Trust: Did you go through an audition?
Daniel: A hazing. A hazing, an audition, a trial by fire. She's still on probation. How long has that been now? Two years? <
(Sarah glares at him good-naturedly)New members, new vocals, the 'more normal' version
(Just arrived, KBA's bassist, Erick, a.k.a. 'Star Wars,' sits with Sarah as Sean, KBA's sixth and newest member, heads downstairs for a beer. Pete Ficht, who injured himself running, hobbles into the room.)
In Music We Trust: Pete, you've been wearing a cast for a while now. Watching you play all hunched up at your keyboard with a cast sticking out looks painful.
Daniel: Yep, he's rockin' that Rhodes piano, though.
Sarah: He couldn't stand up and get on it like he usually does, though.
In Music We Trust: The incorporation of female vocals has added a whole other dimension to KBA's songs. Sarah, you're doing backup vocals on the new EP?
Sarah: I sing on the first half, the more background tracks of "Wherever It Is You Are," and on "Into The Sun."
In Music We Trust: It's been great seeing you singing live more and more.
Sarah: It kind of bums me out that a lot of the vocals were invented after we mixed and finished "Into The Sun" because there are some really cool vocal parts that we do live now.
In Music We Trust: Are you going to be doing "Into The Sun" and other songs on the EP for the new album?
Daniel: Yeah, one or more of the songs will make it on there. In Music We Trust: How are the first and fourth tracks different?
Daniel: The fourth track is...what is it again? (turns to Sarah) It's a remix of "Into The Sun?" It's been so long, I don't remember.
Sarah: The fourth track is a remix of a longer version of "Into The Sun." And the one on the album is going to be the long version, done, uh, more 'normal.'
Daniel: 'Done more normal.' I like that.
Sarah: From what I understand, it's going to be more like the first track on the EP, just the entire version of it.
Daniel: The 'unedited' version.
In Music We Trust: And track 4 is-
Daniel: -A self-indulgent, masturbatory long space-out at the end.Erick
(Sean rejoins the group, takes a seat next to Daniel, very polite. Erick sits rather stoically, his long legs drawn up to an apex at his knees. He's perhaps the quietest and most expressionless KBA member, and this is true on stage as well as off. Not at all a bad thing, though.)
In Music We Trust: We're talking about the new EP, goals, a fall record, incorporating new members. We were also talking a bit about how Sarah's adding more vocals. Erick, you've just started singing backup. Is this a new role for you?
Erick: I've sung before in a couple of bands, but never to this degree, the amount of singing that I'm doing. But I have sung before. It's pretty cool. When did you join KBA?
Erick: I started playing last May. A friend of mine told me that they were looking for a bassist, and gave me Daniel's number, so I called him.
In Music We Trust: What were you doing at that point?
Erick: Nothing. It'd been almost two years since I'd done anything in a band setting.
Daniel: He was collecting Star Wars collectibles.
In Music We Trust: Is that how he got his nickname?
Erick: Yeah. I'm a Star Wars fan.
Daniel: I remember like the second time he came over and jammed with us, he was like, 'I gotta take off a few minutes early.' And of course, we were all curious, and we asked, 'What's going on?' and he said, 'Well, I gotta go wait in line for Star Wars tickets.' And we were like, 'What?' We thought that was really strange, and so I just called him Star Wars."
In Music We Trust: One notable thing about your shows is that you never seem to break your composure. You're very stolid up there. I don't mean to pick on you.
Erick: That's okay, (shrugs and smiles) I'll play the role of the quiet, shy guy...It's a combination of, 'Oh, my God, there's three hundred people here,' and 'here's the next part' - change - 'oh, here's the next part' - change...Pete
(...has been relegated to a bar stool to stretch out his leg. Blue toenails peek out from a full cast. )
In Music We Trust: Pete, you played guitar in your last band, State Flowers, and bass in a previous band, Joy Pop Turbo. You initially auditioned for the KBA bassist position. How is it that you ended up playing keyboards?
Pete: I think when I came over, Daniel said they were looking for a bass player and a keyboardist. And I said, 'Oh, I play a little keyboards. Very little.' So, I stepped in it. I played bass one day, and I came back another time, brought my guitar, played a little guitar, and then started playing the Rhodes...it seemed to click pretty well. And I think that was about the same time Erick was playing some too.
Daniel: Yeah, there was one day when we scheduled both of you guys to come and jam and we didn't realize that we had two bass players. It was the second time you'd come over, so it was like, 'Hey, can you play keyboards?' and you got down and played, and Erick played bass, and we were like, 'Yeah, we like that, that's cool.' And we tried a couple other things, but that was the best arrangement.
In Music We Trust: Are you enjoying it? Playing keyboards as opposed to guitar?
Pete: Yeah, I'm enjoying it. I've gotten a lot better than I was. I was kind of scared. I remember saying the first day, 'that's it. That's all I do. It's not gonna get any better.' But actually, I think we played "Wherever It Is You Are," and I think the part I played that day was what ended up on the recording and what got played live, so. That was kind of cool, being the first thing I played.
In Music We Trust: How did you start singing backups? As I recall, you were the first person to really start singing backups on a regular basis.
Pete: Yeah, I think Daniel always wanted everyone to sing, and since I've sung a lot in other bands, it wasn't scary for me to do that, so, strong and long, loud and proud is my motto (laughs).
Daniel: Ultimately, I just think that everyone in the band should sing. We just need to get enough channels on the board. Right now we're maxed out. We just cue it up. We have a lot of stuff on stage.
In Music We Trust: Did that make you feel better about singing, Sarah? Having the new guy singing?
Sarah: I had made some attempts in the first incarnation that I was in, and it was just kind of difficult because it wasn't so much of a focus in the band with only one person singing backup. It was like, well, let's focus on everything else. But yeah, when Pete started singing, I was like, well if he can do it, I can do it. And with another person doing harmonies, it became more of a focus.Sean and caulk rock
In Music We Trust: Sean, you're the newest member...
Sean: I started playing in January. Well, the first time I came over was in December. I think I came over once or twice in December, and then I started really getting ready for shows in January, I think I practiced for about two weeks before I played my first show.
In Music We Trust: The magic two weeks, as with the Womb Star recording.
Daniel: We just threw a plastic keyboard in front of him and said, 'Make some shit up.'
In Music We Trust: So you knew the KBA folks through the Cavity Search Guys?
Sean: I had met Daniel maybe once or twice. I don't think either of us remembered each other all that well. I hadn't met anyone else in the band, though. There was an ad in The Rocket and I answered it. I think I saw one of the first KBA shows in '95 because I was living with Christopher at the time, and they would drag me out to see all of the bands that they were into.
In Music We Trust: What was your impression?
Sean: It was at the Stage Four (now the Meow Meow Club). I liked it. I liked it a lot. And I got the first record when it came out 'cause I got all the Cavity Search releases when they came out. I listened to it a lot.
Daniel: For free? (his eyes narrow humorously.)
Sean: Oh, it wasn't free. Maybe I didn't give them any money, but it wasn't free.
Sean: But yeah, I've been into KBA for awhile. I actually had caught a little of the NXNW show. That was the first time I'd seen them in a long time before I started playing with them. And it was a big difference, it wasn't at all what I expected.
In Music We Trust: Seeing them at NXNW as opposed to Stage Four. Yeah, I'd seen them a few times before the NXNW show. Not too many in, say, the last two years.
In Music We Trust: Were you impressed with the difference? So was it a band you remember thinking, "I would love to play with people like that?"
Sean: Yes, absolutely. When I first started playing, I wasn't sure what these guys thought. The stuff I played the first couple times I was over here was really just kinda noisy, jammy kind of stuff. You know, stuff I knew how to do. I'm not primarily a keyboard player, either.
In Music We Trust: Primarily a guitarist?
Sean: Yeah, I guess you could say that.
Pete: Isn't everybody?
Daniel: Yeah, really. This guy plays guitar, this guy and that guy (gestures to Pete, Sean). Scott plays guitar. He had to teach me that David Bowie cover we did for a tribute thing. I couldn't figure that shit out.
Sarah: Scott can play pretty much anything. He can do something on just about anything.
Daniel: He just never has time to do it in the band because he's always late for practice and so he runs in and sits down at the drum kit when we're already halfway through a song.
In Music We Trust: What is your role as you see it as the new keyboardist with this equipment there? You are a really sort of imposing addition with your setup. You're very visible, and add an impressive look to your stage presence overall.
Sean: 'With my setup,' yeah (chuckles). Well, good, that's what we're there for, to impress everybody. Right now I'd like to think of my sound as sort of living around the edges of these songs, sort of. I mean, there's some stuff I do that pokes out, but for the most part, the stuff that I do, you'd notice it more if it wasn't there than you notice that it is there. You know, a lot of my friends say, you know, I couldn't really exactly tell what you were playing, but I didn't hear anything that sounded bad, so you must not have sucked.
Daniel: I hear it as a very gluey treatment.
Sean: "Gluey" treatment? (squinting.)
Daniel: Yeah, it's around all the other sounds and adds kind of a stickiness that makes all the other parts kind of mold together, solidifies...
Sean: Kind of like caulk, huh?
Daniel: Like caulking. Yeah, it's a glue treatment with caulking.
Pete: Caulk Rock.
In Music We Trust: What were you looking for in a second keyboardist?
Daniel: Exactly that. Just somebody to add some atmosphere, some spaciness, some non-linear sounds as well as combine some melodic stuff in there.
Sean: It's great. I don't have a super lot of stage experience, so it's great to get out there and play for as many people as we play you on a regular basis, and, you know, my chops are getting a lot better.Space Rock, Pop - Big Fish, Little Pond
In Music We Trust: It seems everyone's chops have improved dramatically.
Daniel: We're space rockin' into the future, pretty rapidly.
In Music We Trust: Define space rock.
Daniel: Oh, shit. I don't know that we're a space rock band, per se, but I know we do some space rock. How do I define space rock? Atmospheric...
Daniel: Textural, moody, multi-dimensional, soupy...
In Music We Trust: Cocky?
In Music We Trust: Primarily, when people ask you about KBA these days as compared to past incarnations, do you use the term 'space rock?'
Daniel: No, but if I really had to break it down I'd say it's maybe a combination of like space rock and psychedelic pop and...um...anthem rock?
In Music We Trust: What do you have to say to people who say you guys are more and undesirably 'poppy' than you used to be? What would you say to a critic about that?
Daniel: We're having a hell of a lot of fun, I don't know, I hope it doesn't disturb anybody.
Sarah: I usually say, 'Yes we are,' (matter-of-fact and very, very firm).
In Music We Trust: It definitely takes a lot more discipline to go that place.
Daniel: Yeah, we have been exercising a lot of discipline, that's for sure. Not only that, but as we add new members we add new influence. And everybody has to have a voice, or they...(shrugs) don't need to be there, you know? So, when everybody starts to make their statement, it changes the way the music feels, the pulse, the tempo, depth of the emotion, and the direction it moves in. And lately, with this combination of people, it seems to be getting very anthemic and poppy, with a lot more hooks and vocals. We're starting to focus more on lyrics, orchestration and arrangement so that we can do more of it in a set. I think it's been pretty successful. We've done really good locally...We do have an issue with playing out of town, you know, we're kind of like a big fish in a little pond. That's the one big thing working against us. We're good in our own backyard, you know, but we need to get out and tour.
In Music We Trust: Where do you want to go?
Daniel: We'd like to go to Europe. I think we'd do really well in Europe. All the bands we've played with from Europe, and all the bands we played with who've played in Europe seem to think we'd be great there.Pop Direction and Special Gifts
In Music We Trust: How has each new member contributed their own special vibe or gift to what KBA is now? Erick, how about you?
Erick: Oh, I don't know. If nothing else, they had a bass player when I joined. (He smiles modestly) I think Daniel would be the best person to ask.
Daniel: Solid. He's a solid person, first and foremost, and second, he's melodic. And he can groove. He's not afraid to be adventurous and get weird. He's got extreme focus, and, he's handsome. Actually, this whole lineup that we've got is super intense, awesome. We're totally getting off on it, we're digging it, and people seem to like it.
In Music We Trust: And Sarah? What's your special gift?
Sarah: I'm still here (smiles).
Daniel: Actually, that's got to be everybody's biggest skill, that's the hardest part about being in a rock and roll band is being together in the same room, you know? Especially when instruments are not ringing out. It takes practice. And to practice well, you need to work together, always.
(Back to Sarah)...[But] she can't drive. If she wasn't such a great fuckin' guitar player, she'd have been kicked out a long time ago.
In Music We Trust: And Pete?
Daniel: He's brought a lot of interesting footwear into the band (eyeing the oversized thong-affair on his cast).
Pete: I don't know. I think that the good thing about the keyboard for me is that it's a mainly melodic instrument, at least the way I play it.
In Music We Trust: And singing?
Pete: Singing's pretty fun, I enjoy doing that if I can at the same time. And, I don't know, mainly, just having written a bunch of songs, I have a lot of arrangement ideas I suppose.
In Music We Trust: Daniel, how is it having another songwriter who can contribute ideas to song structure and arrangement?
Daniel: Oh, it's great. Everybody's trying a hand at it, too. (He looks around, grinning) Everybody's got a fucking opinion.
Pete: But only one matters.
Daniel: (laughing, takes the affectionate banter in stride) But you know what, we use anything and everything. I think we all try and encourage each other to explore as many options as possible and then choose the best path. Once again, distill, distill.
Pete: We were talking one time about the pop direction of the band, Daniel and I were, and it just seems to me that Daniel's always had a kind of pop sensibility but the earlier lineups weren't really on that same wavelength. They were more dreamy, slower, and then this lineup, everyone is a little more pop-oriented so we're kind of enabling that side of his songwriting to come out more.
Daniel: And encouraging it.
Pete: And we're not so good at the ambient stuff. It seems like we're a lot better at getting pop songs out and have some difficulty in comparison doing the slow songs - which I love, like the Sunlit record (1996, CS). I kind of wish we could do that. We haven't really hit that level yet.
Daniel: I just feel like we've gotten off so much on the songs that we're doing that we just haven't had a chance to explore that. But in a live set, we're still doing twenty minute songs, and half-hour long songs. We've just keep getting off on these psychedelic, I guess, rock and roll songs and just taking it way out.
In Music We Trust: Your sets are so different from show to show. Before a set, do you get together and plan it out or does the set just sort of evolve on stage?
Daniel: Both. We try to plan out as much as possible, but no matter what, stuff's going to happen. Somebody's not going to hear it to make their change, or somebody's just getting off on their groove, and we'll have to follow them. Or sometimes, we're just feeling it and we want to stretch it out. Other times, like the other night at Berbati's, Scott broke his snare head and so he was just playing all of it on the toms and we had to just improvise the last ten, fifteen minutes of the set.
In Music We Trust: I didn't notice, I don't think the audience did, either.
Pete: Me neither. I kept thinking, 'When's he gonna' change? What the hell's he doing?" And I finally looked over and realized, 'Oh, there's no snare drum. Interesting. I guess I'll change.' It was funny.
In Music We Trust: Pete, how was it to have a second keyboardist come in.
Pete: It was good because I've never been into analog synths in any way, and I didn't know anything about it. I've always liked piano and organ, in their natural form. And I think at first it was kind of a push for me to do some of that stuff...And so I was kind of relieved in a way when Sean came in, because he obviously had a mastery of it. I think that sound's important to the band, it's something that was missing, so I feel like I can just keep doing what I'm doing.Scott
("There's Scott!" The front door opens and Scott hurries into the room, a snare under his arm.)
Daniel: With a snare! He wants to finish the song! Right now.
In Music We Trust: We were just talking about the Berbati's show.
Daniel: And the two keyboardists. Pete's very good at the organ, and the Rhodes piano, you know, the heavy feel of that, and the hand organ, and the melotrone stuff. And Sean is really good at the analog synthesizer he plays, an old Roland SH-1. It's got that sort of Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here" sound. Lot's of filter sweeps and atmospheric stuff. He can do really beautiful, haunting, melodic lines on it as well.
In Music We Trust: I've heard that observation made quite often.
Daniel: Well, the second record we did, Sunlit, has got a lot of that Pink Floyd reference. A few of us have mentioned that before. Definitely was an influence on me. I've listened to a lot of Pink Floyd, well, everything up till The Wall, that is.
Sarah: I really haven't listened to a lot of Pink Floyd, but I kept hearing that reference. And one guy was like, 'don't ever listen to middle-era Pink Floyd because you're gonna hear it.'
In Music We Trust: What do the rest of you think?
Pete: It's better that than Toto. It's better to be compared to Pink Floyd than to Toto in Kansas. Somebody compared us to that recently, and...
Daniel: I think it was a little dis. I think it was friendly, though.
Peter: I've also heard 'spiritualized,' as a reference, which I think is pretty apt.
Daniel: A little bit of Santana in there, a little bit of Wire, some Television, some Velvet Underground...
Sarah: CCR. (Laughter)
Daniel: Some Credence Clearwater, Neil Young...
In Music We Trust: I don't remember when, I think it was at Satyricon, you guys played a seamless set without any breaks between songs. That was good.
Daniel: Maybe we should do that again.
Scott: That was our first show, actually.
Sarah: With the Starseed Transmission.
Scott: It used to be kind of like a common practice, at least with the other lineups, to plan out a set to be seamless.
Daniel: Three twenty-minute songs, yeah. Usually we have to work backwards. Usually most of our songs are written as individual movements of one big, long thing, then we slowly start to break it apart and make matchless songs.
In Music We Trust: Well, we talked a lot about you when you were gone, Scott.
Scott: I'm sure you did.
Daniel: About the drummer who's always late.
In Music We Trust: We spoke of your multi-talented ability to play just about anything.
Scott: I don't know that I could pick up and play anything, but I guess I have a pretty well-rounded background. I have diversity, yes, I think that's what people I've played with have appreciated.
In Music We Trust: Are you going to start singing backup as well?
Scott: No, I don't sing. I think it's kind of an Adamo family thing, we're best off if we don't sing.
Daniel: He drives a pickup truck like a mother fucker. (Scott laughs.) He can sing - he just gets into playing and then he forgets to sing, or then he starts singing and then he forgets to sing. So he's just doing drums full-on.
Scott: It's hard. I like to sing, but I think like Daniel said, for me to sing, I have to make sacrifices and compromise, just like everyone else does, but for me, drums really come first.
In Music We Trust: From the veteran standpoint, how was it to go into the studio for the Into The Sun EP for the first time with Pete and Erick?
Scott: Oh, it was great because, I don't know if Daniel mentioned, pretty much all the other KBA albums came together in like two days. You know, real quick productions. And not a whole lot of - like these guys had a lot of stuff in the lead than members of the previous lineup ever had. It seems like there's a lot of passion they put into the songwriting and playing. It just makes a world of difference.
In Music We Trust: In asking Sarah about her special contribution to the band, she answered that she was still here. I wondered if you had any words about Sarah's unique gifts.
Scott: I don't think KBA would have kept going if it wasn't for Sarah. Roger Campos was a pretty tough player to replace, especially for the type of music that we do. Sarah was just a real lucky score who added a lot of fuel to keep us going.Into the Future
In Music We Trust: So define the future. You spoke of space rocking into the future, you've got the new album coming up, you're looking to tour more, perhaps in Europe, what would you like to see happen after this album comes out?
Daniel: Just to be able to play more shows, play in front of more people, and be able to make more music. With our studio - we're slowly building up a home studio - whether we're doing demos or finishing or augmenting records, we just want to continue to grow and work together as a team and fuck shit up.
In Music We Trust: What can people anticipate on the new album? What can they look forward to hearing? Favorite songs that will be on there?
Daniel: I don't know, I know I'm just looking forward to getting it done and getting it out there so we can move on. We've been working on it for so long that when we went in to do the basics, we were in the middle of replacing members, so a lot of the members have been sort of adding more parts as we're finishing the record, and vice-versa, you know, finishing the record as we're adding new members. And because of the way we did it here at the house, with equipment and money and time, and having to play shows, and having the skills to play the bills and all of that, it's just taken a long time. And so, I personally am just really looking forward to getting it out there, having people hear it, then telling me what their favorite song is, what they like or don't like about it. I really don't know, I'm just too close to the music to have any opinion about it.
In Music We Trust: What do you think, Sean as the newest member who's the furthest away from the music in a sense, at this point?
Sean: I think it's great. I think people are really going to be impressed. It doesn't sound anything like any other KBA record, that's for damn sure.
In Music We Trust: What are some of the strongest differentiating characteristics?
Sean: It's much richer. There are a lot of tracks. In every song there are a lot of parts. Daniel spends insane amounts of time making that stuff sound good, insane. It sounds good, and our engineer is great, he's got a really good ear. The stuff just sounds amazing...they're all really good songs. Everything I've heard off the record is something that I would definitely buy if I wasn't in the band, definitely.
Scott: I think this record's going to have a good response. As opposed to having just two days to make an album like in the past, you can't necessarily create and track everything you hear in your head. If you have an idea for a song, it's pretty much dictated by finances and time. I think this record comes a lot closer to what's envisioned. Having the luxury of Daniel, or whoever, being able to go into the studio and do those extra frills, is at least a step in that direction. And the next record will be even more-
Daniel: -Fucked up.
Sarah: It's nice being able to spend eight hours recording just vocal tracks, taking extra time to work something out. And it's not like you're just wasting time - like something else isn't going to get done because you played on this song a lot. And you can come up with these really weird, wacky things, and you never know. It might get cut, or you might come up with something cool that you never thought of. You're not just concentrating on the basics - you have more time to focus on aspects of your performance.
Daniel: Recording is an art form, just like playing live is. It's a different art form, but it's similar, and we've approached this recording a lot like playing live...we have some structures...and within those structures we move and shift melodies around, slow stuff down and speed it up. And as we do that, the new members start experimenting on these recordings and finding their own voice live. Each song makes more distinct statements whereas our first couple of albums were...like one big statement. Each song has a different kind of feel to it. Some of them are dark, and some are more upbeat. Different places. More dimensional. We've sort of added dimensions and still retained a lot of that KBA, hypnotic, spacey, trancey, experimental low-vibe wizardry.
In Music We Trust: How many night s a week do you practice?
Daniel: We average about 6-8 hours of practice a week on a good week.
In Music We Trust: More demanding than any of the other groups that you guys have played with? (collective nod.)
Sarah: Generally, it's pretty unheard of. Just in talking with other people. It doesn't seem like very much when you're doing it because there's always so much more every time. You hit ten and you're really tired, but you want to keep going.
Daniel: I think we all realize that we see the fruits of our labor in our live shows. And the chemistry we create onstage hopefully will help us in the long run when we do get to go out and tour places like Europe, Australia, Japan, South America, Antarctica...
In Music We Trust: With six people practicing three times a week and playing out nearly every two weeks, you seem to be making an impact on people's interests.
Daniel: As long as we just continue to challenge ourselves, and bring those songs to the stage and then take those songs to the brink of chaos, you know, just taking them out there. I know that to some people it seems kind of foreign, taking the more hypnotic songs to the brink of chaos, but they can [go there] and I think we can do it.Girl-Guys
In Music We Trust: Sarah, is it strange to be the only girl in the band? Do your band mates pick on you more because of that?
Daniel (interjects): She is so swell. And yes, she gets picked on.
Sarah: It's a lot better in this band than it's been in other bands, and this is the biggest bunch of girl-guys I've ever had the pleasure of hanging out with. None of the things that you would think would be issues are issues at all. It's not really an issue.
Daniel: We can fight like brothers and sisters, which means, that we can rock.
In Music We Trust: Without weird, sexist politics at play?
Sarah: Yeah, I've had that before, in other bands, and it's not like that in this band at all. Yeah, it's really nice.
In Music We Trust: I imagine a lot of young women admire you for being up there with so many guys.
Daniel: Fuckin' playing a mean guitar, too, and just fuckin' shit up.
Pete: It doesn't seem weird to me anymore. This is the third band I've been in that had women members, you know, and to me it's not even an issue at all.
Daniel (in a bad Bush impression): It's just right. Havin' girls to rock with is just the right thang to do.
In Music We Trust: You're great onstage, especially when you put up with shit from the guys about keeping your hair down.
Sarah: I'd like to reinstate the ten dollars thing, though. The original deal was, I think, a drink, a pack of cigarettes, and ten bucks...