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INTERVIEW: Kite Base on fostering creativity through restrictions and stirring up the synth scene

Laura  Barnes
INTERVIEW: Kite Base on fostering creativity through restrictions and stirring up the synth scene

Experimenting with a traditional band setup is nothing new. And it’s something that has always fascinated me.

I can distinctly remember when I was a teenager and I found out The White Stripes were just drums and guitar and being amazed by the massive sound Jack and Meg managed to create.

When I first saw a live performance of Wye Oak, I couldn’t believe the drummer was also playing ALL of the keys/bass synths as well as his actual drum kit – all at the same time.

I was fascinated when I learnt about how the late, great Ricky Wilson (The B-52’s guitarist, not the Kaiser Chief) made up for the lack of a bass player by taking out the two middle strings of his guitar and essentially separating the instrument into guitar and bass sections with his own unique tuning.
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And don’t even get me started on the downright ingenious way Jamie Hince from The Kills plucks his guitar strings like a harpist, creating various riffs running alongside each other.

As I was trying to name all the bands I know that are breaking out of the traditional ‘drums, bass, guitar, vocal’ set up, one thing became clear: Most of them are bands without bassists.

And that’s why Kite Base is one of the most intriguing bands to pop up on the London music scene for quite some time.

Kite Base is Kendra Frost and Savages’ Ayse Hassan. And they are both bassists.

“When we found out that we both play bass and we’re both into electronics, we knew we had to do something together,” says Frost as she details how this project came about.

“I remember at the time Ayse saying she wondered how it was going to work with the frequencies and if she should shift to guitar. But we decided to stick to what we know and just go with it.

“We were aware that it would be a slightly different take and there are some great bands out there who use two basses, like Delta 5. We wanted to pursue it and see what we could do. There was a high chance it was going to fall flat on its face.”

With the band set to release its first single on Flashback Records – a limited run of 500 7-inches featuring tracks Soothe and Dadum – it’s clear that the project certainly did not fall flat on its face.

In fact, the mighty Trent Reznor has recently tweeted his approval of Kite Base’s cover of Nine Inch Nails track Something I Can Never Have.

“We’re on seventh heaven right now with the response we got from the cover. Trent Reznor tweeted us and it’s made our millennium,” gushes Frost. And she has every right to gush. Not only does Reznor have not far off two million followers on Twitter, but he is also a huge influence on the band.

“Our love for Nine Inch Nails was one of the first things that made our friendship. I don’t think we’d be doing what we’re doing if it wasn’t for NIN to be honest,” admits Frost.

As I mentioned earlier, Hassan is the bass player in post-punk revival band Savages. The four-piece has been on the up since the release of their debut album, 2013’s critically acclaimed Silence Yourself.

Savages’ sophomore album Adore Life was released earlier this year. It has just been shortlisted for the 2016 Mercury Prize, up against huge names such as David Bowie’s Blackstar and Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool.

So to say Hassan is busy is somewhat of an understatement. “Kite Base was always on the cards when we met, it just took a few years to get around to it, what with the amazing success of Savages. Ayse’s been juggling the two ever since,” says Frost, who herself has performed in a barbershop quartet-style singing group for many years, but insists that all her eggs are in one basket now with Kite Base.

Musically, Kite Base consists of two bass guitars, one drum machine and Frost taking the lead vocals with some accompaniment by Hassan. Oh, and there’s also a LOT of pedals.

“I’ve got a plethora of pedals. Most of them are distortion, but they’re all slightly different and all are very important,” jokes Frost. “Ayse’s a Fender girl and I’m using a Stingray so we’ve got different tones. All of our beats come from a Dave Smith Instruments Tempest – we call him Alan, he’s our third band member.

“That machine has pretty much changed my life. I’d never programmed before so I thought I’d jump in and see how it went. It’s taken a good year and half to get the nuts and bolts and I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. I learn something every day on it.”

Despite being so fond of ‘Alan’, Frost says the band wouldn’t be averse to working with other musicians, but probably only in a studio situation.

“If we got some backing behind us and someone said we could have a great drummer come in for a session that would be great, But Kite Base will always be the two of us. It just makes sense. We work so well together and the dynamic is good and that’s a really hard balance to get.”

For the time being, Frost reveals that Kite Base has an album that’s waiting in the wings: “It’s done, it’s ready, it’s mastered. We’re just working out the best way to release it and what’s best to do with it.”

Frost says writing the album was an interesting challenge, and throwing two basses into the mix means you have to come up with a whole different approach to writing songs.

“I like working with restrictions. You have to be a lot more creative. There’s something about sitting in front of a laptop with Pro Tools and there’s a million different ways you can go with it. It completely stumps me. But when you have just two basses, you know you can’t go play in the same region so you have to get creative,” she explains.

Listening to the tracks Kite Base as released so far, the two bassists have done an impressive job of complimenting each other’s instrument without sounding too muddy. With notable nods to NIN and full of intricate trip-hop-style beats, Frosts vocal soar over the music reminiscent of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons.

With tracks Dadum and Soothe bringing about a dose of synth nostalgia, Frost says that she’s started to notice a ‘nice community feeling’ in the synth crowd of late: “It’s nice to feel there’s some kind of movement again. Maybe not so much a resurgence, but a new wave of looking at things electronically.”

Speaking about getting into the electronic music scene, Frost reminisces about ‘the early days’ when she was first discovering synths and how she was faced with some snobbery.

“Going into music instrument shops is hugely intimidating. Nowadays it seems a lot are aware of that and there’s some amazing places that are super helpful. We got the Tempest from Funky Junk, they’re super lovely guys. No stigma there whatsoever.

“Back in the day, as a girl, there was times when you didn’t get served, you didn’t get looked at. There’s a lot of snobbery, which is a real shame. If you want to try and make music elitist that’s you prerogative, but I’m sorry, the whole of the Punk movement was based on emotion and picking something up and making a noise and that’s what interests both of us.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love getting more technically skilled at things, but I feel overwhelmed by knowing too much. I like the accidents that happen along with way.”

Kite Base’s debut single Soothe/Dadum will be released on Flashback Records on October 14th.

The band will be touring the UK in September, check out all the dates here.

In the meantime, check out the videos for Kite Base’s single Dadum as well as their cover of NIN’s Something I Can Never Have below:

Tags: Interviews , Kite Base

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