Alter The Press!


Interview: Kaki King

Alter The Press! managed to sit down with Brooklyn's own Kaki King whilst in the UK with the release of her new album, 'Junior'.

Kaki spoke to ATP about her new album, favorite places in the UK/Europe, signing to Rounder Records in the US, the possibility of future collaborations, her cover of The Cure's 'Close To Me' being used a commerical for Nivia facial cream in the UK and more.

Alter The Press: You're back in the UK/Europe with the release of 'Junior'. Why did you choose to release it here, over a month and a half earlier, than in the US?
Kaki King: It was really just the way the tours got set up. We knew this tour would happen before the American tour, and we have really good label support both here and in the US, and they just wanted to do all the press they can to release the record in conjunction with tour, like the old fashioned way I suppose. I think our US release is a really good date, April 13th, to put out a record, but I don't know why. Things get changed, especially when dealing with two different labels, they are not always talking to each other about everything, but we worked it out just before these dates; it got out here, and then we'd release it in America right before we tour.

ATP: You've toured in the UK/Europe many times. Do you have any favorite places, in particular, you like to visit or play?
Kaki: We love Italy, and try to get there as much as possible, but this time we only get to do two dates. I'm getting to know Germany a lot more and it's great. The first time on this tour, we are going to Scandinavia, and then there's of course, Holland, where most people only play one show, but we are playing four, probably more if we wanted. It's really hard, there isn't really a single city that's total shit. I think Milan is kind of shit though, I really like the people, but that town is so ugly. I just answered the total opposite of what you've just asked!

ATP: How would you compare your last record, 'Dreaming Of Revenge,' to 'Junior'?
Kaki: I think, 'Dreaming Of Revenge', is a very well composed, interesting record. There are string arrangements, very well thought out guitar parts. I named the record 'Junior' for a reason. It's not to meant to sound juvenile by any means, it's a less complicated sound and people usually say, 'Oh, it's the next step in your evolution', and it's really not. This is a step to the side, and me going: 'I'm not going to over do this, I'm not going to over think this, I'm just going to do a record and challenge myself to write some more ‘poppier' songs.' That's what it's really about. I think it still sounds like me; it’s still songs I would have recorded on the record.

ATP: You recorded the majority of the album in a live setting. Did you prefer doing this compared to laying down each individual part?
Kaki: It was a new thing for me and I wanted to do it this way. I think all the basic tracks, like bass, drums, guitar, were all done live, for the majority, and the vocals were done later. I wrote these songs and the band (Jordan Perlson, drums and Dan Brantigan, EVI and various) really arranged things. They helped me move things round, and get my mind sorted about the songs; it was really cool. It only made sense, to have written them in a live setting together, to record them in a live setting together.

ATP: There were many instruments used with 'Dreaming Of Revenge'. How many were used on this album?
Kaki: Far fewer, a lot less I suppose. We did a lot of crazy things on 'Dreaming Of Revenge', using kitchen utensils, metal bowls full of coins, all kinds of crazy stuff we didn't list. This was more straight up and we used the tools of rock and roll. My producer kept saying, 'No jiggery pokery ', which is some sort of Canadian euphemism, I don't know what for, but it started to make sense over time.

ATP: Was it just the three of you performing on the album?
Kaki: My old drummer, Matt Hankle, performed drums on 'Falling Day,' and the producer also played some piano and bass on one of the songs. Other then that, that was it.

ATP: You've signed to Rounder Records in the US. Why the switch from Velour Records?
Kaki: They manage me still; they're a management company, which was also a label. I think because nowadays the nature of being a record label is so very difficult. Now they are starting they're own festivals and were like, 'Look, we are going to move away from this.' We talked about loads of different scenarios for how we were going to do the record, and it turned out, in the end, because Rounder is such a small interesting label. They did that Alison Krauss/Robert Plant record, it was huge, they've done very well and they had the backing and support for us. It's a good deal, they didn't want the "360", a cut of my merch and all that. They were very generous and a very respected label, so we decided to stick with that.

ATP: Your cover of The Cure's 'Close To Me' was recently featured in the commercial for Nivea facial cream in the UK. How did this happen?
Kaki: I've had a lot of experience doing demos for ads, you get demo money, and that's fine with me, and I've been so close to getting a song on an ad. It's always endless back and forth, and they always want you to do something else, and it can go on and on. I like being a studio musician at times; sometimes it totally wears on you, so I've ended it mostly. Back in the day, I played a lot on demos for commercials but this happened in a flash, it was like, 'Hey, can you send us the high AIFF of 'Close To Me' because they want it for this commercial in the UK' and I was like, 'Whatever, I've heard this before' and then they said, 'Alright, can you do an instrumental version because they want to take the song'. It was so simple; I couldn't believe it.

The original track was recorded for a charity record of Cure covers and it's kind of odd, this thing I did took me a couple of hours. It's funny because it sounds so lo-fi, it sounds like we put so much thought into it, but we really didn't, and now it's being used by this corporation to promote their giant products. What's cool about it is that, a part of money is going back into the label that originally done it, which goes back into the charity, I'm all for that.

ATP: In 2008, you recorded an EP with The Mountain Goats. Any plans for any future collaborations?
Kaki: I've collaborated a lot, and done a lot interesting things with a lot of diverse people, but right now, the only date I'm thinking about is May 25th, the final show of this entire tour. We have very few days off, and I have no idea what I'm going to do after, but I'm definitely going to need a little rest. Things happen along the way. Recently, I met a bunch of interesting people that I've always wanted to meet, that live like right down the road from me. I think, moving forward, collaborations are going to be based on friendship as opposed to, 'this makes sense for you to work with this person'.

ATP: You announced 'Everybody Loves You' is going to be released on vinyl. Is there any update on this?
Kaki: Our intension was to have the copies ready for our US tour, but we should be able to send some over so you can order it in the UK as opposed to importing it. It's not going to be distributed, I'll just have them then sell them on the road and the merch website. There are only 500 manufactured, but I wouldn't say they would be available until April 15th. The reason I'm doing it, is because this record was my demos, back in the day, and for some reason there is some kind of magic about it. Some people use it to test sound systems sometimes because of the purity, there isn't really anything going on except for guitar, not much reverb and other junk. It was licensed with Velour for five years and it was up. I sat and thought about it for a while, and thought the best thing to do was make some vinyl.

ATP: What is planned after the US tour?
Kaki: February was a really busy month for me, and then this tour is taking up every brain cell, there are so many different things going on. I would imagine, more touring and summer festivals. It's weird because I didn't think I would be going back to Australia anytime soon, because I was there in January. When you start off a project like this, you don't know what to expect to happen and what blows up. Nivea was thinking about releasing, 'Close To Me', as a single here and I'm like, 'Whatever'.

ATP: Will you be coming back for a full headline run?
Kaki: I don't know, but I'd imagine in the fall. We have to come back to the UK but maybe it would be supporting someone big. I'm not quite sure.

'Junior' is out now on Cooking Vinyl and April 14th on Rounder Records.

- Jon Ableson

Alter The Press!