The KVB transmission
Beautiful noise, chemistry and texture, intensity and reflection, both sonically and visually, these are some of the assets of The KVB’s music. Kat and Nick are an electronic shoegaze couple from UK, now based in Berlin. The duo is a living proof that perseverance and experimentation, collaborating with different music labels leads to a healthy touring life for a band. The KVB is affiliated with labels such as Invada Records, Clan Destine, Cititrax, Downwards.
Congrats for the wonderful things you are doing, both sound wise and optically, and for the amazing prowess you are proving, with more than seven albums and nine singles and EP’s in seven years and guest artists such as Geoff Barrow of Portishead, his Invada Records soundtrack label and Anton Newcombe, the experimentalist and visionary from The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
We are pretty DIY. You are not the first person to talk about our prolific-ness. When it comes to releasing and producing music we like to do it with our own hands and minds. Other people from more successful bands have said they envy our independence. They don’t get the same freedom from their label/other band members etc. Our attitude and freedom has its benefits and its pitfalls, but it’s something Invada Records, the indie label we’re working with, fully supports. They are very much a soundtrack label too, so their business strategy is unlike of a normal recording label. They go hand in hand with our synesthetic approach for visual and music. Because of my vision as a video artist (Kat is playing synths, programming and doing the visual art and installations for live KVB performances), visuals are very important for us and through that we’ve made relationships with directors such as Peter Strickland, who made the video for our Never Enough song. We love his work, as a director he is an incredibly talented artist. The intention he has with visuals is something we’ve found affinity with: graceful, slow strict camera movement and beautiful textures. It’s just amazing that Strickland came to us as a fan to do our video.
What other personalities in music and culture have you connected with? Did Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth hook-up with you?
We reached people by ourselves and through our label, Invada Records. By luck we connected with the right people and then came other connections. Somehow we managed to collaborate with inspirations of ours like Anton Newcombe from The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Geoff Barrow. People seem to like us for a variety of reasons.
It’s funny: we are couple for six years now and I think this is where our chemistry, which people appreciate the most, comes from. But we’re not sure it is something everyone can do, you know working and living together all the time. But there are plenty of good examples of couples working well together, for example the psychedelic chanson band Cat’s Eyes, who are a couple too: she is a Canadian opera singer and musician, and he is the frontman of band The Horrors. Also Ben Wheatley, the British film director who made movies like Free Fire, High Rise, A Field in England, Kill List and Sightseers, he works collaboratively with his writer wife. We think that is somehow the best way to create: alongside the people that understand you the most, the ones close to you. It’s a cool thing to keep a balance in that, not to drag the professional into the personal all the time. Keep business, business. Nick knows my brain he completes my sentences sometimes. He helps me when I tend to have problems with remembering people’s names.
So Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth is not a hook-up. We were put together by circumstances a few times now. We played together at the Primavera Festival in Porto, then the Popkultur Festival in Berlin the month before and here in Romania. They are the loveliest people though and we keep bumping into each other with pleasure. We don’t work with the same booking agency of whatever, there is nothing relating us at all. It’s a nice surprise for us too that we keep playing together. You could say we are following them.....hahaha.
In movies and cinema how was it for you these last couple of years? Expecting some more ABBA covers by Portishead like everyone else? Do you think the work of J. G. Ballard will be more recurring in music and cinema?
High Rise is a cinema high definitely. Every frame of that film is beautiful. We’ve been fans of that book for a while and were happy that Ben Wheatley directed it because we love his work too. The book is disorientating and he managed to encapsulate that in the movie which is weird, bizarre and great. The colors, textures and composition are exquisite. It feels like a dystopian future dream. Clint Mansell’s orchestral score is also superb. We also recently watched Neon Demon, which visually is beautiful and impressive but we didn’t find the storyline as engaging. The soundtrack was really good though, with amazing synths by Cliff Martinez who is a fantastic composer.
We also love other dystopian works such as Black Mirror, which recently moved from channel 4 to a larger budget with Netflix. Some of the soundtrack works that Geoff Barrow and Cliff Martinez scored for this series has come out on Invada too.
Talking about Netflix. How did you like Stranger Things?
Charlie who plays the older brother is actually a friend of ours back from when we lived in London. We weren’t expecting to see his face when we first watched it, but it was a cool surprise! He actually used to be in a good indie band called Comanechi. He doesn’t play with them anymore but he still drums. The Strange Things soundtrack is out on Invada Records too, at least in Europe.
Netflix has been on a constant rise with most of their series going popular. Although Amazon are trying to compete and have bought and been remaking the horror Suspiria, the Dario Argento movie from the seventies. It is going to be a series with Tilda Swinton and with a score by Thom Yorke so should be interesting…. but the original is so good, we feel that you can’t remake it!
Do you know that Danny Brown has an album called Atrocity Exhibition out, with textures of hip-hop mixed with post-punk, inspired by J. G Ballard? How do you feel about hip hop?
We have seen that about Danny Brown has called his record Atrocity Exhibition, but we haven’t read that novel yet. We read a lot from him and our favourite is High Rise. It's not unusual I guess for artists to be inspired by Ballard, as he has inspired a lot of artists in the past too, such Warm Leatherette by Daniel Miller’s The Normal.
Nick: About hip-hop, when I was seven years old, I used to listen to a lot of it. My older brother, who was twenty then, was some sort of west coast hip-hop fan, of NWA, Ice Cube and Ice-T. I liked those songs a long time and it’s had a lasting effect because I do like sampling and this is one of the reasons why. But only with time I began to understand what all those songs were about. But the first vinyls that I’ve ever received and owned were NWA, Ice-T and Ice Cube. I got handed down this collection from my brother and I would get and stick hip-hop posters on the wall and listen to this gangsta rap. That’s my musical start right there.
I know you have collaborated with one of Berlin’s underground icons, Mark Reeder. Can you talk a little about what Berlin represents for you?
With Mark we have met at our shows in Berlin and he likes and support us so when he invited us to be on his latest album Mauerstadt we had to say yes. We did a song together called In Sight and which is on his new album.
Kat: When I first been to Berlin at 18 my first thought was “I have to live here!”. There’s a lot of people from all over the world living in Berlin, it feels like a melting pot of cultures. We lived in London before for 5 years but there is a quality of life that Berlin gives you in comparison to London. Berlin gives you the freedom and the space to make music and London doesn’t. I mean there is a lot of great music in London, about 50 good bands playing there every night, so it’s always fantastic, and our scene is also fantastic in London, but eventually you just wonder why? You have to tour all the time to pay for your rent for a tiny room in South London. We suddenly decided it is enough and we moved to Berlin.
So we have been living in Berlin for three years now. Our latest album Of Desire has a little bit of Berlin creeping in. It’s not even intentional, the environment sinks into your skin, bloodstream and goes to your brain and then pops out. We think that travelling in general sinks into everything. Because you hear new music from everywhere and it definitely feeds in everything. We are very lucky to travel quite a lot to weird places that other bands don’t go to.
What tours have left a mark on you in your career up until now? Did you headline your latest shows?
We are very lucky that we have played in a lot places all over the world. For example, we like playing Eastern Europe a lot. The crowds here are excellent. We have headlined our Asian tour, and performed in South Africa and Latin America. It’s very easy for a two piece, we are economical and travel “light”. We also did a DJ set at a festival. We always Dj at home in Berlin, in a friends bar, but we’ve never done it before at a festival. We sometimes DJ at a bar called Das Gift and our friend is Barry from Mogwai, who lives in Berlin now, he’s from Glasgow originally and is fantastically funny. Everyone that works at Das Gift seems to be from Glasgow actually!
Kat: I am from Yorkshire in Northern England and I think it is weird we just don’t play England very much and play Europe more. We played Russia like, more times than Scotland, five times now. Moscow is one of our favorite cities to play in the world. People there have a deep appreciation of music, and are excited about it. I think they just love music! Paris is also another favorite city of us to play.
Again about touring, playing Australia with Brian Jonestown Massacre was also a really fantastic new and different experience. We played eight shows across Australia including Melborne, Perth and even Hobart in Tazmania.
We’ve been to places like Tenerife, Malta and Sicily and think that island people are the craziest. They party harder than anyone.
What a coincidence! I wanted to ask you if you could pick an island where to record a new album which would you choose? Jamaica, Australia, Madagascar, Iceland or maybe Greenland?
We would pick Easter Island, where the huge heads are. None has ever done it. It needs to be some weird island in the middle of nowhere, or maybe something like Galapagos. Japan or Iceland would be fantastic too though, I would love to go there. The landscape looks so inspiring!
Of course Britain is also an island. Ireland too, we haven’t even been there. We got to these weird places like Tasmania, but never got to Ireland. Never played in Wales either!
Would you make a documentary about the band’s history or the people around you, the whole community of friends and peers around The KVB? I have Mark Reeder’s B-Movie in mind. You’ve seen it right?
Yes of course, some of our friends are on the soundtrack actually, Velvet Condom. They are called Liste Noire now, they changed their name. They are French and have lived in Berlin a long time now. They have a dark sound that fits them perfectly within B-Movie.
The thought for a documentary with our touring life crossed our minds. Usually there is always me with a camera (Kat). So then it would be just about Nick, hahaha. We need someone else to come with us, maybe to capture what we do. Sometimes we have a friend that comes with us and makes beautiful photographs. He was supposed to come with us in Romania now but something came up.
You’ve mentioned a strong connection between your debut songs and your latest album. Can you please explain that and introduce the Of Desire to the new public?
Nick: This album was quite long in the making. We’ve been demoing songs and collecting ideas for this LP since 2012. In 2015 we did three different sessions at the Invada Studio in Bristol, Geoff Barrow’s studio. He just let us use the studio and all his synths.
One of favourite synths of Geoff’s is the Oberheim two-voice synth, he has 4 or 5 of them as backups for when he plays in Portishead and you can see all the little tape/written reminders he has for different songs. It felt very special to play them. Also, when rummaging through a box of pedals we found the q1c , by a small company called BugBrand based in Bristol. You can feedback the signal back into the pedal and make some beautiful sonic waves of noise, and I now have my own PT Delay, which forms part of my live setup. We used this pedal with Nicks voice on a few of the songs, to process some interesting feedback.
Besides that, other effects we got to use lots of old tape echo machines, including the Roland chorus echo and used instruments such as the Juno 106, Korg Micro-Preset (which is very much Geoff other band Beak>’s sound), Farfisa Organ and Sequential Circuits drum machine.
For us it has been the best received album both live and praised by critics as a studio work. Now that it is over, we feel we’ve learned a lot in the recording process. We feel like we’ve stepped up to all the recordings we did in the past. Now when we are recording demos and stuff we know how to make things better. Hopefully our future releases will reflect our growth.
Kat: Visually we are always interested on texture and ideas surrounding the haptic, so these visuals encompass working with game design programs, building 3d spaces and animating them. So there are textures of additional landscapes that I love, put through different machines, sort of traces of consumption of those images. I have feed them through filters and spat them out again by reprocessing through different cameras, screens and programs. I try to get as many textures, colors and nuances you can get. All the glitches and digital waves of pixels are really the experience we seek to create and making them a full body experience. In combination with the synths and the guitars, we are making it overwhelming, immersive and haptic.
How far you see The KVB going and what explorations you would imagine for yourselves in the upcoming future?
We don’t know, we are just going to take each year as it comes. We have no long time arrangement plans and with the years gone by, we haven’t lost any commitment of energy to what we do so far.
Kat: I make all the visuals for the live show and i think we’ve done some of our best work to date since living in Berlin. It is great having that space mentally, rather than worrying how you will pay the rent.
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