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Escape Velocity

Drone Bomb: An Interview With The KVB
Ben Graham , November 12th, 2013 04:37

With their new mini-album Minus One released this month, Ben Graham catches up with the London based purveyors of dark, industrially-tinged post-punk and psych

"We don't really think of it as being dark that much," mutters Nick Wood, of London's audio-visual drone bombers the KVB. "It just comes out like that."

This is surprising, as to me the KVB's music evokes the ominous chill of abandoned factories; burning wreckage on the post-industrial wasteground just outside of the city; a conflation of romantic betrayal and socioeconomic collapse; end times, and bad things waiting on the periphery, but the kind of bad things that many of us are unerringly drawn to.

"I've always liked the darker side of music, and even bands like the Rolling Stones, 'Paint It Black,' those sorts of songs," Nick admits eventually. "I've always been quite dark; I've always been drawn to that."

Not sure about the Stones comparison; on the basis of their new mini-album, Minus One, the KVB's closest contemporary running mates would be A Place To Bury Strangers and the Soft Moon, while the ghosts of the post-punk era loom large, particularly the Jesus & Mary Chain circa Psychocandy and the washed-out northern gloom typical of Factory Records' roster - Crispy Ambulance, say, and the common ground linking latter-day Joy Division with the New Order of Movement. An insinuating, defensive synthesiser riff snakes across the pounding, rainswept bassline of 'Passing By,' while 'Live and Die' buries a mid-60s garage band melody beneath a collapsing slag heap of distorted guitar feedback. The primitive drum machine pulse maintains a constant tension till closer 'Radiant Hour' fades out on a decidedly elegiac note. It all sounds grimly, gloriously gothic, yet the duo - Nick is partnered with Kat Day on visuals and live synthesiser - fight shy of the term, preferring 'shoegaze' if they have to be labelled at all.

Is 'gothic' a label that would put people off more than 'shoegaze', then?

Kat Day: I think it is.

Nick Wood: Yeah, they're all - I don't know. They're all inevitable, these comparisons and labels. With the shoegaze thing it's kind of inevitable I think, because there is obviously that influence in there, and we can't really deny it. But that gets put on a lot of different music. Even when there are no guitars on some of our songs, it's still like, shoegaze. I guess it can be different, but, yeah, I don't know. It's going to happen.

What are some of the artists that you would've been influenced by?

NW: Well, there's so much, such a broad range, do you know what I mean? For a while it was mainly 60s psych and stuff like that, early garage rock, and as I've got more and more into music I've taken more stuff in. Electronic music - just a broad range of stuff, even contemporary bands that we're friends with; I listen to them as well. I just take everything in, I think.

Okay, putting it another way; did you have an aesthetic in mind for the KVB in advance, which you then write within, or is the KVB just whatever you come up with that's good? Do you have a definite idea of a sound or whatever, however ambiguous that might be?

KD: You've got to remember that a lot of the songs are written like, two years ago, and with a lot of the releases it's some from recently and some from two years ago.

NW: Yeah, there's never really a particular sound in mind, I don't think. It was just whatever I was coming out with, experimenting and playing synths, programming drum machines, just the kind of stuff I wanted to make, basically.

So if you just came up with something that was really quite happy and jaunty, you wouldn't just say, well that's not really the KVB, let's not use that, would you be fine to run with it?

NW: Yeah, we wouldn't mind. As you said, we've got so many songs, and there are quite a lot of songs that are quite - not different, I guess they all kind of come back to the same thing, but on first listen they might be quite poppy or upbeat. It just kind of depends on the mood I think.

Yeah, you are quite prolific; you've done quite a lot of stuff since your first release in May 2010. The KVB started out just with you, Nick, didn't it?

NW: Yeah, it just started out with me. Yeah, we've been recording lots of stuff over the last three years, just constantly, so this is just releasing the backlog, basically.

KD: And there's still like 50 songs unreleased at least, maybe even more. It's growing, ever growing.

And what's your writing process? Does it just come together as you're playing, or is it more considered?

NW: It's quite sort of spontaneous, I guess. I just sort of plug in and yeah, sort of improvise stuff.

KD: We go through almost manic stages of writing like ten songs in one go.

NW: And then we go back over them and refine them a bit. See what needs changing.

Had you been involved in other musical projects before starting the KVB?

NW: Yeah, I played in other bands, but nothing of any note. Just with friends out of school or college.

KD: But he has two other side projects.

Okay.

NW: Yeah. One of them is called Burma Camp, and we've just put out a ten-inch on the label Avian, which is a techno label. It's a bit more of an industrial type thing, a bit different.

KD: And the other one.

NW: Yeah. The other one's stopped now.

KD: Have you decided? You never told me.

Everything I've read about the band suggests that the live visuals are quite important. Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to see you live, and the music I've been listening to has just been downloads, so I haven't really seen the visual side of the band at all. But what is that like, what's the style, what's the look?

KD: It's a mixture between my own footage, my family's footage, and appropriated footage. I'm really interested in the processing of these digital images, and how different layers of media can add its own mark of time, and like, is there a narrative? So all the pixels can be quite haptic, to create a connection with the body. It's almost like a visual attack, because it's really quite glitchy. It kind of moves between glitchy and something quite seductive. So it kind of brings you in and out of some sort of consciousness. I'm not sure, but that's the aim, and I think it complements the music quite well.

The KVB have already toured all across Europe, Russia and the West Coast of America, and have dates in Brazil lined up for the New Year. Not bad for an independent, DIY band still mostly below the mainstream music industry's radar.

NW: Yeah, and we organised it ourselves, with help at the other end, obviously. But mainly through us just getting to know the people.

What sort of response did you get when you were playing in Russia?

KD: It was really good. We were given flowers! That was kind of sweet. The crowd was really, really fun.

NW: It was just really good. It was interesting; it was very different to playing in Europe and the UK. People seemed to really appreciate that we went there. So that was nice.

Do you think that in the last few years it's become easier to just connect with people directly, via digital social networking and blogs and things like that? That you can create a word of mouth buzz among music lovers around the world, and that if you've got the time and energy you can organise it yourselves to go to these places and put stuff out, without having anybody hyping you or organising stuff behind the scenes?

NW: I think it's helped, yeah. I think it's definitely made it easier for us.

KD: Especially when he wasn't playing live shows in the beginning, that was how it spread.

NW: Yeah, I guess there was a small demand from people who wanted to see it live. That's what encouraged me to make it into a live project, just from people contacting us via email and Twitter and that kind of thing. We've been able to hook up with these shows all over the world.

Finally, I read that originally KVB stood for Klaus Von Barrel; have you shifted away from that now?

NW: Yeah, it was just an alias that me and a friend of mine came up with as a joke. Well, not a joke, but just as an alias. And then I just kept it as KVB because it was simple. It was for myself at the beginning, that was why; it was just songs written for myself. I didn't want to put a big name on it, or waste time trying to think of a name that was good.

I think Klaus Von Barrel conjures the idea of one of those early 60s records with German easy listening Oompah versions of popular hits or something.

KD: We've had lots of comparisons, like a wealthy German baron, lots of associations, I don't know.

NW: Yeah. So we're trying to move away a little bit from all of that.

The KVB's Minus One is released on 18th November via A Recordings. To pre-order the album and for more details, click here to visit The KVB's Bandcamp.

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