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Step Right Up: This Is The Kit

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I’m particularly interested in the human voice: it’s the way a song can be performed or transmitted or changed depending on who’s singing it and it’s the voice that particularly interests me.”

— Kate Stables

Words: Mark Carry

 kate stables

A close familiarity and glowing warmth radiates from the music of Kate Stables’ This Is The Kit. The title-track of the band’s latest record, ‘Bashed Out’ (Brassland, 2015) evokes the infinite spell that the age-old tradition of folk music is capable of emitting. The deeply heartfelt ballad gently unfolds like the gradual break of day: the clean, warm guitar tones effortlessly glide across the deep blue textures of Stables’ deeply affecting voice and meditative drum-beat. “Blessed are those who see and are silent” resonates powerfully whose resonant tones hang majestically in the air.

The Bristol-born and Paris based singer-songwriter recorded the band’s ‘Bashed Out’ in Brooklyn with producer Aaron Dessner (The National’s guitarist and frequent collaborator) at his home studio. Joining Stables’ close-knit band of gifted musicians of Rozi Plain, Jesse Vernon and Jamie Whitby-Coles were the gifted musicians from the Brooklyn music scene, Thomas Bartlett (Doveman/The Gloaming), Matt Barrick (The Walkmen) and Ben Lanz (Beirut, The National). Instilled in the beautiful textures and aching pores of ‘Bashed Out’s illuminating folk laments comes a yearning to savor the present moment and absorb life’s magic and beauty in one fleeting step. The banjo-based lament ‘Spores All Settling’ – complete with gorgeous shades of Karen Dalton from another space in time – flickers like an array of hope-filled starlit skies. On the second verse, Stables sings: “So open out and let the clean air in/we’ll wash away/Let’s get some weather in/Soak us through the skin”, and moments later the majestic beauty of a violin-led melody ascends into the mix. The record as a whole feels like a window to the world outside from the viewpoint of a curious, vivacious soul.

The masterful pop gem of ‘Silver John’ reveals the peerless musicianship and immaculate production that lies embedded in the ten glittering creations. Compelling post-rock sounds, a rejuvenating brass section and irresistible groove forms the ideal backdrop to the towering ‘Vitamins’. “All we need is a place to be” quickly becomes the essence of ‘Bashed Out’ as the listener is immersed in the endearing qualities of a songwriter’s unique and rich voice.

‘Bashed Out’ is available now on Brassland.


Interview with Kate Stables.

Please discuss the making of ‘Bashed Out’ and the recording sessions with Aaron Dessner?

Kate Stables: It was great working with Aaron. It was a little bit of a challenge finding time when he was available and when I was available, I think that was the main challenge just because of two busy people who live on opposite sides of the Atlantic which is difficult to co-ordinate [laughs]. But when we were able to overcome that it was a very nice and natural process. He had quite a clear idea of the sound and direction of the songs so all I used to do was play them and sing them and he shaped them into the album. It was really nice being over there and working in his studio with him and he’d bring in friends of his that he likes to work with and so that was nice to meet new people and to work with different guys, it was a real honour.

I presume Kate that the majority of these songs were written before you arrived into the studio?

KS: A few of them I’ve been playing for quite a while and they were all established songs, as it were. But to be honest actually a lot of the songs were unfinished so they could become finished in that context. For the final session we did a few last-minute numbers that were written really recently that I didn’t know if he was going to pick for the album but they were put on the last-minute. Songs like ‘Cold and Got Colder’ was a last-minute add-on and so that worked out quite nice as well. So he found their shape on the album but at the same time they are continuing to change shape with every gig that we do, you know things evolve every time we play them live.

That’s the beauty of it really in the sense that what you hear on any album is only one version of that time but it obviously changes a lot then down the line.

KS: Exactly. I mean for me the album is like this little time capsule of documentation of this collaboration that we had with Aaron and working with him and the chemistry and sounds that came out of that; that’s the album as it were. And then outside of that, the songs just take on their own life and go their own way depending on what we do with them as a band or who joins us in the band or things like that. Sometimes I play solo shows and then of course the vibe of the songs are going to be totally different.

The album’s title-track is really amazing and I love how it’s placed in the middle of the album too.

KS: It was a little bit of a puzzle trying to work out what order to put the songs in but in the end my brain works in a sort of side A and side B way [laughs] so for me it made sense for it to be at the end of side A and then it carries on past that and side B is the second half of the album.

You’ve been involved with other bands and projects over the last few years, I’d love for you to discuss your love of folk music and growing up?

KS: I grew up in a family that listened to a lot of folk music and played a lot of folk music. My parents would often be in bands and band dances and stuff so there were tunes as well as songs. I’m particularly interested in the human voice: it’s the way a song can be performed or transmitted or changed depending on who’s singing it and it’s the voice that particularly interests me. And then over the years obviously, you listen to everything when you’re growing up don’t you; you go through the noisy and angry stuff and the experimental, clicky, drony stuff and it all sort of feeds in and bubbles out in what you make in terms of music.

You have a few nice concerts coming up too, you must be looking forward to playing those.

KS: I’m looking forward to this summer, it’s going to be lovely. It’s nice how many times we’re hopping off to Ireland actually. We’re playing this Cave gig in July [Cork Opera House event] and then again we’ll be over for Electric Picnic at the end of August and then over for the Sounds From A Safe Harbour in September. It’s lovely because we have some very nice festivals to look forward to in England this summer so we feel quite lucky gig-wise at the moment, it’s really nice.

Are there any records you’d recommend that you’re listening to a lot lately?

KS: Definitely [laughs]. Where shall I start? Well I’m listening a lot to Rozi Plain’s new album ‘Friend’, Rozi plays bass in my band and it’s just a total masterpiece and equally a very important friend and collaborator of mine, Rachael Dadd who is an incredibly talented, busy and prolific musician and she’s got an album out at the moment called ‘We Resonate’ and that is a total masterpiece as well. Apart from that I’m just listening to a guy called Richard Dawson at the moment, he is so amazing. Listening to his music makes me feel incredible and seeing him live reduces me to a jibbering wreck and I just think he’s an incredible musician who everyone should know about. They’ve got a good music library here in Paris and I’ve been getting out tribal stuff like Touareg stuff from the Sahara.

I wonder what is Paris like to live and work in?

KS: I really like being in Europe and being able to just get a train to any neighbouring countries, that feels really nice and for touring that’s great as well. It was quite a shock to the system moving here, it’s more different culturally than I was expecting but that’s good because I’ve learned more than I was expecting to learn. It’s a busy place but it taught me a lot about surviving in a busy city because before I was in Bristol and that is just a happy friendly land compared to Paris [laughs] where everyone is so friendly in Bristol and there is a really amazing creative and community spirit everywhere. It’s been hard seeking that out in Paris, you sort of have to scrape past all the city stress before you find the people who are really making the city in terms of culture.

In terms of collaboration, it’s something that’s central to your music and all the projects you’ve been involved with. Do you have any particular plans and hopes for forthcoming projects?

KS: Well I’ve got an alarming long list of things that I’d like to do. I’d really like to make a record of songs that get sung with other people. There are a lot of singers who are so great and I think have brilliant voices and I’d really like to try and work with them and sing with them in some way. There’s different producers who I think make really excellent albums, it would be nice to try and work with them. There’s a nice modern-classical collective in Berlin called Stargaze and they do really nice collaborations and I think we’re going to try and do some work together in the future. It would be nice to just keep going and meeting people and learning new skills is the goal.

Similar to you and the Dessner brothers and so many musicians, you continue to learn and develop so much by working with other people and getting new perspectives.

KS: I think that is how you learn, I think in any area of life by working with people and meeting people and travelling and not getting stuck in one little rut is how you learn and grow really. I notice it watching my daughter grow up; the more different the experiences are, I can see how much she learns and being able to observe that. You can tell from the different experiences of travel and situations you’re slowly getting an idea of themselves and of the world and I think that process continues until we die. Lifelong learning and self-discovery [laughs].

Lastly, have you been reading any good books of late?

KS: At the moment I can’t get enough of Ursula Le Guin. She wrote the ‘A Wizard At Earthsea’ book and she is also very well-known for her science fiction stuff and I never got totally into science fiction until I started reading her stuff. She’s an excellent woman and an amazing writer and she’s in her eighties and still as sharp and intelligent and engaged as ever and she’s really great. But then there are a few books I will always go back to reading like JD Salinger and I like old-fashioned, humorous books like Jerome K. Jerome.





‘Bashed Out’ is available now on Brassland.


Written by markcarry

July 8, 2015 at 10:57 am

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