The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Dessner

Step Right Up: This Is The Kit

leave a comment »

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

Chosen One: Bryce Dessner

leave a comment »

Interview with Bryce Dessner.

“I think that music is the great collaborative art that musicians exist in dialogue with each other and also in community with the audience.”

—Bryce Dessner

Words: Mark Carry


Sounds from a Safe Harbour is a brand new festival of music, art and conversation, curated by Bryce Dessner of The National. Two years since its inception by Bryce and Cork Opera House CEO, Mary Hickson, Sounds from a Safe Harbour will bring a huge international creative cast to Cork this September to celebrate the port city’s place on the world’s stage in a unique setting.

Alongside Cork’s spectacular harbour environs, themes of waves, water and movement have been the inspiration for the festival, and will be explored through many new commissions and collaborations specially programmed for Sounds from a Safe Harbour. The festival will activate the City through many art forms including visual arts, conversation, dance, film and music. Collaboration and shared experiences are strong themes in the festival, and audiences are encouraged to immerse themselves and form part of the conversation.

One of the festival’s centerpieces will be ‘Wave Movements’ – a new composition by Bryce Dessner and Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire) – performed at Cork Opera House by the RTE National Symphony Orchestra and accompanied with film by the celebrated Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Also on the truly inspiring programme will be the award-winning seminal Irish ensemble The Gloaming; The National’s Aaron Dessner’s collaboration with universally-acclaimed Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan; Shara Worden’s My Brightest Diamond; celebrated English organist James McVinnie; New York So Percussion and Nadia Sirota; Icelandic producer and composer Valgeir Sigurðsson with Icelandic compatriots Amiina,Ragnar Kjartansson, Kjartan Sveinsson and Skúli Sverrisson; Swedish / Irish fusion outfit This Is How We Fly; Parisian new-wave multi-instrumentalist Mina Tindle; US choral-based sound sculptor Julianna Barwick; American songsmith Sam Amidon; Kate Stables’ endearing folk outfit This Is The Kit plus many more. 

Interview with Bryce Dessner.

The announcement of Sounds From A Safe Harbour was wonderful to see and a truly special lineup awaits us in September. It shows the spirit of collaboration and how over the last few years, there’s been so much fascinating and adventurous music. I’d love for you to discuss this whole aspect of collaboration as it’s something you’ve always been doing.

Bryce Dessner: I think that music is the great collaborative art that musicians exist in dialogue with each other and also in community with the audience. I think this is what pushes us forward, it opens new creative worlds for us as musicians. And also what’s interesting to me about doing this in Cork as a place is that in Ireland being a place of such tremendous music culture – for a small country it has such a huge global reach – of traditional music and the great bands and singers that come from there and all that. And then Cork being this gem of a city, this small city that feels like a village with so many beautiful venues and spaces, and the harbour and canals. The idea of bringing artists there is as much as about them bringing their music to Cork as it is Cork opening its doors and being a place for the musicians to discover, especially to interact with the Irish musicians who will be there. I mean that’s the stuff that makes me really excited and the driving force in my creative life is collaboration and community and embracing this more creative style of music.

I can’t wait to see your live performance of ‘St. Carolyn by the Sea’ because it’s such an amazing piece of music.

BD: Thanks. ‘St. Carolyn by the Sea’ is a significant piece for me that I wrote for my brother and I to play with orchestra and it’s very much about how we play music together but pushing it quite far structurally and formally and something quite ambitious with the orchestra. It’s going to be really fun and It’s not something we can do very often and to do it with such a great orchestra and conductor is a really amazing opportunity for us. The festival has a lot of these rarely heard before performances which I think is a big part of what’s exciting to all of us and hopefully part of the draw for people to come is for the stuff you’re not going to hear elsewhere.

I wonder Bryce in terms of the writing process for a composition like ‘St. Carolyn by the Sea’, I can imagine it evolved over quite a long period of time? It feels like it did as there are so many different aspects to it.

BD: I mean the actual writing of the piece which takes six months or so and then the music itself takes a lifetime in a way where the sounds and ideas that may have been somewhere in me or developing somewhere back then so once it’s time to write it down, it almost feels like it’s been there and you just have to figure it out. I always wonder how many of these pieces one has and how many more of them I can do but that piece has a lot of colours in it that I am proud of.

Another highlight will be the new piece you wrote with Richard Reed Parry, ‘Wave Movements’.

BD: Yeah that piece is a commission for the festival and there is quite a few commissions and new works that we’re doing. The Irish sisters from Cork, Linda and Irene Buckley are creating a new piece; there’s a more electronic group Eat My Noise who are doing a big collaborative work and there’s a couple of visual artists who are doing some new projects. I think that side of the festival is super important to us. Richard Reed Parry and I are really close friends and collaborators and we wanted Mary Hickson at the Cork Opera House who talked about the harbour and the theme of the water and sea is a big part of the Cork identity so we wanted a piece that would respond to that in some way. So, ‘Wave Movements’ is a string orchestra piece that all the rhythms are generated by the ocean. We actually spent time recording the ocean, I spent time in Cork on the sea there and spent time in the city thinking about the role of the sea there. It’s a sixty minute piece but what’s significant about it is in addition to co-composing it which is not a very traditional thing to do but incredibly fun and interesting process. The whole thing as a visual side of it, Hiroshi Sugimoto who is an amazing Japanese photographer did a film for it. It’s a really, really stunning piece of work and I think there’s a trailer up so you can see what it’s going to look like.


As you say too Bryce, it must be this fun element when you’re working with close friends and family obviously with your brother, that’s the beauty of it when you’re sharing ideas with each other and creating something from that.

BD: I always say that my brother and I were born to collaborate- we’re twins and we’re playing in a band and it extends beyond just collaborating with one another. Aaron is writing a new set of songs with Lisa Hannigan, the Irish singer for the Cork festival and we being brothers that have always worked together, it really helps us and something we’ve learned from an early age on how to be good collaborators. And ultimately when you think of creative people there’s always the creative ego and the desire to express oneself but actually the stronger part of the creative life is being open and learning from other people and that’s why I do it and it’s always so interesting to learn from other musicians and other artists.

Another beautiful thing with The National is all the wonderful collaborators that are involved, for example some of the Bedroom Community artists and guest musicians who work in the studio on your songs so you can feel that special spark in all the National recordings too.

BD: There’s the five of us but then there is this really broad community of people like Richard Parry or Sufjan Stevens or Sharon Van Etten. There’s many many different people who have been a huge part in our career. The music itself is a good vehicle for that. In a way, The National sound is singular, it sounds like nothing else but it’s the sound of many voices and it’s not just us. I think that collaborative power of music is definitely part of The National story.

In terms of scoring music, it must be a lovely feeling when you hear an orchestra such as the Copenhagen Philharmonic performing the music that you wrote?

BD: Especially in our current world that is so digital and so virtual and the experience of the internet and always being online, the actual performance of things and the live event and the communal aspect of coming together to hear something or to play something or to experience the notes that are written on the page and then there’s the notes that you hear in the theatre and the things that aren’t written or sung in our minds and that aura of performance and there’s nothing to replace that. I think something like Sounds From A Safe Harbour is very much about that and like I said it’s very much about the artists as much as it is for the audience. It’s important for artists to have that opportunity to come together into an intimate environment to really have the possibility to work together, to work with different musicians and to encounter a new culture in public. I think that’s what pushes the creative world forward and hopefully offers people something new and some kind of transporting experience.

It definitely will, there’s no question about that. I wonder are there certain records you’re listening a lot to lately in the last few months?

BD: As far as things I’m listening to recently is a record that I worked on by a friend of mine, Sufjan Stevens new record ‘Carrie & Lowell’ which has been my soundtrack when I drive upstate a lot in New York, I have a little house in the mountains and I always put that on. I just think he is one of the most interesting musicians of our generation and that’s a record that I love. Also a record by a young singer This Is The Kit who will be playing in Cork as well- that record my brother produced, it’s called ‘Bashed Out’ and it’s a really, really beautiful record.

The whole aspect of scoring music and this idea of collaborating, it’s great too because as you say with the current age of downloads and digital, there’s a lovely sense of being in the moment and taking risks as well in obviously the best possible way.

BD: I think so. I think it’s always interesting when you spend a lot of time working on something, it’s like tending your own garden and then it becomes like reading your own palm and something that’s so familiar that maybe you’re missing. It’s always interesting when someone comes to me from outside and says, ‘Oh did you notice that at all?’ that little corner over there and you haven’t seen it before. To me that’s the beauty of collaboration is hearing the way other people respond to your work and that’s also the role of an audience and how they respond to you. It happens so often with the National songs where you get people developing their whole own personal narratives to a song and tell you after and I’m like ‘I never thought of that before’. But it’s a really beautiful way to make work is to share.

For instance, working with classical musicians who spend their lives playing instruments and really have developed such a fine ear, the way they tune and that’s part of having strings on a National record is that you spend six months working on a track and then to bring in just for a day, a really good group of musicians and have them channel their musicality at it and even just the way they would interpret the pitch or tune against it really gives it this human element that’s been really important to our recordings.

I love too how witnessing The National’s live performance how you are struck by the energy and rawness of the performance.

BD: I think we never felt the need to duplicate the records like the experience of us live is different from the album and I like artists that feel that freedom to make something new for the live show.





‘Music For Wood & Strings’ is available now on Brassland.