Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s featured selection, chosen by Morning Show Host John Richards, is “Thrones of Glory,” the new single by Head Like a Kite.
Last time we checked in with local indie-electro darlings Head Like a Kite they had just released their second full-length album There is Loud Laughter Everywhere which received much love from KEXP DJ’s and fans alike earning them a reputation for being one of the best live acts in town. Their suave blend of electronic beats, loops and dance floor esthetics marry beautifully with the live instrumentation that accompanies and allows Dave and Trent to build on and riff on some already pretty stellar tunes.
Today’s song “Thrones of Glory” is a bit different than what most HLAK fans are used to and in fact, almost didn’t make it off the cutting room floor. I got the chance to speak with the energetic frontman Dave Einmo who shared that amazing rescue story along with tales from the road, wish lists from Santa, and just geeking out in general in what turned out to be one of my favorite interviews this year:
You guys were recently part of an online reality show “On the Brink,” what was that like?
It was pretty crazy. We traveled with an eight-person film crew for about 10 days doing shows up and down the West Coast. One of the guys was the camera man for Dancing with the Stars and Survivor, and he entertained us with stories of Tommy Lee and others he has filmed on the road. Apparently Tommy Lee has a big wiener. Who knew? The crew was super fun, and it made for a 10-day party. It was a little challenging being wired to a remote microphone everywhere you went for the 10 days and nights. I certainly had to remind myself periodically not to humiliate myself with some drunken tirade. My biggest slip up was in Las Vegas at around 5 AM when the promoter of the Neon Reverb Festival took me out drinking whiskey until 8 AM. Bad idea. Really bad. But the film crew was exhausted by 4 AM and they left before I did anything too stupid. I’ve since become good friends with the film crew and they often come out to see us when we play in LA, where most of them live.
(P.S. You can check out episodes on the band’s website here)
I know you’re the primary songwriter for the group, but you always have some awesome contributors on your albums. How do you go about crafting your songs? Do you start out on your own or is it pretty collaborative from the start?
I love collaborating. When I started Head Like a Kite, I wanted to be able to invite various guests in for different songs, rather than structure it like a traditional band where you have a specific lineup and you have to work within the limitations of that lineup. Instead, I was inspired by how guys like Prefuse 73 and DJ Shadow come up with beats and songs, and then have guests jump up on some of the tracks. My goal was to approach it like a DJ. But rather than sample records, I sample myself and guests and then mix it all into a final song. I generally start by creating a drum loop, and then I start playing short parts that I sample and then arrange into songs. Then, once the song is mostly arranged, I invite guests to sing or add violin, cello, Theremin, bass, drums, etc. to the mix. Usually, I send the guests the parts I want them to play, but sometimes they add something completely unexpected and it takes things in a new direction. It’s really liberating to be able to work with a bunch of friends, because inevitably they’ll add their own flare to a part and make it a little more special.
Are your songs autobiographical in nature or where do you gain inspiration for your lyrics?
I prefer writing fictional lyrics. The whole vibe of the Head Like a Kite live show is built around throwing a festive party with people dancing and cutting loose, dressed in various costumes. Fog machines and confetti. I find that fictional lyrics allow me to explore more of a crazed, theatrical world, which parlays more into the live setting. Over time, the live shows have really influenced my songwriting and I find myself focusing on song arrangements and lyrics that are fun to perform live. Of course, that being said, there are certainly autobiographical moments in the songs, but I tend to adjust and bend them for my entertainment.
Can you tell me anything about today’s song “Thrones of Glory?”
It started out as a very basic synth and 808 drum-machine pop ditty. Then I threw on guitars and a few other instruments. Then I hated it. I moved it into the EXTRA folder and thought it would end up like all the rest of the songs in that folder. Dead. But Trent Moorman, an all-around stud and the live HLAK drummer, heard the song one day while I was playing him rough mixes of the various songs I was working on. He loved it, and encouraged me to mess with it more. I decided to send it to Boom Bip to add some synth and beat flourishes, thinking maybe he could resurrect it. His parts were really cool, but I still thought my song was limp. When we were mixing some new songs in December, Trent kept encouraging me to mix that song. We were in Electrokitty Studio with Gary Reynolds and Eric Corson (from the Long Winters) and they heard Trent talking about the song and asked to hear the rough mix. We spent the next three days and nights remixing, retracking, redrinking, and this is what emerged. Eric was great with micing the guitars into these old vintage Rickenbacker and Supro amps. He had lots of cool ideas. And at some point, Trent just grabbed some drum sticks and went out into the main room and started bashing out the drums in the chorus. Someone how it all came together. I think I was reluctant with the song because it’s so different from the rest of the Head Like a Kite stuff. It’s about as straight forward of a pop song as I’ve ever written. So it took me awhile to just embrace that and not try and steer it into something else. I think that’s the key in songwriting. Don’t force stuff. If a pop song wants to be a pop song, then put on the Liberace rings and embrace it. Gary Reynolds at Electrokitty helped me with that. He’s a great engineer and really added a lot with the final mix.
I understand that the B-side single for this song on iTunes is a live recording of “Blue Merlot.” Your live shows are pretty amazing and high energy the whole way through. Do you have any rituals you do before heading out on stage?
We make out with the panda bear we bring with us on the road.
How did the collaboration with Boom Bip and Asya on this song come about?
Aysa and I have been friends for a long time. Her band, Smoosh, put out their first album, She Like Electric, on Pattern 25 Records, a label I had formed with Clay Martin and my wife Diana. So Asya and I have recorded a bunch of stuff together. She sang on each of the first two Head Like a Kite albums. One of the songs she sang on, “Daydream Vacation” from the second HLAK album There Is Loud Laughter Everywhere, was later remixed by Boom Bip. I loved his remix so I asked him for some help on “Thrones of Glory” as well. I was stoked with the parts he added.
You’re currently working on your next album right? Is this a little taste of what’s to come?
Thrones is the appetizer. But the party platter comes next. The full-length will be a festive record with bombastic party beats and gigantic synths with hooks more dangerous than a shark hunter. Jaws, you should be scared.
How did you get into making electronic music? Have you always complimented it with live instrumentation?
I started out as a guitar player, but quickly got bored with the traditional sound of a guitar. After messing with various guitar pedals, I became intrigued with the possibilities of making a guitar sound more like a synth. It’s amazing what you can do with a guitar plugged into Mooger Fooger pedals and old vintage analog delays and pitch shifters. I wanted my guitar to sound like Darth Vader on Ecstasy. This led me to experiment with old, vintage synths like the Juno 106 and Moog Rogue, and then 808 drum machines. I quickly gravitated towards electronic music. But I also wanted to make electronic music that had a human feel. So mixing in live cellos, organs, trumpets, kotos, stand up bass, guitars, Theremin, violin, and live drums allowed me to mix organic with electronic. I think the result is a bit like The Jetsons. Robots meet Humans. (Damn, that should be name of the next album.) Live drums really add a lot. Trent plays drums on all the live shows (both a traditional kit and also electronic pads triggering 808 sounds).
Are there any particular instruments/effects you’re geeking out over right now?
I’m really geeking out over the Cervelo S3 road bike and the Specialized S-Works Tarmac. My bike was stolen a few weeks ago, and now I’m hoping Santa will bring me a new one this winter. Santa, if you are listening (and I know you listen to KEXP because I saw the yellow bumper sticker on your sled), then please bring me a new bike. I’ll be really good for the rest of the year. Seriously.
We’re keeping our fingers crossed for you, Dave!
Head Like a Kite are a band that definitely needs to be experienced live. In addition to guest appearances by local musicians like Graig Markel, Zera Marvel, and Barbara Trentalange, a HLAK show often features friends and audience members alike adorning everything from crazy wigs to head-to-toe animal costumes. Folks in Yakima are definitely in for a treat if they head out to the HLAK Pajama Party tonight but Seattlites won’t have to wait too long to join in the often furry dance party. They are playing KEXP’s upcoming Audioasis live broadcast from The Sunset Tavern w/ The Nightgowns, The Physics, Helladope and GMK on Saturday October 10th. And don’t forget your dancing shoes when Head Like a Kite helps keep the party going at the Animals At Night’s CD Release Party at The Crocodile on November 21st. More info and details and dates on the band’s website and MySpace page. Until then, here’s HLAK performing “She’s Wearing That Costume” live in the KEXP studio: