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 selection, featured on the Morning Show with John Richards, is “Dirty City” by Kids and Animals from their self-titled, self-released debut album.
Today’s Song of the Day write up might just have to be filed under “Interview run amok in the best possible way.” Usually when I put out an email to bands with some interview questions, I expect to hear some well-practiced answers and occasionally some interesting insight into who they are as artists or possibly even some of the band’s dynamic.
This week was something different… Kids and Animals were uninhibited in their responses (to say the least). It could be due to the fact that half of the band just became of voting age (the other half hasn’t yet) but don’t take that at face value. This is definitely a collection of talented and intelligent artists and instead of giving them a condescending pat on the head, check out what they have to say, especially on underage bands in Seattle and being compared to your musical heroes. Unless noted otherwise, Adam Gaciarz responds:
Who are Kids and Animals?
It all began with Alex and Dylan being friends and wanting to play music. After saving up some cash, Alex bought a guitar, Dylan bought bass, and they would jam together on days after school. Alex met Lee in high school jazz band freshman year. Lee asked Alex if he wanted to get together and play music sometime, and they did. Lee, Alex, and their friend Connor got together and practiced a few times, and then played the very first Open Mic at Chief Sealth High School as a no-name band.
Since then, we’ve played with a seemingly never-ending list of drummers, and the reason is because they either ran out of time or they had to leave for college like James Kasinger who played on the album (not Chloe) but left to go to Washington State University. We love him, as a ridiculously epic drummer, and as a wonderful friend.
Where does the name come from?
The band semi-officially started out under the name A Copy Not Pretty, but we dropped the name relatively quickly, and changed it to Broken Vinyl. Our first show was at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center at a Youth Speaks Open Mic in June ‘07. In September that year, we played in the back of a moving truck during the West Seattle Parade –- that was fun. In February ’08, we played with Don’t Tell Sophie at Club Motor, which was a totally bizarre show, and we were super stoked ‘cause we love DTS, and it’s sad that they broke up. We kept playing shows at venues like Ground Zero, KTUB, The Viaduct, Studio Seven, and Skylark Café for little to no pay. At this point, our sound was… un-shaped.
In early October ’08, after a show at Ground Zero, the band changed their name to Kids Are Animals for a day, and the next day changed the name to what it is today: Kids and Animals. Since then, we’ve taken practice more seriously, and put our hearts a lot more into the band and what our goals were. Over time, we began to play at better spaces with better bands. The band’s sound started to have strong direction, an actual vibe, and we all started to have a better sense of Seattle’s music scene. We were super excited when we played at the Greenhouse with Pwrfl Power, The Oregon Donor, The Mission Orange, & The Braille Tapes in January ’09 –- it was our first DIY-show-house show.
In late November ’09, we headlined a show at the Vera Project to celebrate the release of our debut full-length self-titled album. It was a great success, and since then, our “buzz” has been skyrocketing. Musicians, venues, and publicists have been talking to us and saying how they’re astonished at the maturity of our sound and how they would love us to play their shows. It’s just cool that finally, some of all this hard work is paying off.
You got your start at a young age right? How old are you guys now and how do you think Seattle treats young bands?
Kids and Animals are Leland Corley, 17, on guitar/piano/vocals, Alex Robkin, 18, on guitar/vocals, Dylan Bundy, 18, on bass/trumpet/vocals, Adam Gaciarz, 17, on guitar/tambourine/vocals, and Chloe Jenkins, 18, on drums/vocals
Underage bands in Seattle definitely get looked down upon. It’s a lot harder to be taken seriously, but half the time, bookers don’t even know our ages, so it’s okay I guess. We always try to act professional, be creative, find solutions to booking problems in a mature, fair way, and make, practice, and play music, just like anyone older than us would. People don’t expect to hear amazing music from young musicians and bands, but we want to show everyone that it can happen!
On the positive side, Seattle has got to be one of the coolest cities to host all-ages shows at. We’re super lucky to have a venue like the Vera Project – its mission, what it stands for, and the variety of wholesome shows they host are awesome.
What were the concepts and influences behind your debut album?
Leland: Having no money, our transition into adulthood, and staying up way too late.
What do you think of the comparisons Kids and Animals receives to such NW faves as Modest Mouse and Built to Spill?
Adam: We’ve been pretty positively surprised by some of the awesome bands people have compared us to, like for example The Pixies, or Wolf Parade. We’ve always admired and been inspired by Modest Mouse, their lyrics, dynamics, and Isaac Brock’s crazy vocals and screaming-into-his-guitar-action.
Alex: I think that comparisons such as those are both gratifying and a little frustrating. Both of those bands are obviously great, but it’s hard being compared to such established classics. Our approach to writing music is pretty unsophisticated: we try to write songs that we’d like to listen to. I think there is something to be said for such a straightforward approach – we don’t have to jump though a lot of hoops trying to convey a certain message with our songs. We just want to make experimental music that we like, slowly find audiences that enjoy the music we play, and have fun while we’re doing it.
What is “Dirty City” about? Anything you hope listeners will take away from this song?
Alex: I like to think of “Dirty City” as a pretty happy song. When I wrote it I was in one of those rare moods where you are just smitten with everything. It’s like puppy love for the whole universe; everything just seemed the same, you know? All matter originated in stars, from gold to garbage. We just don’t see the beauty in the garbage because we’re taught not to see it. So I guess I hope that listeners will hear this song and feel the same way I did when I wrote it. I hope that they’ll see the loveliness that pervades every corner of existence.
Alex & Leland seem to switch off on songwriting duties, how do you work as a band to develop songs?
Usually Alex or Lee think up the ‘bare bones’ of our songs, bring them to practice, play them, and hack at them till they’re somewhat presentable. It is not methodic whatsoever, and our songs tend to naturally evolve over time into both what sounds and feels good to play. Our songs are never really done being developed; we’re always revising and experimenting with all of them. For example, ‘Backyard’ is one of our oldest songs but we’re been adding and changing parts to it as recently as our last practice. I think always adding or changing something in our songs gives a certain vitality to our music and makes it more fun to play, because it never really is the exact same every time.
Who released your debut album?
We did. We recorded the album partially at Two Sticks Audio, partially at the L.A.B. Seattle Drum School with our friend Nemanja Bujisic, who we can’t thank enough for his tremendous level of caring, passion, sense of humor, and generosity. We bought blank 100% recyclable eco-friendly cardboard-like ‘Arigato Paks’ from Stumptown Printers in Portland for our packaging, and had our friend Trevor Basset screen-print his design on them, which we individually folded ourselves. For our actual CD, we bought bulk blank white-top CD-Rs, spray painted them blue, stamped them with an owl, and burned them each individually on Lee’s computer. Adam put together lyric booklets on this cardboard-like paper and we put those in there too. We are pretty satisfied with our debut album and the way it’s turned out -– it’s totally worth putting your heart into something and sticking with it through to the end.
What music have you been listening to lately?
Alex: Haha, man, I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve been listening to a lot of Thee Oh Sees, Cat Power, and I’ve been really into the new Girls album, all artists with straightforward song structures and really, really good hooks. I’ve been revisiting Illmatic a fair bit as well. There is just so much to hold your attention in that album, and “Life’s a Bitch” has to be one of the best songs of all time.
Leland: The Avalanches, XX, The Unicorns, The Deadly Syndrome, Future of the West, Pink Floyd, and Bob Dylan.
Adam: Lately, almost every single day, I’m been bumpin’ cuts from SOL’s new EP. Besides that, I’ve been listening to The Rural Alberta Advantage, Broken Bells, The Books, Phoenix, Explosions in the Sky, Rooftops, Grizzly Bear, Feral Children, Colonies, Conservative Dad, etc.
What’s one thing that all of Kids and Animals can agree on and endorse as the best thing ever?
Chubby cats purring. Seriously, so awe-some.
What’s next for Kids and Animals?
We’re planning to keep playing shows regularly for a while, then take a break to record an EP with a more experimental, lo-fi sound to it. Although we must admit we’re a little bummed about not getting into EMP Sound Off this year, we feel like we’re well on our way without it.
We’ve got some cool shows coming up but would like to mention our guitarist/manager Adam is setting up BirthDIYfest 2010, an annual one-night all-ages concert which celebrates the NW Do-It-Yourself creative community, on Friday March 19th at The Vera Project. Besides an awesome line-up (BOAT, Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground, Feral Children, and The Next Door Neighbors), there will be tables with local DIY organizations, all-ages venues, record labels, radio stations, etc. For more info, visit www.myspace.com/bdayfest.
You can catch them next at The Crocodile on 1/28 with Skeleton with Flesh on Them and The Purrs. A bunch more dates are listed on their MySpace page. Here they are performing “Monster’s Heart” at the Josephine in Ballard: