Monday, July 11, 2011

Baker's Dozen: Interview with Stray Kites

("Do or Die" from Stray Kite's Facebook page)

Ashburn, Virginia is a city of about 88,000 people. The town used to be called Farmwell. It is located about 30 miles Northwest of Washington, D.C. Ashburn houses the practice facility for the NFL's Washington Redskins. Most importantly it is the home to "folk pop" duo Stray Kites whose track "Misanthrope" was part of our
Get Him to the Greek (Food) Mix . Recently I had the chance to interview, via email, Stray Kites and discuss Ashburn, horrible books, food allergies, potlucks and much more.

TB: Who are the Stray Kites and what would they bring to a potluck?
Junior: Well we're a duo from Ashburn, Northern Virginia. Max plays percussion and I sing, play guitar, vibraphone, and so on. Together we like to make some honest "folk pop" music. Aaaaand we'd bring dessert dishes. I'd probably bring a pecan pie or muffins.
Max: Same, but if I could I'd bring candy.
TB: On the bandcamp page for your last album, One Day, Earth Time, the quote "Our music is full of milk and peanut butter and gluten and pollen and dander and bee stings and a lot of people are allergic to it" appears. What prompted that?
Max: After we finished One Day, Earth Time a friend asked us to describe the music and in my opinion it's a little hard to swallow and explain. This seemed like the best way to describe it.
TB: You guys are hard at work on your second LP, Mieux, which will be released on July 22nd via your bandcamp page. Is this album more of the same or does it differ from its predecessor?
Junior: It's pretty different from what we've done before. A lot more emotive and cohesive. I'm really unsure how biased my opinion is of what we do, but I feel like I'm getting better at writing poetry and music and I feel good about it.
Max: I think it's still got a sort of "homemade" quality about it, as it should; we recorded it all ourselves, but I also think there's a bit of a different vibe to it. It sounds a bit more mature in the instrumentation. We've got some friends helping us out by providing trumpet and vibraphone and I'm really excited for it too.
TB: Let's talk a little more about the instrumentation. You've posted two singles from Mieux on your bandcamp page. Both "Misanthrope" and "All is Well" seem to be addressing friends and their shortfalls. Musically the two songs approach this from different perspectives. "Misanthrope" is very cheery with handclaps and a dumbeck. "All is Well" sounds more frantic and angry thanks mainly to the vibraphone. How does Stray Kites go about creating the mood of a song by matching lyrics with music?
Junior: Almost all the songs on Mieux are esoteric in that way and refer to friendships and whatnot. I think it's because I wrote the songs while/after feeling strong emotions. I write the lyrics before the music: it feels like the lyrics end up being more meaningful and the music more necessary that way. And if it means anything, "All is Well" is the most abrasive song on the LP.
TB: I have to ask, who is Noelle?
Max: A heart attack.
Junior: My best friend forever and the greatest and most annoying person I've ever met.
TB: Knowing that you are into painting Junior, did you create the cover art for Mieux? Why does this cover work for the album?
Junior: I am and I did! I try to make for there to be a reason behind everything we do as a band and we had friends do the paintings for "Misanthrope" and "All is Well." Looking back on the songs on Mieux and specifically the way we had recorded them it only seemed appropriate that I finger paint the album's artwork.
TB: You are giving Mieux away basically for free (name your own price) but you are offering two free tracks to anyone that pays for the album. Why give your music away for free? What do you hope will happen as a result of offering a bonus to anyone who pays?
Max: We believe what we do has value. We believe our music has worth. It's just not up to us to determine exactly how much that is.
Junior: The whole point in giving our music away for free is that it takes away any monetary motivation to make it. Being intrinsically motivated to write music, or anything really, makes me feel "clean." It assures me that what we're doing is genuine and not contrived. With the bonus tracks we hope to give some incentive to people to help us out.
TB: According to your Facebook page, Stray Kites have an interest in sociology, psychology, theology and philosophy. How do these outside interests help or hinder the band?
Junior: I'm not sure I can answer how it helps or hinders us, but I do know it has an effect on the writing. I have a problem with over analyzing everything and I feel like thinking on and studying those things is putting it to good use.
TB: I've read some dull books in my day, usually because of school. But as far as I'm concerned, no book was as bad as Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. In a previous interview you suggest that Ashburn's music scene is "dryer than Joesph Bruchac's novel Code Talkers. Now I'm intrigued. What makes Code Talkers so bad and what is Ashburn missing that other cities have?
Junior: Hahaha. Code Talkers was a book assigned to me in school and truly is the worst book I've ever read. Ever! It was one of those verbose books where nothing happens. If the book was a girl she'd be a pretty brunette with a big nose who'd eventually dye her hair blonde. She would be a good conversationalist when it came to small talk and she'd stand up for her own passionate opinions. Unfortunately, they'd all be uneducated opinions.
Max: I live in NOVA, New Babylon/a sun worshiping throng in ubiquitous fog/sojourners get sucked in "It's not worth regretting." You rarely get exactly what you've been expecting...That'll make sense on the 22nd.
TB: Music scene aside, is there anything worth checking out in Ashburn?
Max: Nope.
Junior: New episodes of Adventure Time. Monday nights @ eight on Cartoon Network.
TB: Since it is still fresh in my mind, how does a folk pop duo residing in such a dull place spend their fourth of July?
Max: We wore Captain America shirts and drove to the Pentagon in D.C. and watched some fireworks over there.
Junior: Before that we spent a good 5 hours recording in the basement...which is ideal.
TB: Does Stray Kites get the chance to do much cooking? Any special recipes you care to share?
Max: I'm famous for my leftovers. Never abuse the microwave's +30 second button.
Junior: I don't eat much, but Lil B can assure you that we're Master Chefs.
TB: Ending sentiments?
Junior: Je me sens mieux.
Max: All is well.
Here "All is Well" from Mieux:

And here is "Misanthrope":