Culture //

Natural sound in an electronic world: Interview with Mount Kimbie

Avani Dias spoke to Mount Kimbie about their unique sound, playing electronic music live and the Australian scene.

The difference between music and noise is a mathematical form. Seagulls chirping by the beach, a telephone ringing, or your dial-up internet connecting – all mundane noises that do not usually gauge the interest of an individual. But you’ll hear all of these sounds and more in the music of electronic duo, Mount Kimbie. Artistically speaking, the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Jones created a new wave of art by using everyday objects to conceive something new. Now, in the musical world, this English pair is channelling the same idea: finding beauty in the meaningless, the banal, and the normal.

“We’ve never written a song with a guitar riff and such but it always needs to start with a sample. It might be the oddest sounds – something that is toneless and have no melody to it at all, but for some reason inspires us to go on and add layers to it.”

Dominic Maker, one half of the duo, was talkative, interesting, and lacked any of the stereotypical facets of your usual electronic musician. What seemed to drive them as a band wasn’t about image, or drugs, but a simple vision that centred around creating good music. The pair were in the middle of a European, sold out tour and the most recent show they had played was in Tourcoing in the north of France. “I think that, well I really hope that, we’ve really progressed as a band.  We feel a lot more comfortable with what we’re doing and a lot more confident.”  They were touring off the back of their latest album, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth. that has been well regarded as one of the best releases of 2013. “We played [first album] Crooks and Lovers for about two and a half years and it’s nice to refresh with this.”

Keeping it real is usually not encouraged in the world of electronic music and a number of artists get comfortable using pre-recorded or sampled material on stage. Mount Kimbie, however, play a ‘live’ show in the true sense of the word. From the very beginning, they tried to stay true to this ideology with only limited equipment and no extra members.  They have now expanded to have a drummer on stage, who also plays bass and sings, with a lot more gear to develop the show. “It’s always evolving in the same way that I think that we try and evolve as musicians in terms of producing and stuff like that.”

Sydney’s electronic scene has been churning out bedroom producers like Wave Racer, Kilter, and the infamous Flume for the past few years.  Although this has pushed electronic production in Sydney to a new realm, the music seems to be unifying into one, conservative sound.  I was interested to see if Mount Kimbie’s ‘live’ ethos was the future for electronic music everywhere, but Maker said that his lack of understanding hindered his opinion. “Who might say that someone who is doing a laptop set is not honest and doing what they want to do and what they want to achieve?” However, he did value DJing over ‘hiding behind a laptop’ during a live show. “For me, I have a lot of respect for people who are not willing to pick up an instrument or are not willing to replicate what they want to do live, ‘cause they don’t want to or whatever, but then they DJ, and that’s fantastic.”

For many electronic artists from the UK, there seems to be a sense of pretension that Australia’s music scene and fans alike are inferior or clueless. Just take a look at recent incidents like Zomby’s last minute cancellation of his set at OutsideIn as evidence. Mount Kimbie are coming to Australia in early February as a part of the Laneway Festival.  When asked about the differences between touring in the UK and Australia, Maker was surprisingly excited about playing in a place so far away from home. “The crowd are way more receptive and it’s just more exciting for us.  Coming out there we can let go a bit and really enjoy the privilege of being far away from home and being in an environment we’re really unfamiliar with.” As artists that have received such critical acclaim, Maker’s humbleness was touching. While laughing, he said that it was difficult to comprehend and understand that people in Australia would actually go to their shows, “It’s a really amazing thing when you’re [over there] and people are into what you’re doing.”

The pair have best friends in high places. In the early days they were playing with James Blake: “we’re always in touch with one another but we’re so far apart – [there’s] usually thousands of miles in between us, so we really cherish the times we have together.”  Today, they are bonding with 19-year-old singer-songwriter King Krule who features on their most recent record and is also playing on the Laneway bill.  His youthfulness and confidence seemed to excite Maker as he recalled one of two times they played together in London. King Krule did not show up till the very last minute.  “Suddenly he just came in the door and was like ‘hey!’.  Then we went on stage.  Next time we saw him we were walking out and he picked up the microphone and just went nuts basically.  It was awesome, really really cool.”

It’s difficult to predict where Mount Kimbie will take their music next.  Their most recent album is definitely more accessible than the last and they seem to be touchy when music analysts say they are ‘doing a Coldplay’ and progressing into a more popular style of music.  People always say that in order to continue making good music you need to love what you do and not try too hard to become something big.  It was something that Maker said in the middle of our interview, in between a casual answer to a question, that made me realise that this was the key to Mount Kimbie’s success: “We never take it too seriously, we’re just experimenting with whatever we get our hands on.  There’s no method or calculation to it.”

Filed under: