Misadventures of Kino Kimino
Brooklyn-based Kino Kimino flips coasts to bring songs from her recently released Bait is for Sissies to Los Angeles. The debut album, which came out over the summer, was recorded alongside inside rock mavens Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth acclaim. The record has a comfortable old school feel to it, recalling the days when low-key rock ran rampant on everyone's iPods. Parts of "Loincloth" recall the vocal stylings of Karen O and "Caste Out" carries some of a Le Tigre kick, but for the most part it is carried forward by Kim Talon's somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner. Songs like "Passion" draw you in with its catchy chorus.
We caught up with Talon prior to her Bootleg show to discuss working in the studio, what artist has had a big impact on her, and how she plans to continue to be involved with activism after last month's March on Washington tour.
When did you first start playing music?
I started playing guitar when I was sixteen. I started playing piano when I was two which doesn't make any sense but it was suzuki method.
You released Bait is for Sissies on Hamburg-based label My Favorite Chords. What drove you to go with a European-based label instead of a U.S. one?
I'm on a U.S. label too! It's called Ghost Ramp. It’s run by a couple of sweet guys including members of the band Wavves. I like that it's a musician-based label. And then I have ties to Europe because I've toured a lot there. My Mum is European so I guess I just have that kind of connection and longing for it. So the label that's based in Hamburg, they had seen me play somewhere in Germany a year before and we had just been in touch. They were like, "When you put out your next record, we want to put it out." And then it all came together but that's why. There was a personal connection there with the German label and I knew that I wanted to tour in Europe again so it made sense to release in Europe.
I saw some behind the scenes videos from when you were recording the album. It looked like you were filming in a home but I also know it was Sonic Youth's Echo Canyon West studio. Can you tell us about what the recording environment was like in that atmosphere?
It's a decent sized studio. Maybe any feeling I got from walking in there the first day was that I felt very aware of the history because it’s Sonic Youth studio. Their gear was everywhere, so just being surrounded by that you kind of felt like you were actually in somebody else's home and they're just generously letting you stay over for a week or so.
It also seemed like you had a lot of people in the studio when you guys were recording. What were some of the different things that people brought in during the recording?
Not everybody was there at the same time. Melinda Holm, Steve Shelley and I… the three of us recorded the basics I think in like two or three days. And then Melinda went back to LA and Steve's parts were done so he took off. Then we just had different people come by the studio to do overdubs, one of those people being Lee Ranaldo. And I actually came to LA and had a friend of mine, Andrew Jeffords, overdub on some tracks. There were a lot of different people. My friend Aaron Arntz came in for a day and played keyboards. He plays in Grizzly Bear & Beirut so he brought a totally different feel to the record. Overall the vibe was really fun, experimental and very open.
You’ve also been in a duo project, Eagle and Talon, where it seems like the creative was split between two people. Since the recording of this album had more hands involved, how did you maintain keeping control over the album’s direction? Did you have most of it pre-written, or did you do any sort of collaboration before going into the studio?
I tend to produce demos in a pretty detail oriented way. I had mapped out the bass parts, back-up vocal parts and several lead guitar parts before going into the studio. I was working closely with the producer, John Agnello, we just worked really well together. Basically, he knew what I wanted and I knew what I wanted, which is actually the most important part, so that's kind of how I maintained control. It was interesting because it's like everybody knows whose record it is when you're in that kind of environment… usually the songwriter, so everyone kind of naturally falls into their space.
Who is a musician that has made a large impact on your musical direction direction and what is an example of a work of theirs that you find yourself continually turning back to? A while back you were asked to talk about your favorite PJ Harvey song, “Plants and Rags,” for She Shreds. I thought it was extremely insightful so am very curious to hear your thoughts on another song that has a personal meaning to you.
That is such a big question! I am so precious about music and there's so many artists that I love. It really is so hard for me to just pick one person that I love because I love so many people. I was obsessed with Tori Amos in a very intense way. I don't think she influences my songwriting because our music is not similar, but I always loved her lyrics. She's an amazing lyricist. I only really listened to her first three records but there's a lot of really beautiful songs. All of Little Earthquakes is just incredible. That would probably have to be the record because it was the first record of hers that I heard. I always liked that song "Leather." Do you know that song? I love how playful and seductive it was, and clever. I kind of loved the way she poked fun at men and how she poked fun at the stupidity of certain men… which I think for women (and this is so not politically correct) but is a thing. There's something about it. I also like that she's touching on the sort of silliness of love and the absurd aspects of romance, courting and all of that stuff. I also like how she seems so much more intelligent than the man she's singing to. Also, women are criticized for caring too much about romantic relationships as though there's weakness to that, and there's nothing weak about it. I like how she's talking about it in such a candid way. It's not insecure. She's not shy, she's not embarrassed. There's nothing wrong about talking about something so human.
The video for "Caste Out" was super fun with you guys even getting into a skating rink at some point. How did all of that come together?
That was a curling rink that you're talking about. Basically, that video was 100% inspired by the city of Winnipeg. I wanted it to reflect what life was life when I was a teenager living in Winnipeg, these are the places you’d go and the stuff you’d do, this is your world. That sort of suburban, kind of bored yet, still having a lot of fun and finding stuff to do in a place where there's nothing to do.
What was it like shooting with the guys and running around the city?
It was so much fun. I think it's one of the favorite videos that I've made. We lost our final location. It didn't work out. I think we got kicked out of the mall. They were like, “You can't shoot here.” This is a very strange story. The director's dad was doing security for the Grey Cup. The Grey Cup is kind of like the Stanley Cup but it's for Canadian football. I don't know what you call the prize for American football but it's the Canadian equivalent to that. The director's father is doing security for the Grey Cup because the cup has its own security team, this literal cup. The cup was in a Santa Claus parade and there was a float with this cup on it and basically, because we lost our location, his dad was like, "Do you guys want to be in the parade and you can shoot the rest of the video here?" And the director, Cody asked me and I was like, “Yes!” I've always wanted to be in a parade. I love parades. So that was probably the highlight for me because we were running around all these different places and then we actually got to sort of like float through the city in the parade so that was really, really fun. You are able to view your hometown from a completely different perspective when you’re in a parade.
Awesome! I know that song was influenced by the idea of the caste system and feeling like an outsider. I'm curious to know more about two of my favorite songs, the first being "Pale Calico." What is that influenced by?
That song is essentially about having patience. This idea that if you just can bear down and be patient, eventually some of the things you want will come to you.
What about "Blood Bath?"
"Blood Bath" is about a blood bath. It's about a relationship that was a blood bath – not literally of course. It's about making mistakes. It's about a bad relationship and hating yourself as much as you hate the person almost. Like, why am I here? Why did I do this? Not in a hateful way. Just like self-reflection. It toggles between those things.
You arranged a March To Washington tour last month. How did that come about? Why was it important for you to physically be in D.C. instead of going to a New York march instead? I was losing my mind after the election, like a lot of us were. The moment I heard about the march I was like, I need to go to that. I need to be there. I didn't know who I was going with but I booked a place right away to stay because I knew everything would book up really quickly and I thought I'll just figure out later what my plan was going to be. A week or two after, I was thinking… why don't I build a tour around this? So we just played some shows there and back and it was empowering. I think it really was healing in a lot of ways.
What was one of your favorite moments while at the actual march? Seeing little girls leading chants and holding up signs was very emotional. And of course, being part of such a massive protest made its imprint. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the fortune again to be part of something so big and powerful.
Tonight’s show is a benefit for Global Green. How did you get involved with them and why was it important for you to partner up to do a benefit show with them? A good friend of mine, Peter, is involved with Global Green. He's an actor. I had heard about Global Green through him. I knew he'd been working with them for years. We were talking a couple weeks ago about the organization and I knew that I had this show coming up at The Bootleg. You know how everybody kind of has an issue that has come closer to the surface the past several months? My number one is the environment. When I was a kid, my Dad took my brother and I around the neighborhood (with used plastic bags, of course) and we used to collect aluminum cans. So I remember an awareness of the fragility of the environment from a very young age. I have vivid childhood memories of my Dad’s concern about recycling and the environment. It is now my main concern because none of the other issues matter if we don't even have a planet to live on. Of course, every issue is important. I'm an immigrant, my Mum's an immigrant. I could go on forever. I've been to Planned Parenthood, all of that. I thought, it's the beginning of the year. This is how I want to start out. I had this show booked and I spoke to the theater and they were totally on board and excited to do it. Then it just kind of unraveled from there and I've been working with the people at Global Green and they're amazing. They're gonna be at the show tonight if anybody wants to meet them, talk to them and find out about the organization themselves.