Observing a band as they go about their business is often more revealing than anything which is said in an interview.
The combination of a boyish, fun-loving attitude and pure professionalism exhibited by The Kissaway Trail during their Camden Crawl soundcheck sufficed to convince of the band’s instant likeability and mass appeal potential.
Hailing from Odense, Denmark, The quintet’s inspirational debut album has already garnered much public interest, thanks in part to being compared to Arcade Fire ad nauseum.
However, these guys are out to prove that they can carve out a distinctive identity without riding the coattails of the indie-rock powerhouse.
musicOMH caught up with the aspiring critical darlings on day two of the Camden Crawl to discuss their ambitious debut, finding job satisfaction at Bella Union and freedom from the shackles of flattering comparisons.
After being collectively manhandled by security guards in typical Crawl fashion, discussion began with the guys describing how they would categorise their blend of majestic guitar lines, dramatic melodies and epic arrangements. It is immediately clear that Rune welcomes this opportunity to affirm that despite all the comparisons, The Kissaway Trail ultimately sound like no one but themselves.
“We differ in terms of how we would describe our sound. Even though I do think we fit under the label of indie-pop or indie-rock, we are inspired by such an eclectic mix of musicians that it’s really hard to categorise us. In terms of the harmony parts, we draw inspiration from bands like The Beach Boys, Granddaddy, Daniel Johnston and Sonic Youth, amongst others.”
Their immensely likeable debut does not come across as the efforts of a new band on the block. Rather, the band’s undeniable chemistry and conviction in terms of musical direction are immediately detectable. How did they go about recording such a masterfully cohesive album?
“The album was recorded in a studio in Denmark,” explained Sren. “We got together with our producer who we met in music production school and just went for it. He knew exactly what we wanted despite being only 20 years old, and as a drummer he really grasped the rhythmic side of it very well. All of us have been friends for many years, so getting together to record this album was a natural choice.”
Fans around the world have the discerning ears of Bella Union’s Simon Raymonde to thank for putting The Kissaway Trail on the map. The former Cocteau Twins bassist discovered the guys via their MySpace page, and pursuant to hearing the recordings they had just finished, immediately offered to release the album. What do they make of the intense saturation of ‘MySpace sensations’ in today’s music scene?
“MySpace is such a great medium for bands to reach the fans. On the flip side, it’s also a great way for record labels to discover new talent. It’s a double edged sword in that it is so vast that many good bands get lost in the shuffle. But we’ve managed to find many bands that we like on MySpace.”
The grand universe of MySpace in which everyone aspires to celebrate their individuality suggests that in this day and age, realism is a euphemism for mundanity. The Kissaway Trail’s sound has a dramatic flair which coincides with the truism that music is escapism. With ‘epic’ bands such as Muse and Arcade Fire making an explosive impact in recent years, have music fans all become megalomaniacs?
“I think it’s not so much the grandness in itself that appeals to fans,” explained Rune. “This kind of music is relatable because we all have dreams and ideals. This type of ‘epic’ music usually has great melodies and harmonies, so it satisfies everyone’s need for reflective music. In the words of Michael Stipe, ‘Everybody Hurts’, right? But with us, it’s not all serious and sad. We have many positive elements too, and we definitely really appreciate low-fi music as well. It all depends on the mood we’re in.”
The mention of Arcade Fire gave rise to an inaudible groaning party which I observed out of the corner of my eye. And who can blame them, since virtually every album review has described The Kissaway Trail as Denmark’s answer to one of Canada’s greatest exports. What do the guys make of the comparisons?
“We definitely understand the comparisons, but when we recorded the album, we knew who they were but we weren’t really that aware of their music. Don’t get me wrong, I think they sound great, but it’s not like we were solely inspired by them. I think the fact that we make use of a lot of weird instrumentation probably forms the basis of the comparisons. But it doesn’t bother us, since every critic compares new bands with an established act. It makes our music more understandable to the general public, giving fans an opportunity to make up their own minds about what we sound like.”
I was promptly forgiven for mentioning Arcade Fire, given that the guys apparently like Canadians a lot. A mention of the band’s recent gig at Toronto landmark Sam the Record Man led to a comparison of the Scandinavian music scene with the rest of the world, which the guys have been heavily exposed to in the past few months.
“They actually respond more to us in the UK than in Denmark, because we are a Scandinavian band. Because of that, we are able to offer something different,” noted Thomas. “Of course, many people are impressed by us expanding into international markets back in Denmark,” continued Daniel, “but I think the industry people back home have higher expectations for us, which is a good thing because it gives us impetus to grow as a band.”
Has it been difficult engaging a live audience as a new band?
“Audiences everywhere have actually been very open-minded,” explained Hasse. “When we play, the people move their feet, so I feel that we have been able to establish that relationship with the audience. Of course, as an up-and-coming band, we still have so much more to learn.”
The album contains so many disparate elements that the guys are unable to reach consensus over which tracks stand out, with some preferring the more rock heavy songs while others favouring the more empathetic tracks. With two lead singers and two songwriters, is it hard to reach any sort of agreement regarding the creative direction to take?
“We agree not to disagree too much,” observed Rune. “So we are always able to reach some sort of a compromise.”
“It also helps that we have similar tastes in music. We don’t agree 100%, but it’s not like Sren likes something that we all hate. OK, well maybe Sren, but the others tend to agree,” Daniel remarked jokingly.
Despite the occasional disagreements in terms of creative direction, the band resoundingly gave Bella Union top marks in terms of employee satisfaction, and sounded more convincing than a recruitment prospectus in doing so.
“We are so proud to be part of the Bella Union family. We were only aware of bands like Midlake and The Dears before we signed on, but we’ve now had a chance discover all these other great bands signed to them. Everyone here is so nice. They’ve also really made an effort to build some connection between all the bands. We recently played at the SXSW Bella Union showcase in Texas and got to meet a lot of the other artists.”
Given all the hype, The Kissaway Trail have enormous plimsolls to fill. However, the guys are taking all the pressure in stride. “There will always be pressure. But more importantly, there should always be pressure, since it heightens creative output.” Time will tell whether talent + humility = indie-rock supremacy. Just don’t be surprised if by year end, the next big thing is described as sounding “like The Kissaway Trail”.