This Is The Kit is the band fronted by Paris-based British musician Kate Stables. Although still bubbling below the radar to some degree, her debut album Krülle Bol was produced by longtime PJ Harvey associate John Parish, and 2017’s Moonshine Freeze saw her working with The National‘s Aaron Dessner.
Her fifth album Off Off On was recorded just before the covid-19 pandemic hit pause on the music industry, and on life in general. The title, says Stables, refers to “not so much mood swings as brain swings, the here and there that your brain tugs you on.” In these difficult times, it’s a record that now feels like a lifeline, moving against the tide, standing against the storm.
Ahead of Off Off On’s release, Stables mined her music memory for the albums that have influenced her most for This Is The Kit’s This Music Made Me…
I don’t know if any of this music can actually be heard in the music I make, but it all played a very big part in shaping my musical roots.
PJ Harvey – Is This Desire
The was the first album that got me into PJ Harvey.
I remember seeing her perform A Perfect Day Elise on something like Later… with Jools Holland and was hooked immediately.
The writing is incredible. The production is devastatingly beautiful and it’s an album that I always have to listen to from start to finish as the order of the songs is frickin’ sublime. It takes you on a real journey. Emotional physical musical spiritual. One hell of a trip.
To me this is the best of the best of the music that was being made in the ’90s. The sounds used on this record are so bold and uncomfortable and delicious.
Paul Simon – Graceland
This album is what I mainly remember listening to as a child on holiday with my family. Again an album that is a journey from start to finish rather than one track at a time at random.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started listening to the lyrics and was blown away by the density and beauty of Paul Simon’s writing on this record. When I was little I mainly remember listening to the song Graceland and me and my sister thinking he said “combed her hair and farted” (I think he actually sings “combed her hair from her forehead”) which we of course thought was hilarious.
I also love the fact that it is an album made up of all of the things that I usually can’t stand: gated snare drum drenched in reverb… crazy bass noodling… rather extreme panning of horns… basically ’80s production to the max, YET I still love it so much and it makes me want to dance to every song every time I hear it.
Soul Coughing – Irresistible Bliss
I listened to this album an enormous amount when I was in my late teens/early 20s.
So many bangers on this record. And the opening track Super Bon Bon. What an absolute power tune. A total energiser. Immediate spazz-out on the dance floor factor. I love the way mike Mike Doughty writes. You can slice it with a knife. Such a pleasure to hear his voice and how he delivers his lyrics. A master of his craft and such a free flowing use of the english language. A real sentence sculptor.
It’s like some kind of 3D inside and out sound experience. The rhymes, the word association, the beauty of the phrases he builds. And the beautiful sound the band made together with their use of samplers and bass lines and solid and steady drums. So satisfying.
Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes
When I was about 12 me and my friend Alice we hugely into Tori Amos. What a presence. What a powerful wizard woman. Perfect energy and mystery and command. Especially to my 12 year old self. And imagine being able to play the piano like that. Just flying.
And again this was a woman singing bold and honest words and stories. Often uncomfortable or upsetting and not following many of the rules that had been written for female artists to follow.
Amazing jangly ’90s production but with big and round sounds. And weird noises that you weren’t sure how and who was making them. So satisfying to sing along to and feel free to. Good for feeling angry and sad but also exhilarating and liberating and uplifting. Great times.
The Beta Band – Three EPs
My friend Sam introduced me to The Beta Band. The first time I heard the track ‘push it out’ was a pivotal moment for me.
I remember thinking “oh woah there are people out there who dare!” and it was such a relief and so inspiring that there was music to be found out there that was just the right amount experimental and witty and moving and intriguing and joyous.
It made me want to do the same. I don’t think I will ever stop listening to this album.
Lou Reed – Transformer/ The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground
When I was 11 or 12 a friend of mine gave me a cassette and said “I think you’ll like this”. It wasn’t labelled so I had no idea what it was until years later and it turned out it was Lou Reed’s Transformer on one side and The Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground on the other. This is probably cheating, mentioning them both at once here, but they both changed my life in equal ways.
The voices, the guitar playing, all the performances, the grooves, the darkness, the ambiguity. Lou reed and his powerful presence. So so brilliant. Jonathan Richman sums it up so perfectly in his song Velvet Underground. I don’t know if I can explain it any better than he does. I don’t know if anyone can! But I listened to the tape of these two albums a lot, for years and years until it bust. From the tangly sound of tracks on The Velvet Underground like The Murder Mystery to the finely balanced and perfectly delivered songs like Jesus. And then Transformer, the unashamedly sleazy songs with all the ’70s production, spiky sounds and bitchiness.
And i’ve always loved the way Lou Reed plays with sexual ambiguity and gender fluidity. All the “misfits” and the idea of people outside of the “norm”. It was so exciting to me as an impressionable teenager and is still just as inspiring to me today. Really important, really great. What a frickin’ legend. I love Lou.
Ani DiFranco – Dilate
My sister Annie had a gap year and spent some time working and travelling in Canada and when she came back she brought a few new CDs with her. One of which was dilate by Ani DiFranco. It blew my 15 year old socks right off. So bassy and raw. So much chunky guitar and shouting. It was this album that got me into experimenting with retuning my guitar.
It was a revelation for me to discover new chords and sounds and the different melodies that were subsequently uncovered. The darkness and emotional torture in the album really appealed to my teenage ears. Her use of drums and beats that were so strongly hip hop influenced but she still referred to herself as a folk singer. All the metallic noises and crunches. It made me realise that folk music is whatever you choose it to be. That there are no rules. And that if there are rules then it’s good to break them.
From this album I then got hugely into all her albums. I’d spend hours working out how to play her songs. In a way it was her who taught me how to play the guitar. I fell in love with how bold and no bullshit she was. Her use of language, how proudly feminist she was, how open she was about her sexuality. The fact that she started up her own record label, doing things her own way and on her terms. I loved it. I think she’s played a really important part in the history/herstory of the music industry and how it functions. For the mainstream but also for the more independent and underground.
Joni Mitchell – Blue
An at-the-crossroads-of-life album. Travels and exploring and falling in love and life breaking your heart and rebuilding it again. An album that I always feel like listening to when autumn comes around and everything feels nostalgic and familiar and happy and sad.
I like travelling best in the autumn and to me this album really feels like autumn journeying. Coming to terms with moving on and that life keeps going regardless.
And It’s such a brilliant album to sing along to. I’ve always wanted to record just the voices of people singing along to this record while they’re listening to it on headphones. It’s pretty wild hearing what she does with her voice and melodies out of context of the songs. Even within the context of the songs, actually. Such an important musician and writer. So exceptionally gifted and hard working. And so much of her career was during a time of such extreme sexism and blokey bullshit. She’s made of strong stuff and has been through a few fires and is still one of the greatest.
Dick Gaughan – Handful Of Earth
it would be remiss of me not to include a full on folk music album in this list as it’s what I grew up listening to with my family and it has definitely shaped my musical ear and voice.
This Dick Gaughan album is so unspeakably beautiful. The arrangements, the guitar playing and his magical and powerful voice. Strong stuff. What a guitarist! And some very moving songs. Another album to listen to when autumn comes around again. Especially his version of Robert Burns’ Now Westlin Winds. His rendition of The World Turned Upside Down used to make me cry every time I heard it.
The songs on this record opened my eyes to the fact that there are many histories. The “people’s history” that is often missed out of mainstream school/history education. The history of workers movements and unfair land ownership and the oppression people have been fighting against since forever. The idea of sharing the land and resources and not owning it is not a new one. But it’s an idea we still need to fight for to this day. When I first played this album to my partner Jesse he said “this sounds like you singing”. And I realised he was kind of right. I think the way Dick Gaughan ornaments his vocal phrasing is a bit like what I do when I sing and back in the earlier days of me finding my voice (ongoing project of course) I think his singing style was hugely appealing to me and a lot of fun to try. I also love it when people sing in their own accents. The same accent they use to speak with. And Dick Gaughan has a beautiful accent when he sings and speaks.
Tricky – Premillenium Tension
This is the album that first got me into Tricky’s music. And Vent! what an absolutely brilliant track to open an album with. Blew my brains out when I first heard it. So beautiful and harsh and scary and strange.
He has always done such an excellent job of making his own sound and poetry. The sounds he creates are a kind of poetry in themselves. His timing, and rhythms and noises and frequencies. The language he uses in his words and how he delivers it all. All the lines slightly bent and images a bit twisted and distorted. So great. delicious. Like some kind of sound healing experience.
This album came along just at the right time for me. The dark introspection along with the big spaces it creates. How industrial and urban it all sounded. It really drew me in. His beautiful voice coupled with the beautiful (in an entirely different way) voice of Martina Topley-Bird. Music to be played at maximum volume.
This Is The Kit’s album Off Off On is out through Rough Trade on 23 October 2020. Tour dates and further information can be found here.