Just a few weeks ahead of their live performance in Victoria Park’s Field Day Festival and a breath away from their latest EP release, we catch up with the band that swings gracefully between dubstep and experimental music, mainstream audience and obscurity. And it all happens so fast, one blink of the eye and you might miss them.
When dub crooner James Blake made it to the BBC’s Sound of 2011 with only pop diva Jessie J outwitting him in the battle for the top spot, Mount Kimbie fans smirked, on the national broadcaster had picked up on the sound that had blown up their minds months before. The music affiliation is far from confidential, since Blake and the duo of Kai Campos and Dom Maker are friends and occasional collaborators.
Kimbie’s debut LP Crooks and Lovers was released in July 2010 by Scuba’s Hot Flush Recordings and its unconventional textures, structure and genre-defying sound forced it to the Top Albums lists of FACT, Mixmag and NME among others.
To this day, after tours in Europe, Australia and North America, the band doesn’t seek out press coverage and enjoys successful promotion from word of mouth. “We wouldn’t be able to do this twenty years ago,” realises Kai Campos, while I catch up with the duo in an old pub a stone’s throw from Old Street station.
The meeting takes place during a break of their European tour, just before they jump on the plane to France. “It’s only recently that we’ve been at home for more than one or two days, so this month we’ve just been watching Wimbledon, sleeping a lot, and playing Fifa on the X-Box.”
According to the other half of the project, Dom Maker, the world is treating them well. “We’ve got a good response pretty much everywhere we’ve played, obviously with the odd exception,” he says. One of those exceptions might be Austria where their laptop was stolen. Their Facebook page still has the post “Whoever got my laptop and phone in Austria, please don’t put mine and Dom’s rap battles on youtube”.
Dom and Kai first met in South Bank University, where they studied art management and TV/video production respectively. They soon discovered their common music tastes and started composing as Mount Kimbie. “The name is quite random, we just wanted it to sound like a band and not a single producer,” recalls Kai.
Back in 2006, the pair was deeply moved by South London’s dubstep scene and the reverberations it created across the city. But today Kai is quite disillusioned. “Back then you could go to listen to dubstep and that would involve a wide range of sounds. It was all very fresh and genuinely arresting. But right now most of it is really, really terrible. I’d rather listen to a musical, a soundtrack to Annie than a dubstep compilation. It’s the worst current scourge of lack of creativity in any form of music”.
Seeing me taken aback by his unexpected renunciation, he clarifies: “There are always people that are doing stuff replicating what someone else has already done before. Stuff replicating releases from two or three months before, used to be the minority but now they constitute the majority. I wouldn’t like to see dubstep as something that is being fragmented. I think it died years ago. It happens over and over with dance music, it’s just the passing of time really. It is not anything to be sad about. I mean…it was, really great.”
Under this statement of reconciliation a tone of bitterness surfaces, the most clear indication of a passion that refuses to die away. For both Dom and Kai the world has moved and according to the latter, in strange directions. “I like stuff that have slowed down slightly and techno that has more housy influences. People seem to be grappling with old ideas from techno and house records from 30 years ago, which I think it’s quite interesting”. Young upcoming artists like Lone or even his personal favourite Joy Orbison, seem to validate his point. “I know this music was around two decades or more ago but it’s not where I come from. I wasn’t buying house records when I was 15. I was into rock music.”
When I ask them about their next album, Mount Kimbie become one again, sharing the same guilty, puzzled look. “We’re looking for a space to build a studio and records it. We ’ve been busy doing other things. At the end of the summer we’ll stop playing gigs for a while and just start writing some music,” says Kai.
After one LP and two EPs (the Carbonated EP about to be released on July 25), their contract with Hot Flush Recordings will be fulfilled and the group is not sure whether this will be the imprint of their sophomore album. “We have been touring really hard so we don’t know what the new record will sound like, whether they would want it, whether anybody would want it”. Although it’s relatively safe to think their second instalment will find a label, the future is as ambiguous as ever.
One thing is for sure: it won’t sound like their debut. “You get into habits when making music, especially electronic. But when you do music out of habit that goes against the reason you started making music and using electronic instruments in the first place. If we keep on using technology the same way we’d might as well be playing the guitar”. While Kai expresses conclusively his creative mindset, comrade Dom is showing his support by his affirmative silence. They seem to balance each other like that all the time.
“Recently I started getting music in my head, which is strange, I never had this before really. Without playing, just walking down the street,” Kai tells me seconds before I leave our table with Mount Kimbie’s music in my head and the road ahead of me.
Carbonated EP – Out on July 25 by Hot Flush Recordings
August 6 – Field Day Festival – London, UK
August 12 – Beacons – Skipton, UK
August 26 – Reading Festival – Reading, UK
August 27 – Leeds Festival – Leeds, UK