Picking apart the sonic make-up of the Aussie born, New York bred band The Kin
doesn’t exactly reveal much to take stock in. Two brothers, both equally accomplished singers in their own right, trading equal lines of verse and chorus over a relatively simple sonic palette of acoustic guitar and electric piano (though other contributors do contribute other odds and ends); such a modest make up certainly sounds somewhat underwhelming on paper. But it’s what Isaac
and Thorry Koren
do with such basic elements that are most impressive, resulting in a memorable breed of pop music that is sweet, nostalgic, and absolutely romantic all at once.
We recently had the chance to sit down with Isaac and Thorry as they shot through their adopted hometown on what seems like a never-ending string of live dates. Over the course of a couple hours, the two plowed their way through their story. From their origins as a simple wedding present, to their philosophical take on the ever evolving role of modern music, to their ongoing work with the Charity Water organization…catching up with The Kin is the kind of opportunity I wish every budding, would-be musician might one day have. In the event they don’t, however, we’ve been kind enough to provide a complete transcript – David Pitz
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How did The Kin come together?
: We had separate bands. My first high school band being something of a cross between Manchester Orchestra and Faith No More.
: And they dragged me into it. They said, “Hey, do you want to join our band? You could be the lead singer”. That’s how it started. But about a year later our Dad was getting married. We didn’t have any money to buy him a present at the time, so instead we wrote him a song. We started harmonizing, and realized we were getting these little harmonics…they really only happen when two voices join. We were in a bathroom because we didn’t want anyone else to hear what it is we were doing, and the natural acoustics and timbre of the bathroom just created this kind of mist…a sonic mist. We just looked at each other, slightly haunted, and thought, “we have to do this, even if it kills us, let’s do this”.
So how long would you say you have been The Kin?
: The Kin has been around for about 4 years now.
Would you consider yourself a New York band?
: I don’t think it really means anything (to be a NY band) because at the end of the day, New York City – outside of being culturally relevant – is just another room. It’s just another hundred or a few thousand or twenty thousand people to play to. We’re actually finding out more and more that NY is not the first place we think of our fan base living.
Did you find it difficult cutting your teeth as a young band in New York?
: It was, because we were never writing music for the trends…we were never writing music for the fashionistas.
So how did you build your reputation?
: New York City is thirsting for community, and I think we’ve made one fan at a time, and they have stuck by us. So in a way, that kind of puts us in the underground of New York City. We’re not extreme, and we’re not Indie. And usually we play to a room of people that don’t know each other, where as bands that run in Brooklyn tend to play for people who all run in the same circles.
With the overwhelming nature of modern music, how do you think people’s listening habits have changed?
: I think people tend to grab onto the [band] name first, and then slide you into a category somewhere so that they can talk about you, and use you as a reference. Then somewhere later down the road, someone might actually listen to you. Others, though, might have no preconceived notions of your music, give it a listen, and then have a real experience. But for everyone that has had a real experience, there are so many more people who have filed you away. And we’re all guilty of it.
The amount of choice today’s listeners have is overwhelming…
: It is. That is why it is important to have something that is actually distinct, memorable, and digestible.
Do you think that is something that had created a unique challenge for bands today?
: It seems like there used to be only one way to go out. Now there are infinite numbers of ways…which means the only way to be exposed is just to be yourself, because at the end of the day there are so many different flavors of music that, unless you’re truly yourself, I don’t think anyone is going to be able to find you.
: Think about the 80s or 90s. You could say, “I have a band, an album, a show, and the relevance and experience to play in that room. Now young bands can say, “I have a band, I just did three songs on Garage band, this is what we’re called, and we’re playing our high school. And we have a MySpace, and it is the same thing that U2 or Coldplay has.” So the way of being exposed is so much broader and the competition is huge.
So how does that competition change your approach?
Isaac: The only way you can do it is just get on the road. That is the only way we have stayed alive.
: For any band, or any project, it is about getting up in front of people. In 2008 it costs money, so it is about finding a way to afford that expense. But if you are a live act you can do nothing wrong than by being out there. And you’ve got to always come up with new reasons to be out there consistently. That is how word gets out there. If you got something that is worth listening to…a recording and a live performance…then it is just about gaining exposure and relevance.
I think in your case, the commercial appeal of your songs must be a real vessel for success.
Isaac: We got an email saying our song was on MTV Real World. And so many people came to our band from that. And I don’t watch the show. But the music is playing on networks like MTV and Lifetime has really become a major lifeblood for finding new music. These days there is no way of getting out there that’s wrong. I think it is too competitive to just say no. What band can afford to say no?
U2 apparently can’t
: So there it is…
: It is such a different world than it was five years ago. And it is scary too, because I’m very political in my outlook. And I’ve watched the world change. The way people accept these brands into their lives? It’s strange, but you have to move with the times in a way. You have let the music find people. And the ways people encounter music have all changed. But it hasn’t gone anywhere. People spend few moments in their life without it.
: Think about how easily accessible, yet completely untrackable music is. It’s mind-boggling. For example…I love the Swell Season. I’ve probably visited their MySpace twice. That makes me responsible for 2 plays. Yet somehow I know the whole album, I know what it means to me, I have never bought it, but somehow I have the whole album on my IPod. So how many people are doing that to the Kin?
So do you ever feel as if you’re just throwing your music out into the void?
: Totally! All the time. We really don’t know what we are doing on the business sense to be perfectly honest with you. We’re just artists trying to stay alive. If we were managers, we’d be managers.
: Not that the managers know what they are doing
So if you’re throwing it out into the void, where do you find your motivation?
: From moments of recognition…though I could care less if you recognize my name. But when someone says, “this album means this to me, this music does this to me, thank you”… One person saying that is worth doing the entire work.
Tell me a little bit about your involvement with Charity Water.
: Well, there are a lot of different charities. There are even multiple charities that build wells in Africa. But the key to Charity Water is that 100% of the donations go straight to the wells. That is the most important thing for us, because this should really be an apolitical subject. It is literally just putting clean water into schools. We’re working in Kenya. And we’ve had the opportunity to sell bottles of water - something physical – online and at shows. So far we have managed to raise over 30,000 dollars. That’s enough for one well, but we’re working on building another.
How did you get hooked up with them?
Isaac: Well, when 2 people tell you to do something from different sides you take a look. We were also in a café one time and we were paying 7.50 for a bottle of water…we kind of decided then and there that water is an issue. We checked out the site. We realized it was a big issue. And it just really hit home for us.
: The simplicity of it is also appealing. We had spent some time being involved with Save Darfur. We did an event at the UN that was very intense. It was so insanely political.
: This just seemed like a situation we might actually be able to help.
So what’s next for the band? Do you have another record coming out?
: Records seem a little dated. So we’re not really going to focus on records for a while. But we certainly want to keep releasing material every two months. We’re just going to release singles…whack ‘em on I-Tunes...get them out there. Tell people about it. Beginning in the fall we’ll release some more songs…maybe an EP. The life cycle of this year and half to 2 years is dated.
: You’ve also got to tour with some kind of context. Every season having a new 4 song EP could be a real cool thing. We have to find a way to always consistently stay relevant and building, not abandoning, our fan base.
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The Kin @ MySpace