Hello all in The Brother Kite. Would you please introduce yourselves to our readers? When did the band form?
Andrea – My name is Andrea Mason. I play bass guitar, and sing a little bit
Patrick – My name is Patrick Boutwell. I sing and play the guitar.
Jon – My name is Jon Downs. I sing and dance and play the guitar.
Matt – I’m Matt Rozzero. I drum and operate the iPod. I’m also the only band member that does not own an iPod.
Mark – My name is Mark Howard. I play guitar/tambourine and also sing.
Patrick – I had begun to write songs that were completely different from the ones I had been writing for my old band, and the only person that I knew would have a good grasp on what I was doing was Jon. So we got together, wrote some songs, recorded a demo, moved to Providence, and basically just built the band as we went along.
Jon – Although Pat and I began writing and recording as The Brother Kite about three years ago, the band in its current (and final) state has only been around for about a year. We actually recorded the album last year as a quartet, with Pat playing the drum parts. It wasn’t until the album was complete that we found dream drummer Matt.
Bands often have a mix of personalities. Describe each of your band’s members in terms of who they are as people. (i.e. the guy who holds things together, the class clown, etc.)
Patrick – I’m one who has a lot to say, but stays quiet (for better or for worse).
Jon – I’m the obnoxious one who makes everyone clean up after themselves.
Andrea – I’m the one who enjoys taking care of everybody, making sure everyone has eaten and is feeling okay.
Mark – I am the one who is most likely to get in trouble for goofing around at practice.
Matt – I try to keep everyone from going crazy. I’m good at goofing around and then blaming Mark.
I find your mixture of 80’s post-punk/pop and shoegazer elements to be addictive. Am I even close in thinking these types of music are influences of yours? What artists in particular do you see as major influences in composing your music?
Jon – Yes, you’re close…and that pleases all of us. We get so many people telling us that we sound like Jimmy Eat World or Death Cab For Cutie. Those bands are ok, but it’s just not what we have in mind. We do listen to and are influenced to some degree by shoegazer and pop bands from the 80’s and early 90’s (My Bloody Valentine, The Cure), but many of our major influences are older than that. Especially when it comes to recording. We constantly look to The Beatles, The Beach Boys, George Harrison, The Who, and other bands from the 60’s and 70’s when we are writing and recording. But not exclusively. Some contemporary bands that also inspire us are The Raveonettes, Interpol, The Microphones, The Pixies, and Superdrag. In some ways, I think Pat is my strongest influence.
Patrick – For me, what it really boils down to is writing good songs, with good structures and melodies. I feel that, sonically, some of the groups we listen to are certainly influential, but it’s very important to us that the inner framework of the song itself is good, too. I’ve heard too many examples of people trying to let sounds do all the work, and it often just doesn’t get the job done.
Your self-titled debut is an amazing work. Can you give us any insight into the recording process of the album? Also, could you tell us how the songs on this disc developed and if your fans will get to hear any of the outtakes, if there are any?
Jon – The thought of recording this album in a conventional studio never entered our minds. Too much money and not enough time. So for eight months we lived and worked in Rhode Island during the week, and spent the weekends at my parents’ house in New Hampshire recording. We converted my old bedroom into a makeshift studio, and learned every lesson the hard way. All of the songs had been previously written (and demo’d) by Patrick and myself, so we spent all of the time recording. Well, recording, deleting, and re-recording until we were satisfied to be precise. And we still are not satisfied. Most of the songs on the record have been recorded three or four times. With the next record, I’d like to think we can get in right in two times or less. We’ll see…
Patrick – I actually have a copy of the album from the very first time we recorded it. I recently listened to it back to back with the completed album, and it’s like listening to a completely different band. We’ve certainly grown as musicians and recording engineers, but, as far as outtakes are concerned, forget it. They ain’t leaving the vaults!
Andrea – We spent so many hours on this record. When we weren’t actually recording, we were talking about mic placement, or debating what kind of reverb sounded the best…we were always concentrating on doing the best we could.
Jon – …even if it meant a lot more work. I think that is something we should be proud of. When we decided to re-record the entire album, we were all well aware of how much work it would be…but getting it right was (and still is) very important to us.
Mark – Also important to us was playing a lot of Mario Golf and Goldeneye.
I find the lyrical style on the disc to match the eclectic approach of the music. Are there any authors that you find to be an inspiration for your lyrics? How do you go about writing your lyrics?
Patrick – There was a point early on when I felt it was necessary to sort of disguise what I really wanted to say, and to a degree, I still do that. But as I started to write more and more, I realized that maybe saying exactly what I needed to would be alright. Although I have to say that, even with that frame of mind, some of the songs are still tough to pin down. But I think that’s what’s charming about lyrics, anyway. I mean, it’s fun to have a completely different interpretation of the meaning of a song than the next person.
Jon – I’ve always admired great storyteller-style lyricists, like Paul Simon, David Bazan, and Bob Dylan. I wish I had a way with words like those guys do, but it’s just not the case. I know my strengths, and writing lyrics is not one of them. For me, it’s always the last part of the process, and it’s always something I dread. “Death Ray” is even an example of a song that I completed, and then passed off the Pat so he could write the lyrics. It just doesn’t come natural to me, but I’ve learned to work around that.
“The Black Out” is one of my favorite songs on the disc. Can you give us some insight into this song specifically, both lyrically and musically?
Patrick – It’s kind of tough to talk about, mainly because this is the one song that, to me, seems out of place, at least musically. Lyrically speaking, it’s fine. The subject of this song is the same as in “Porcelain”, and was written around the same time period (about four years ago). I hadn’t completely honed any sort of songwriting style yet; I think that “The Black Out” was the last song I wrote before I figured out how I like songs to sound. It still has a bunch of guitars on it, but to me, it lacks finesse.
Jon – In fact, that song almost didn’t make the record. “Porcelain” seemed to work pretty well, but we had concerns that “The Black Out” might not fit in with the newer material. It just barely made the cut. Coincidentally, our contract with Clairecords stated that our record had to be at least eight songs long…so there it is.
Being a part of the so called indie market, do you find it hard to survive as a band? How is the Rhode Island scene in particular?
Jon – I don’t think we find it very difficult to survive as a band because we all sincerely believe that what we are doing is worth it. Even when we play a bad show, or can’t even get a show at all, we never second guess ourselves. It may seem naive, but when you believe in what you do, none of that really matters.
Mark – The music scene in Rhode Island is not too great. It’s tough sometimes to get people to come out to shows. Two of the more popular clubs in Providence shut down last year, so some of the other clubs have been trying to pick up the slack, with mixed results. There are a lot of very good bands in the Rhode Island area, but unlike places like New York City, people just don’t seem to care enough for there to be a “scene”.
Andrea – Yeah, it’s a little tough for a new band in Rhode Island. As a whole, people don’t normally just go check out a band on a whim.
Matt – I guess the reason we work so well together is that we all have a similar focus. I know we have something great to offer an audience, if you believe in what you’re doing, it makes it that much easier to present it to people. RI is a tough scene to break into though because the scene is barely alive. There’s a deteriorating number of clubs and less and less people go to shows. And bands around here think it’s ok to wear shorts onstage. Such actions can make you look like a real slob.
What do you see as the future of The Brother Kite?
Mark – If we get to the point where I can quit my job, that will be a good start.
Jon – Not-to-distant future: Record a fantastic second record in our new studio (soon to be complete). Oh, and finally make it out to Seattle to see our friends at KEXP.
Andrea – Yeah, I’d like to make it out to the west coast soon, and continue to meet new friendly bands along the way. I’m also really looking forward to finishing our studio.
Patrick – I’d like to tour more, and sell more records. Just what we’re doing now, but on a bigger scale.
Matt – I think with the buzz we’ve been getting from this first record, we’ll have our MBE’s by the end of the year.
Your disc has a great feel to it overall. There are many ebbs and flows, but not too much. What inspired Mere Appreciation? How did the band put such a different sounding song on the album?
Jon- A few years back, Pat heard me playing that song to myself. It was just one of many little acoustic-based ideas that I never intended for The Brother Kite. For a while, we planned on writing a complete rock song around “Mere Appreciation,” but it never happened. Instead, we decided to use it as a dynamic device on the record: It’s intentionally quiet and minimal because it’s meant to give the listener a quick break before “Simply Say My Name.” We used to use it in our live set with the same intention, but it didn’t really translate in a rock and roll club. Too much noise, too much chatter. It works on the record, but unless someone asks for it, I probably won’t play it live again.
What are you listening to now?
Mark – Xiu Xiu, Tom Waits, David Bowie, M83
Jon – Wilco, Bob Dylan, Modest Mouse, Metric
Matt – PJ Harvey, Stones- Between The Buttons, Echo + Bunnymen, Suicide
Andrea – Sondre Lerche, Michael Jackson, Piebald, Count Dracula
Patrick – Ennio Morricone, The Edward Scissorhands Soundtrack, The Ramones, ABBA
Do you have any suggestions for up and coming songwriters or those beginning to form a band?
Mark – Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen to you.
Andrea – And always have confidence in yourself, nothing else can happen without that.
Patrick – If you can make people dance, you know you’re onto something.
Matt – If you’re performing in a band, and you have shorts on…that’s not a good idea.
Jon – Well, we’re up and coming…does anyone have any suggestions for us?