Kimono are the one Icelandic band that I never quite get around to seeing. They always seem to either be on an extended break, immersed in some kind of side project, or working behind closed doors on new material. Despite frequent trips to Iceland, and being a fan since 2009’s Easy Music For Difficult People, I just keep missing them.
Defining Kimono’s music can be just as difficult to pin down. Occasionally it is guitar driven indie rock, but under the surface, another more complex band is waiting. One which is equally capable of atmospheric soundscapes as it is – as they say – ‘textured bummer rock’. Alison from the band tells us more.
Can you introduce us to the members of Kimono?
Kimono is Gylfi (bass and baritone guitar) and Kjartan (drums) and I (singing & guitar). We have been playing together for 13 years and we’ve recorded three LPs and several other things. We are the band that your cool cousin listens to (or you, if you are that cool cousin). Isn’t it okay to say things like that as long as they’re true?
How would you describe your music?
Agitated Icelandic outsider rock poetry (according to our Facebook page…) The format of kimono’s music is very much rock – drums, bass, guitar and singing. We all listen to a lot of different types of music and we are all huge music fans, so I think that comes through in our music. We are very adverse to regurgitating what is already being done by other people, so I guess most people would say we sound unique, to use a sadly overused word. But the music is unique to us, because we all contribute equally to the music and the combination makes something else entirely. We also enjoy taking ideas from other styles of music, like (for example) early electro-acoustic music, and applying it to rock. We make music that searches and explores new territory in spite of the old idiom (rock).
You have been around for a while now, in one form or another, do you still enjoy playing together?
If we didn’t, we would probably have to be the most passive aggressive group of people on the planet. We practice 2-3 times and week and when we have dinner parties or vacations in the countryside, the other members of the band and their partners are almost always there as well, so we’re more like family (or a cult) than a band at this point. For my part, I can’t imagine not being in kimono. It’s like Kjartan said when we started working on material for the new record; he’s always impressed when we write more songs, because we’re not really sure where it comes from. That’s an extremely valuable relationship to have with a group of people. It’s both a difficult and beautiful thing, really.
I love the idea of crowd-funding your albums being released on vinyl. How did this come about?
We have always wanted to release the records on vinyl, but none of the labels we’ve been on ever managed to deliver on it. We’re sort of a dark horse when it comes to labels, because it’s never obvious that our records will sell (even though they always have sold well). I think a lot of the time people rely on the fact that a band’s album sounds like something else that’s popular before making an investment like that. That said, we have a very dedicated group of supporters who have followed what we’ve done for years. So it made sense to ask them if they wanted the records. So far, so good. We’re halfway through and we’ve raised half the money already, so it’s looking good.
We have just celebrated Record Store Day. Why do you think vinyl has become popular again?
My first vinyl records used to be my father’s. So, for me at least, there is a strong feeling of value and tradition (some would say, nostalgia) that goes with it. The experience of listening to vinyl is also immersive. You have to interact with a record player and your albums more than you do with an iPod or CDs. The new formats are very disposable. For going to the gym or making mixes to listen to at a party, streaming music wins hands down, of course, although I have doubts about it ever being profitable for musicians. For an individual band’s records that you want to listen to as a whole, though, vinyl is better. The immersion helps the listener to concentrate, maybe. The cynical side of me wants to add that it’s also sort of like having books on your shelf that you haven’t read. Kind of like that Woody Allen movie from the seventies where he runs around leaving half opened books on chairs to impress his date with how intellectual he is.
I love your new single – ‘Specters’. Is their a new album in the pipeline?
There is. And thank you. We’ve been working on our new LP for the last six months, writing and recording new songs. It takes us a while because every single riff has to be stress tested like one of those glassed-in armchairs at IKEA that a robot ‘sits’ on 12,000 times a day. We play each section over and over and over until we’re absolutely sure that it will be great. Plus we record everything we do, so there’s a 199-disc box set also in the pipeline for when we’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel some fine day in the future. All kidding aside, though, it will be ready before Airwaves this year. We’re toying with the idea of making it vinyl-only.
I’m told that a kimono live show is something to behold. Are there any plans for a tour, and what should we expect?
We will tour when the new album is ready. We always go to Germany, because they feed us and treat us like human beings. We avoid places like London, because they don’t. We’ll definitely be heading to Canada at some point soon and it seems like Finland and Scotland would be good places to go, according to our interwebz data, at least. And yes, a kimono live show is a very good thing. Intense. Electrifying. All that good stuff. We seem to at least impress the type of people that we are proud to impress, so that’s always a good thing. (We love our fans. They are almost always awesome.)
Originally published on Iceland Review online.