Catching Up With This Is The Kit
It's about half past 5 during the first day of the third annual Eaux Claires, and as I head to the media tent, the sound of Tweedy's set drifts through the main grounds of the festival, still audible as I find the members of This Is The Kit staked out in a corner of the tent. Earlier in the afternoon, the England-born, Paris-based band consisting of Kate Stables, Rozi Plain, and Jamie Whitby-Coles had performed on The Flambeaux Stage, one of the two main stages. Known for having a shifting line up always fronted by Kate Stables, the band played some new tunes from the upcoming record Moonshine Freeze with the help of Eaux Claires curator Aaron Dessner. While I caught up with the trio in the media tent, we chatted more about their live show, their dream collaborations, and folk tales. Learn about all that and more before the release of Moonshine Freeze on July 7th in our chat with This Is The Kit.
Frontwoman Kate Stables Isn't Big On Planning
Diving into the story behind the new album, Stables recalls the group's songwriting process as being more organized than their previous records, their latest being Bashed Out in 2015. "Well songwriting happened between the release of our last album in--" Stables pauses, questioning when the last record was released before confirming 2015 as its birth year. "So since the release of Bashed Out and now. It was nice, we went into the studio and all of the songs were written. Some of them even had the arrangements worked out. Which is sort of new for me, cause I’m unorganized and often running late," she continued. Stables also gave recognition to their producer, John Parish, calling his work brilliant.
The band's live lineup especially is never set in stone, but the band don't seem bothered by that at all, and have managed to sound incredible live with a variety of different setups. "We can’t always do everything that happens on the record, because there’s only--well normally there’s four of us, but today there’s only three of us," Stables muses about the live arrangements of the new material. "I’m not very good at planning," she admitted. Rozi Plain interjects to say that they've managed to remain flexible, adding "Often things get worked out and changed while we’re on tour. Sometimes just trying things out as we’re playing them." One of the best facets of the gem that is Eaux Claires Fest is the improvisation that occurs each day, so This Is The Kit fit perfectly with that sentiment.
Saxophones and Storytellers Have Shaped The New Record
Kate Stables has stated that Moonshine Freeze focuses on the concept that stories and truths sort of evolve over time, told differently as time moves on. She elaborates more on her inspiration behind the songs and her fascination with storytelling, saying, "I’ve been reading a lot of Ursula Le Guin and she talks a lot about stories changing over time. Also, I listen to a lot--and read to my daughter, a lot of folk tales. And there’s always different versions of those." She continues, "There’s a particular collection of African stories that Hugh Tracey collected, and there’s recordings of him reading them. There’s a story about a rabbit and tortoise where it sort of talks about truth and lying, and I’ve been thinking about that."
While Stables is able to pinpoint a few authors and storytellers as inspiring that notion behind Moonshine Freeze, she ponders for a while about other influences, saying, "I don’t know if they’re ever sort of conscious. You look back and you think, oh, look at that, that matches up with that." She pauses and asks Plain and Whitby-Coles for their input. Plain mentions that they draw inspiration from life experiences as well.
Stables bounces off of Plain's comment, saying, "Yeah, we’ve been playing a lot with a saxophone section over the past year or so, and so it was great to have them in the recording session. That’s really shaped the album." Speaking of saxophones, Eaux Claires' resident sax choir The Sad Saxes joined This Is The Kit for a lovely Saturday afternoon performance at The Oxbeaux Stage in the woods, which earned a standing ovation at the end.
Aaron Dessner Acted As a Correspondent Collaborator On Moonshine Freeze
Not only did EXC curator Aaron Dessner join This Is The Kit for the aforementioned Oxbeaux Stage performance and their Friday afternoon performance at the festival, but he also contributed to the recordings on the new record. Stables has been working with Dessner for longer than that, though. Describing their working relationship, she says, "Well, it’s great, we made the last album with him 100%. This one, it was kind of like a correspondence, pen-pal recording project. We sent him some of the songs, and then he recorded some bits of it. Then we sort of sorted out which bits could stay. It happened long distance."
Speaking of arranging parts of the new tunes, Stables and Plain reflect on playing some of the new ones live for the first time at the fest. "Since we recorded it, we haven’t played many [shows], so it’s just sort of fun to play the new ones," Plain says. Stables echoes that excitement, saying, "Yeah, because a lot of the arrangements weren’t finished, or just were started from scratch in the studio. So now that they’re sort of established, it’s nice to be able to play them when they’re finished."
They'd Like To Work With Tweedy, Francis, and Sam Amidon
Speaking of collaborations, the trio share which of the other acts on the lineup they'd love to collaborate with, since that is the name of the game at Eaux Claires. Pausing to contemplate the abundance of possibilities, Stables suggests they each pick an artist, since it's too difficult to land on only one unanimous decision. "I'm really liking Tweedy...I'm really enjoying this," Whitby-Coles decides, while Tweedy's set continues throughout the interview. Stables takes her pick next, saying, "I’d love to to one day do some singing and banjo playing with Sam Amidon 'cause I think he’s brilliant!" Plain remembers Francis's dance lessons on the Decorum Stage, saying, "There was someone teaching everyone some great dance moves--let’s do a collaboration with Francis!"
While we didn't get to see Francis's dance moves combined with Stables' banjo playing this time around, there's always next year, and we did get to see Stables join Justin Vernon for a song during The John Prine tribute on Friday evening.
They'll Be Back In America In October
The band were recently announced as part of Pitchfork Music Festival's lineup in Paris, but that's not all they're looking forward to later in 2017. "We're coming back to America in October" Whitby-Coles excitedly shared. Stables says those dates are still to be confirmed, but once they have dates in place, they'll be even more excited for the return. Make sure you keep your eyes out for that tour announcement because if you think the recordings from This Is The Kit sound great, just wait til you catch a live performance. Plain and Stables voices blend so well together, and when playing with a sax section they're able to add even more dynamic to their layered and thoughtful songs.
In addition to the tour, what else is the band setting out to do this year? "Changing the world," Plain enthusiastically suggests. In sync on and off the stage, Stable echoes Plain, saying she's planning on getting more involved in local politics this year.