Atlanta-Based Duo Kissing Electric Debuts Fresh New Sound February 3, 2017 00:35
Interview by Taylor Pack: Live & Listen
Atlanta-based duo Kissing Electric release their debut EP KE at the beginning of this month. KE was recorded at Europa Studios and includes six original tracks and features other local Atlanta artists. Kissing Electric is the brain child of guitarist Trevor Wolford and drummer Che Marshall, who have been a local mainstay on the Atlanta scene for several years. At the end of the month, they will be hosting their own album release party at Aisle 5 on Friday, February 24th. Earlier this week, we were able to sit down with Kissing Electric to learn a little bit about the band and their upcoming debut.
Let’s start off with the name Kissing Electric. How did you guys come up with it and what does it mean?
Che: I think the basis of it was that the type of music we deal with. A lot of us are out of the acoustic world and a lot of music we make comes from the acoustic world. So in the name we had to have something that signifies how we were going to deal with music i.e. electricity or a way we were going deal with technology differently.
Trevor: I had a friend that I was staying with and he was hearing me mess with these sounds that weren’t conventional to what type music we played together as a drummer that played jazz with me. He told me he thought I should explore this and make a group with these sounds. So I listened to him and later on when Evan said kissing electric I knew it was perfect because it was embracing electronic. I had finally gotten out of this world of being jaded about you know, other music. I actually really like electronic sounds. I grew up listening to that stuff with Roni Size and Aphex [Twin] and all those people… The Chemical Brothers were big for me. Kissing Electric is about embracing the combination of acoustic instruments in a world they are not traditionally found in.
Right on. So where did you guys meet?
Che: [laughs] On the scene, playing around… It was initially at a church gig for the very first meeting but then after that, just playing around the Atlanta scene.
Trevor: Yeah, probably playing at Elliot Street [Pub] or something like that.
So you guys were in the same scene here in Atlanta. Did you guys share similar musical backgrounds?
Trevor: I started out just playing like any white kid in America would play guitar. They hear Hendrix or Zeppelin and…
Che: Oh do they? [laughs]
Trevor: [laughs] Then I got into jazz through Wes Montgomery and started playing in bands in high school. By the time college came around I was really serious about it. I studied classical guitar and then got into jazz guitar with a guy that used to teach at the college. Long story short, I was just playing in a bunch of jazz groups and trying to figure out how to play jazz guitar in a way that I felt like I wanted to play it. So here I am today doing the same thing just trying to go further with it.
Che: Dig. Well mine came from my mom playing a bunch of records throughout the house when I was a kid. I started out on pots and pans, ice-cream buckets, desks, the coffee table, sofas, stuff like that [laughs]. Yeah, and my mom would play everything from Ella to Chopin to Dizzy. My dad was real heavy into jazz coming up so I just played along with those records. I got my first real drum set in middle school and spent the summers with my grandparents who are Pentecostal ministers. So I spent hours on end playing ‘boom-tap boom-tap, boom-tap boom-tap’ about ten hours on Sundays doing that. Then I went to the school of the arts in Pittsburgh which expanded my palette of music a bit, you know being around a bunch of different people.
I took on a lot of rock then and even more jazz then because during that time period in America those worlds were intertwined a bit, at least from drummer’s perspective. A lot of cats were checking out Elvin [Jones] and Tony [Williams]. So I spent time doing that through college. I did some marching band and gospel, got into the pop thing and did a lot of touring and then got into the drum and beat scene. I eventually got into the more eclectic side of things thanks to Atlanta. Thanks to WCLK back in the day. There was this cat Ken Batie who played stuff from everywhere and that was my first real taste of like European music and some of the risks they were taking. That was all a heavy influence that has led to today dealing with afro beat and world music.
So what can music fans who have never heard Kissing Electric expect to find on the new EP?
Trevor: This project for me was meant to be a real expression of what I want music to do and say. If you’re at a show I want you to feel some kind of groove or feel some kind of emotional attachment. All of my favorite music does that whether it’s an electronic thing, a jazz thing, or just a guy playing acoustic guitar, I want it to speak in some way. For me, there is definitely the electronic thing happening but the groove element was the biggest thing with this group.
Che: Dig with that. But to say what the music is… I am always leery of throwing it into a genre because that gets really dangerous. With all these influences that we have and that are being thrown out there, if your even like really checking some music out you’re not going to say “aah you only listen to music in 7/8’. Right now, at heart, we are artists, and artists go through phases. Where we are right now is like “okay, we need to document this because this is you know… a pure form of expression”. Like I said before, we want you to dance to it, we want you to bob your head to it, and we want you to connect with it. This energy that we put into the music and into the album, and that we put into the shows, we want you to come experience that and get on this wavelength and connect.
Tell me a little about the tracks on KE and where the material comes from.
Trevor: Well it is all very collaborative. Um… it usually starts with two or three of us putting the platform down… usually I come up with some kind of idea or format that is either built on the groove or the guitar or the bass. From there we kind of build upon it and decide if we want to add a synth layer or we feel it needs a vocalist on the track in which I will call one of my favorite people. For instance, with “Drifting” that is exactly how it went down.
I heard Evan play a bass riff at his house, just kinda noodling and I was like “I really like that” so I just took the guitar part and ran it through an arpeggiator and the next thing you know they kinda mesh together. I kinda heard them in my head and then I tried it out and built upon the idea and added a bridge and a chorus and stuff like that. Then we asked Brenda if she would like to write something to it. That day she came over and we just started going at it and came up with some great stuff. So yeah, it is all very collaborative. By the time we were in the studio we had all really thought about what we wanted to do.
Che: Yeah, you can always get to the root of the tracks. Like with some of the other songs, like “L5P”, we were sitting in Little Five Points, in that room… I guess the same with “Drifting”, you had that line and came in with the arpeggiator and I was like “man, what am I gonna do with this?” At the basis of a lot of our music it needs to be feel-good music, it needs to be true music, and you need to be able to dance to it somehow. We don’t want it to be like math stuff where your like “what the hell is going on?” So sitting in the room that day, all four of us had gone in there to get through everything and take it chunk by chunk and being pretty democratic about what we want to say and how we want to get our points across.
Trevor: It was cool… And this is the world we live in where you randomly see someone you don’t know on social media and say “oh my gosh, that’s that guy and they are here right now”. So I randomly saw that Jacob Bergson, who did some synth stuff on the track “Drifting”, was in Atlanta. I just randomly saw him on an Instagram post or something, and I was like “aah that’s Jacob, the guy who plays with Nerve”, which is Jojo Mayer’s drum n bass/electronic group, and I thought it would be cool to try and get him in the studio.
So as I was literally going to bed but I thought I would put my pants back on and see what was happening. I texted my friend who said they were at The Local and went down there and bought him a beer and asked if I could get him to come into the studio, bring his moog and do something and he told me he would love to. He just came in the next day and killed it. He did this kind of stacking of sounds that created a lot of tension that ended up being really cool and created a really cool ending to the tune. At the very end you hear all these synths going in and out of tune, very much like a film score where it’s very dissonant and it…
Che: Creates some chaos…
Trevor: Yeah, exactly.
Now that you guys got KE finished up what should fans be on the lookout for next from you guys?
T: The Release party is February 24th. There are a couple other bands on the bill that are opening and are totally worth checking out. Chelsea Shag is going to be releasing a single as well that night. We specifically wanted to do the release show at Aisle 5. We talked about a lot of venues but ultimately we felt like we had played there before and it was such a good vibe, and the sound crew there did such a good job and knew exactly what we wanted to do sonically. All that spoke the most and of all the neighborhoods in Atlanta Little 5 Points feels like home. So that is the next show and after that we are planning a short run of dates in the summer. Last year we did a one off at the Rockwood in NYC that went over really well so we want to try and do another Rockwood show and then work our way down the east coast.
C: Yeah, and you can also check us at the art parties.
T: Yeah, we do the art parties every year. That is something we like being a part of which is the non-tradition music scene, stuff like art parties and fashion shows and stuff like that.