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A Short Conversation with Orange Kyte

1 May 2020

The Orange Kyte have described their music as “A loose cacophony of visceral sonic tomfoolery, fixed together with pop-informed melody, three safety pins, and some scotch tape” but there is obviously much more to their music than this self-deprecating description admits. So I thought that the only way to get to the heart of the matter was to corner the band and ask them to let me in to their fascinating world.

There is a sort of forward-thinking nostalgia in your music. How much do you draw inspiration from the past and how much are you looking to write the next musical chapter?

Yeah I do tend to very much take inspiration from the past, and I don’t get too concerned with reinventing the wheel so to speak. Much of what I do isn’t a very conscious or considered thing, but as the lion’s share of what I listen to was recorded in the sixties or seventies, that’s also the main source of influence. With the exception of a couple of songs resulting from jams on the second record (“Elvis Shot J.F.K.,” “More In”) the songs largely have their origins as stripped down acoustic songs, and there’s only so far you can really take that. If we somehow stumbled upon something that could be considered a valiant attempt at breaking new ground, I would embrace that and enjoy pushing those ol’ boundaries as far as possible, but for the moment I just let it come out as unfiltered and unplanned as possible, operating more on intuition than anything else.

It’s been two years since The Orange Kyte Says Yes! and a year since Carousel, has much changed in the way you write songs and where you draw inspiration from over that period of time?

A good chunk of the songs from Carousel were written at the same time as the previous record.. So no, not really. Generally the songs for both records began life as songs written on this beat-up, cheap old nylon string guitar I inherited when I moved around that time. The guitar had been left behind by my friend Ian, who was the previous tenant, it seemed to just contain all those songs that were waiting to break free… like genies from a bottle! I’ve deliberately put that guitar away in order to write the next record, in an effort to freshen things up a little and try to let them flow from another place. The basic songs just come out subconsciously, as I tool about aimlessly on the guitar, improvising melodies while probably watching a movie or something at the same time, oftentimes they come out fully-formed musically and melodically in one go with the exception of maybe a middle 8 or an outro. Deliberately setting out to ‘write a song’ never really works out, except when writing the lyrics, which is always the final stage of the process. The songwriting is generally more of an abstract thing, just noodling about in a semi-distracted state until a tune comes along.

Carousel differs from The Orange Kyte Says Yes! in a few ways. Pierce Kingan became our bass player before Carousel and his incredible bass playing and backing vocals are all over the record. He had previously played in a band called The Prettys with our sax player, Matty Reed. So those guys being so tight musically really helped the record come together. Mat Durie recorded his organ and additional guitar parts remotely this time as he was living in Edmonton at the time. That was cool because he was coming at the songs with an entirely fresh perspective, hearing them for the first time only when they’d been recorded. Also we leaned more heavily into Dave (Mulvany)’s favoured style of drumming too, which directly informed an uptempo garage sound. In that sense, Carousel is my subconscious scatterbrained songs filtered through the combined influences of the band. And each of us have our own musical personalities and tastes.

A big difference between The Orange Kyte Says Yes! (2018) and Carousel (2019) is that the songs from Carousel were generally fully rehearsed with the band and played out live a few times prior to recording. That wasn’t the case at all for the previous record. On the whole, the instrumentation and parts were figured out in the studio as we recorded that one, for better or for worse!! Perhaps when all is said and done, good old fashioned rehearsing was the main difference between the two records…

The band’s influences seem to be many and varied, from psychedelia to krautrock to underground indie, is there any one band which you regard as the benchmark to aim for?

Nah not really, not really in terms of sound at least. The spirit of this project is to just let it become whatever it becomes, a mercurial shapeshifting entity doing its own thing depending on who is around to keep it going from one record to the next. I’ve always just liked bands who just stick with it and have a constant output. Bands that spring to mind as inspirational in that sense being The Fall, Guided By Voices, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Thee Oh Sees… just out there creating a constant, relentless body of work, oftentimes hitting the spot, occasionally missing the mark, but always just making shit happen. Artists like King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard and Ty Segall really churn out the records and I think that’s dead cool. I don’t think it’s really worth getting hung up on a singular vision of consistency at the cost of curtailing the enthusiasm to experiment. I just admire the enthusiasm to write, record, release, repeat. It just feels more pure and unadulterated that way.

The psychedelic scene has always been a fairly underground movement, do you see a time when it gathers a more mainstream following or are you happier to exist under certain radars?

Trends come and trends go and they don’t really matter to me, it just so happens that what comes naturally to me fits into the psych category. But thinking about it now, I think that the psych scene will always operate somewhat under the radar, but it will always be there. It’s the kind of music that will get made no matter if anyone is listening or not anyway. That’s the spirit of everyone I’ve met while being involved in it…everyone just loves making music. In some ways that’s cooler than being on trend with the mainstream opinion, because when the hype for those celebrated scenes begins to cool off, the entire scenes often collapse and everyone abandons ship with the exception of a couple of die-hards, which is unfortunate and calls the entire motivation into question. I guess one can’t be chopped liver if one was never liver at all…or something profoundly silly like that.

You have said that it is your intention to improve from one release to the next, what did you learn recording Carousel which you consider to be a step up from previous albums?

I think with Carousel it was simply a matter of giving everyone involved the time to get the parts they were happy with in advance rather than the ‘Wham Bam Thank You Mam’ approach to the previous record. For that one I think I thought it would be cool to just capture a band kind of in the moment, figuring it out on the fly, with the aim being to capture some of that ‘what-the-fuck-is-going-on-ness’ in the recording, for fun. I’m not sure how I feel about that now in hindsight! But I do tend to view the records not as the definitive article, but just as snapshots of those particular songs on that particular day I guess. It’s always a lesson in keeping the ego in check and trusting everyone involved, allowing them to play to their strengths without interfering too much, while also ensuring the song has room to breathe a little too. Recording the rhythm section onto tape was a great idea for Carousel, courtesy of Chris van der Laan, who produced it. I’d absolutely like to use tape more in the future as a result.

Do you consider The Orange Kyte a solo project or a live band, or does it just become what it needs to become at any given time?

It’s a loose collective of sorts perhaps. I still don’t actually know what the hell it is, truth be told… it can be problematic at times but I’ve accepted that that’s just part of it. It definitely began as a solo/collaborative thing, then transitioned into being a band, and now is somewhere in between maybe. I do know this much, as much as the songs begin with me, how they turn out is largely down to the collaboration with the band, so it isn’t strictly a ‘solo’ project in that sense. I think The Orange Kyte is just its own thing and I don’t really have any control over what it is or what it will become anymore. And that’s fine with me.

The Orange Kyte