Kasbo on Portals and His Debut Album
Our Rising Artist of the Week, Kasbo, spoke to TIDAL about his album, learning from ODESZA and understanding what it takes to create music that acts as an experience.
The vision for your debut album, Places We Don’t Know, seems so crystal clear. Between the album art and the music sharing this balance of heavy and light textures, it all is heard as work that is carefully thought out. Was the end result of the album the product of the work you’ve always wanted to put out?
I’d say so. I’ve been working on this particular album for two years and a lot of the music on the album has been sitting on my hard drive. I’ve revisited a lot of the music on the album over that time and tweaked it until I felt it was right.
What music on the album are some of the older tracks you’ve worked on?
I think ‘Stay with Me’ was the first idea I was working on for the album, but the song you hear is completely different from where it started. The ideas I explored in making that song lead me to understanding what the album will sound like.
Where do you start in the planning for the first album? The sonic direction? Who your collaborators will be?
It’s actually something that had to grow into itself. At first, I was approaching this downbeat, house music with a UK garage swing to it. That was the part of the creative that I was really excited about, so I just wanted to explore that more and more. I think a lot of the songs on the album ended there.
I eventually made this move to only involve organic instruments. I think it was this intentional decision to involve sounds that are somewhat transformative, in that the sounds produced bring you to a certain place. Like, there could be a flute that brings me mentally to Japan, because of a sonic association with the region and instruments.
Through all these external and physical associations with sound, it all had to begin somewhere. What was the first music that you gravitated toward growing up?
I think when I started playing guitar, I was very into the pop-punk of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, like Blink-182 and music like that. I wouldn’t think it’s mindless, but it is very engaging because of the all the simple melodies used and I think there was something to be learned there.
I think where my music, as it is now, came to be was from leaning towards ambient/post-rock music, in addition to guitar-based rock like the Strokes. I definitely think that Flume really open my mind to creating.
How do you approach collaborating with other musicians, like TENDER on ‘Aldrig Mer’?
For me, I have a slightly harder time collaborating with people. I think for me to do something well, I have to do it all out. I have a hard time compromising that, so it’s helpful for me to do collaborations online and sending beats over to someone. TENDER was really excited about the ideas I presented them and we just went back and forth about how we can refine it. I like to be able to send vocalists some music or a vocal patterns that I think they can work around.
A lot of my productive workflow happens at 4 a.m., but I am getting better at that and working in-person, in-studio sessions and collaborations. It’s always been easier for me to do it all alone.
What’s it take for you to be in the ideal space to create?
Definitely solitude and I think there is a part of me that is trying to forget about the act and pressure of making the music. There’s a studio I can go to in Gothenburg [Sweden] and they have a bunch of incredible instruments I can use. It has to just be me, alone, on the internet, with a guitar in my hand and searching for samples.
I can hear just one piano key and build something from that, and afterwards, feel out if I’d want a collaborator to bring it to life.
What has it meant to open up for and tour with a group like ODESZA?
I think it’s had a huge impact on my life. It started with me just sending them music and they reached out and wanted to release it on their label. After that, I went on tour with them. They are really amazing guys and they’ve willingly taken on the role of being mentors. They have a lot of experience with developing their artistry and performance. Going on tour with them was the first time I really experienced electronic music live and didn’t really know electronic music could be enjoyed in such an immersive environment, like ODESZA creates.
Before those shows, I just wanted to upload my music on the internet and let it be. They encouraged me to really ‘build’ a set and keep my mind on making an album that doubled as a ‘world’ to live in.
Speaking of being able to create an experience through electronic music, how does your album factor in that ideology?
I think the concept and driving force of the album is that you have a very Disney-influenced perspective of the world, where everyone is good and is trying to actively do good each day, but I think the older you get and the more you experience, you understand it is not like that. The concept of the album drives at separating yourself from those harsh realities. What I tried to achieve through the album is capturing those feelings through lyricism and trying hard to make the music and show reflect that.
The covers of the singles drives at that concept of trying to view these emotions and states of mind from a safe room. I think the rooms are like portals and a point to view the world from. The album’s cover was where I wanted to put the listener in those rooms and engaging with this surrealist, somewhat flawed way.
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