Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the OC Music Awards kicked off on January 4th with seven weeks of free showcases at different venues across the county. 35 local artists will compete for the titles of Best Live Band or Best Live Acoustic and a performance slot at the 2011 OC Music Awards, March 5 at the Grove of Anaheim. And, the voting is open now!
The cliché phrase “diamond in the rough” aptly applies to Orange County-based quintet, Kiev, but in Kiev’s case they are more like carefully appropriated diamonds gently pulled from coal and then precisely cut with the finest technology. Like a steampunk science fiction adventure, Kiev creates music that wipes away the dust from cracked jazz recordings playing on a Victrola and repurpose it for the computerized future.
Engineers of experimental sound, Kiev sends the listener on a journey through a futuristic landscape with their instruments made of rusted old watch pieces and advanced crystalline technology. Every musical refrain is like a tesseract between the future and the past; a sonic wormhole from one collective conscious to another.
[pullquote quote="We are turned on by the most simplistic, animalistic drums and dusty feet grooves...But we want to have that completely translated to a nerdy, Western, overly thought-out, stressed-out, white kid thing." credit="Brinkerhoff, Kiev"]
Some bands want instant gratification on their path to success. Others, like Kiev, are willing to wait until the road calibration is just right for interstellar travel. Most of the band members of Kiev have been on some sort of journey.
Whether it’s been a move from their home state to City of Orange or a personal one into the melodic depths of musical madness, Kiev is comprised of sonic adventurers slowly traversing the most efficient “computer” synapses in the universe–the power of the human imagination. Drummer Brandon Corn explained further:
“We like to use our imaginations for as much as we can and then figure out how to create that or how to play that after the fact. We spend a lot of time writing and recording on our own. Writing a lot, throwing a lot out.”
“And what we do keep, I think it is on the verge of being almost impossible to play but it’s just through hard work that we figure out how to do those things. How to sort them out between the five of us. How to utilize some of the technology that we’re just diving into.”
Corn is joined by his other musical mates Robert Brinkerhoff (vocalist/guitarist), Andy Stavas (keys/sax), Derek Poulsen (bassist) and Alex Wright (keys/guitar). Together they create a sprawling, earnest backdrop for a funky, transcendental space jam. Brinkerhoff’s voice is almost identical in intonation to the leader singer of one of the band’s obvious influences–[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Radiohead[/lastfm].
Though it can be hard for some to readily move past the Radiohead influence with their EP Ain’t No Scary Folks In On Around Here, Kiev is uniquely different in vital ways.
While Radiohead creates wintry music full of angst, Kiev creates the inverse; their sound feels like the comfortable yet exhilarating warmth of being in the throes of passion with someone you love. Something soulful seeps through the tenacious buzz of technology and it gives vibrant life to the usual cold, hard edges of computerized music.
Brinkerhoff explained how Kiev manages to accomplish this rare fusion of primal and mechanical:
“We are turned on by the most simplistic, animalistic drums and dusty feet grooves…But we want to have that completely translated to a nerdy, Western, overly thought-out, stressed-out, white kid thing. In order to do that, we practice just the basic instruments and groove great as a five-piece band, but at the same time we love the idea like, ‘Hey! Three out of five of us have computers essentially. We have keyboards. Can we link all these up and actually have them communicate the way that we’re learning to communicate naturally?’”
“Essentially…making this huge unit. We want to master technology in a way that it’s just as implemented as a shaker.”
“And it shows in our shows. Half of our shows just go to hell. Not because we’re not practiced but because we are trying to incorporate technology and do something different…We wanted to try and do something more complex. And because of that, we’ve had some failures and hopefully some day we’ll have some great successes once we harness all that.”
In terms of musical prowess, many would already consider Kiev “great successes.” Though they’ve been around for a while, the band has devoted themselves to non-stop practice and hasn’t intermingled much in the Orange County music scene until recently. This hermitage hasn’t kept them from booking a February residency at Hollywood’s popular club, Cinespace, although it has kept them from dispelling the pervasive mystery that surrounds them:
“We’ve kind of always been really private about what we do and it’s only been in the last year that we’ve said, ‘Ok, here we are,’” says Corn.
Brinkerhoffer agreed: “I think in turn people are like, ‘Whoa, where the hell did you guys come from?’ That’s what we were getting all the time when we first started playing like, ‘How long have you been in a band? I didn’t know you were in a band.’ I think we work really hard on just our skills and writing and stuff.”
“I think since we have been so private, it’s been turning out that we’re not a hip band. We don’t keep up with trends, so we don’t necessarily fall into what’s the hippest thing right now. I think people just get a little weirded out.”
Whether other people are being “weirded out” by their elusive, quirky natures or their entirely possible, yet grandiose ambitions, Kiev is a group that generates a lot of buzz–positive and negative. In the end, such publicity can only serve them well on their road to fame. Brinkerhoff continues:
[pullquote quote="If we can imagine something, materialize it, and then put it through a speaker and then make it really f**king loud. That's cool." credit="Brinkerhoff, Kiev"]
“I feel like we’re an ambitious band and we’re growing and we’re trying to become something that’s hard to attain and we know that and we know that it’s a long road. And I think when people see that and they see that a band’s not taking a simple route by doing something that’s a little more attainable, it’s kinda like, ‘Who do you think you are trying to pull that off?’
“We don’t know if we can pull it off, but we’re just going to try hard because we’d much rather go down in flames instead of doing something safe.”
One way Kiev plans to revolutionize music and not do something “safe” is create a new live music platform, instead of just burning out on a coastal tour:
“This is the farthest we’ve toured…to LA. But we have a van and want to tour out.”
“We want to do some sort of next level show in our warehouse and have people come to us. Not necessarily like an inverse tour, like people from Arizona have to drive to us, which they are more than welcome to. But instead of putting our energy into ‘Man, let’s book as many small shows and get as much guarantee as we can to do a little connect the dots tour around the Western states.”
“We were talking about this earlier, in spring/early summer we want to do a little one to two-hour show with visuals, put together through narrative. Not necessarily like we are going to perform a miniature half-ass ‘The Wall’ in our warehouse but something instead of continuing to play little venues where it’s very hard for us to have a good show based on the technology…It would be really cool to bring in a sound system and invite people to come into our place and actually do a show the way we’ve kind of been imagining it for a while.
While this statement seems to evoke an element of pretension, Kiev’s live shows are a testament to exactly why they’d rather not play smaller venues. Densely layered, multifaceted, and extraordinarily loud without being obnoxious, Kiev plays like an arena band and seeing them in a small space is exhilarating, but at times overwhelming.
“If you want to make something that you don’t hear everyday–and I’m not saying we’ve accomplished this yet, this is what we’re working towards–if you want a sound so huge that it’s going to swallow a crowd, you can’t just use a Fender twin.”
“If we can imagine something, materialize it, and then put it through a speaker and then make it really f**king loud. That’s cool.”
[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Kiev[/lastfm]-“Crooked Strings”
The 2011 Showcase Series runs every Tuesday night, January 4 -February 15 with stops at:
Five Showcase Series finalists in each live category will then move on to the Showcase Series Finals.
2011 Best Live Band winner will receive a performance slot on the four Southern Christmas Vans Warped Tour stops!
Night Two of the OC Music Awards Showcase Series features nominees for Best Live Band on Tuesday, January 18th at the The Gyspy Lounge.
READ MORE INTERVIEWS ON KROQ.COM FROM SHOWCASE NIGHT 3 BANDS:
Friday, January 14th-Strange Birds
Saturday, January 15th-California Condors
Sunday, January 16th-May McDonough
Monday, January 17th- Kiev
Tuesday, January 18th-The Gromble
You have the power to send one Showcase artist to the Best Live Acoustic Finals and Best Live Band Finals.
Cast your vote and enter to win a massive prize pack from the OC Music Awards partners (To be Announced). Voting will begin on December 27 and will be open through the last Showcase on February 15. The votes will be tallied and the band with highest score will automatically move on to their Series Finals! Click here to vote
LEARN MORE AT: OCMUSICAWARDS.COM