Innovation requires heavy thinking, patience, and a little bit of fine-tuning along the way. Orange County quintet Kiev may not have earned the title of innovators quite yet, but they possess all of those aforementioned qualities, analyzing and (admittedly) over analyzing their music until everything feels as close to perfect as possible. In essence, Kiev wants to blow your mind. With a multi-layered sound conjoined in a cerebral twist, Kiev consumes with their depth, leaving behind a drizzle of pop to keep things accessible, “We’re really turned on by things that are nonsensical, or foreign, or strange, but then you learn to find through a little bit of time that there’s actually a purpose,” describes lead vocalist Robert Brinkerhoff.
[pullquote quote=”When we get together there’s never a sort of intentionality. We like to explore and some really unexpected things come out.”]Having won the 2011 OC Music Award for Best Indie Band and occupying a slot on the Locals Only playlist with a tasty track called “Crooked Strings,” Kiev are stirring up buzz all over SoCal.
In an exclusive interview with the lead singer, we discussed this past year’s fortunes, how the concept of their 3D live performances surfaced, and whether comparisons to bands like Radiohead come as a compliment or a curse.
Kiev’s debut EP Ain’t No Scary Folks In On Around Here is like having your ear work on a good puzzle. Kiev gives you the pieces with their instruments, but it’s up to your own mental capabilities to put it all together. It may take some time before the music unravels itself before you, but as modeled by Kiev themselves, a little bit of patience can result in beautiful rewards.
After approximately two years and innumerable hours of practice in their converted warehouse studio, Kiev is beginning to break through the congested social-music cluster in the region, and legitimize themselves as a band with big potential. Brinkerhoff touched on their musical process, “It takes a lot of time to put the songs together, but what’s interesting is we’re always making fun of ourselves.
We spend so much time improvising, talking about music and sharing music and just playing all sorts of sounds. When we get together there’s never a sort of intentionality. We like to explore and some really unexpected things come out.”
“Loot Recovered” – Live
This sense for exploration commands the ear’s attention, or there’s a good chance you’ll miss something. It could be a punch of saxophone, a groovy bass line, or some grumbling bum in the background. Whatever Kiev throws at you, it’s done from a collaborative standpoint. Brinkerhoff continued to mention the importance of each piece of the puzzle, “I like the fact that we have a diverse taste between the five of us, but also really connect on core things that influence us all. Each member has a distinct voice, and it’s not like there’s a clear leader in the band and people are just going to listen to me singing. You can jump around and watch each player and get interested in what they’re doing.”
With such an unbridled musical enthusiasm, it should come as no surprise Kiev’s imagination not only shines on their records, but in their live shows as well. While they’ve only had the means to pull it off twice, Kiev’s transcendent 3-dimensional performances make cross-modal stimulation a normalcy. The added element of a visual component, which runs with the composition on-stage, takes the general concept of going to “see” a band to another level.
OC Weekly has not only nominated Kiev for “Best Indie” band, but “Best Live” band of the year. You simply don’t watch Kiev, you experience them: “Since we’ve started we’ve always been all about making something really detailed that someone can get lost in. This seems random, but I remember riding ‘It’s a Small World’ at Disneyland as a kid and being totally bummed out that you could see the weird 60’s drop ceiling if you looked up. It looked like the ceilings in my classrooms and totally took me out of the fantasy. An ideal show for us would have no 60’s drop ceiling equivalents to distract anybody. Just complete engulfment in layered light and sound…almost like there would be no way to find your way out.”
“Can’t Run But” (Paul Simon Cover) – 3D Live Performance
[pullquote quote=”We were experimenting with stop animation, analogue video gear, motion graphics and arranging them in 3D space. “]Brinkerhoff elaborated on the complexities of formulating a concert in 3D, “We started with just one projector and some abstract visuals, and the whole thing just kept swelling and morphing as more people and ideas surfaced. Some of the guys were playing around with 3D at the time, and proved that it can be used in a non-gimicky really wild way that none of us had ever seen before. We were experimenting with stop animation, analogue video gear, motion graphics and arranging them in 3D space. We found techniques to trigger the visuals with our midi instruments and started creating elements for each song. I think we ended up with a tightly synchronized visualization of literally each moment in the set.”
Kiev’s experimental nature and care for progression definitely does not go unnoticed, however, everyone these days likes to claim themselves a critic.
In a culture where labeling and comparing run rhetorically wild, band’s are vulnerable to that ambivalent feeling of being linked with another group. For Kiev, their so-called “musical doppelgänger” include artist’s like Radiohead and Pink Floyd. I asked Robert if he felt those comparison were apt, and if that raises expectations, ”When you’re living in a society that pretty much exclusively describes all experience through comparisons, you have to accept the inevitable ‘they sound like so-and-so meets so-and-so,’ particularly when you’re a new band still developing your craft, and making your way through the ranks. If we’re going to be compared to something this early in our quest, we’d rather it be to artists that seem to have transcended generations and classification as opposed to our peers or hip-at-the-moment stuff. This can be argued to all hell, but there’s something very open-ended feeling about being grouped in with the ever-relevant forefathers, instead of being attached to something that might be fleeting.”
He added, “Of course the flip side of all this is that these two bands in particular probably have casted the largest friggen shadow of all. So when your name gets thrown around in that circle you instantly have something insanely hard to live up to, like (in a sarcastic tone) ‘oh, they just sound like Pink Floyd and Radiohead huh? Yeah ok.’ It’s a long ass journey carving out your own place in such a respected scene, but it’s something we’ve totally accepted.”
[pullquote quote=”Coming up with your own genre title is dangerous. We usually go with ‘layered’ or ‘thinking beat.”]Regardless of the inevitable linkage to other artists, Kiev is certainly developing their own fingerprints as their journey continues. Even if the idea of labels and categorizations is something they try to avoid, one would believe they at least could come up with a term describing their style of play. Per usual, Kiev has to get it just right, “We’re still searching for the short hand answer to describe the sound. Coming up with your own genre title is dangerous. We usually go with ‘layered’ or ‘thinking beat.’ Our latest half ass attempt is ‘neutrino pop’ – the contrast between concepts that are hard to wrap your head around and digestible music fits in some ways. Maybe ‘neutrino wave’ is better. Is classic rock an option?”
Kiev just dropped their second EP Be Gone Dull Cage & Others, featuring brand new track “3rnd.” Check out set times below for their November residency every Tuesday at The Central: Social Aid & Pleasure Club in Santa Monica.
Robert Brinkerhoff – guitars, vocals
Andy Stavas – piano, keyboards, saxophones
Brandon Corn – drums, percussion
Derek Poulsen – bass, computers
Alex Wright – piano, keyboards, guitars
November Residency Dates At The Central:
Nacosta – 7:30pm
Monsters Calling Home – 8:30pm
Jim Hanft w/ Samantha Yonack -9:30pm
Kiev – 10:30pm
Rimpau – 11:30pm
Luke & Peter – 8pm
Love in the Circus – 9pm
Kiev – 10pm
The New Division – 11pm
Facts on File – 8pm
Monte Mar – 9pm
Kiev – 10pm
The New Limb – 11pm
Also – 8pm
Mind the Gap – 9pm
Kiev – 10pm
TBA – 11pm
Sick/ Sea – 8pmm
Touché – 9pm
Kiev – 10pm
The Good Rebels – 11pm