Mount Kimbie on Love What Survives & playing live
We speak to Mount Kimbie's Kai Campos about the duo's third album, Love What Survives, Justin Bieber and touring
Mount Kimbie have taken their time crafting their magnificent third album, Love What Survives, and the overwhelmingly positive response to it indicates that the patience was worthwhile. The relief, joy and excitement is palpable in Kai Campos' voice, even early on a Friday morning, as he knows it's out there. "I'm interested in what people think. You're trying to communicate something, even if you're not always sure what that is, so it'd be weird not to be interested in how people are taking it, [but] I'm much calmer about the whole thing now."
Emerging as one of the key players in the London electronic scene in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the duo of Campos and Dominic Maker have never been known for remaining static – moving from the game-changing post-dubstep of their debut, Crooks & Lovers, to the more expansive, varied and complex song structures of Cold Spring Fault Less Youth. Now, that promise of a fuller sound with a greater emphasis on live instrumentation has been fulfilled on Love What Survives. Asking about their old penchant for sampling and field recording Campos retorts, "I thought it would be more interesting not to do... 99% of the record is studio recording this time."
The evolution of Mount Kimbie's sound comes from a reluctance to lean on what has been successful in the past, and an awareness that the listener is going to have a different reaction to the music than they might in the studio. "You pick up tricks you know will work, that you can fall back on..." Campos explains, "[but] it's like people that are funny – as soon as you get the joke, it's time to move on."
Campos tells us the more varied and experimental nature of Love What Survives comes down to the group being "more interested to work in areas we haven't quite figured out," hence the genre leaps that are present on this record. With the live band sound comes the off-kilter bass and the warped guitar riffs, the church organ and horns, but looped and pieced together to maintain a studio-manipulated feel. This is plainly not imitation, but appreciation. "It's not about ripping anyone off," Campos explains, "it's like a museum piece about a certain period of German rock music... we feel it's more worthwhile to add something to that."
Though this is far from a concept album; it's more the result of diverse musical interests and a willingness to experiment. "[We] definitely don't have a goal for the whole shape of [a] record when we start out... we just write and write and write," Campos tells us, explaining that the duo's first album came together fairly organically, the second was more challenging, and Love What Survives even more so. "[It's] quite a disparate group of songs that we had to find a tracklist for. Some stuff would've been nice to put on the record but didn't work, and other stuff which I thought wouldn't end up getting on the record ended up on there..." – Campos pauses briefly to apologise for his loudly percolating coffee machine in the background – "...the [running order] we have now is the only one we managed to get through from beginning to end."
After a couple of star turns on Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, King Krule returns for another tour-de-force performance on the rollicking Blue Train Lines, the first glimpse into the post-punk influence that, along with krautrock, informs much of the album's new direction. But, the group's keen eye for collaboration is demonstrated throughout with additional vocals on the album from Andrea Balency, James Blake, and Micachu (aka Mica Levi). As anyone who's listened to Micachu before would probably expect, she lets her natural musicality speak for itself: "My experience of working with Mica is that she's really, really quick – she's got a lot of faith in the first idea," Campos says, while on the more ruminative end of the spectrum, unsurprisingly, is James Blake, who's "just the opposite".
The band embarked on a US tour earlier in the year to try out some new material. "I'd say at least 50% of the people had never heard us before... which was really fun," Campos says. "We're a pretty new band, too, the four of us together (live, Campos and Maker are joined by Marc Pell on drums and Balency on keyboard), so it was quite exciting." While they found Los Angeles and New York to be fairly similar to London in terms of listening habits, "away from the coasts it's a window into a different time... getting to play all those shitty venues that still exist out there, it was really fun to travel around and see those parts of the country."
The complex, sample-driven nature of Mount Kimbie's earlier music sometimes made it difficult to perform everything live. "We want the band to be one thing – the live side has its own thing going on; if it doesn't feel right, we won't play it," explains Campos. Occasionally at festivals or big shows the band have been able to collaborate live with guests like King Krule, and having these one-offs makes the performances a bit more special.
For the regular tour, however, the set will be tweaked to suit the strengths of that particular band, such as perhaps returning to an earlier, instrumental version of one of the James Blake cuts for this run. However, given the style of the new album, many of the songs are easier to replicate, Campos says: "The band influenced the recording so it was a much straighter line from the studio to rehearsals."
Mount Kimbie made a brief and somewhat unexpected foray into the pop mainstream's consciousness last year when their 2010 track Adriatic was sampled on Chance the Rapper, Justin Bieber and Towkio's Juke Jam. Campos remembers the surprise at receiving the royalty cheques with both of their names on: "I don't know how aware he (Bieber) is of the Mount Kimbie canon... but it's funny that someone you have in your head as a cartoon character gets PRS (royalties) cheques, y'know, he gets bills, too."
With regard to playing in Scotland, a very different experience from the American Midwest, Campos is very sincere: "No bullshit, it's genuinely one of the warmest, in spirit, places in the country; people are out for the love of music and you can feel that." The energy and excitement about the upcoming UK and European tour is clear in his tone, "[I'm] really willing this little purgatory period to fly by so I can get on the bus and start playing every night."