Mount Kimbie are the UK-based electronic duo your cool friends discovered years ago. “You mean you don’t listen to Mount Kimbie?” was an oft-uttered phrase by the most pretentious and esoteric electronic aficionados when the group released their debut album, Crooks & Lovers, back in 2010. With their second release, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, out now on Warp Records, Kai Campos and Dom Maker are poised to continue their natural progression into the mainstream. With a focus on introducing live instrumentation and welcoming imperfection into their recordings, the young artists have created a dance-floor-friendly record with plenty of grit and charm. We caught up with Campos and Maker to chat about the album, their ever-evolving sound, and why they hate playing in the UK.
Your music seems to be ever expanding, but what has been consistent since Mount Kimbie got started?
Kai Campos: We came to the idea of writing songs in a similar way. We’re still exploring quite small ideas, like a mood, and expanding on that.
Dominic Maker: With this one, the big challenge was getting back into the idea of working every day. We were kind of out of practice. We still use the same computer software but we wanted to challenge ourselves and use different instruments and stuff like that. Our whole musical career has been about progression and development. We’re always trying to take it out of our comfort zone.
Cold Spring Fault Less Youth: that’s a mouthful. Where does that name come from?
KC: The record was finished and we were listening to it and thinking about the order of the tracks. The last album was quite simple; things seemed to flow into each other quite naturally. With this record it wasn’t obvious. Essentially, it’s a much more fragmented record, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It felt like it would be a disservice to give it a definitive name. They’re separate entities and they each could have imagery of their own, and they’re connected, and if you read two of the words it changes the meaning of them.
There are plenty of live instruments included on this record. What, if any, instruments are you guys proficient at playing?
DM: We’re not proficient at any, but, for example, Kai played the drums on the album and we both can play a bit of guitar.
KC: I think you learn as much as you can but there’s something good about being amateur. It forces you to find your own voice a little bit. Having too much knowledge can sometimes be a hindrance.
It seems as though more and more electronic artists are moving towards using live instruments.
KC: It’s a cyclical thing; at some point we’ll go back to the idea of just machines. For us, we were trying to treat the instruments we were using, whether they were electronic or acoustic, with less minute control by recording bigger chunks of audio at one time. Previously we would record something and map it out second by second. This time we’d perform them as a chunk and keep the mistakes and let that be part of the energy of the album. It was more of a loose process.
That goes along with the fact that this album was informed by your live performance rather than the other way around. What other aspects of your live performance did you take into the studio?
DM: I think we were cautious about thinking about how we were going to play these songs live. I think that can be a hindrance to the creative process. But we were getting excited with the songs as they were getting finished about playing them live. With the first album we spent so much time trying to develop the songs so they would work in a live setting. I think with this one, subconsciously, there was an infiltration of that desire for the equipment that we used to be better facilitated in a live show.
KC: Half of that first album is not played live because it’s not supposed to be in that environment. The things that are good about it don’t come through in that kind of setting, it wasn’t about being precious about the songs.
King Krule is on this album. How did you guys meet?
KC: We were quite excited by the music he was putting out, we think he’s pretty great. More than that, it felt like tonally it was right and I don’t think we felt that way about anyone else. We had a chat about working together and he just popped down to the studio and it was a really positive experience. We weren’t particularly keen on working with anyone else on this record, but Archie was a person who was going to be on the record if he wanted to do it. He is as involved in those songs as we are; he came in and we developed them together.
Do you find the longer you two work together the more intuitive it becomes?
KC: It’s been pretty easy from the beginning, actually. Just by having to use language to talk about stuff, you compromise so much of what you’re thinking. It was just a case of we went in a certain direction and then we went [they look at each other and nod] without having to say anything.
Your music is quite adaptable to a range of spaces and situations. Is there a kind of show you prefer to play?
DM: I think we’ve always had a good time at intimate shows. We play a lot of shows where the whole bill is electronic music and everything is very cold and you’re high up on a stage somewhere and the sound is amazing but you don’t have that kind of interaction with the audience… which isn’t [in shouting to crowd voice] “How are you guys doing?” it’s just a general connection. I tend to find when we play on stages that are two, three feet off the floor and it’s an old rock club or something like that, those tend to be the ones that go off. The sound might not be great but there’s something about the intimacy that I really enjoy.
KC: It’s always been the case of having to play a wide range of things. There are some occasions where big festival crowds have worked and some where it hasn’t…. and sometimes small shows haven’t worked. I think it is adaptable, but we always want to get better.
Do you adjust or approach things differently when playing in the UK versus playing here?
KC: Playing in London is probably our least favorite thing to do. The whole week leading up to it is a cacophony of guest list problems and well-meaning friends just really fucking up your week. Then it comes to the show and you know half the people there. Being away you kind of lose all that and there’s less bullshit to deal with, so we’ve always enjoyed coming here and trying out different stuff and feeling a little bit freer.
If you guys weren’t making music, what would you be doing professionally?
KC: I have no idea. It scares me to think there’s even something that could have happened. I stopped studying to write music; I need to treat it differently. You can say, oh this is a hobby or you can say, no this is everything I’ve got and if it’s crap then it’s crap but I don’t have anything more to offer. I’m not qualified to do anything else.
Photo by Chris Rhodes.