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Kazyak by Jed Anderson

Vents Magazine Talks to Minneapolis' Kazyak

Vents Magazine recently sat down with Peter Frey, of the Minneapolis band Kazyak to discuss next week’s release of Happy Camping. Here’s a transcript of the interview.

You can find the interview by heading over to Vents Magazine.

Hi guys (and girl), welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Probably better than average — but it’s tough to tell. As much as we love the Minnesota winters — it’s really great when summer’s in full swing. In addition to the weather, life is really good — we’ve been working really hard lately — recording live videos in our rehearsal space and making official music videos for the Happy Camping release. Also, we recently wrapped up recording our 3rd album (to be released in 2018) and have a have a good start on a 4th set of recordings, so it’s a really creative time and we’re taking advantage of that.
It’s also fun to have the live lineup in motion — we’ve been playing as much as we can locally and building community in the Midwest art / music scene. We just witnessed another Eaux Claires festival nearby in Wisconsin — it’s incredible to see what those folks are doing, to have regional folks that we look up to so much, and to see the homegrown sound from the Midwest reach so far. Regardless, we’re always less hermitic in the summer time, and it’s always exciting to be pushing music out the door — when we can actually share it with our friends and family, and hopefully beyond.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Sacred Cow”?

For sure. Musically it’s meant to be extremely simple. Texturally it’s meant to introduce the listener to the experimental setting of the album. Lyrically it’s meant to be abstract, consisting of strings of imagery that can yield different meanings for different listeners. That’s not to say it’s not definitive, but more to say that we like to leave some room for interpretation. Just like how two people can look at the same painting and see two completely different things.

I had several ideas in mind when I wrote it, which I describe below, but the theme is that it can be difficult to get back in a rhythm after something’s thrown you off track. I’d say this song is about being back on track.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

It’s difficult to tag the inspiration to a singular event, I guess rather it’s my best attempt to make sense of a complex feeling. We all have things in our life, be it ideas or customs or people, that we hold as truths. I think as you get older, it either goes one of two ways. You either get more stubborn and close minded or (hopefully) you get better at looking in the mirror and seeing your own blind spots — and learn to always be willing to question things — even if it’s something you always assumed would be true.

Another idea that runs simultaneously to this is the theory of entropy. I’m a really optimistic dude, but the idea that things fall apart is an idea I fully accept. With how fast things move today I think it takes an incredible amount of effort to 1) know yourself well enough to keep moving in a consistent direction, and 2) apply yourself in a way that yields happiness. It’s weird, the world makes us think we want variety when what we really want is continuity. So how can we get to that place as soon as possible where we feel really comfortable being who we are — then hopefully there’s still time to share that with those around you.

I’m not sure why, but I have a surreal image of standing on a beach and looking out at an ocean where the water has evaporated and there’s nothing left but salt. I guess like an infinite salt flat. For some reason this comes to mind. I don’t know, maybe the salt always thought the water would be there. For what it’s worth, I think the song will resonate with people who allow themselves to feel deep feelings. If you’re not into that, then you’d probably be like, “I don’t get it.”

The video’s pretty cool. Is there a video for every song on the record?

Hah, thanks. Funny you should ask, there’s actually a video for every song except the final (and title) track, Happy Camping. A few years ago I bought a small camera and started capturing footage, mainly natural landscape stuff from various globetrots. I always had the idea of putting the video to music but always imagined doing it in a way that was as equally experimental as the music I was writing. I’d also been trying to amp up the psychedelic influence but I really wanted it to feel natural and fit with the songs so I just let the footage simmer.

I think I was watching some old Glastonbury footage or a Tame Impala performance and remember being blown away by the fluidity of the visual performance — and it clicked. I’d had a little experience with object-based programming and MaxMSP so I was a quick study and spent the winter learning how to VJ. I think most bands have this idea, the tools are available to anyone, but I’d like to think our footage just wouldn’t work well if it was played over different music.

Since the trip to Alaska had been influential in the songwriting, I started with that footage. I’d also had video on-hand from our recording sessions. So first, I edited two independent videos, one of the band recording the tune and another of the travel footage. Then I imported both edits into a real-time visual performance tool, programmed a live setup on a MIDI controller, and performed the final video capture to the audio. The end result is Sacred Cow (and the other official vids we’re releasing).

I don’t think they’re world-class videos but they’re a good start. I still love the concept and I’ve learned a lot. We’ve started to project visuals at our performances, and control everything live from the stage.

The single comes off your new album Happy Camping – what’s the story behind the title?

Definitely. Let me start by putting it into context a bit. A friend once described to me the idea of natural organization — like why birds fly together in the way they do and why waves have the pattern they do — and I’ve since wanted that idea to come through in the music. The idea that highlights the general connection between music and nature — but more specifically us making this music because of our own nature or reality.
The Kazyak concept has always been grounded in nature and the outdoors. I guess See the Forest, See the Trees was our picking-up-the-pieces album — I was early / mid twenties and everything just felt a bit less stable then. I don’t know if it’s the music or age or what, but Happy Camping has brought a wave of relief. A happy camper is defined as a comfortable, contented person. I see Happy Camping as Kazyak having reached this state in active form – our sound, lineup, and life.

The album came together in the months right before I got married. My wife and I had the chance to visit Alaska, where we took a floatplane to several alpine lakes, we helicoptered through fjords and did a large glacial hike, she had crab legs for the first time… it was really special. I think we were also both actively making peace with the past, and both searching for a more balanced, steady state. We’re still riding that wave.

How was the recording and writing process?

Both have been really satisfying. I’ll start with writing. I guess over time I’ve generated a large bank of music projects – they’re just combinations of guitar parts, synth parts, drum machine parts, and vocal melodies that span all styles and influences I’ve ever aspired to craft. Including folk, alternative, psychedelic, ambient and electronic. Certain projects float to the surface and I continue to develop them. I also have a large bank of lyrics – quotes I like, passages from books I’ve read, things I think, things people say — some are just fragments and some are stanzas some are full verses. Everything in the bank is at different levels of completion and over time ideas merge together.

I always make sure I have the ability to record a thought — either with a pen or a laptop. A song is ultimately just a compilation of these bursts of inspiration — and my compulsion to immediately record it. So from there an album is just a set of completed songs that all swirl around the same central idea.

As for recording, that’s where the music really comes alive. I like to make it to the studio with things about 80% done and stay really open-minded about the 80% that I’ve already labeled as done. This is the second record I’ve done with Brett Bullion — he’s someone I grew up with and always looked up to. He spent time working in Seattle, has helped with session at April Base and other hotspots, and has become a successful engineer / producer in the Midwest. Though he won’t say it, drums are his forte — it’s a pleasure to collaborate in his space.

We did Happy Camping in four eight-hour days. I always wish there was more time and someday I’d like to do more multi-tracking, but since time and money are still constraints for me, overdubbing has been the most efficient way to record. For this record Brett recorded drums on top of my scratch tracks, then Lana added bass. They maybe give two takes each and we just keep the best one. Then I lay guitars in a day then vocals in a day. Though the instrumentation is simple, we’re continually finding new ways to use the studio as an instrument — micing drums in different ways, reamping vocals, and building wall-of-sound, orchestral textures. Regardless, when I listen to the record, I listen to the drums because they’re out of my league.

Is Peter Frey essentially Kazyak? Or is this truly a band effort?

The current live lineup is me [Frey] (guitar / vocals), Lana Bolin (bass), Andy Wolfe (guitar / vocals), Pat Hayes (synth / vocals) and Nick Grewe (drums and electronics). Kazyak may have started as a solo / studio project but I’ve always believed heavily in the concept of a band — and was excited to translate the studio work to a live setting. I’d never played these songs live before the band started to rehearse. Our drummer had never used a drum machine before he joined the band. Our keys player had never played a synth before he joined — now I’m pretty sure it’s all he does.

To me bands are where a group of people come together and each member contributes what they’re able — that doesn’t mean that we all contribute equally, but rather that we all contribute what we can and that we each feel good about our contribution. For some bands it works well to be all-in all the time. For some bands it works to have no leader and just wander around and wait for things to happen. In the bands I’ve been in I’ve always played the role of the music teacher. I’m a firm believer that you always have more to learn, be it timing, feel, blending, listening, writing, etc., and I like to evangelize this idea — it becomes contagious and keeps everyone playing for the right reasons.

As we started to rehearse more I made a simple charter. I set out a vision: to simply create a space where we can collaborate and continue to develop as musicians. And we have three goals: 1) practice regularly and develop together as a band, 2) play live shows and build a community of diverse musicians we can bill with, and 3) write / record / release albums and videos. Since then we’ve been doing our thing. When we’re feeling weird we hit play on the Talk Girl that runs a set of Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth tapes while we play ambient music underneath. We play jazz standards. We play our Kazyak songs in a jazz setting. We jam. We play with electronics. We record most of our rehearsals and usually listen back — even if it’s not that good — so we can align how we thought we sounded to how we actually sounded. We don’t lack new ideas, we just lack time to express and perform, record, and share them.

In short, the goal of our band is to be a band, and isn’t to shine the spotlight on any one of us, though I am interested in helping steer the nature of interactions we have — both with each other, other bands, our community — and helping develop the members as musicians and performers. We’ve come a really long way as a team and I’m really proud of that.

How did the Alaskan backdrop influence the music?

As I’ve said, Kazyak thrives in a natural setting, so Alaska fit right in. Alaska is still a rich frontier. Of culture, of nature, of expansiveness, of nothingness. It’s still relatively unexplored. All these themes align really well with the evolving sound.

On a related note, the backdrop of our third album will feature footage from a recent trip to Patagonia — so it’s turning out that Happy Camping was a training ground to work with film and the new tools to bring the music alive visually — so I’m excited to take listeners on a trip to the opposite hemisphere.

Any plans to hit the road?

We’d love to, but we don’t have anything booked at the moment. Of course if our songs could spread and generate enough demand to support a tour, we’d love to share our music with a wider audience, but we’re not going to force ourselves on the world. We’ll keep making it and if folks like it they can listen.

What else is happening next in Kazyak’s world?

Woah, is that rhetorical? General ones like this are the toughest — I could go on and on. In short, our third album is on deck and I’m just starting to dive into making videos for them so nothing will hit the waves until mid-2018. We hope to start recording our fourth record this fall.

VENTS, we really appreciate the time. It feels like we’re always on to the next, so it’s great to get to sit still and actually reflect on what we’ve done and how we’ve approached it. Thanks for giving us the chance.

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Posted by Bill Benson on 07.10.17 4 Comments Article Link

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Filmstarlook, on Jul 29, 02:04 AM, wrote:

Vents Magazine is a free online music and entertainment magazine created on March 24th, 2009 by music lover Rafael Jovine, who wanted to create a magazine to spread the word of those bands that are so often not received by other types of magazines.

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