In July Mount Kimbie, aka Dom Marker and Kai Campos, released their debut LP Crooks and Lovers – a visionary record which blends dubstep, hip hop and indie into an atmospheric masterpiece. The album’s sublime arrangement of sounds, styles and moods won them fans from all sorts of musical backgrounds and their live show has become one of the most talked about performances of 2010. Not too shabby for an act who last year just had two EPs to their name.
Since its release Crooks and Lovers has been generally acclaimed as a unique work and listeners have been captivated by the dreamy aura which surrounds the album. Dom shares the same experiences: “Listening back to it was strange because I wasn’t that keen on it until I listened to the whole album when I was on my own. And it was really dreamy, quite hypnotic. A lot of that is down to reverb and the fact that its very loop based.” “We use a shit load of reverb and delay!” Kai adds.
Many of Mount Kimbie’s songs begin in one place and end up somewhere completely different. Dom claims this is not a conscious decision: “We don’t really think about how we write stuff – if it sounds good, its good. We don’t try to listen to certain things and copy them or anything. We have choruses and verses in some cases – we don’t think too much about the structure of things.”
Despite being signed to HotFlush, an English label commonly associated with dubstep, Mount Kimbie have more in common with the US lo-fi scene and their live show is reminiscent of bands such as Animal Collective who use similar equipment to produce hallucinogenic soundscapes. “I’m aware of other people doing stuff in similar ways” Kai acknowledges, “but I haven’t seen much of it. I’m glad I haven’t because we wouldn’t have ended up working like this. We’ve spent the last year watching DJs really. Jamie Woon uses the loop pedal that we use. I saw him using that years ago and I was like “I want one of those!”. Dom also weighs in on his inspirations: “I remember seeing Juju and that was a big influence. Just seeing how his stage was set up. There were just bits everywhere. And I think that’s something we might do more of in the future. Having things on the floor so everything you need is there and we can be a bit more improvised.”
In the past year Mount Kimbie have gone from quietly producing songs at home to touring internationally. How has the band coped with this change? “It was quite a shock to us” Kai admits. “There is a huge difference between performing and producing in terms of the skills and artistry required. At the start it was much more natural to be sitting in a room writing music as opposed to being on a stage. But I’ve started to enjoy it a lot more and I think we’re getting better. It’s in the back of your head then when you’re playing a lot. We could be writing something and we’ll think “Oh, how will this sound live?”. It can be a limitation but what has been positive is using half finished ideas in our sets and trying to give them a new life. In rehearsals we like adding stuff and it’s had quite a big influence on what we record. It’s a very interesting and different way of writing music.”
How much improvisation goes on during their live show? “We know what order we’re playing the songs in but how we get from A to B is up for discussion on stage. We played a set in London and it was 35 minutes then we played it in New York and it was 1 hour 15 minutes. So it can change around. Things can be added on and then never heard again. We work off the crowd a lot as well. If we’re nervous it makes things go a lot quicker. When you have a good sound check and you know that people will actually be able to hear everything your doing it helps. We had a club show in Nottingham a while ago and it was very difficult because we couldn’t hear the monitors.”
The duo recently had the opportunity to play at one of the most unique venues in the world – Berlin’s infamous Berghain nightclub where Hot Flush label boss Scuba hosts a bi-monthly club night. “That was wicked!” Dom gushes “I don’t really remember that set at all, I was so blown away by the location. It was pretty scary actually. We were playing in the main room and when we got our guitar out there was this girl who was near the stage going “Fuck you!” for half an hour, so we were trying to forget she was there. But it was fun, the sound is amazing there. It’s like a church. We also got to see Monolake perform that night which was great. We recorded the show that night and Scuba really liked it so we‘ve put the track ‘Ruby’ on our new EP. It’s rare that our show works during club nights coz its usually “get on, get off“. But Berghain is different to most clubs.”
Since Mount Kimbie regularly play club nights do they find it difficult competing with DJs for the crowds attention? “It’s strange sometimes going on after and before a DJ.” Kai accepts. “I can tell we piss a few people off when we pull out a guitar and start tuning it. But I’m surprised we’re getting to go anywhere with the stuff were doing and it’s getting a good reaction from most places. As long as you can see a few people are into it, it’s okay.” Dom expands on this: “Once we played in between Joy Orbison and Benga and that was cool. But we have played nights where we can instantly tell people want to go crazy. It’s usually resident DJs who come on before us and play a smashing loud set of back to back club tracks. But it hasn’t been that much of a problem. We’ve had some people support us who we haven’t heard of before and they’ve been wicked.”