This is a series of interviews with our favorite electronic music artists, celebrating the Arrival of THUMP and made possible by the new Heineken Star Bottle. In this edition: Mount Kimbie. For more Arrivals, check here.
Mount Kimbie’s breakthrough album, Crooks & Lovers, rescued dubstep from the sounds of Transformers eating car parts. They pushed the genre into a lighter, hazier, less-banging territory that some like to call "post-dubstep," a polo grounds currently also being patrolled by the likes of James Blake and Throwing Snow.
The record quickly became one of the most widely-praised debuts of all time, with critics frothing at the mouth over both its drowsy ambience and tight structures. I like to think of Crooks & Lovers as the aural version of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: just wave after wave of melancholy–but the sweet kind, the kind that sticks with you and actually, secretly, feels really nice.
It's been three years since Crooks & Lovers dropped. In that time, the London-based duo have been hopping all over the world, drumming up a reputation for constantly improvised and complex live shows. On any given night, you can expect to the two guys flitting between guitars, a Native Instrument Maschine, delay pedals, drum pads, and keyboards. If you're lucky, you'll also see their pal James Blake on the mic.
Before their second album drops May 27, we called up Kai Campos, half of the duo (with Dominic Maker). Between mouthfuls of a Turkish dinner in Dalston, he ruminated on overcoming insecurities and changing his mindsight as the group has grown.
THUMP: Hey Kai. If I ran into you a couple minutes before a show, what would you be doing?
Walking around the venue and singing quite a lot.
Do you get butterflies in your stomach before getting up on stage?
Yeah. In the beginning, we weren't very good, so that didn't help. Every time we went out, we were shaking and stuff. We're much more comfortable being on stage now—you just kind of get over it.
How do you feel when you’re actually up there?
On the good ones, it’s the best feeling in the world. But I never got into music to perform. I just wanted to write music. I had no intention to be on stage.
You compromise a lot. You stop making music to go on the road, and creatively it can be frustrating because you're doing the same thing over and over again. I had to let go of a lot of insecurities of just being on stage.
Photo: Maxwell Tomlinson
So how did you overcome those insecurities?
I was big-headed when I was younger. I saw musicians as something other than myself. Then you get old and realize that no one is born as anything. If I could become someone who really enjoys being on stage, then any whimsical ideas I had that may have been shot down when I was younger now get followed a bit further.
Can you describe how your mindset has changed between when you guys first started to where you are now?
The level of interest in us putting out a second record has been surprising. In the beginning, I always thought, “This could end any week.” But now I feel fairly comfortable in being able to say that we'll be able to make another record, and another after that…
Is that new level of comfort reflected in your music?
Our second album is something closer to the ideal record that I wanted to make the first time around. In some ways, it was a reaction against what I didn't like about the past one. We've always had quite a range of musical sensibilities, but we represented them more on this record. It's going to come across like we made a decision to do this, but it wasn't a conscious thing. It had felt like we had exhausted the previous stuff. it wasn't something that excited us.
Were there any particular musicians who have inspired you?
I struggled at first with lyrics. I was focusing on the syllables and the rising tone of the lyrics but there were no words. Working with Archy Marshall [aka King Krule] was really helpful. I told him that it felt kind of like cheating, like it doesn't mean enough if I'm just basing things on the sound of the words. And he said "Who gives a @#$% anyway?"
Mount Kimbie's new album Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is out May 27th on Warp.