April 7, 2016
Republished from remmusariam.tumblr.com
Interview with Kyle Knudsen and Miclain Keith of Denim Blue & Miclain Keith
by Summer Burbage
-Where did the name Denim Blue come from?
K: Okay, it’s kind of a long story that takes place over several, almost a year of my life. I had this reoccurring dream, if you’ve seen The Sandlot, one of the characters is visited by the ghost of Babe Ruth, and he’s kinda staticky, like he would appear on an old television. So the same thing happened to me, however I would be meandering around Target, not really sure what I was looking for and I, -and this is a very specific target store, it was the one by the house where I lived at the time, so it was kinda weird, I’d be wandering around this Target and suddenly I’d run into Babe Ruth, and he’d always refer to me as Denim Blue. And the same dream over and over, for a really long time.
-So it was just meant to be.
K: Yeah, well it wasn’t unusual, I didn’t think anything about it because whenever I’d have dreams they’re always recurring. I don’t just have one dream and that’s it. For some reason I’ve always had reoccurring dreams. Just always so.
-I get it, it worked out, you got cool name
-How did you guys start making music, individually?
M: my parents met in a band. I’m sure it was cool. But anyways, I grew up, and there was always instruments around me. But I never really had any interest in playing at all I just, I didn’t really care but then for whatever reason I’m sure there was a good reason I picked up the guitar at like 8 and asked my dad to teach me chords and then he tried to teach me and I’d just ignore him and not learn anything at all.
K: This applies to a lot of other things in his life.
M: and when I was 10 in fifth grade I was in this weird private school, they had this guitar teacher that came and offered lessons to anyone that wanted to learn and there was like 75 kids in this whole school and 10 in my class, but I was the only one that wanted to, so I basically got private lessons, got to cut class basically to go learn guitar so I was like, Okay.
-That’s a good deal.
M: I started learning and I just kept going…
K: Then it all snowballed into this cesspool of art that it is today.
M: Yeah, pretty much
K: My story’s almost exactly the opposite, I come from a family, of like, no one has any connection to the arts, they’re all, my mom is a business woman, my grandparents, not really into art of any kind, especially not as a career, I mean I’ve always grown up listening to a lot of music and, like we all did sort of, the music that our parents listen to, we were immersed, and, my grandparents especially, they’d always play a lot of jazz and blues around, when I was younger. When I was an adolescent that was basically all there was to listen to, in my house at least. When I got into middle school I got into musical theatre, like HARD. I was such a theatre nerd and I still am, much to Miclain’s dismay. And I realized then that I liked performing in front of people and then I got the notion that it might be cool to start to try and write the music that I liked so much and then I started, well after musical theatre I made the very natural transition to punk rock, seemed like the next step, to old punk, and gangster rap and stuff like that, only because my friend gave me an iPod for Christmas that he loaded up with a bunch of music on it because I was completely disjointed from the rest of my generation musically and it was just like Plies, and Birdman, and Green Day, and The Killers, and Joy Division. Just basically the gross dark side of music and I just sort of wanted to learn how to play that stuff.
-So how did you two meet?
M: We both separately applied to this program that the Grammy Museum was putting on and it was basically just like a Summer music program but they brought on people that had won or been nominated for Grammys to do workshops-
K: Industry professionals and stuff like that, Grammy Nominees and stuff.
M: We had just applied separate, we didn’t know each other at this point. I missed the day when they came and did the presentation, and my teacher was like maybe you should apply for this and I was like I’m okay, it kinda seems, I don’t know, but I did, then we met, we were never in the same group, but I heard him playing Hot Mess in the corner, because they told us to write a song and that was the song he wrote, and I just walked over, and was like, “That’s a good song.”
K: Yeah, and then I look back at it to this day, I was probably a little overwhelming to him at first because, well especially our age difference, he’s a few years older than me, and as soon as he said that I got so excited about the thought of making music with another person, in a serious kind of way, and I was like, “Well I’ve got this whole album, and we can start recording them right now, like today” and he was like oh okay.
M: I don’t remember being scared or overwhelmed.
K: You just got really quiet.
M: I’m really quiet in general.
-Okay, You just released the Sleep EP, So what was the inspiration for it, why did you want to write an album to help people sleep, in addition to also having a song titled Sleep?
M: It didn’t really have anything to do with the song.
K: Not necessarily, well yeah in a sense. Lyrically it’s sort of a follow up, narrative type style on my part, the songs I wrote. It’s sort of like life after Sleep, the song, but I mean throughout The Abyss there’s references willy-nilly to sleep and stuff like that, and how we’re always trying to get more of it, and so the two of us are always trying to figure out ways to induce sleep for ourselves in like natural and homeopathic ways, I guess. So about a year ago I began scouring the internet for music and sounds that help me fall asleep and I could never really find what I was looking for so, several months ago we got the idea to just make it ourselves, so we took it as an opportunities to both help people physically and also as another sort of artsy outlet for some music.
M: Make some chill stuff.
K: Because it’s really contrasting to…
M: It’s different that anything we plan to do.
K: Our next full length is going to be pretty much as far away from the Sleep EP as you can get. It’s kinda weird because the Sleep EP isn’t exactly, I don’t know too many bands that have made an album and then an EP that is designed to help people in a sort of niche way, so it was kinda just…
M: It came about because we felt like doing it basically.
K: It was like what if we did this, yeah that sounds cool, let’s do it.
-So are you planning on playing these songs live at any time?
M: We don’t want to throw it out there then not really do anything with it.
K: Yeah, it got such a good response and everyone began questioning right away the night that it was released, it was like, “I can’t wait to hear these songs live” so we were kind of like “Crap, we gotta do this live.”
-Maybe at one of your smaller, more intimate shows.
K: Yeah we’re actually planning on experimenting with some of it this weekend, we’re playing babyblu’s EP release show.
-How was the process of making the Sleep EP different to The Abyss?
M: The Abyss we did, this is gonna sound weird, we did it together. The Sleep EP was entirely separate from each other.
K: Like there was no, none of the composition, none of the actual recording of anything from the Sleep EP was done in the same room as each other. Basically I came up with the first set of songs and he was like okay this is great. You know, I don’t know, did you make any changes to anything? I don’t think we made any change-
M: Maybe some slight stuff.
K: Yeah, like really slight changes that we both agreed on and stuff like that, but the main actual composition of any of the music was done entirely separately which is something we’d never done before, it worked out well.
-So how is the new album coming along, how far are you into that?
K: Well, I don’t think we want to give too much away.
-Are the new songs you’ve been playing live going to be on it?
K: Yes, there was some confusion that the songs we were playing live were a part of the Sleep EP but it’s totally unrelated.
-So you both have classical training in music, tell me about that.
M: We all came from the same arts education background. I went to the Art Magnet Program in Pinellas County, he went to the one in Hillsborough County.
-How has that influenced your music and how you perform?
M: It just makes everything easier to get your point across because when you know theory and you have classical training, you can say your ideas directly. When you don’t have that you’re like, well I play this note right here, and the other guy plays a note and it’s not the same note, like I’m playing an e flat and Kyle’s got it. You just know what chord structure is, all that stuff, you can more quickly get your ideas across.
K: Yeah, because we have the technical training so it definitely makes things easier, especially performance.
M: A lot of people say it takes away from your ability to create art, because you’re all classically trained. I think if you don’t let it take over…
K: You just use it as a tool, you have this skill set, this knowledge and you can use it in other ways, completely different from what you’ve been studying for four years. I use it in singing, a lot of singers just sort of go. I use my classical singing to help me sing healthier, because a lot of singers abuse their voice, they don’t realize they’re doing it because it’s popular to sing one way or try to inflect a certain tonality and stuff like that.
M: It’s really bad for you.
K: Yeah, they have no idea but it’s helped me preserve my voice, otherwise it may have been deteriorating already based on the amount of abuse I put it through.
M: We just use it to be more efficient.
-Okay so more towards the artistic side of things, where did the artwork for The Abyss come from?
M: Well, I had a friend in high school, that is not the person that did that, but I posted on Facebook and I said, “Who knows anyone that’s like good at art” because we were trying to figure out-
K: Who can draw stuff good.
M: So my friend from high school was like this girl Lexi is good, and I had no clue who she is whatsoever.
K: She doesn’t even live in Florida, she lives in like Wisconsin or something.
M: I was like okay, then I checked out her Facebook page and I was like “hey here’s some songs off our album could you do art for it” She listened to it and them painted this thing and sent it to us and it was like, that’s it, it was surprisingly super not as horrifying of an experience as we expected because this was about to be impossible because before that we had no idea what we wanted. We couldn’t even conceptualize it.
K: Exactly, she interpreted it exactly how we wanted it to look.
-Are there any more cover songs in the making?
M: We really like to try and do as much original stuff as possible, the covers are to, when we don’t have enough material, or the time to make a live version of whatever we have, mainly they’re songs we enjoy but they’re kind of placeholders to be able to fill the time.
K: I think right now we’re, our main priority is finishing the new album, and then after we do that, and during the process, as you’ve seen, we’re adding the new songs to our live show and basically once we’re ready to go, I think we’re pretty much only going to play originals, now that we have two solid bodies of work that we can draw from, three if you count the Sleep EP.
-Do you have any pre-show rituals or traditions?
K: We really don’t, we see bands all the time that they like circle up and like go in a huddle or whatever or do something weird, we basically try to get as calm as possible.
M: We just don’t do anything.
K: We just kinda meditate, not literally meditate, but just sort of sit
M: Talk like nothing’s going to happen
K: Right, just like we’re hanging out.
M: You can sit there and focus on what you doing, it generates nerves.
K: Well we do jumping and stuff sometimes.
M: I try to stretch.
K: Yeah, we stretch and do jumping jacks, because if we don’t, our backs are just done.
M: I always pull muscles in my leg.
K: Yeah, if you can’t notice we’re like some of the most athletic guys, I mean we’re really fit. And Miclain is hecka, he’s really buff and stuff. So we have to stretch because otherwise, we could really hurt ourselves. Especially Miclain.
-Has anything interesting happened at any of your shows? Anything that stands out?
K: Well recently there seems to be an abundance, I don’t know if it’s an abundance yet, there’s been a handful of times where Mike, during the shows and at meet and greets. At first Mike was accosted by that woman.
-At Ferg’s right?
K: Yeah did you see that?
-She was going after fans too, I don’t know if you saw but she like grabbed the fans from the front and made them take a picture in front of your banner. It was hilarious.
M: She literally had her arm around him while he was trying to play his part like “You should give this girl lessons” I’m like, “Get off”
K: But nothing, I’m trying to think way back, I feel like somethings happened that’s bizarre. Just varying degrees of disorganization, I think on our part, and other bands part, and the venue’s part, but that’s totally normal. I mean the whole notion of a live show is kinda bizarre, like, “Come to this room and I’m going to yell at you.”
M: When I was playing with that girl from American Idol, we blew a breaker, all the power went out, but we kept going.
K: That was pre-DBMK era though
M: That was some years before.
K: Ours has been pretty normal.
-So what does the future hold for DBMK?
M: New music
K: We’re really, when we were making The Abyss, we didn’t really know entirely what we were doing, like we didn’t even think about how we were going to do any of this live, what we were going to make our live show into, we had no idea what any of that was like because aside from musical theatre, like I said I had next to no live performance experience with a band until I met Miclain and he’s been in bands for-
M: I’ve been playing in band settings for like 8 years prior so we were just kinda making it because we liked it.
K: Kinds like the Sleep EP, it’s like what if we recorded a whole album? And what if we then made a band? Then what if we played live?
M: It didn’t all come out at the same time, it was just over time. What if we did that?
K: Because it actually started as more of a like solo project, me and a producer, and it just sort of shaped itself, almost on accident, into a duo and then we were like, “oh snap, we’re going to do this live,” and he was like, “let me call up my band friends.”
But the new music, now we have all that under our belt and we have experience with it now. We know exactly what we want to do to move forward and so creatively, we’re making music in that mindset, which is different from what we’ve done in the past, which is really cool because now instead of, when we’re recording in the studio and stuff like that. When we were recording The Abyss, there was no discussion of like, “oh that’s gonna be sick live” or how can we optimize this to be conveyed in the most effective way in live setting. Now that’s like an active discussion throughout the recording process, which is…
M: It changes a lot.
K: It changes everything.
M: So I guess you’re just going to see a different mindset in the future
K: Yeah, not like completely different, like it’s not, I mean just fair warning, it’s all mariachi. But, that was a joke by the way, it’s not totally different, like we didn’t necessarily change genres, it’s more deliberate music now. Because when The Abyss came out I got a comment from my friend that I thought was really interesting, and I respect her opinion a lot, because she’s like a really good poet and stuff like that and she said to me that she likes listening to The Abyss, because its passive music, so she can sort of put it on to listen to music but it’s not arresting so that was kind of like a challenge for me personally and I told Miclain about it too, so it’s sort of like now it’s our goal to like..
M: Part of it is also the way it was engineered, which was by me, terribly. At least in comparison to now.
K: Everything is more deliberate. We’re kind of grabbing you by the shoulders and saying “This is a song we wrote! Listen to it!” Instead of The Abyss that was like, “hey check out this song, you know maybe you’ll like it.” The new album is like “Listen to this song!”