KINO MOTEL (stylized in all-caps) has broken into the music world with their debut single “Waves,” and its unique, post-modern, other-worldly sound is making a place for itself in that world. Thanks to the works of Ed Fraser and Rosa Mercedes, KINO MOTEL has been born, and might just pave the way for a new kind of genre, something they label “grit pop.” Fraser and Mercedes plan to release more songs with this style in mind. If they’re just as fantastic as “Waves,” then listeners will be in for a treat.
First, the (good) elephant in the room: the violin. You hear this unusually distorted instrument from the very beginning. KINO MOTEL has chosen to include it with other traditional band instruments, and its inclusion is a wonderful stylistic choice. It brings the song up to another level, helps it avoid slipping in amongst the typical kind of rock. Honestly, there’s nothing typical about the song, and that’s a great thing!
The tone of the song has a very gritty, dark texture to it, provided by the distorted violin (of course), a nice and slow foot-tapping bass tempo, the mixture of low and gravelly male vocals with gentle but powerful female vocals, and, interestingly enough, a synthetic sound that sounds curiously like a UFO (could this be symbolic?).
The lyrics are a little less up-front, and at times requires intense listening to decipher, but I can’t help but wonder if that was on purpose (or perhaps it’s just me). They’re elegantly easy, essentially repeating the same verse about three times (I say about, as there’s a couple of changes near the end). One set of lyrics stand out, about two and a half minutes into the song, as Fraser comes in with his Leonard Cohen-style vocals:
Cut through a winding path
Among trees shadows hung
Under your feet
As you run
This is your debut single. What was the process like of putting the band and music together?
Rosa Mercedes: The first song I ever heard Eddie sing was Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, and he was wearing a blond wig at the time. I thought: here’s someone I can play music with. We both have this innate need to travel, tour and go on adventures, so the band is kind of an extension of that. But when we write the music together it’s a calm thing we do, a kind of down time. In the middle of our road trip, we haul ourselves up in a motel room and just indulge in the vibe. Then we whittle all those ideas and experiences down in the recording process, and the band becomes a mix of all those impulses.
Can you talk a little about the song’s meaning and where the inspiration came from?
Ed Fraser: It’s about escaping, getting out, leaving a toxic situation – and how hard that can be. You really have to fight for it, it’s not easy. And then the idea that you need to go in whichever direction you need to go in. That part’s up to you.
“Grit pop” seems to be a new style that’s cropping up among artists. How would you describe it?
RM: I come from the folk scene and Eddie’s played a lot of heavy music, so we both prefer things a little rougher around the edges. We love a good pop song, an addictive chorus, synths and all that, but we don’t want it to sound fake or pristine. It’s pop music for people who like dirt.
EF: I like dirt and Rosa likes dirt, so it works.
What was the thought process behind adding in the violin sounds?
EF: From the beginning we were going for something very cinematic for this song overall; we really wanted “Waves” to sound like the soundtrack to a film. And the violin is really just the perfect instrument for that. Josefin Runsteen, who also plays drums on all the songs, is primarily a violinist, so as soon as she’d finished tracking the drums with us she busted out her violin. She’s really an incredible player, it was just beautiful, and really perfect for what we were aiming for with this song.
RM: It’s all about the romance of the road.
What was it like recording different parts of the song in different places and different times? Did it inhibit or enhance the songwriting experience?
RM: I think it definitely gave the song (and our upcoming releases) time and space to evolve into what they are now. We didn’t rush anything. We had some songs ready to go around the time Josefin was passing through Berlin, and so we booked a studio for the two days she was in town and recorded drums and violin there and then. She’s the kind of musician who can just immediately feel where a song wants to go and do it without hesitation. When we recorded the rest in Melbourne, we gave ourselves free rein to put down ideas, and then over time distilled the track down to whatever felt essential. Eddie did an incredible job of mixing it to our very specific tastes. We both love getting people we admire involved, so you’ll see a lot of features from more great musicians in this band if we can help it.
You have some other new upcoming releases. Can you share a little about them?
EF: For sure. Our next single is called “Simple Desire” and it was also recorded and mixed in the same sessions as “Waves” in Berlin and Melbourne. This one is a little more pop-heavy, and there’s a bunch of bendy guitars that I really enjoy playing in there. Vocally it’s Rosa’s time to shine and she surely does shine. We’re really excited about the video for “Simple Desire” – it continues the series we started with “Waves” – our main characters return for a new adventure, this time in Vietnam. From there the video series will take us to Australia, and the rest we can’t tell you yet, but rest assured it’s pretty out there.