Following his Preaching From the Pews entry, Bill Cummings spoke to KNESSET about coming out of Phoenix and their debut album Coming of Age.
How would you describe the KNESSET sound to someone who has never even heard your music before?
Eric: Melodic, guitar-based indie rock with a healthy dose of atmospherics.
Evan: That’s what’s up.
Where does the name KNESSET come from? Is it a branch of the CIA? Or some kind of secret code?
Eric: It actually might be a secret code. Try it out at your local speakeasy at your own peril though. It’ll either get you in or get you beat up.
Evan: It seems to be getting a lot of inquiry for sure. We thought it was a unique, and powerful name both in looks and in sound. If I had the option, I’d like people to think of our music the same way I perceive our own band name.
You formed in Phoenix. How did you meet? And whats the music scene like there?
Eric: I knew the guys through various bands I had been in around town before they recruited me. Looking back at it, how I got to join up with the band is kind of a Phoenix music scene sucess story, you know? I would describe the local scene as having little in common with what we do, so it’s great to be with like-minded musicians. There are a lot of jam bands out here. A lot.
Evan: This music scene has a lot of growth and it would be a lie if I told you it was really booming. We hope to help change that because this is a beautiful city and a really great place to live. Too many jam bands, most definitely.
I see that John Congleton produced Coming of Age. What did he bring to the party?
Evan: John is a genius. We’re so lucky to have had worked with him on Coming of Age
He approached us actually. He heard our music through great friends Lymbyc Systym. We jumped on the opportunity to come out to Dallas and get straight up schooled. The things he brought to the table were dynamic and power. His expansion was brilliant and that album wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for him. He was a crucial element.
There’s a really impressive mix of experimental instrumentation textures woven with emotive vocals. What were you striving for with the record?
Evan: This was our first album so that is a very good question. We knew what we wanted, but the road to get there took a lot of turns. All of the different mallet percussion instruments and great musicians we collaborated made this album take on a sound of its own. I think this a solid representation of our influences new and old, mixed with our own style and approach. Expect more of the same in the future, with a little bit more pep in our step.
Songs like “Steady Hands” and “Bitter Hearts” really struck me the first time I heard them. How did they emerge?
Evan: Thank you. “Bitter Hearts” oddly enough was not only our bands first song, but it was the first time I ever attempted singing. When we started this band, we were originally going to continue to make instrumental music from a previous project. On a whim, I threw down some vocals and the game changed. If I could pick one song of ours on the album that would represent our bands style and sound as a whole it would be “Bitter Hearts”.
As far as “Steady Hands”… this was a studio miracle. The basis for this song was a keyboard riff I’d had for a while with no intention on really expanding on it for this album. We invited our great friend Michael Bell of Lymbyc Systym and Her Space Holiday to come help us with production, percussion and drums on the album. I was messing around on the Rhodes one session, and he liked what he heard. We wrote the instrumentation in less than 30 minutes and recorded it in one take. I added the vocals a couple days later. They were inspired by a tour that our band did with Michael and Her Space Holiday we did a month prior, so we thought it was a great add-on.
I’ve seen people refer to your expansive walls of guitar in the same vein as shoegaze how do you feel about that? Would you say you’re trying to produce something more nuanced and individual? And what do you think of the nu-gaze revival?
Eric: I’d say that older shoegaze stuff, all those layers and tones, are definitely things we’ve been inspired by and have become a part of our musical identity. At the same time, we have a lot of songs on the album and the new stuff in our live set that isn’t beholden to that, either. We just go with what we’re feeling in each song and if that gets lumped in with a style or a so-called revival, then so be it, I guess.
Influences wise, do you have any records or artists that you use as touchstones? Or is it simply a case of influences bleeding through the songwriting?
Eric: I’d say, at least collectively, we talk more about how things are recorded. Like, listening to the way a snare hit sounds, or interesting transitions or the way the bass sound lets the part flow through the song.
Evan: I’m without a doubt influenced by things I’m listening to at any given time. I think that’s just my nature. In my own head, I listen to the album and know exactly where little things stem from, and sometimes I wonder how the hell I thought of that, and what I could have possibly been thinking. I will never disclose which parts I’m talking about!
KNESSET have already supported the likes of The Album Leaf, The Appleseed Cast, Asobi Seksu and Her Space Holiday. Are there any others on your list of bands you’d like to play with? Any dream festivals that you’d like to play?
Eric: A good friend of mine played a festival that Weezer also played. Literally the only band we both really liked growing up is Weezer. So now I feel like I need to match that accomplishment of his.
Evan: We feel fortunate to have played with the above mentioned bands as well as others as well. We played with Joan of Arc last week, which was a band we definitely grew up respecting. Broken Social Scene, Blonde Redhead, Sigur Ros, Grandaddy, Sonic Youth would be some bands that come to mind, to name a few.
What are your future plans?
Eric: We’re going to keep playing shows to promote Coming of Age, because the whole experience is going really well so far. But we’re also working on a lot of new songs and we’re starting the recording process for them soon, as time permits.
Evan: To expand on what Eric was saying, continuing to put out music we love is where we’re at. Definitely getting on the road to support this album is something that we have in the works as well. We have some very cool stuff going on that we’ll share with everyone very soon.
Do you have any plans to visit the UK?
Eric: Mitch and I actually spent a lot of time in London when we were college students, so it’s definitely a goal to back get over there with the band, especially since the response in the UK has been so positive.
Evan: This is something we’d love to do as soon as we can. We are thrilled with all of the positive vibes we’re getting, so we’re looking forward to playing for you guys.