Unmitigated hype is a serious accusation to throw at any artist and Mount Kimbie prove that a bit of mainstream accreditation is no reason to dismiss an act. The duo seem particularly undeterred by labelling and are keen to neither let it restrict them or force them to fit into a particular category. They’ve produced […]

Unmitigated hype is a serious accusation to throw at any artist and Mount Kimbie prove that a bit of mainstream accreditation is no reason to dismiss an act. The duo seem particularly undeterred by labelling and are keen to neither let it restrict them or force them to fit into a particular category. They’ve produced what many have considered to be one of the most essential releases of 2010 – Crooks and Lovers, which was released on Scuba’s Hotflush label. A dense and hazy meander around the last 15 years of electronic music, garage, R&B, electronica and field recordings have been painstakingly combined with live guitars to wash it all down. They’re creating a noise suitable for dance floor or for staring out of the train window moodily and pretending you’re in a depressing indie film, a goal any album should aspire to achieve.

Kai Campos and Dominic Maker met at Southbank University. Having already played music in various bands the two began making electronic music and were joined by James Blake, the so called third member, for a number of live sets. Both Blake and Kimbie’s popularity has reached dizzying heights for debut acts but, having toured extensively and been regular names at various dubstep and electronic nights around London, it’s certainly not through lack of effort or talent.

Now Then had a brief word with Dom as the pair finished up their US tour and prepared for a series of gigs back home.

(Disclaimer: We didn’t talk about James Blake.)

How was the tour?

It was great – really, really good. Loads of stuff went on. We played with a guy called Shigeto who’s wicked. He does live drums over his beats. It was nice that they’d thought about it and booked someone doing a similar sort of thing to us.

What has the reception been like over in America? Has it been as strong over there as in the UK?

Yeah, to a certain extent. It’s definitely a difficult market to crack. They’re really into their hip hop and at the moment the younger generation are stuck on big dubstep DJs. But yeah, we were fortunate enough to do this thing with NPR, which is like public radio in America. We had loads of good feedback and loads of people came to the shows purely off the back of that, so we’re pretty pleased with how it’s been going out there.

What kind of reaction do you get towards your live set up? Do people tend to come in thinking you’re going be hunched over your laptops?

Yeah, that’s what they mainly think. Most people think we’re just sort of DJing and playing live guitar over it, but it’s a very live show and there’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes.

I was reading an interview in which you lambasted Four Tet for just pressing play and wandering off. With your live instrumentation, is it a conscious decision to entertain or would you be doing it anyway?

It’s just something that we’ve always wanted to do. Before we were ever making electronic music we were in a couple of bands, playing guitar and stuff like that. We definitely don’t have a problem watching someone press play, it’s just not something that we want to do. I mean I’ve seen hundreds of amazing Ableton sets and people who just do a laptop set – total respect for that. It’s just what we want to achieve. I feel like the music that we do has got enough scope to be played live and developed in a live atmosphere. The main thing is that we’re having fun doing it.

You’ve mentioned TV On the Radio as an early influence in terms of mixing electronic music with instruments. Any other surprise influences?

I’m a big fan of Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, quite a lot of metal. At SXSW we saw lots of hardcore bands and they were brilliant. I think Texas is quite a stronghold for that. Aside from that, we’re into a lot of R&B. We listen to so many different things but nothing surprising. I guess the only thing you might consider surprising is that there’s a bit of classic rock.

Is there anyone in particular who’s influencing you at the moment or are you mainly getting on with your own stuff?

We generally hear a very small amount of new stuff at the moment except for the people we play with. It’s been a lot of Warpaint, White Denim and Tame Impala. It’s not a conscious decision, but that reverby, unclean sort of sound – just anything that’s really catchy.

Do you find it seeping into the stuff you’re creating?

Yeah I think so. We haven’t written anything for ages but I’d imagine that when we do finally sit down it will all come through.

You have a new EP coming out soon.

Yeah, it’s got remixes of ‘Carbonated’ from the album and two other remixes. We haven’t been writing anything new recently. We haven’t written anything since Crooks and Lovers, but I’m craving it. Throughout summer there are a lot of European shows and festivals stretching off into the distance, but hopefully in September it’ll all settle down. Then we’ll go on holiday or something and start writing again.

What did you think about the critical response to the record and how are you finding being thrust in front of a new audience?

It has been really bizarre for us. We come from a background where we’ve never really known anyone who’s done that. It was strange to hear friends who aren’t really that into music to say, “Oh, I saw you mentioned in The Sun today”. It was really weird but good. It brought home the fact that there is a market for the kind of stuff we’re doing and that, I suppose, is quite settling. We were quite happy to stay underground, as that’s where we’ve come from and I love that. I love that about certain types of music, but it’s nice to appeal to a bigger audience. It was quite surprising really and we never expected any of it.

I saw you on the Abbey Road debuts TV show. What was that like?

We didn’t know what to expect. It was quite daunting but once we were there it felt good. It’s quite nice to have the ability to experiment a lot with what we’re doing in front of people and actually be able to hear the subtle changes. Sometimes the subtlety gets lost in a club or festival environment. A lot of what we do is quite delicate so it’s nice to show that.

What about the cameras?

They kept on the outside of a ring and I didn’t really notice them. I was trying so hard not to mess up I sort of forgot where I was. We were conscious of the fact that we only had a couple of takes for the whole thing.

How do you make music as a duo?

It’s very individual. Kai will be up in London I’ll be down in Brighton, and we just write whatever we wanna write. We make something that we’re proud of and send it to the other person. We send parts to each other and then kind of chop and change. There aren’t any assigned roles so it’s a very free and easy process. We’re not that keen on working as a team when it comes to the writing aspect, but it’s really good to have another set of ears.

I was watching a video of you guys playing a Norwegian church and it looked beautiful. What is your ideal setting to play in and how would you contrast the club environment with a sort of band night environment?

Our ideal spot is a small room. Our favourite that we’ve played in is a little place called the Golden Poodle in Hamburg. It’s tiny – about 75 person capacity – and it’s just amazing. There’s something about having that intimacy that really works. Then we played Bestival and that was incredible in a different way. It’s so big and we were sort of shell shocked, but we managed to pull it off in the end.

There’s a difference in terms of the kinds of audiences you get, the sound and what you need to achieve with the set. At a festival you’re looking to please in a much more energetic way, whereas if you’re playing a church in Norway you’re trying to be a bit more subtle, trying to explore and showcase the sound more. We’re fortunate that we’ve been asked to play places outside of clubs, really.

We played in a cave in Austria, but that church was easily the most incredible venue we will probably ever play in. There were only about 60 people there but it was incredible. There were three acts playing and between acts they just played this solid drone music. I’d love to go back.

I would never think to compare you guys to that sort of ambient music, particularly not metal, but on Crooks of Lovers there are elements of it present. Do you listen to that kind of stuff at all? Bands like Sunn 0)))?

Not really. It mainly comes from the stuff that we use in our live show – guitar and distortion. We thought it sounded good and that sort of triggers ideas in your head. We don’t really listen to any ambient music at all. People have said we really need to listen to Boards of Canada and stuff like that. I’ve tried it out but it’s not really what I want to listen to all the time.

I guess we take elements of every genre that we like and bring ambience to all of them. I was actually quite surprised by how certain parts of the album are as ambient as they are. I think it mainly comes from the type of environment we are in when we’re working. I live down by the coast so I’m constantly seeing the sea from my window. There’s a lot of open space and you feel like you need to fill it with ambient noise.

The scene that you two have been associated with seems pretty popular at the moment. Do you ever feel like it is saturated or do you want to go in a completely different direction? What keeps you making music?

When I say we haven’t written anything – we’ve actually spent a little time experimenting with different sounds. But it’s never been a concern. We’ve always just known that we’re constantly going to try and evolve what we’re doing because we get bored of certain sounds. I think Crooks and Lovers is the top of where we wanted to take that sound. The next thing we do should be totally different. I think it’ll have a lot more guitar.

We never really think about it – we just do what feels right. There’s some great music coming out at the moment and like you say in other ways it seems like it’s getting a bit saturated, but I feel confident in the scene in general, that it’s going to keep evolving and keep surprising people.

Interview by Imogen Decordova