Los Angeles’ Kimono Kult are probably the most beautiful and frustrating band that currently exist… They are a brilliant collective of badassedly accomplished musicians… who will never appear on a stage together (Although, there is something quite postmodernly satisfying about that very notion… So maybe I should ease up on them being “frustrating.”) They are composed of past and present members of Swahili Blonde, Bosnian Rainbows, Le Butcherettes, At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Detroit Cobras, Starlite Desperation, and The Like… among many others: Nicole Turley, Teri Gender Bender, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, John Frusciante, Dante White, and Laena Geronimo. They’re a group of musicians who have each already explored a vast plethora of projects and sounds, although they are very forward about not being a “supergroup.” They are simply musicians who have known and (in most cases) worked with one another in some capacity in recent years, and Kimono Kult simply represents something else they were inclined to pursue. Nicole Turley (most notably of Swahili Blonde) seems to be the mastermind behind the project, while Teri Gender Bender (most notably of Le Butcherettes and Bosnian Rainbows) handles lead vocals, however the sound is an amalgam of all members’ varied pasts. Their debut EP, Hiding in the Light, is due out on Neurotic Yell Records on March 4th. I must admit, I was a bit scared to interview the band, as I thought they seemed to be hell-bent on ambiguity and esotericism (the refusal to perform live; the fact that the band and their album are in English, yet all of their songs and lyrics are in Spanish; and… just the general reputation of this lot to tend toward the experimentally mysterious). I was a bit scared that I would get a bevy of genius-ly poignant and potent three-word responses that made me feel as though my questions embodied the intellectual competence of a purple dinosaur. But Nicole Turley and Teri Gender Bender recently gave me one of the best, most thorough, and fun interviews that I’ve done in my career. Check out what they had to tell me about Kimono Kult… and The X-Files, excessive sweating, and The Spice Girls…
Izzy Cihak: I have to ask how and why you all came together for this particular project? Most of you have worked together before in different projects, but what is it that led to Kimono Kult?
Nicole Turley: You know, we’re friends and creative people in all different facets, so making music together was something that was talked about for years. And since everyone is very busy with their own bands and projects, it made the most sense to have Kimono Kult be a recording project only. All it really needed was for someone to get the ball rolling, so I designated myself that person and started sending tracks to Omar and Teri, and then things just started to develop from there.
Teri Gender Bender: Nicole Turley has great antennas on her head. She is a very sensitive and talented individual and when she approached me and Omar to collaborate with Kimono Kult we were just so happy because it meant having a newborn story to tell to each other when we get old.
In all honesty, putting aside that everyone involved is incredibly talented and genius, the people involved reek of good vibrations. You know? Everyone has antennas on top of their heads. My mother gave them to me… I’m sure we all get them from our parents or we acquire them throughout life, but when you are around people or places that make your antennas give you warning signs, then you know that sooner or later the music or the “end product” won’t be something you’ll look too fondly of when time passes. So it’s good to listen to your gut instinct. (Not solely talking about music… I’m talking about the life aspect… the bigger picture) The chemistry we all have together is nice. And it’s hard to find that… you know, people you can trust.
Izzy: What do you consider to be, collectively, your most significant influences or, more specifically, the biggest influences behind Hiding in the Light? And I definitely don’t necessarily mean musical influences.
Nicole: Well, the name Hiding In The Light is actually a reference from the TV show X-Files. I used to watch that show on TV all the time when I was in junior high and high school, and just recently started re-watching it again. That theme seemed pretty appropriate for what the music ended up becoming. I would love one day for all our fear, jealousy, wrath, and antipathy to fade into darkness, and our inner light will be the only thing that absorbs us, allowing the best possible versions of ourselves to shine forth. So yeah, musically, I would say the EP represents the energy of being in your light, but not having enough faith to stay there, a traveling back and forth, which can be chaotic and painful sometimes.
Teri: Nicole Turley. She inspires me because damn, she does it all. She produces, she mixes, she is incredibly smart, funny, she listens to me when I speak, and I’ve been a hermit pretty much these last three years, so it’s nice to be able to make stuff with people you are influenced by. Swahili Blonde is a great band. I have her record Man Meat on repeat in the car. She goes far out there into the unknown, making her own genre of music… There is also Juan Son (from Guadalajara, where I am from). He is an all-around artist, who is also a hermit and loves the process of making and creating more than the end result. Ahh, There are so many influences… you kidding… I could go on to name hundreds. When you are alive, even if you are a hermit, especially if you are a hermit, you have the mind-power to absorb more music, literature, even start the processing of creating a whole new own “you-thought,” but it always come from an origin. And it’s amazing, because that just goes to show that everyone truly is one… heck, I’m at one with the Spice Girls.
Izzy: How did the writing and recording process go?
Nicole: Recording-wise, the songs would start with me making drum machine tracks and usually bass tracks, too. I would send those to Omar and Teri for them to make parts to. Then when they came to town, I would add Omar’s tracks into the recording sessions and record Teri’s vocals. Then eventually asked Dante if he wanted to add anything to “La Vida es Una Caja Hermosa,” which he did. And asked Laena to play violin and bass on “Cancion de Alejandra.” And asked John to play his version of mariachi guitar on “Cancion de Alejandra,” and also guitar on “La Vida es Una Caja Hermosa.” So once I had all my elements together, I went through the songs and figured out how put everything together the way I wanted.
Teri: Lots of drinking of water. Nicole is a great producer. She’s patient and very supportive of any idea that comes out of the mouth or the hand. I don’t usually mention studio gear, but the microphone that we used to record was very beautiful. It was smooth sailing… I sweat a lot always and she seemed not to mind at all. But I think the actual process started way before we even started in the studio… It has to do with the fact that we all love watching movies together, and that inspires us, and then next day or so I get great drum tracks from Nicole, and we send ideas to one another, back and forth… and then sometimes for weeks we don’t even mention music and read a poem or a book of history … I think that is where the initial process starts…
Izzy: Do you have a particular favorite track off of the EP? I really love “La Vida es Una Caja Hermosa.” It sounds like a postmodern soundtrack to a German Expressionist film or Luis Bunuel’s work with Salvador Dali.
Nicole: Wow, that’s awesome. I love those surrealist references. I’m big fans of Bunuel, Dali, and Man Ray. I think my favorite track is “Las Esposas.” It’s got a great groove you can dance to.
Teri: Wow! That is awesome. We all love Buñuel and Dali. I love all the tracks… I think the tracks together are great together… like a short film soundtrack… It tells a story… an abstract space/ocean like story.
Izzy: I understand that this EP is likely to be the only thing we get to hear from Kimono Kult. Is that true, or is there any chance of future compositions or possible live dates, even if only a one-off?
Nicole: There won’t be any touring or live shows, but definitely more records. We’re about 4 songs into the next record right now.
Teri: All I know is that I am lucky that Nicole asked me to be part of this. I will never take a hand and devour the whole arm.
Izzy: What do you, personally, have planned for the rest of 2014?
Nicole: Definitely more music… Another Kimono Kult record. A digital EP for another recording project I have with Ivory Carlson, called Sexual Castle. More Swahili Blonde music. I also have two original TV series I’ve been working on with my writing partners. We’ll be shooting a pilot for one of the projects in March, so that’s exciting. I think 2014’s going to be a good year.
Teri: Besides recording stuff for Bosnian Rainbows and Le Butcherettes (my two bands), I am writing a second poetry book with hopes of having done soon… but then again, it is all a process, so who knows what life has in store. I really hope I get to sail on a boat.