By Richard Provost
After the release of their full length album, To Keep You Company, on February 20th, we reached out to Kitfox to talk about the record. See what lead singer Emilee Holgate and bassist Conor Flynn had to say about their recording experience in Nashville, hearing their music on primetime television for the first time, and the incorporation of new instruments on the album.
Thanks for speaking with us! We’re really digging To Keep You Company. There are some cool sonic tricks you guys have used on the new album. Right out of the gate, “Ghost” ends with some cool ambience/feedback that surges into “So Close,” which has some glitchy synth bells in the beginning. It also sounds like the kick drum in “So Close” was sweetened with a midi kick patch of some kind. It cuts through the mix really well. How did you get the idea to incorporate electronic elements into your otherwise super organic music? Also, how did you go about creating those effects?
Flynn: For the EP we released back in October of 2014, we didn’t really use any electronic instruments or effects, so we really wanted to incorporate some of those types of things in our new album. That being said , we still wanted to retain some of the natural sounding elements we used in the EP. I think every song has an acoustic guitar in there somewhere, but we tried to support the main melodies with sweeping synths, interesting guitar effects, organs and other sounds. Some of our favorite musical additions to our songs were baritone and lapsteel guitar. It really gave it that dusty western type of sound we were going for. I think the marriage of those country/western elements and the synth electronic elements works really well. We didnt go into the recordings with a specific vision of every instrument we would use, but enjoyed the process of experimenting with new sounds.
You guys recorded To Keep You Company on two different sides of the country. How did the experience of friends in Provo and musicians in Nashville and LA influence the album?
Flynn: We started the recording process in Nashville and before that we didn’t have a super strong direction. Our producers Gabe and Konrad really shaped the whole sound of this record. After we recorded our first song with them, “Misery,” we adopted the adjective “Dusty” to describe the album and we kept that in mind throughout remainder of the recording process. Recording with each of the producers we worked with was a different experience every time. Stephen Cope of Studio Studio Dada was one of the most positive people we have ever worked with and he had some really cool ideas for sounds. Taylor Wilson helped a lot with tweaking melodies to make them stronger and the songs we did with him have a more raw feel to them. Each of them had their own style and added something very unique to our songs. With that said, we tried to keep the record cohesive by incorporating similar elements and implementing the things we learned in Nashville. Our friend Andrew Herringer in LA mixed the record. He would give us helpful feedback and he had a lot of influence to change the feel of the song with how he manipulated the sounds. It’s really been a wonderful collaboration with a lot of talent.
How did you get in contact with Gabe Simon and Konrad Snyder?
Holgate: We were big fans of Gabe’s band Kopecky and we went to see them in Lancaster, PA while we were back East for summer 2014. We looooooved their set and their sound and they kind of became our band inspiration moving forward. Conor had the idea to have Gabe produce our next record and we talked on the phone excitedly about that dream a lot, but I never really thought that it could actually happen. Then while attending another Kopecky show in the fall back in Utah, Gabe actually struck up a conversation with Conor who gave Gabe our CD and it all happened from there! It’s really crazy to me how that all worked out. It’s like we willed it into reality. I don’t even know. Its crazy. Fate? Yeah, probably. Gabe introduced us to his recording partner and engineer, Konrad Snyder. They were a perfect pair to work with.
What was your time in Nashville like? Was it everything you thought it would be? What inspired you to go out there to work?
Holgate: We would go in in the morning and record all day long until about 7 at night, go to bed, wake up and do it all again the next day. It was awesome! We would listen to the acoustic demo of a song, and talk about the feelings we wanted the listener to feel and what style fit the mood. Then we would record a scratch track and start building the song from there! It was a really interesting process and helped us to understand how important keeping the listener in mind really is. Our experience in Nashville really exceeded our expectations. Our fit with the producers was perfect and the recording process taught us so much about ourselves as a band and also helped us to develop our own studio at home. We decided to take the leap of faith to go out to Nashville to record really just to gain a new experience and to get some help with our sound. We chose to record with Gabe and Konrad because we really respected the work that they have produced.
“Misery” was featured on ABC’s Blood and Oil. Did you ever think one of your songs would be featured on a primetime television show?
Holgate: When we were recording in Nashville our producers would often talk about getting syncs, so while working on songs we tried to create really special moments that would be cinematic for that very purpose. So it’s something I think we all considered and hoped for, but when it actually happened it was very surreal.
Did you actually get to watch the episode?
Holgate: I totally watched the episode! I’ll be honest and say that I had never seen it before we got our song on it, but I definitely tuned it to watch that night! I didn’t have cable so I had to go out and buy an antenna and it didn’t end up working, so it was really stressful trying to figure out how I was going to watch it. I didn’t want to miss our moment! But my family and I figured out how to watch it and it was definitely some of the the most nerve-wracking minutes of my life! We didn’t get to preview the scene beforehand, and we didn’t know when it was going to happen, so the whole time I was just sitting at the edge of my seat, nervously eating ice cream, hoping that it wasn’t a super quiet background song that you couldn’t even hear after we had made such a big fuss about it on social media, haha, but it definitely was a really surreal and proud moment for us.
Are you Blood and Oil fans? [Laughs]
Holgate: [Laughs] I can’t really say I’m a big fan, but I’ve only really seen one episode, so there’s not much to judge it off of.
Let’s talk about your Kickstarter. That’s a HUGE accomplishment. How did you manage to reach your funding goal? Was it stressful? What did you learn from the experience?
Holgate: Oh, the Kickstarter. That was an ordeal [Laughs]. No, it was a great experience, very challenging, but great. We went into it knowing that we would only succeed if we gave it all our time and attention. I honestly still wonder how we managed to raise $10,000. It really blows my mind. We spent the month planning and promoting and playing shows and finding sponsors, (which was great because me and Conor got some free lunch), and calling people and designing merch prototypes. It was really an exhausting month and stressful time. It really tested us and our determination to go make this record. But really we had soooo many generous friends and fans and family and really it’s because of them that we reached our goal. One of the biggest things I will take away from that is experience is how good people can be. There were people pledging to our album that I haven’t talked to in 10 years. There were people who pledged a lot of money and opted to take no reward. So many people shared our video and spoke kind words about us and these people really wanted to see us succeed, and I am so grateful for that. The kickstarter was so overwhelming from all the things we had to do and but even more overwhelming was the outpouring of love and support we received.
What opportunities have come your way through working on this album that you wouldn’t otherwise have had?
Holgate: We definitely wouldn’t have had our song on Blood and Oil and I don’t think we would have had the opportunity to open for our favorite band, Kopecky, if it weren’t for recording in Nashville. I think going to Nashville and starting this record was a real turning point for us as a band. I don’t know where we would be today if we hadn’t made that decision or if our music would have evolved in the way that it has. So essentially, I think all the opportunities we’ve had this year have linked back to that in some ways. We gained so much momentum from the Kickstarter Campaign and learned so many things from the recording process and our producers.
Where does the title, “To Keep You Company” come from? Why did you feel that was a fitting title for the album?
Holgate: The title of our album is actually a lyric from our song called, “Nightfall”. I think there are a lot of different ways you could interpret the title, but to us, one of the main messages we wanted to come across is that this album is literally there to keep you company. One of the biggest things that has attracted me to playing music is the influence that my favorite albums have had on my life. In my times of loneliness or sorrow, listening to my favorite album has been just a comforting to me as talking to a good friend. Those albums kept me company, and we wanted to create an album that could do that for our listeners.
In what ways has Kitfox grown since 2014?
Holgate: Kitfox is a completely different band than it was in 2014 in my opinion. When we first started playing shows together, every single time, without fail, we would wait to practice until the last minute and just throw a set together without giving it much thought. We have had a huge mental shift in the way we do things since we have started this album. We have so much more purpose in the things that we do and the music that we create and the messaged that we want to portray. We have evolved so much style-wise since 2014 that our music is almost unrecognizable. We all decided last year that this music could be a very important part of peoples’ lives and we needed to start treating it that way. I think people who saw us back then would honestly be quite shocked at our transformation.
What do you hope fans feel or think about when they listen to the album?
Holgate: While recording, we would come up with a word or an emotion that we wanted the listener to get out of each song and then tried to create that mood. We hope that our listeners can not only identify what word we chose, but also feel that emotion. This album is very moody I think, so I don’t want our listeners to necessarily feel sad when they hear it, I just hope that they can feel the sincerity of the words that we sing. We sought out to write a really personal, honest and raw album that people can relate to and I hope the fans can feel that.
Do you guys have any upcoming shows this month?
Flynn: As of right now we dont have any shows booked for March. A couple of the band members will be out of town for portions of that month, so scheduling has been tough, but we are hoping to get a few March gigs if we can.
Oh! One more question! Who did your album art? What does the album art represent?
Flynn: When we set out to create our album art we first wanted to create something different. Something that you don’t see all the time on other albums. We also wanted the album cover art to portray the meaning of the the album. We realized that the main idea and feeling we wanted to get across was the raw emotional feeling portrayed by the lyrics. So we had the idea that we would create the album art from the song lyrics themselves. If you look closely you can see the lyrics to all of the songs on the album. The fire painting came from the idea of the title, “To Keep You Company”. For us, the idea of a campfire gives off a feeling of kinship and comfort. We actually found the painting of the campfire we used online. It was painted by a very talented artist named Kristen Reitz-Green. We emailed her to get permission to use her artwork and she kindly consented.
Then through the magic of photoshop we created our album art.
Make sure to like Kitfox on Facebook and listen to “Nightfall” from the new album below!