An Interview with Matt Kennedy from Kitchen’s Floor: Part One
It is a Wednesday afternoon and I’m sitting on the front porch of a Paddington share house drinking beer with Matt Kennedy, the mastermind behind Brisbane group Kitchen’s Floor. The weather is sweltering and the suburb is bustling with activity. It seems that Bono and his band of miscreants are due to play later at Suncorp Stadium just down the road and the traffic seems heavier than usual.
Kitchen’s Floor have put out a number of interesting releases in the past year and a half. In 2009 they put out Loneliness is a Dirty Mattress which was followed by a three-track 7″ in the first half of this year. October 2010 witnessed the issue of Too Dead To Notice, a live tape put out by Negative Guest List. It was this tape that prompted me to approach Matt to talk about the evolution of the band. In addition, we discussed his thoughts on the local scene as well as his Eternal Soundcheck project.
In part one of the interview we talk about his philosophy behind making what he refers too as ‘Downer Pop’, songwriting, recording and the upcoming January tour throughout Australia.
When I first heard Too Dead to Notice I didn’t realise it was a live recording. Was the tape recorded at a specific gig or assembled from a few live shows?
“It was recorded at Disembraining Machine, which is at Alchemix Studios in Woolloongabba Once a month, on the last Sunday of every month, there is kind of like a show that is put on there. It’s always really diverse acts. It’s free but all the bands get recorded as well, so that’s where that set comes from.”
In a time where the world is embracing digital media, it seems strange to be releasing music on cassette. Is there any particular reason why?
“Putting music out on cassette is an obstacle if anything. It really narrows the amount of people who can listen to it and then people who do buy it they have to go to the length of finding a working cassette deck.
“I think releasing stuff on CD now is pretty irrelevant. I find that the best forms these days are either like computer, like MP3s, or vinyl. Tape is good because CDs are really disposable. I mean, they’re not really worth anything. If you’re a fan of music as a physical form and you can’t afford vinyl for something then I think cassette is a nice novelty to have.”
Turning to your songs, I sense that apathy may inform much of the lyrical content. For example, the song ‘Left’ sees you sing ‘I was happy’ over and over again in a relatively flat monotone voice, which, for me, underscores a sense of disconnection from emotion. Given that the fidelity of the recordings sometimes obscures your lyrics, is my assessment correct? And if so, does that classify Kitchen’s Floor in any way?
“I like saying simple phrases that could be interpreted in a lot of different ways. They’re direct but they’re not direct. I don’t know, I just sing about life. A lot of people would describe it as lazy or apathetic, but I don’t see it that way. I’m just trying to write pop songs. The way I write music, to me it sounds a certain way, but then everybody else hears it completely different to the way I hear it.
“I always just describe Kitchen’s Floor as ‘Downer Pop’. Just a kind of pop music with a downer kind of slant. It’s kind of like asking Nirvana ‘Do you think you’re grunge?’”
One of my favourite songs off both the live tape and Loneliness is ‘Lander’. I think Shaun Prescott accurately described this song as similar to an A-list Bob Pollard tune. Is there any particular story behind the genealogy of this particular song?
“That’s a really old one actually. I wrote that one in 2007 right when I was starting to do it; it was one of the first Kitchen’s Floor songs. I wrote it in my bedroom and recorded the first version on a dictaphone. I think I was trying to write a Beat Happening song with the chords and the stuff, it’s kinda nice, with a really simple drum beat. Then the lyrics are kinda like just about feeling awkward around your friends.
“When I wrote that, I was in the weird state. I really wanted to scream this song so I bought two bottles of wine and drank both bottles really fast, and I pressed record and recorded the song. That version, that original version is still my favourite, it’s like, I’m just screaming it, really off-key and my voice breaks. But since then it’s evolved into this nice-sounding pop song.”
What does the title refer to?
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the lyrics of the song. I always like having really subtle space references in my music, so like ‘Lander’ is a reference to the Lunar Lander. Every couple of songs I try to add in a space reference.”
So how does one go about writing songs like this? Does it take you some time to assemble them?
“Most of them are spontaneous. They just happen. I can go months without writing anything and within a day I’ll write three songs. For six months there will be nothing.
“I usually just write them in my room, alone with an acoustic guitar. A lot of the ones on the album at least, I was pretty drunk when I wrote them and I was lucky enough to have a recording thing there so the next day I could listen back to all this crap and there would be a song in the middle of that.”
Are these songs representative of any particular influences or themes?
“I listen to a lot of music, and I’m really inspired by a lot of Australian music, by the bands I see. I hate listing stuff. A really big influence for me is this American band called Pink Reason. He’s kind of a similar set-up to me, he’s one dude, but his band is Pink Reason and he gets other people to play his songs with him. He’s a couple years older than me and he toured here last year and he played his set on acid. I hung out with him afterwards and stuff, and I was such a big fan that I was kind of like, I gave him a copy of my album and stuff, and he emailed me and he was like ‘Yeah man, I really dig it’ and I was just like ‘That means so much to me’. A lot of the Kitchen’s Floor artwork has been copied from Pink Reason as well which he said was OK. Not a direct rip-off but more of a homage.”
You’ve deliberately forgone the slick production process in favour of lower fidelity. Can you explain why this approach appeals to you?
“I have a preference for dirty recordings, I like a bit of grit on my sound. I like things to be a bit muddled. I like a sense of space in the recordings, I don’t it to be too sterile otherwise it sounds a bit dead. I like all the blemishes that recording can achieve, all these natural marks and scars. The technology you’re using to record can’t really handle your music so it kind of compensates and comes up with its own version of what you sound like.
“But it’s also been financial, can’t afford a studio. I was in a band called Look!Pond in the past. In 2006, we recorded an album in a studio and it cost heaps of money and sounds exactly what I don’t like to hear. But we released it anyway because we spent so much money on it.
“The album [Loneliness Is A Dirty Mattress] we recorded it with Joel Stern. He’s kind of like an experimental noise icon. He does everything and he’s also a lecturer at QUT, I think. He recorded the album and we did it in his basement. The seven-inch, we recorded that in a house in Spring Hill and it was done by this stoner dude who off eBay bought this reel-to-reel tape machine. I heard about it and I was like ‘Can we record’? And he was like ‘Yeah man, yeah, come round’, so we recorded it in this empty room in his house.”
You’re touring in January in support of the vinyl release of Loneliness Is A Dirty Mattress. What can you tell me about this run of dates?
“It’s only four shows. Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and then Newcastle. We’re playing with Brisbane and Newcastle with Thee Oh Sees, an American band I’m a big fan of. I saw them when they played here last December, and they’re one of the best band’s around right now, I think, and so I get to play with them. I always make sure I’m playing with bands I like. In Adelaide, we’re playing with Dud Pills, that’s kind of like a spin off band of Bitch Prefect. Bitch Prefect played the Deadshits festival here recently but Dud Pills is kind of like they’re ‘special needs little cousin’ because it’s the same members basically, but Dud Pills is kind of like the more distorted kind of version of Bitch Prefect.”
Will you be carting around that organ that appears on Too Dead To Notice?
“When I tour, I like to keep it as a three-piece – me then bass and drums set-up. I’m a big fan of three-pieces as a live band; it’s kind of my perfect band set-up. There’s something really perfect about three. Two – not enough, four – too much. Three – there’s something about a three-piece that can’t be fucked with.”
Keep your eye out for part two of the interview. Kitchen’s Floor play at Woodland in Brisbane on Tuesday 11 January 2011, but are also visiting Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, Newcastle and now Sydney in the next few weeks. Have a look at their Facebook event page for all the relevant details.