KISSES are Jesse Kivel and Zinzi Edmundson. They live in LA, are a boyfriend/girlfriend band duo and make very lovely music. Following the release of Bermuda, their ultra-summery, lush Pop debut single on Transparent (label profile here) back in April, they take a step into the shade with new single People Can Do The Most Amazing Things from their as-yet-unannounced excellent debut album. Darker, more brooding and closer to the dancefloor; it’s the stuff of dusk-light dreaming. It’s coming out on vinyl on This Is Music at the beginning of August but they’re very kindly giving away the MP3 now (download it above). We had a transatlantic chat via email a couple of weeks ago. Here’s how it went.
Hello Kisses. You’ve got a lovely name. How did the two of you get together and who does what?
Jesse: Well, I met Zinzi about 7 years ago when I was visiting a friend at college. I immediately liked her but had to wait several years before I could court her appropriately. 3 years later she visited me while I was studying abroad in London and we have been dating ever since. About a year ago I had written a bunch of songs that didn’t fit with my other band Princeton. I started recording them and asked Zinzi to do some vocals on the record. From there the idea of Kisses just sort of evolved into what it is right now.
Zinzi: Everything seems to have happened in phases. First we were friends, then we started dating, and now we’re starting a whole new phase making music. Very exciting! Jesse is the mad genius songwriter — his songs are awesome no matter what genre they’re produced with. I let him know which blips and bleeps are better than others (among other things) and provide vocals!
Your music feels like sunshine. Do you need sunshine to make it?
J: I think although there is a sunny element to the music, I don’t think sunshine was necessary for these tracks. It’s hard to say though because I wrote them all in LA so maybe I did need it? Anyways, I find that sometimes bad weather can help with creativity and because LA is so sunny it is often hard to find profound moments in the weather. I think sunshine only plays a very small and possibly superficial part in the KISSES record.
Z: I think so — maybe not in the way you think though. In L.A. almost every day is exactly the same (see David Lynch’s weather reports for more details!) so maybe the monotony, the “too much of a good thing” aspect fed into the music? But yeah, it would be nice if people experienced the music like warm sun on the face — I’d like that.
Active Child’s remix of Bermuda is lovely. You’re good friends, right?
J: Yeah we are pals. Several months back Princeton asked Pat to open for us at Spaceland in LA. After the show, we got to talking about our respective projects and I sent him a copy of the KISSES record. I love the music he is putting out right now and happy to see that we both got singles put out on the excellent UK label Transparent.
Z: Pat’s music is the bomb.
I really love the new single People Can Do The Most Amazing Things (download it above). Completely agree. Are you pretty optimistic people?
J: I think you have to be intensely optimistic to keep pressing on in any artistic endeavor. To want to be a full time musician or pursue art requires a strong will and sense of hope that is constantly being tested. I think the chorus of that track is a good way of expressing how I feel as a person. Despite not knowing what you want out of life and not always being able to say the right things, we are still capable of doing extraordinary things. I think that sense of hope is very much a part of my personality.
Z: I completely agree — Jesse and I are probably the opposite of most people in that I think we’re superficially negative, but deep down we really care about things and hope for/believe in the best for ourselves and others.
There’s also an undercurrent of longing on the album – not in a sad way, more a reflectiveness. Was that a conscious thing?
J: Definitely. I have always had trouble writing really amazing “happy” songs. I always gravitate towards a reflective mood on tracks and maybe lyrics that are not as hopeful as People Can Do…. I think the reflectiveness is a sense of nostalgia and memory that I always find myself trying to capture. I think capturing a mood is something that sometimes shows in both the sonic aspects of a song and the lyrics.
What are the release plans with your album?
J: TBA!! But People Can Do The Most Amazing Things is coming out in early August with some excellent remixes to boot!
Z: Album details are tk, unfortunately. But we have plenty of other tricks up our sleeves in the meantime: People Can Do… on vinyl (again both US & UK) and a video!
So, what’s the music scene like in LA?
J: It’s great. Everybody in LA is very supportive of the bands in the area and there is no real sense of competition. It seems like everyone wants everyone to succeed. I feel like other major music cities, like New York and London are much more cut throat.
Z: It’s fun — there’s definitely a sense that going out and seeing a band is something people want to do in L.A. People really explore and support.
What kind of music did you grow up on?
J: Initially I listened to only top 40 stuff, hip hop and boy band soul. Bands like Boys II Men and Soul 4 Real had a large influence on me as well as Montell Jordan. The only albums I remember my parents playing were Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’.
Z: Well, my parents are hippies (dad is a Dead Head), so there was a lot of that starting in the earliest of years. Elvis was the first music I ever liked independently. In lower and middle school, I was really into being the “alt girl” (subsequently dying my hair dark red and later bleaching it out!) — I really liked the standards of 90s alternative: the Cranberries, Foo Fighters, Bush (!!), Green Day… You get the idea. I still like this music, but Jesse tells me it’s just the nostalgia talking.
And what do you listen to now?
J: I listen to so much stuff now… Grace Jones, Cerrone, Delorean, Javelin…there are really too many to list. My brother has an awesome new project with our friend Julia called the Mystery Claws, you should check it out!
Z: I’m all over the place. I wish I had a cohesive musical taste to tell you about! My all-time favorites are the Rolling Stones (creative, I know). Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of Best Coast, Washed Out, Dirty Projectors, Whitney Houston and Mystery Claws. Oh and I recently began rediscovering the bliss that is listening to Cam’ron.
Jesse, you’ve been over here DJ-ing. How’s that been? What’s your must-play track?
J: DJing has been cool here. Its really been quite low key aside from this insane Paris party that I did which was extremely sweaty. I was scared the entire time that someone was going to spill a drink on my laptop. The song I have been playing out most is Javelin’s Vibrationz. The song is a perfect party jam. (Download it here.)
What’s your dream with Kisses?
J: To find a large audience that appreciates the music and to hopefully make as many records as possible!
Z: For people to dance to it! Oh, and if they bought some records would be great too, thanks.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
J: Getting home from tour.
Z: Jesse coming home, getting into home canning, and putting the record out!