Monday, November 3, 2008

KaiserCartel @ Cafe Du Nord

I had the immense pleasure of meeting the up and coming indie duo of the year the other night in San Fran when KaiserCartel opened for Matt Hales at Cafe Du Nord. KaiserCartel are the dynamic Brooklyn-based duo consisting of Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel, and I've posted about them before. I was lucky to meet them before and after the show and get to know them a bit better, and before I get to talking about the concert, here's some words from KaiserCartel themselves:

How did you two meet?
CK: We met at the Knitting factory in NYC. We were playing in separate bands; Courtney Kaiser band and Benjamin Cartel band. We met in the back stage area and traded cds.....then we saw each other on the street a few months later, and made a date to hang out and exchange songs. Then because both our bands couldn't tour, we did a midwest tour together under our solo names, and audience members were asking us when the KaiserCartel cd would be coming out. It grew from there.

You were both teachers before you became KaiserCartel. With your tours and growing popularity, do you think you'll ever return to the classroom?
CK: We both love children and love teaching. When we're on the road, children find us, and we are able to still get that exchange without being in a formal classroom. I have no idea whether we will both one day be back in the classroom, but I think children are attracted to the music we make as well as adults, so we will be involved in some way forever.

What inspires your music?
BC: We like to watch movies and a lot of the time, and that can be an inspiration. Our song "White Dove" which is on the new EP "Okay and Other Things We Feel" was inspired by a 1960's art film titled White Dove. We are also inspired by everyday events in our lives and in lives of our friends.

What is your song-writing process like?
BC: Sometimes we write together and sometimes one of use will come with bits and pieces of a song and the other will add and change aspects of the song. Our process is all about the collaboration, so no matter how it happens, collaboration is always key to what we're doing.

CK: We use a little hand held tape recorder as well as garageband to record what we're working on. Right now we are focused on writing songs for the new record and writing songs for a friend who is working on a larger project in Africa called "The Art of Conversation."

Where did the cat puppet (displayed proudly on the drums) come from?
CK: I picked Daniel up at the Chelsea flea market. He reminded me of the Daniel from Mr. Rogers only black. His fur just seemed like the same fur. Then, I put my Grandma's watch on him and he just became a part of the show....We have to take him everywhere! We left him at Arlene's Grocery during CMJ and were so worried we lost him. Then we found out the soundman took him home. I heard that Daniel was well behaved, so I am glad about that!

I overheard you talking about how a milk frothier from Target is a nifty musical instrument- care to expand a bit on this?
While we were making "March Forth" in LA with our producer Matt Hales (aka Aqualung), we heard Matt telling a runner to go to target to pick something up. We figured it was more tea. When the runner came back, Matt showed us the milk frother. He started playing it on piano strings, and Courtney started running around the studio using it on everything in sight.

CK: I loved it! It sounded amazing, so we have the sound in various places on the record.

Courtney, you seem to play the guitar a bit differently - you construct the chords mainly by using only your thumb. Any reason for this?
CK: One day, a long time ago, I changed the tuning on my guitar to open D. I was experimenting really, but loved the way that it sounded. I also discovered that I could make really cool sounding chords using my thumb and leaving some of the strings open. I think I used my thumb because my hand is so small.....

You end your concerts in a wonderfully special way by stepping off the stage and singing directly to and amongst the audience. What inspired this decision?
CK: We really like to connect with the audience in a different way. I think we are comfortable singing acapella because we did this as teachers, so really its so easy to do..But as we started doing this in the beginning, we realized were really having an emotional exchange with people and that made us want to do it more. It is my favorite part of the set.

You mentioned that you have written some new songs- any talk of when the next album will be recorded?
BC: We can't disclose that info yet, but we are working on it and will be doing demos at home first.

And because I like to end interviews James Lipton-style, what is your favorite word?
BC: color
CK: Vibration

The concert itself was spectacular. Du Nord is a fairly intimate venue with a Swedish cathedral twist, although you would never guess it from the outside. KC started things off with the favorite "Oh No,"a fantastic choice, as the song builds with each harmonious refrain with new conviction until it finally reaches cadence, satisfying any ear. Both Courtney and Benjamin are fantastic whistlers, as can be heard on "Season Song." The set lasted for about 45 minuets, and the famous "Okay" was sung with Matt Hales himself guesting on the piano. They performed a new song entitled "Memphis" (to my knowledge, it hasn't leaked out yet) and finished the night by stepping off the stage and coming right up to the audience to serenade us all with "Shira." What a wonderful embracing way to end the evening. Once again, I had to leave before I could hear the next act, Matt Hales (just once I'd like to stay for an entire concert!), but I highly encourage you guys to check out his music on his myspace.

KaiserCartel have a special version of Season Song (which btw, really should be on an Apple commercial) out right now on their website in order to encourage people to "Whistle While They Vote." Courtney says, "We are heading down to PA tuesday to entertain people while they are standing in line. The lines are super super long and people get bored and frustrated, so we are hoping that we can keep them there with our music!"

Support the Artist: Purchase KaiserCartel's other songs on iTunes

Upcoming Concerts for KaiserCartel:
Nov 13 2008 8:00P
Union Hall w/ Mascot
Brooklyn, New York
Nov 17 2008 8:00P
TT The Bears w/ Margot and The Nuclear So and So’s
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Nov 18 2008 8:00P
First Unitarian Church w/ Margot and The Nuclear So and So’s
Philedelphia, Pennsylvania
Nov 21 2008 8:00P
The Pike Room at Crofoot w/ Margot and The Nuclear So and So’s
Pontiac, Michigan
Nov 22 2008 8:00P
The Bottom Lounge w/ Margot and The Nuclear So and So’s
Chicago, Illinois
Nov 26 2008 8:00P
Steel City Coffee House w/ Jim Boggia
Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
Dec 4 2008 7:00P
The Kent Stage w/ Carrie Rodriguez
Kent, Ohio
Dec 5 2008 8:00P
Club Cafe w/ Carrie Rodriguez
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Dec 6 2008 8:30P
Acoustic Cafe
Bridgeport, Connecticut

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