Tuesday, October 25, 2011 / 2:38 PM
Just so you know that journalists make mistakes too, this article begins with a confession. I missed my phone interview with indie electro pop artist Kyle Andrews not once but twice. The first time, I was so sick I spent only three of twenty-four hours awake. The second time, I accidentally went to lunch instead (whoops).
So my first question when I finally got Andrews on the phone was a sweet, almost bashful, "are you mad at me?" Andrews proved he's not just a good musician (Popmatters declared his newest album Robot Learn Love "one of the most engaging and marvelously produced album this year, by any artist (period)") but also a good sport. "Livid," he replied with a laugh.
Andrews' music is hard not to like, with its "blippy synths" (Popmatters again), and infectious melodies. No wonder it's been used by Dell, Dorito's and Grey's Anatomy. I (finally) talked to him about Robot Learn Love, Nashville, and his motto in advance of his upcoming show at Ciceros on October 27.
St. Louis Magazine: You called Robot Learn Love a concept album.
Kyle Andrews: Just in the sense that it’s got a robot and computer theme merging with everyday human life. All those things that are in the songs merge with the production of the record. I used my laptop and a slew of everyday stuff to make the record.
SLM: What’s your verdict then on technology. Has it helped music?
KA: I was just thinking about that. I don’t think I would exist as an artist [outside of] this era, where you can record at home. I’ve been recording and writing on my own for 10 or 15 years. So, [I can] explore my imagination without having to break the bank.
SLM: What about music overall?
KA: It’s hard to say. It seems like in general, music has become more processed, and maybe it has kind of lost something.
SLM: You’re from Nashville, or you moved there?
KA: I grew up in Chicago, and just kind of moved down because I met some people that were playing in bands in Nashville. There are certain places [where] if you say “Hey, I want to be a musician,” you might as well say “Hey I want to be a professional starving person.” That attitude, to a certain degree, that’s what I grew up around, not necessarily in my family, but that was the perception. Nashville was the first community [where] everybody just thought that [playing music] was a really great idea.
SLM: You recorded the whole album on your own?
KA: A good bulk of it began just in my bedroom.
SLM: Sometimes when you’re singing, your voice sounds gravelly. Do you do that on purpose?
KA: No, it’s just allergies, probably. In the recording process I like using effects. Some recording artists, they like to make it more like a documentary where it’s like, “Here’s what happened; this is the performance.” And then other people want it to be something that’s impossible. In recording, I tend to be more like that. I want to make something that could never exist in a room.
SLM: Is it hard to play the songs live?
KA: At this point, we’ve kind of figured out a way. That’s another technology thing. I’ve kind of figured out how to use the software that I use to record to reproduce it live. So, right now on tour, we have a three-piece, and my computer is the other band member, so the live show sounds like the album and is organic in terms of being a part of the theme of the album.
SLM: Do you have a motto?
KA: A motto? [Laughs.] I don’t know. Do you have a motto?
SLM: I guess, my motto is “art is anything you can get away with.” Andy Warhol said that.
KA: Really? That’s interesting.
SLM: Do you want to steal my motto? You can.
KA: No, that’s a good one but I don’t know if that’s how I— umm. I’ll have to think about that. I don’t know if I’m ready to publish a motto yet.
SLM: It’s pretty serious stuff. What you live by.
KA: As far as for this album, Robot Learn Love, the song that is the spirit of that record is the last one, “The Search for a Heart.” The lyrics are cryptic, but for me, that was what I was searching for in that record...my own sense of just humanity and happiness. There’s always things you want to accomplish in life, and you can turn into a bit of a robot just in taking the steps. I don’t know if that’s a motto.
SLM: When I think about technology I think it’s grim, but your album sounds pretty upbeat.
KA: I think that was the goal to—in general, I try to have it [where] if it touches on any sort of kind of darker stuff, I’m still searching for a happy ending.
SLM: Is it bad that I called it upbeat?
KA: Sometimes I wonder if it’s too dark, because some of the things that the record is talking about are—they honestly weren’t the happiest moments from the last year for me. But I was trying to present them in a way that was really listenable and enjoyable. So no, I want the listener to be able to apply the music to whatever it is for them, so if it resonates to you in a way like, “Well, that sounds happy to me,” then I feel like it’s a success and if somebody else relates to some of the darker elements then I’m perfectly fine with that as well, because it’s all in there.
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