Mount Kimbie talk recording in California, collaborating with King Krule, and their fourth album 'The Sunset Violent'

Interview Mount Kimbie: “We wanted to get the tone right - somewhere between the pop influence we were excited by, and the surreal nature of our lyrics”

The beloved cult band give us a deeper insight into each track from their hot-off-the-press new LP, ‘The Sunset Violent’.

14 years on from their debut (2010’s ‘Crooks & Lovers’) and seven from their last album proper (2017’s ‘Love What Survives’), Mount Kimbie have returned with an accomplished, atmospheric, and markedly evolved new effort: ‘The Sunset Violent’. Born out of sessions in California’s Yukka Valley, the LP sees the chameleonic duo of Kai Campos - who’s spent his recent days immersed in DJ culture, flexing his performance chops in new ways - and Dom Maker (who’s been out in LA producing for the likes of SZA, Arlo Parks, and Rosalía) take a considered step forwards, swapping the electronica of their early days for distinctly indie-rock sensibilities.

Here, they’ve more formally enlisted the talents of Andrea Balency-Béarn and Marc Pell to double the band’s numbers and widen its scope (though the familiar presence of long-standing collaborator King Krule remains, a heartening common thread throughout their discography). The result is an album that’s textured, open, and expansive - no doubt a product of the vast desert setting of its conception - and one which sees Mount Kimbie revel in the breadth brought about by new ideas, processes, and members, proving their prowess in this guitar-driven space is just as assured as in the genre that made their name.

To mark the release of ‘The Sunset Violent’, we caught up with Kai, Dom, and Andrea to dive deeper into the making of the album’s nine tracks.

The Trail

Kai: This wasn’t written as an intro-specific track, but it ended up being the perfect one for this album as it introduced some of the key ideas we kept coming back to. The scratchy guitars, big vocal lines and digital '90s synth sound all get introduced one by one, and all come across with the width and space we were looking for.

Dumb Guitar

Kai: 'Dumb Guitar' instantly felt like a single as it had the most direct and catchy chorus, and was one of the demos that guided us through the making of the rest of the album. We wanted to get the tone right - somewhere between the pop influence we were excited by, and the surreal nature of Dom’s lyric writing.

Dom: The synth melody that runs through most of the song kept making me think of the open ocean, and there’s a turbulence in the switch between the verse and chorus guitar riffs that got me writing about a situation involving a couple, trying to save their floundering relationship in a fictional beach resort somewhere in China.

Shipwreck

Kai: The drums on 'Shipwreck' very much came first - we were really enjoying the groove of this less common time signature, but didn’t want it to feel conspicuous, instead just finding the music that let it flow in a pleasing way.

Dom: This song took the longest to figure out the vocals for; we tried a bunch of ideas and none felt like the right path. The instrumental was rolling around the band for a good six months, then myself, Kai and Andrea got some time in our studio in Tottenham to focus on vocals and we built up the chorus together. The final vocal - "we’ve got something real girl..." etc - came to me in about ten seconds right at the end of the day! Last call!

Got Me

Dom: This little interlude was initially a sample that I sang those two lines over - we then deconstructed the sample and recorded all the parts in our own way. It really takes me back to Los Angeles… I remember being in my studio in Koreatown with Reggie and playing him the rough draft idea, hoping he’d have ideas for how to finish the vocal melody and embellish the idea more, and he just said: "finish it? It’s done!"

Boxing (feat. King Krule)

Kai: This came from quite an early guitar idea that Archy [aka King Krule] heard. He sent a voice note over, which itself might have been the best version - every time we tried to add stuff, it seemed to take away from the simplicity that made the song work, so we kept it pretty stripped back and direct in the end.

A Figure In The Surf

Kai: Another early desert idea; the LinnDrum [drum machine] played a big part in the album, and this is a good example of what it can bring in terms of ‘feel’ and ‘groove’.

Dom: My sister in law lives in Folkestone, and we went to Margate for a few hours which was the first time I’d seen that Antony Gormley ‘Another Time’ statue. It was a bitterly cold, gloomy day out there and the isolation of that figurine - standing knee deep in freezing water, looking out over the sea - stuck with me. We drove home through the mist, along some tiny country backroads; on 'A Figure In The Surf' I tried to go back to those moments and illustrate the scene.

Fishbrain

Kai: This one came together after we’d finished the sessions in the US. When I got back to London, I would just record new guitar ideas and riffs in my kitchen with my phone and send them to Dom. We worked on it a bit, but it really came together when Dom got over and we got to work with Andrea at Andy (Ramsay)’s studio.

Dom: I was in London for six months working on the final vocals for the album, and I was sitting with the 'Fishbrain' instrumental for ages - I had it on a 20 minute loop that I kept replaying, just waiting for the right idea to show itself. I was making some soup on the stove in the kitchen and got distracted by a new rollerblading edit put out by Greg Preston and the ‘Too Easy’ inline skate magazine; one of their crew, Jalord Santos, did this crazy ‘fishbrain’ down a handrail in Long Beach and that was the spark. Then the soup I'd forgotten started burning, and it was a wrap!

Yukka Tree

Kai: 'Yukka Tree' was of the first ideas that we recorded in the desert while trying out some new things on the guitar. It's a track that helped cement the sound world of the record, and the contrast of the digital Casio synth and overdriven guitar felt new and exciting for us.

Andrea: When Kai and Dom asked me to write something for this instrumental, I took out a few of my favourite poetry books from my bookshelf and chose some words to use as starting points for each melodic line I came up with. Those words were meant to be place-holders for more thought-through lyrics, but we ended up keeping them in the final version! We then recorded the vocals in a very cozy shipping container really close to the water in Canning Town, where Dillip Harris has his recording and mixing studio.

Empty & Silent (feat. King Krule)

Kai: The ever present synth line was from a different track that had been started, which is why it doesn't repeat in a loop with the rest of the music but just runs in and out of phase with the drums and guitar. I think the importance of the drum sound and Marc’s playing on this can’t be overstated - this was a lightly edited studio jam and he really led it from behind the kit. Archy also left something really special with us here.

'The Sunset Violent' is out now via Warp.

Tags: Mount Kimbie, Features, Interviews

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