Kevin Krauter talks debut record, experiences in music and modern influences
May 2, 2018
Kevin Krauter has been an active force within music for some time now. In the past handful of years, he has been apart of the shimmering Lo-Fi Pop Rock band Hoops. Though, whilst being a full member of that group he has showcased his natural singer-songwriter aptitude via his solo material. From his “Magnolia” and “Changes” EPs Krauter displays such emotive and personal perspectives in his lyrical content… as well as providing extremely evoking instrumentation. In consideration of these aspects it is obvious the work he curates is of such a veteran quality – surely a quality the likes of Neil Young would have to tip his hat to.
Having combined themes and techniques of Bossa Nova in addition to swirling Pop Rock and whispering Folk Rock ballads on his past releases, Krauter has continued his excellence with his first two singles “Rollerskate” and “Keep Falling in Love” off of his upcoming debut record “Toss Up”.
I sat down with Krauter recently to discuss his debut record, his experiences within the music industry, his upbringing, and his modern musical influences.
Maxwell Denari: I suppose it works to start from the beginning… with that being said, what was the first instrument you started to play and did that specifically spark a passion for you early on?
Kevin Krauter: The first instrument(s) I began playing were the drums, around about when I was like 10 years old… I got my first drum set for Christmas. My older brother played guitar… he’s six years old than me… I have six siblings, I’m the middle of seven.
MD: Oh wow.
KK: Yeah, we were all home-schooled and we had a ton of free time on our hands. So, my older brother and I would jam a lot… so we would play a lot of Red Hot Chilli Pepper songs. He showed me a lot of music that he listened to and that‘s how I got into listening to music pretty heavy. Playing drums was definitely like my first foray into having an instrument that I was confident in playing. Really, ever since I started listening to music with my brother I thought, “Man, bands are so sick… I wanna be in one so bad.” I kind of already had a vision of me playing music as the thing I did, ya know… from an early age.
When I got a bit older I started playing a lot of worship music, after I had picked up playing the guitar. I think that helped in a lot of ways, as I played in the worship band at my church in high school. I played drums every week in that band too… pretty consistently for about four years which gave me a lot of experience of actually playing in a band.
MD: It seemed to have been very formative.
KK: Yeah, very formative as far as music is concerned.
MD: You talked about how your brother had a significant influence on your music taste… but did your parents contribute to that at all?
KK: Not really… but, when I was pretty young myself and my siblings were involved in community theatre together. Like my whole family, really. It was always apart of our family, doing music related stuff. So being on stage and performing from an early age got me used to doing that shit… and got me into performing and putting myself out there creatively.
MD: What are some specific artists or bands that your brother showed you that made you think “I wanna do that” or rather… ended up implanting some kind of inspiration onto you?
KK: Man, I was definitely into a lot of early Pop Punk.
MD: I feel that man, like New Found Glory and stuff like that.
KK: Yup. Big into that. I suppose a lot of the cooler stuff my brother first showed me were bands like The Shins, Wilco and Modest Mouse… stuff like that. It’s kind of all over the place. I used to watch a lot of MTV and VH1. I used to watch VH1 music video hour like every single day.
MD: Expanding off of that… who are some artists that you’ve taken inspiration from in more recent years?
KK: I got really into Folky stuff in high school. You know like Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear. Kind of contemporary Indie music… with a Folky tilt. That kind of grabbed me. My older brother also got me into Simon and Garfunkel when I was a bit younger. But, nowadays there is definitely still a lot of that. Especially with Nick Drake and John Martyn. I listen to a lot of Brazilian music and Japanese music. Like… Caetano Veloso, João Gilberto, and Gal Costa as far as Brazilian music is concerned. In terms of Japanese music… Tatsuro Yamashita, Taeko Ohnuki and stuff like City Pop… 70s and 80s Japanese stuff. The most contemporary influence I can think of is Frank Ocean.
MD: The dude is an absolute genius.
KK: Honestly, all of my friends were into channel Orange in high school… and I never really gave it a chance. But then Blonde came out and I was like “fuck”… you know. “Mind blown”. Just absolutely changed the game for me. I’ve noticed a lot of what I’ve been doing lately has been… heavily influenced by Frank.
MD: How have you seen such influences transfer into your own songwriting? Whether it be solo or not. As you have shared a decent amount of vocal and lyrical duties within Hoops.
KK: For a long time… having done musical theatre and choir, I was used to singing in a trained and classical way. So, I grew up knowing how to sing properly. Which, I was kind of embarrassed about. So I tried to downplay my voice in a lot of the songs I wrote… as I didn’t want it to be the focus. I think more recently, especially with the new album… the stuff I’ve been making since then has been way more vocal heavy. Way more stripped down in terms of instrumentation in order for my vocal performances to be sort of a main focus. As that is something I have realized I am confident in. It is something I want to encompass more. And that is something Frank does a lot. His production is so minimal but his vocal delivery is the cornerstone of everything.
MD: Within that… how do you take whatever inspirations you have at the time and make them into original work? What’s that process like?
KK: I think for a long time that was something that would trip me up a lot. As the act of writing music and creating something is such a personal experience and it feels so far removed from everything. But… I’ve had to recognize that it kind of makes sense that things can sound similar. Between artists. That’s just a reality. Instead of trying super hard to be original… it’s like understanding that my experience with writing and creating music is infinitely different than someone else’s. Even if myself and others have listened to very similar music… my response to it is infinitely different. The more honest I am with myself, the more love I have for myself and the more confident I am with myself… the originality will come along on its own.
MD: And the more your work will be a reflection of yourself.
KK: Right. I am ultimately a unique being… so whatever comes naturally out of that will be naturally original and organic.
MD: So, I guess I should ask… how do you come about writing songs? How do they take shape? Do you get ideas more sporadically or do you find time in the day to sit down and try and put something on paper?
KK: I definitely don’t have a schedule or routine to do that. It’s a little sporadic. Kinda depends if I’m in the mood to sit down and finish a song. What it looks like at times though is… I’ll get something in my head or be playing along with something and try to jot things down as I go along with that. To collect as much as possible in that specific instance. Like, if I have a melody I’ll whistle it into my iPhone notes or something… and if I have an idea for lyrics I’ll just jot them down like a little poem. If I’m struggling to come up with something I’ll go back and try to re-work some older material… to try and see if I can fit it into this new idea.
MD: You have written a lot of new material for your debut record… which is coming out June 15th. How was the approach of writing and recording your LP different from recording your two previous EPs?
KK: It was kind of a big step. I had signed with Bayonet Records before I had any material written… for the new album. They had heard my two EPs and said they wanted to do an album with me. So, I had to go about writing an album. Which was pretty daunting… as I didn’t really have the fullest amount of material for a record at that point.
MD: But Bayonet was the kickstarter.
KK: Yeah, for sure. Definitely having something to stress me into it helped. I was still touring around with Hoops when I was writing heavily for this album. I would try to take advantage of whatever moment I could… where I had a burst of creativity. And when I got into the studio with Ben Lumsdaine… we were pretty merciless during the mixing process. Really cutting the fat from the recordings. That was the great thing about working with Ben… he gets into the zone very hard. Overall, being that self-critical in the studio wasn’t something I was super used to. You know… with my old EPs it was more about “sounds good enough”… so it was nice to get really nitpicky.
MD: So to kind of close things off on this… what’s more to come for you? Even beyond the record?
KK: New songs. I’ve already been playing a song live that isn’t on the record. Definitely thinking about a new EP. But overall… new songs. New songs soon… after the album.
“Toss Up”, Kevin Krauter’s debut record is out June 15th via Bayonet Records. You can catch Kevin Krauter live this summer at a handful of dates listed below.
6.19 – Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups
6.20 – Washington, DC – Songbyrd
6.21 – Brooklyn, NY – Baby’s All Right
6.22 – Philadelphia, PA – PhilaMOCA
6.24 – Pittsburgh, PA – The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls
6.26 – Detroit, MI – El Club
6.27 – Grand Rapids – The Pyramid Scheme
6.28 – Chicago, IL – Schubas
7.14 – Indianapolis, IN – The Tube Factory