Introducing: Kanzi

Kanzi, a four-piece electronic indie band from Brighton, came to attention recently through the release of single ‘2 Hearts’. Taken from their upcoming debut EP (released 18 January 2015), the single showcases their honed sound, an amalgamation of organic and electronic tones resulting in an expansive soundscape where textures have space to breathe with alluring serenity.

It is clear that Radiohead are a pivotal influence, with NME highlighting the band’s “tearful treasures”, and “delicate falsetto”. There’s also clearly a bit of ambient and chillwave in the mix as well, reflecting artists such as Toro Y Moi and Teen Daze. However, we wanted to find out a bit more about the band, so we got in touch with founding member Pete Hovard to discuss crying in a corner, green tea and Peter Andre. Sometimes interviews just go that way…

Hi Pete. First of all, tell us a little about Kanzi

We (Pete and Pete) were friends at school before we moved to Brighton and used to play in indie bands until we got into electronic music and wanted to add ideas from the music we were listening to. We got Dan and Ed (Pete’s brother) on board and everyone was on the same page musically, and we’re good friends, so we’re just having fun and writing the sort of music we’d want to listen to. We’re not really interested in the whole rock ‘n’ roll image or putting the world to rights or other things that bands are supposed to do. We just want to make music that we’re proud of and hopefully other people might be interested in too. We spend a lot of time tweaking tracks, playing with new equipment and finding our favourite sounds. Even tracks we’ve recorded we like to mess about with to keep it fun for us. Yeah it’s really just about feeling like we’ve created the best tracks we can at the time. There’s a lot of emotion in the tracks – not just lyrically but we’re all on board with trying to express that musically. This is all part of trying to create something that we’re proud of ourselves and that means something even if it’s only to us. We were delighted to meet and eventually team up with Animal Records – they’re really passionate about the same things as us, and for people from our humble musical background it’s wonderful that they believe in it and are willing to put in a lot of effort helping us mix and promote our songs. Plus we get trips to Paris, which is never a bad thing. Hopefully so far we’ve managed, or at least tried, to stay on the right side of taking ourselves too seriously. The key thing for us that it’s great to see a track through in a recording, or live, and to feel like we’ve achieved something that we can savour after it all.

Kanzi is an interesting name – how did that come about?

In our experience coming up with a name is the hardest bit – people will judge you for it before they consider listening to your music, so it’s a bit scary to decide on one and put it out there. This was no different! The original Kanzi is a language-trained ape – he uses a keyboard to communicate with humans, and can communicate in quite an abstract way (rather than just demanding things he wants). One theory is that apes actually have similar cognitive capacities to humans but just don’t need to express them in their own environment. There’s sadness in him, locked away to learn the rules of how to express himself in a research lab and yet finding an environment where it’s not only necessary but admired. It’s like we are emotionally fed and starved by our landscape. Having said that he also says a lot about the clash between humans’ elevated opinion of themselves and our relative insignificance, and really they’re just songs that we hope people like and can get something from.

The video for your single ‘2 Hearts’ is quite mesmerising. What is the idea behind it, and who is the dancer?

We’re absolutely delighted with it, but we can’t claim much of the artistic merit. We’re lucky to have some very talented friends at Relevant Films who were able to help out and get on board! Perhaps it’s about unearthing some primal urge or mental space which allows that outpouring of expression. That’s like Kanzi (the ape) too. We’ve actually not met Maggie the dancer yet but it seems she’s a part of all of us. We just need to find her.
That last bit was a joke. Hopefully we’ll meet her at a show soon!

Who are your main musical influences?

Every time we write a track one of us asks “is it an issue that that bit sounds just like Radiohead?” So, Radiohead ha. But also we’re really into a wide range of electronic stuff, hip-hop, R n B and jazz. Burial, Aphex, Four Tet, Caribou, and Flying Lotus were all pivotal in getting us into electronic stuff in the first place. How much of that ends up in our sound I don’t know but they inspired us to play around with synths and drum machines at the beginning.

What does 2015 hold for Kanzi?

Headlining Glasto is the rumour! Can you guys make that happen? If not we’ll just keep recording some more stuff and gigging when we get the call. We’ve already started recording and have got a lot of songs ready. We’d like to think that they’re better thought out than previously, the ideas are fresher and are centered around new equipment, and we’ve more recording knowledge (we do 90% of it ourselves in Pete’s room) so hopefully the tracks are going to be a progression from this time around. We’ve got some shows coming up in London (7th Jan at Old Blue Last next if anyone is interested) and Paris and we’ll keep spreading the word. That Facebook thing is going to massive one day you see, so hopefully next year we’ll get some thumbs up things on that. That’s the main goal.

You’ve described your sound as ‘electronic melancholia’. Does melancholia come naturally to you?

Ha – our mates make fun of that. “Do you like sitting in a corner and crying? Well go and listen to Kanzi”. Really we’re very light-hearted people. Musically though that is the natural course of things for us, yes. Maybe it’s just our influences (Radiohead and Burial are hardly light-hearted) but there seems something profound in melancholy. Especially if you can turn it into something pretty. I don’t know why people (some people) find something in melancholy but it goes hand-in-hand with many types of artistic expression. My favourite moments in music are those dissonant harmonies, spaces and lyrics that put a lump in your throat. Maybe it’s to do with getting in touch with your whole range of emotion, or realizing that you can relate to something and had never properly conceptualized it until you listened to Thom Yorke, or just anticipating the reward in a resolved dissonance. For us I think it feels easier to be proud of melancholic moments because we’re more comfortable expressing those ideas and believe in what we’re playing for whatever reason. There’s certainly some catharsis if you feel you’re able to get those feelings across in what you’re playing. If other people can get something from it that’s awesome.

I found out that you’re influenced by green tea. But the question is: what is the optimum time to leave the teabag in for?

An excellent and important question. Frankly an over-brewed green tea is barely drinkable. In my opinion you’re asking for trouble if you cross the 3 minute threshold. I’m into minimizing risk here. A thrill seeker may be inclined to push that boundary but I don’t want to be around to pick up the pieces when they do.

With two ‘Pete’s in the band, I have to ask who is your favourite Pete? Pete Townsend, Pete Sampras or peat compost?

Peter Andre’s absence from this list is troublesome. Such a nice man.

Thanks Kanzi. We’ll let you know the time slots for the Pyramid Stage.

Conal Dougan