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Just a Person Doing a Thing | An Interview with Madeline Kenney

Madeline Kenney has had her hand in a lot of projects these last couple of years. Her latest album, Perfect Shapes, is a twang-hazy, dream pop collection with some killer guest stars. Produced in collaboration with Jenn Wasner (of Flock of Dimes, Wye Oak and Dirty Projectors, and with whom Kenney just released the split single The Sisters/Helpless), the album was a “synth-obsessed” production. She’s not interested in always making the same types of albums and sounds. She recognizes, too, what an honor it is to be able to play music as a core piece of her livelihood.

We met at a cafe that was blasting old crooner jams. Madeline was full of smiles, a confident-approachable attitude, and seems like someone who’d be a pleasure to work with. In an industry dominated by male energy and ego, it’s a pretty refreshing idea.

The Deli (TD): Do you think your work has been swayed by what’s going on right now? “Me too” and more women working in music engineering?

Madeline Kenney (MK): When my first record came out, this guy who interviewed me said at one point, ‘it’s a really good time for women in music right now’ and I said, ‘no offense dude, but what the fuck?’ I get where he’s coming from, but women have always been making music. Just because people pat themselves on the back for publishing more of it now doesn’t mean there’s any more or less music being made by women. Just because it’s cool now to write about women it’s just...whatever. But it turned into a great conversation that ended in us just talking about music and I’d much rather talk about that than the fact that I have a vagina.

TD: Amen. Speaking of which, you’ve been exploring new sounds, lots of synth, drum machines: can you share what gear you’ve been using?

MK: I've been using my Minilogue for everything! I also built a Subharmonicon at Moogfest last year that’s super fun. I use FunkBox on my iPhone for drum programming--it's really easy and has samples of tons of classic drum machines.

TD: Have you had any "life-changing" gear discoveries recently?

MK: I can think of several pieces of gear that changed my music! Namely my RC-30 looper pedal, which I use to write a lot. Also having a computer to record stuff with was a game-changer! Right now I'm just really into writing pretty straight-ahead guitar, vocal music, which is a change-up from my synth-obsessed 2018.

TD: So what kind of pedal(s) do you use? Can you describe your pedal set-up?

MK: Yeah, the chain is: tuner, EarthQuaker Dunes distortion, some cheap Chorus pedal, Boss PS-5 Super-Shifter, Memory Boy delay, Boss RC-30 looper, Boss DD7.

TD: What is your interest in production and engineering?

MK: I’ve made my own videos for a while and have directed for others. Before I had a budget I was shooting, directing and editing everything myself....I’d been trying to learn engineering and production--I did a lot of that at Women’s Audio Mission in San Francisco.

TD: Did you produce Perfect Shapes?

MK: We engineered the record together. It says it’s produced by her (Jenn Wasner), but it was a really collaborative effort.

TD: What other videos or projects do you have your hand in?

MK: I just produced a record for this woman, A. O Gerber, and then she had me do two music videos for her. I might be doing a music video for Rose Droll. I’m also going to be doing a video for John Vanderslice. So yeah, I’m just trying to get into that world, just a way to do something and as a way of making money. Because well, you gotta!

TD: And you shoot them yourself?

MK: I film them myself, yeah. Whatever gear I can get for the budget, I’ll use, then edit it myself. I’m not an expert--I didn’t go to school for it--but I really like doing it. And with every video project I get, I’m learning more and getting better. It’s really fun. You know what’s funny? When I was a little kid I would put on music in my room and dance around and sing to it and pretend that I was in a video. And in my brain I was like oh, too bad that’s not a real job. You can’t make videos for people, they just do it themselves. That was my idea!

TD: Do you have any advice for other musicians--especially young ones--who are trying to do this? As their job, their dreams, whatever?

MK: Thor Harris wrote this sage piece called, “How to tour in a band or whatever.” He talks about how if you’re an artist you’re essentially a nonprofit organization. You have to do something else to make money because people won’t pay for art. It’s always been that way. He’ll give you a reality check but also be like, still do this.

TD: What motivates you, when you’re really worn out? What’s your endgame?

MK: I think that anyone in this world of music needs to be hyper-aware of the fact that this is (usually) temporary. Never, ever take it for granted. But take LambChop: he’s amazing, has been making records for like 30 years, plays small venues. He’s always making new, insane-sounding things. He’s this 60 year old dude using a Vocoder auto tuner. But he works construction, too! It’s an industry where you’re either a hot hot thing, making tons of money and getting all the gigs, or, you just quietly put out a record, do your tour, and go back to your life. The latter is what I want. My end game is that slow climb: put out quality records, keep exploring new ideas and sounds. I want to always be learning new things, not just doing the same types of sounds over and over...My dream of dreams is to open my own bakery-cafe, so I can have that as my sense of permanence and then have touring or shows as a thing I continue to do, hopefully for my whole life.

-Interview with Michelle Kicherer, Associate Editor

header image: 
sites/upload-files/imagecache/review_image/kin.jpg
author: 
Michelle Kicherer
Subtitle (brief and awesome): 
An Interview with Madeline Kenney
Excerpt (short interesting quote from the Q&A): 
“I’m just so tired of hearing the phrase ‘bad ass women.’ What the hell is that? It’s demeaning. We’re just people doing a thing--why can’t it just be that?”




Tim Bluhm releases single off new album Sorta Surviving, Out March 29

Tim Bluhm (of The Mother Hips) is set to release his new solo project, Sorta Surviving on the 29th of March. The album was recorded and mixed at the forty year old Cash Cabin in Hendersonville, TN and was produced by Widespread Panic bassist & founding member, Dave Schools. The single “Where I Parked My Mind” is a solid, warm country introduction to the album: that two-step baseline, the steel guitar, lovely harmonizing and some familiar country themes: working hard, feeling tired, loving and losing. You can feel the production quality in the song’s bones and the richness and purity in Bluhm’s vocals. Sorta Surviving introduces some new songs and reimagines some classics.

 

 

The video for the song is interesting: it’s old country meets social media, where a bunch of young ladies phone-film themselves dancing around Bluhm, who is leaning on a liquor store strumming his guitar with a Jeff Bridges vibe (bless you both). Come on down this Friday to The Chapel for this record release show. -Michelle Kicherer, Associate Editor

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Hello Yello’s debut EP, Love Wins

It’s refreshing to find a band so hard to describe. Hello Yello’s debut EP, Love Wins, is rock n roll and it’s punk; it’s hip hop and it’s soul; it’s touched with pop and straight punk rock. Track “Without Me” starts with distorted, Hendrix-esq guitar work that pans trippily across your speakers then opens into emo-rock and surprisingly into thrashing punk. “Feel That Again” mixes poppy hip hop with a pure, emo vibe (even purer is the music video). 

They’ve got a touch of the Lenny Kravitz (ever heard his B sides?), are like a cooler version of Evanescence, and to be blunt: they just have something really likeable about them. They’re young, talentful, creative, and they’ve got heart. Hello Yello is Dylan (22, vocals and guitar), his younger brother Jaden (20, bass) and their friend Martin (20, drums). Come see them at The New Parish on April 11th. - Michelle Kicherer, Associate Editor

Photo credit Julian Burgueno  

  





The Fixins release new EP, Screens, Greens and Flying Machines March 21

There’s a purity in The Fixins’ latest EP, Screens, Greens and Flying Machines. Tracks have a beachy folk rock feeling that are like a Jack Johnson-Neutral Milk Hotel hybrid but with more country feel-good vibes. Track “Dropping Bombs” has a sweet melody and lovely plucking for such a political song, which is perhaps why it’s effective. It’s not in your face--nor is the rest of the album. “Can’t Find a Reason” has a classic country baseline with a nice melody and some softer beach rock. The EP’s sweetest track is the last, “Same Old Story,” which closes out the EP with a quieter folk-pop lullaby and a guitar solo done nice n fine. Catch them at Neck of the Woods on April 6. -Michelle Kicherer, Associate Editor





Sun Kil Moon releases I Also Want to Die in New Orleans

Sun Kil Moon’s latest release, I Also Want to Die in New Orleans (Caldo Verde Records) has singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek’s signature talk-singing style, like a Bill Callahan but with more of swaying, touch-of-blues rock and string-plucking country moments, and if you can imagine, more cocky. Tracks are embedded with Kozelek’s at times judgemental frustrations around San Francisco transplants and the general state of things in our country. Song “Day in America” is a very straight telling of Kozelek’s experience learning of the Parkland shooting; “I’m Not Laughing at You” is full of quotes of conversations Kozelek has had with frustrated people over the last 26 years. The most musically musical track on the album is “Couch Potato,” which has tidbits of all the disappointing ways in which newcomers don’t appreciate the natural beauty of San Francisco. Track “Bay of Kotor” includes distressing animal cries and concludes the album with a strange taste in our mouths. Take a listen on Spotify, (he's not released any freshies in Bandcamp or Soundcloud) then refresh yourself outside with a long walk. -Michelle Kicherer, Associate Editor

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