INTERVIEW: KAIROS 4TET

Hi Adam, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you! Doing ok thanks. Endeavoring to stay creative and productive. Like most of us I’m trying to get to grips with the huge changes we are all experiencing and missing the closeness friends and family. But enjoying quality time with my wife and little boy which I am super grateful for. Very much hoping all this can lead to us finding a fairer and more sustainable way of doing things as a species!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “The Body Keeps The Score”?

It’s named after the title of the brilliant book about trauma by Bessell van der Kolk and is a dedication to my late grandmother Rena Young who would have turned 100 this month. I wanted to try and honour the incredible story of her life and pay tribute to her. I think the challenges of a life such as hers can definitely help provide perspective in a time like this. What a lot of that generation had to endure is still so hard to comprehend. With loved ones being lost on such a huge scale at the moment and reduced to statistics in rolling news feeds, it seems to me more important than ever to be celebrating their individual stories and contributions.

For a bit of backstory, Rena fled Nazi invaded Poland only to find herself in Stalin occupied Poland. Along with many other refugees, she was sent to a work camp in Siberia where she was given the task of making bricks. This perhaps was the beginnings of her becoming a sculptor in later life. After a harrowing few years she was able to leave Siberia with General Anders Army-in-exile after Germany declared war on Russia. This took her on another epic journey through Russia, the Caspian Sea, Persia, Beirut and eventually to a resettlement camp near Brighton where my father spent his first years. He sometimes speaks about the corrugated iron hut they called home.

When Rena passed away in 2017 after a long and full life of caring for others, she had been suffering from dementia for many years. Despite all the hardships experienced, she remained a beacon of love and optimism, which was best summed up in her well-known catchphrase “tomorrow may be a better day”. A sentiment that is really resonating with me at the moment. I’m interested in the idea that there is always the potential for renewal and to come back stronger. Maintaining hope and engaging fully with opportunities to express joy is really how I remember her. She made a big a impression.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

When she passed in 2017 i started to find out more about how extraordinary her life was. She didn’t really talk about her experiences during the Holocaust when she was alive. I just wanted in whatever small way I could, celebrate the significance of her life and what she meant to all of us.

Was this always intended to be an ode to your grandmother?

Yes

Tell us more about the video for the track?

It’s really a document from the studio of the whole live take we ended up using. Carl Russ-Mohl pieced it together beautifully and I think it captures the energy in the room at the time.

How was the recording and writing process?

Recording wise – Emilia delivered the vocal and story perfectly. There’s something so intimate about her performance and I’m really glad we captured that. And I couldn’t have asked for any more in terms of how Jasper (bass) and Will (piano) support her.

We took the live take and then added to it with amazing multi instrumentalist and old friend Fred Thomas – mainly cellos and synths on his part. The majority of the accompaniment to the vocals is me playing sax live through effects pedals, creating a kind of glitchy almost harmonium like thing. Then it was mixed by another brilliant polymath and new friend Ruben Samama who added some of his magic. Genius Chris Hyson threw in a couple of textures too…

The music came really quickly but the lyrics took a lot more digging. I wanted to make sure everything was historically accurate. Luckily family members were on hand with the only document Rena had made of her experiences, plus some medical records and things like that. My father’s eulogy to her was really important too.

I wanted the piece to have 4 distinct sections – initially some background/exposition; a middle section imagining her reflecting on the fate of her family and the pain of not being able to say goodbye; my personal recollections/impressions of her as a grandson then some kind of hypothetical closure/farewell.

Why did you take so long to release new material?

I’ve had a few injuries/operations on my arms that have prevented me from playing for a while. Plus I became a father so priorities shifted for a while. Have mainly been focusing on writing/collaborating rather than performing…

Does the new single mean we can expect a new album – how’s that coming along?

Yes hopefully by the end of the year!

Any plans to hit the road?

As soon as it’s possible! Who knows what form that might take…

What else is happening next in KAIROS 4TET’s world?

Trying to stay informed, vigilant and hopeful for the new world to come!

Listen here: https://open.spotify.com/track/7DcJaWeSesqkMgQSukSQCG?si=ND1K3oa9RhS3iRtMlkpLBg

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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