What once was a side project for Toronto’s Kat Burns, KASHKA is now the musician’s full-time outlet for musical expression. Ms. Burns is known for her work with her previous folk-pop band, Forest City Lovers: a project that truly made any dark moment lighter and brighter through flirtatious, charming, upbeat melodies. KASHKA, on the other hand, is like Forest City Lovers’ European cousin–it is electronic, full of beats from fellow artist James Bunton (Ohbijou, Light Fires), and much deeper in sound. On KASHKA’s debut album Vichada released this past July, listeners can hear Burns’ new direction. The transition is smooth; the songs flatter Burns’ flexible vocal range and creative songwriting.[youtube http://youtu.be/9vwaGnT0_YM]
THE BOMBER JACKET: So you’re known for your earlier work with Forest City Lovers. Is KASHKA a side project or does it seem like it’s where you’re headed right now?
KASHKA is going to be my moniker for all future music. It’s like my new musical portfolio in way. The genre may change, but it will always be me. Forest City Lovers made me some of my closest friends and we had a lot of awesome experiences. I sometimes miss playing those songs with but it just felt right to move on and do something new.
What has it been like for you, navigating the music scene in Canada?
It’s been like starting from scratch in a way lately, at least with KASHKA, but it’s been humbling. Realizing the importances of your community and supporters that will stick by you, no matter what you’re doing; really appreciating those people. The music scene in Canada is pretty small, so it’s almost like a big family in a weird way. Most people know eachother through a degree or two of seperation. We’ve all trudged our way across the country in shitty vans (which is huge and entails LONG drives) so there is a sort of brother/sisterhood feeling happening generally.
You mentioned that James Bunton really pushed you to think and write a different way on this record. How was that transition for you?
I’ve worked with James in a number of capacities since 2005 and he is consistently encouraging. He was the first touring drummer I ever had and played on parts of every Forest City Lovers album we made. He’s fantastic to work with! With the songs we worked on for Vichada, we both just decided that things needed to get out of the comfort zone to really get some new sounds. There’s a tendency to fall into patterns when you’re songwriting and I didn’t want to that happen for this endevour. I think our teamwork and discussion of our goals really helped to facilitate the creation of the record.
What was it like writing over his beats? Has he created beats inspired by your songs?
I had been working on some songs over the winter, and James had been making his own beats. It seemed like an exciting project to jump into, to combine what we’d been independently working on. Usually we would toss back and forth skeletal arrangements and they’d be changed as we thought fit along the way. I’d work on the melodies and things like that and we’d jam them out in the studio. Hearing new sounds that I may not have chosen on my own really opened up my mind to new melodies and patterns. With the song Vichada, though, we actually wrote it in a day entirely from scratch at the studio. That was exciting; what was meant to be an intro turned into my favorite song on the record.
Do you feel like your sound will continue and expand more electronically?
It’s pretty new and exciting to me at the moment. It allows me to hear music totally differently than I did before–a necessary thing to happen if I want to continue to be interested in writing songs. Have to keep myself engaged. I do want to incorporate organic instruments, of course. The challenge for me is trying to find the balance of the two that sound good to my ears.
How do you play your songs live? Do you maintain the electronic details?
Figuring out how to play this album live was a challenge, and involved me and my current guitar player, Alex [Ricci], brainstorming with Jamie at his studio and tossing around ideas on…a white board. I did keep the electronic details and changed a few things that worked better in a live situation. After some trial and error, and learning to simplify, I think we have it down. I’d like to expand the band for hometown shows–with live drums and bass–but keeping it to two or three people on the road is more financially viable and much easier to travel.
All of the songs on Vichada have really memorable melodies…how many songs did you end up with for the album? Did you choose these ten out of many more, or were these the first ones you wrote and they all felt right?
I’m glad you remember the melodies, that is super nice to hear. I love songs that I can sing into the air hours after hearing them, so I think it’s natural that I tend to write with that in mind. There were indeed a few more songs that we considered for Vichada, but I think the ten we chose fit the best in this collection. Maybe the other songs will come out in the future…
You covered Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” on this latest release. Why that song in particular?
I had only heard Everybody Knows one or two times–I lived with my friend who really liked it–and immediately I knew I wanted to cover it. It was the perfect blend of poppy and effed up. I just really started listening to Leonard Cohen last year, which is crazy for a Canadian songwriter to admit. I was just never exposed to him as a kid (my parents were more into Bruce Cockburn and Huey Lewis) and it definitely wasn’t music I would have sought out as a teen. I wish I had been familiarized sooner because he has so many amazing songs. What a talent.
Are you still planning a European tour?
It’s slowly but surely in the works. I’m heading to Poland in October to do a research residency and mentorship with the St. Nicholas Orchestra, which I am super excited about, and after that we’ll return to Europe and do some dates.
Can you explain what Play The Triangle is and how you use it to help curate your work?
Play the Triangle is a company I made in 2005, originally because “katburns.com” was taken. I’ve utilized my company to publish my art and music ever since, in various forms. In the beginning it was a catch-all, but lately I’ve centred it around my music publishing and small run releases.
I saw that you like cats. What is your cat of choice?
Ha! Have you been looking at my Instagram feed? I live with two sweethearts right now, so they’re currently my cats of choice. I used to live with a weird kitten named Beaker who is obsessed with hanging out in the bathtub and she’d sometimes jump out “Psycho” style from the shower curtain while you were peeing…she was cool too. I like all animals, especially cute rats and hog-nose snakes (although not together, of course).
I also saw that you have an Etsy page! How do you have time for everything?!
I just love making things! I make time. I go through crazy kicks where I’ll spend a big chunk of time doing one thing. Sometimes it’s painting and sometimes it’s taking apart vintage jewellery and making new things. I sort of neglect One Warm Saturday but hopefully I’ll get a bunch of new items up this autumn. Just need to have a day off to do it all!