Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Interview: Jim Hanke of Kid, You'll Move Mountains

Illinois band, Kid, You'll Move Mountains, recently released their debut album Loomings and will play a CD release show at the Metro on January 2nd. I have been listening to Loomings for the last week and a half and can't get enough of it. But I did take a recent break and chatted with lead singer Jim Hanke about the album and other notes of interest concerning the band.

NQL: First off, can you tell me about this Ragged website contest and how Kids, You'll Move Mountains got involved.

Jim Hanke: Well, although we've been playing shows since the summer of 2006, we haven't had anything recorded until now, so we've been looking for ways to just get people to know that we exist. We're going to hit the ground running with the new album for sure, but we heard about it through Filter Magazine and thought it might be a good chance to reach people in Austin, because I guess that's where the Ragged issue will be distributed.

We all have day jobs right now and when you're tied down like that, I think finding other ways to get your name out other than just straight touring helps. Whatever that is. So if ten people pick up this free Ragged issue and give us a chance, then cool. I will say the fact that the Filter staff picked us as one of the final five though out of hundreds of entries is pretty humbling, though.
Never expected to be a finalist.

NQL: I noticed the other bands come from the likes of San Francisco and Miami and then there's you guys from "Rural Illinois." You all are city people, or at one time were city people, since I know my Land of Lincoln pretty well, where exactly is "Rural Illinois"?

JH: Four out of the five us live in Geneva, IL which is about an hour or so west of Chicago. It's a little suburb. I come from Milwaukee, which is certainly smaller than Chicago, but bigger than Geneva by a landslide, so it is a little weird reading about us and it kind of insinuates that we practice in a barn or something. But to get to where we practice in Elburn, we do have to drive through corn fields. That's definitely true. But we're honest. We don't live in Chicago. There's a lot of that, I think, where bands say they're from Chicago and are even further away from there than we are. We're proud of where we're at because we can always play in DeKalb, Rockford and Chicago. And you can get a $3.00 omelette in Geneva. We love Chicago, but a cheap omelette is pretty hard to find there.

NQL: Yeah, sometimes you'll be downstate and you'll see a flyer of band and it will say "FROM CHICAGO" in letters larger than the actual band name.

JH: Right. A lot of Milwaukee friends of mine assume I moved to Chicago and when I say it's not Chicago, they're kind of stunned.

NQL: Will the Ragged Website thing coincide with a trip to SXSW?

JH: We'd love to play SXSW. Since I was old enough to know about SXSW, I've wanted to play it. Nate and Andrew from our band played there a few times when they were in Troubled Hubble, so they're anxious to get back, too.

NQL: Speaking of Troubled Hubble, can you explain the writing dynamic in the band. Especially with Nate and Andrew coming from a Lookout! band and also, between yourself and Nina.

JH: I'm very happy that everything in our band is pretty communal. One person isn't coming with a song completely written and the rest of us fall in line, and I love that it's not that way. I'm comfortable writing all the words for Nina and I, but I am absolutely not good at telling a group of four other people what to play and when and how loud. Everyone throws in their ideas and if most of us don't like an idea, we can it. Andrew specifically, I know, wanted to try different things in this band as opposed to Hubble, so in this band he switches a lot between bass and baritone guitar, or he'll use lots of pedals along with Corey.

When we started the band, I was excited that Nina was involved because I wanted to not be the main singer for once. She was really open to me writing the words and I didn't know how I'd do that at first, writing for another person. I could totally understand how what I wanted to say might not exactly be what she wanted to say. But it's worked out really well, I think. The feedback we've been getting is that she has some pretty sinister lines and that's what I wanted all along. Not the standard 'Oh, it's a guy and a girl singing, so it's all lovey-dovey and cute all the time'. I wanted some back-and-forth that was more push-pull and I hope we accomplish that.

NQL: Have you ever written a lyric and her say something along the lines of, "Sorry, try again, I'm not singing that."?

JH: The only things that I've changed have just been phrasing, not anything as far as subject matter. Just single words that would sound too rushed or choppy, because I think I tend to overwrite as far as lyrics. I love writers like Elvis Costello or Craig Finn who write a ton of lyrics and then cram it all together so it makes for a very urgent delivery. I don't think Nina or I sing like that, but I think I try to write a novel and then cram it into the time frame. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But no, she's never balked at anything I've given her, subject-wise. We just changed one or two synonyms around.

NQL: "I'm A Song From the Sixties" is one of my favorites on Loomings. It kind of has that dance/punk sound that I don't hear as much anymore but wish I did. Does that song specifically recall some of your influences as a band?

JH: Oh, cool, thanks. It was one of the first songs we wrote. I don't know if it shows any influences specifically. We definitely never set out to write a dance song or a slow song or anything. We kind of just found that rhythm in that song and went with it. I think we all have different influences and we don't always agree, but that's good. Nate and I really like REM, but some in the band aren't as into them as we are. One of Nina's favorite pianists is Vince Guaraldi, but I couldn't tell you what else he's played other than the Charlie Brown music. Corey is big into IDM beats and I don't know much about that stuff at all. So whatever comes out I guess is just stuff we all managed to agree on. We agree on more than we disagree on, for sure. Otherwise I don't think a band could exist or grow.

NQL: Right. Backing up a bit, and I should have mentioned this earlier when talking about Illinois, but your bio has this written in it: “each voicing stories of looming autumn days that turn to the dead of winter, before each also sings of the hopefulness of spring.” I love that because it's such a Midwest mindset. And I guess my question is, do you think region actually plays a role in a band's existence and ethics, or is that something that's just often overblown by media-types.

JH: I don't know necessarily either way. I think it's silly to assume that it doesn't because your location growing up effects what you hear. Bands like Braid and The Promise Ring, being around my area, influenced me and I can't know if they still would've influenced me if I only heard their records in, say, Billings, Montana but never saw them. But I can't say that being from the Midwest has really affected the words at all. I know what you mean though about people maybe blowing a band's whereabouts out of proportion. I read blogs and with all the bands coming from Brooklyn now, I can hardly keep track. And I know that those aren't 10% of the bands in Brooklyn.

NQL: My friends and I joke about that all the time. I pretty much just assume a band is from Brooklyn until I find out they're not.

JH: We should've done that, maybe. Or just say "America."

NQL: [laughs] That would be great. "West" is another song I really like. Nina does a great job vocally. And the lyrics and those to "Volts" kind of led me to the image on your album cover. Can you tell me what's going on there, with the imagery with the whale and stuff.

JH: "Volts" is kind of this mess, lyrically, that covers music in general. Kind of like, the points of view of the fan, the critic, the band, etc. The whale line from the song is kind of a metaphor for hype. And with the art on the album, where when you open the sleeve, there is a couch, a clock and different things falling out of him, I kind of look at the design as a visual of "not living within your own hype". In anything, not just music, you don't want to get too comfortable in just what your friends or others say about you. You want to branch out, challenge yourself, etc. and I'd like to think that we try to do that. When I saw the whale design, I don't think Marky Hladish, who did our art, had any idea bout that line in "Volts". So I asked him to kind of mock something up where pieces of someone's apartment were falling out of the whale and he gave us something we were extremely happy with.

NQL: I know you all are playing Chicago on January 2nd. Anything after that?

JH: I'm not sure where we're going or what exactly we're doing after the Metro show, but we want to be as busy as possible. As busy as we can be with us just doing everything ourselves. The Metro date is just this overwhelming dream come true to me. Andrew, Nate and Corey have all played there before in other bands, but for me, it's this hallowed ground, a place where I've been to see so many amazing bands, that I never thought I'd ever ever play at, let alone headline.

NQL: I love the Metro. It's one of those places that makes you feel like you're seeing a big show no matter who is on stage. It's hard to describe. You mentioned the day job thing earlier, how difficult is it to juggle your lives with the band?

JH: Right now, it's relatively easy to juggle band and work because we're at a point where we just absolutely have to work. We get out regionally and luckily our respective employers have been cool with us cutting out early or taking a long weekend here or there. I'd love to drop everything and go out and see the country. Nate and Andrew and Corey have all done that but none of my previous bands had that opportunity, but I'm realistic with what we CAN do. Hence, something like that Ragged contest that we talked about before. Hopefully getting our name out there (helps), despite not physically being able to be in front of everyone.

NQL: I often talk to bands and ask them if they have seen any shows recently and usually I get the answer that since they are on tour so much, the last thing they want to do when they get home is go to a show. I totally understand that, but at the same time I always think that's kind of unfortunate. With KYMM touring, do you find yourself a bit more reluctant to spend off nights inside some rock club watching another band?

JH: I definitely go to less shows than I used to, but I think that's more due to location and not due to playing in a band. I always try to go out and support my touring friends when they come through DeKalb, but it's harder to get out to the city on a Monday night at 10pm when I live an hour away. We have a pretty tight group of friends who play around Wisconsin and Illinois who are always there for us, so we want to be there for them, too.


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