The absolute state of pop at the moment. It’s just not very cool. Ed Sheeran released a new album last week of Irish inflected campfire songs which are bound to cause Richter 8.3 earthquakes among communities of teenage girls. But he’s not cool. His logo is a bear paw for Pete’s sake.
Enter stage left, a group of four East London pop-mongerers known as White Kite which include singer-songwriter, Louis, twin brothers, Tom and Will and drummer, Andrew. Debut single, ‘Swans’, came out last month and is a genre-bending, brooding kaleidoscope of airy synths, falsetto croons and schizophrenic dream beats. It is undeniably pop, just not the pop that the charts are all too familiar with at the moment.
“Me, Tom and Will met at school when we were like 14,” says Louis. “Tom and I became close friends. We used to get together every single break time at our school and just create stupid concept albums in the one music room.”
Louis had taught himself piano over the space of ten years. He had started out with lessons, got to grade one and then decided to call it quits. “My parents just said 'don't worry do your own thing'. I got a Crafter acoustic guitar for my 17th birthday. I played it for about two years until I could do some chords properly. I'm very stubborn about working things out myself. Seeing what I can do with them rather than following the path people wanted me to do.”
His mother worked in the music industry for EMI while his father is a jazz musician. It is the unconventional time rhythms, the free form nature of the music that now feeds the White Kite directive.
Talk Talk’s 1988 album, 'Spirit Of Eden' had a huge impact in aiding Louis’ realisation that he could combine his experimental, genre-bending leanings with his love for the classic songwriting talents of The Beatles and Elliot Smith. “It’s one of the best examples of what we're trying to do. They still have strong songs on the album, really strong pieces of songwriting but it's all about texture. It's all about improvisation and sound and atmosphere. It is little pieces put together into this amazing piece of music from start to finish.”
Louis’ experimental leanings has led to him looking for sounds that you wouldn’t immediately associate with pop. “I want to bring really interesting sounds into pop like video game music. I love the early Final Fantasy games. I used to be religiously obsessed with them. I love the way the music describes characters and places. Something that paints a picture in a more vivid way than your normal pop would but still has those strong melodies.”
White Kite now have over 50 demos that Louis has worked on in the flat that he shares with his twin band-mates, Tom and Will. Having spent a year getting the music up to his satisfaction he is now eager to take the music to an audience. “We built this massive light structure for our live set,” Louis says. “It’s our band logo which is also the album art for Swans [a white polygon that looks like a grand piano viewed from above]. It’s a big light box that changes colour. It flashes dramatically and looks great in a dark room. Last weekend we were just round a few cities in the north and we had it every show there. Lugging it around in our tiny van.”
White Kite are still a long way from pop domination but their brooding, intelligently thought out music is exactly what is needed in today’s charts. It’s refreshing to hear a new pop artist wanting to build on the long history of pop innovators who were able to take the genre into new landscapes.
That’s what is going to make pop cool again. Not Ed Sheeran pandering to his throng of teenage idolisers. “The stars in the Eighties were real artists who were really pushing the boat out. People loved the fact that music was avant-garde. These days music is someone spending millions of pounds on this really manufactured thing that you can buy online for 99p. It feels very false.”
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Words: Richard Jones