Interview: Exploring Uncharted Sides of Kaveh Kanes after “Loanwords”
Releasing “Loanwords” was such a huge relief for this dream-pop unit, Kaveh Kanes. Starting out their music career in Yogyakarta, the project that was thought to only remain during their adolescent years, proved its longevity with this sophomore album. There is an urban myth that your sophomore album often sucks after you have released a great debut. “Capital” sort of catapulted Kaveh Kanes’ career into the spotlight and we bet it was hard to overcome many expectations. However, “Loanwords” isn’t all about surpassing the previous record. It is more like showing a new and unexplored side of the band as they have matured along the way and found their best formula to keep producing music. Last November, we met with Asad, Hafid, and Zaim during their tour stop to discuss further their evolving sound and visual, as well as how the album became a new milestone for them.
The Display (TDP): Hello Kaveh Kanes, welcome to Malang, it is your first time coming down here right?
Asad (A): Yes, finally we got the chance to play here. We were supposed to play here a few years ago, but due to conflicting schedules we could play here after releasing “Loanwords”.
TDP: We notice that there were some differences in your band now, but the most notable was the member change? Are you officially three-membered band now or four?
A: Yeah there were only us three left, me, Zaim, and Hafid. Actually, we wanted to become a four-membered band in 2017. However, since mid-2018, our ex-drummer, Mumu decided to leave the band. We played as three ever since with the help of additional players.
TDP: How did it affect the album making process in general?
A: There were some changes during the making of our second album. For “Capital”, it was mostly Mumu and Zaid who created the songs and I was in charge of lyrics. While in “Loanwords”, the songwriting and composing process were done by Zaim and Hafid. But Mumu still helped on most parts in this album, but he didn’t play live anymore.
TDP: “Loanwords” was a tough album to make since the three of you reside in different cities and do various jobs. Hafid is still pursuing his education, Zaim runs an apothecary in Cirebon, while Asad becomes a freelancer in Jakarta. What was the most difficult part of creating this record?
Hafid (H): Making sure our schedules fit! Everytime Zaim or Asad came to Yogyakarta, we would make sure that we created new materials for the album. Even if it was just one day, we put our commitment to writing new songs. Then, Asad or Zaim will go back the next day.
A: Yeah, so every time we return to Yogyakarta, there’s a “pressure” to be productive. Because we don’t have the privilege like other bands whose all members live in the same city. Since we live in different cities, we put a lot of effort to meet in Yogyakarta. It will be a waste if we just meet without producing something new or bearing any result. There was definitely a greater pressure compared to our first album.
TDP: It has been three years since “Capital” was released, what made the second one took so long to be finished?
Zaim (Z): LDR (red: long distance relationship) plays a huge part.
A: Yeah, it was definitely one of the reason. Let’s be real here, there was some drama in our internal part of the band. It was inevitable. Each of our own also dealt with personal problems. I got married. Zaim had to run his family’s business and stuff. Hafid still had to adapt with us, since he was a new member. There were simply many challenges for “Loanwords”.
TDP: Care to tell us more about the recording process?
A: It was done in Jakarta and Yogyakarta. The drum parts were all recorded in Yogyakarta since Mumu could not leave the city back then. The rest of the recordings were done in Jakarta.
TDP: More about your album, why did you name it “Loanwords”? Is there certain philosophy behind it?
A: “Loanwords” basically means language that is adopted from another language right? While we’d like to leave it to our listeners’ own interpretation, we came up with a thought that everything that we think belong to us actually is just loaned to us. Whether it is wealth, car, family, they all aren’t fully ours. We will never be sure whether those things are ours or simply just a concept that we think we possess.
H: Nothing is original anymore, isn’t it? We talk about love and family in this album. For me, all the happiness that we feel right now is attributed by people surrounding us. Happiness comes from our closest ones and family.
Z: For me, “Loanwords” can be interpreted as a handed down stuff. Your works, hell- even the apothecary that I run now belongs to someone else before you. Your parents, grandparents, it was like inheritance.
TDP: Your sophomore album also sees you under a new record label, which is Anoa Records. How is it any different than your old one? (red: Kaveh Kanes used to be a roster of Kolibri Rekords)
A: It is basically similar, the label still gives us some inputs, but the final say is left to the band. The reasons that we decided to choose Anoa as our label was first, we picked a label that is willing to give us artistic freedom. Secondly, we wanted to match our current sound with the label that releases the records. Our debut album might fit with our old label, but we think Anoa Records represent our current phase of sound. It was something along the lines, technically speaking. But it doesn’t mean that we will shift label every time we put out a new album! Hahahaha… Our sounds are maturing and getting more complex, it was cliché, but that happened to us in this album. We felt like putting ourselves among the rest of our labelmates, who present more rock-sounding stuff, would make Kaveh Kanes stand out.
TDP: You said that the new label gives you freedom, so why didn’t you release the new album with the DIY method?
Z: We could do the production process ourselves, almost all the bands could produce their own stuff right now. But what we don’t have is the distribution channels. It wasn’t that easy. Anoa might already get trust from huge outlets, it would be different if we were starting out on our own.
H: Not all bands have to release by themselves.
A: We feel less lonely under a label. If we succeed, it will become the success of two parties, not only us. The record label has become a culture in the music industry. By releasing our music on our own would mean we stop the label culture that is happening in the music scene. It was a culture that has been developed for a long time with the basis of trust and friendship, so it would be more romantic that way.
TDP: Your new sound tends to be cleaner sounding. “Capital” sounds so lo-fi with noises and pushed back vocals. Did you intend to create cleaner sounding records on this one?
Z: The lo-fi sound on “Capital” wasn’t intentional, to be honest. I would say that these two records are different. “Capital” was done in 8 – 9 months, while “Loanwords” took a lot longer. With these much mature materials, if we force our sounds to stay the same, it would sound weird.
H: Simply put, it wasn’t the aesthetic that we were after.
A: Analogically speaking, if we were humans in the pre-historic era, we were no longer a hunter-gatherer. We used to record our demos on smartphones. Now we become agriculturers by doing workshops first, before writing our materials. So it only makes sense that our sounds also evolve.
TDP: May we ask what is your favorite song from the album? Each member must have their own favorite, right?
A: I like “Cairo” and “Ambushed”.
Z: I personally favor “The Fountain”. Since it was first composed, I already had a feeling that this would be our lead single. It was also the last song we wrote and an unplanned one.
H: It’s “Father’s Bridge” for me which Zaim wrote. Kaveh Kanes’ maturity is clearly encapsulated in this song. It still maintains Zaim’s strong characteristic while showing a new side of the band which is harmonization. We never thought of harmonizing at all on “Capital”. The meaning of the song itself more resonates within me personally.
TDP: “Father’s Bridge” talks about family, right? How does this new topic strike a chord within you while making this album?
A: Besides love, “Loanwords” talks about family and self-discovery. Actually “Father’s Bridge” is a self-discovery song that relates to a family bond. All this time, we thought that a simple thing like calling our parents regularly wasn’t that important. But as we grow older, we realize a small thing like that matter a lot to them and to us.
TDP: Let’s talk about your music video for “The Fountain” then. What caught our attention was the storylines in this video are more than one and they stand separately. Where did the idea come from?
A: It was basically a few movie trailers fused into one music video. The inspiration came from my observation of movie trailers in general. Sometimes, a great or interesting trailer doesn’t always mean a great movie. Vice versa. So, we thought how about making several different trailers into one music video. The viewers also don’t know the ending, that what makes it exciting to watch.
TDP: Do you plan to have another phase of the “Loanwords” tour after this first one is finished?
Z: We will see later. I’m afraid that if we force ourselves to have many tour dates, we won’t be able to do it. We might disappoint them with sub-par performances. So yeah, we’ll definitely see what we can do with the help of SRM Management who arranges our tour dates and gigs.
While concluding our interview, in which Kaveh Kanes were in the midst of preparing a live show, they also cited their eagerness to be reviewed by music journalist, especially touching the technical aspect of their music, rather than reviewing their works with mere feelings. We learned something new by exchanging ideas and interviewing these guys who are of Arabs’ descents. Throwing their identities as internal jokes within themselves, Kaveh Kanes show their true colors in music. As cliché as it may sound, the Kaveh Kanes we interviewed back in November wasn’t the same band that released “Tiger In Your Tank”. “Loanwords” becomes the latest proof that maturity is all about embracing what nurtures you, love and family. Listen to “Loanwords” on your favorite streaming services and get a copy of its physical format by placing your order here.