In their latest incarnation as LIES, the Kinsella cousins – Mike and Nate – have swerved away from the introspective yet anthemic emo-tinged indie they are best known for as part of American Football. Veering on to strip lit highways in search of twilight adventures a new synth pop undertone marks an exciting new chapter for the pair. Serene moments of reflection remain, but a new found throb of disco and danceability elevates their self titled debut to special new heights. In what turns out to be a thoroughly insightful and at times hilarious glimpse into Nate’s cherished records, books and films, we caught up with him for a Sound & Vision to mark the record’s release.
Three favourite albums:
Talk Talk – Laughing Stock
I don’t understand why, but No Doubt excluded the awkward sound of seagulls from their 2003 cover of Talk Talk’s It’s My Life, and it’s really a shame. To me, a weird seagull sample in the middle of a synth-pop hit is such an outlier; how could you not highlight it given the opportunity? A brief squawk of strangeness from Talk Talk was an obvious foreshadow of what was to come; how could you miss an opportunity to pay homage? I made friends with a local studio owner in Minneapolis in the late ‘90s and when he purchased and freighted a 16-track tape recorder the size of a washing machine from Canada, he needed a musician-guinea pig to record a song with it to see what kind of shape it was in. I borrowed a CD of It’s My Life from my girlfriend at the time (now spouse) and learned every note of it for the session. AND YOU BETTER BELIEVE I came prepared with those seagull samples. We tracked my cover piece by piece, overdub by warbly overdub on that giant machine and the motors were so horribly calibrated that every instrument sped up, slowed down, went sharp, fell flat… I guess my cover (NOTABLY INCLUDING SEAGULLS) was never meant to be. Talk Talk began as a synthpop band in the ‘80s, which over the course of a decade grew increasingly experimental and Laughing Stock is where they landed – it’s gorgeous (like, full-on adult male peacock). Having listened to it regularly since my cousin Tim played it for me 20+ years ago, I still hear new surprises, and it continues to unfurl.
Bjork – Homogenic
This one really ripped my heart out. I remember not even believing what I was hearing when I listened to this album for the first time. It spoke to me so strongly, and in retrospect this one is absolutely responsible for putting me on the path that led me further into the electronic/acoustic hybrid of pop music. What’s really striking is the amount of emotion that the electronics have! The way the distorted drums churn and evolve really make the machines sound like they’re reaching or yearning for something. The machines appear to have intent! It’s incredible.
NIN – The Downward Spiral
I’m reaching back to my teenage years on this one. There’s really nothing like being fourteen and hearing Trent Reznor sexy-scream ‘I want to fuck you like an animal‘ on the radio while you’re in the car with your Mom. Turns out, this entire album fucks like an animal. I still reference the tambourine on Piggy. Best tambourine of all time. Ya know why? Most tambourines have many pairs of jingles (or jangles, if you will). But THIS one… the one Reznor chooses to carry the song forward?… it’s one fucking jingle. CORRECTION – two fucking jingles, because you need two to make a sound. But STILL – it’s the most defeated, busted-ass, barely-there tambourine you’ve ever heard, and it’s perfect. Perfect. It’s perfection. This is silly, but that tambourine changed my life.
Airplane! – David and Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams
As much as I’d like to think of a high-brow choice here, I gotta go with results. This was the go-to VHS tape for my sister and I at every spontaneous living room movie night as kids. It has non-stop gags, and they’re super fast-paced (especially for 1980!) and… well… I have many memories of simply laughing my ass off watching this move over and over again. I haven’t watched it in years, or through a modern lens and I’m not sure I will, because I don’t want to tarnish the memories. I’m careful to keep my positive memories as they are. I haven’t watched any footage from my wedding, which I had to lobby against for the first few anniversaries until my partner gave up and stopped suggesting it. I’m not very sentimental. Today is my birthday and I’m sitting here writing this dumb shit instead of watching bloopers – my preferred evening wind-down.
The Only Child – Guojing
There’s a very sweet young person in my life (well, there are two… but I’m going to leave the other one out for brevity) and she is very emotionally well-tuned. She can pick up on how others are feeling around her and has a lot of feelings herself – she’s an empath. This is a book that she really loves and I love to cozy up and experience it with her. It’s the story of an only child who goes on a mystical solo journey to her grandparents house while her parents are away during the workday. The book has no words, only incredibly gorgeous illustrations. And no colour, which strangely makes it more impactful. We read the story without language. It’s like listening to an instrumental. It reminds me of going to Europe for the first time and not being able to read anything. Glorious! I’ve been leaning into instrumental passages and appreciating a page without text more than ever.
A song that means a lot to you:
The Cure – Close to Me
I must’ve been nineteen or twenty. I had to talk myself into looking up from the sidewalk. I covered all of the mirrors in my apartment with newspaper and didn’t look at myself for months. I felt like being alive was a real injustice and that it was really unfair that I was a person, and that I had to be a person. And if not today, someday I would have to look up from the sidewalk, and I’d have to figure out some sort of way to sustain myself, some way to be employable, to interact with others, but it really seemed impossible.
I was broke and hungry and found myself walking into a Subway sandwich shop. When I walked in, Close to Me was playing over the tinny little intercom speakers and I just sat down at the nearest table. I didn’t even order, I just took a seat, listened to the song and wept. What a mess. There was no deep epiphany, other than: I thought I needed a sandwich, but what I really needed was The Cure. I got to see them for the first time at Fuji Rock in 2019 and I couldn’t clap or scream loud enough to match my gratitude. How frustrating! Is there not a larger, deeper, or more absolute phrase than “thank you”? Why does it feel so paltry? Please respond.
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