After spending the last few months releasing a broad array of mesmerising delights, New York-based duo Kritters return once again to deliver their shimmering new effort 'What Do You Know'.
Channelling more of that warm and breezy aesthetic they are known for, 'What Do You Know' makes for an enticing return. Jam-packed with dense production, woozy textures, and some wonderfully ethereal vocals mixed throughout, these two are certainly set for big things in the year ahead.
So with their new single available now, we sat down with them to find out more about their origins and what has inspired them most over the years.
What was the first instrument you fell in love with?
Kirini: Violin. I started playing at six years old. I so loved the idea of the instrument that before I ever held a real one I made one out of cardboard, with strings of packing twine. I played violin all the way through to the end of school. I was good, but didn’t practice enough to make something of it.
Robert: Drums for sure. But that’s just because they have always been the easiest and loudest way for me to engage with the wider concept of rhythm - I also fell equally in love with percussive bass played by bassists like Flea, Bakithi Kumalo (“You Can Call Me Al”), and Johnny Boshoff (who played bass on the album African Litany, which was the soundtrack to my childhood in South Africa. Of course, listening to all those bassists necessarily meant I was simultaneously bingeing on drum beats too.
What kind of music did you love when you were younger?
K: Anything but classical music was pretty much verboten in my house growing up. I think the most modern thing my parents ever listened to was Gerschwin or Dave Brubeck, and that was only because my sister was learning the clarinet. When I was 9 or 10 I asked my mother if I could get a tape of the Beatles, which felt very risqué. I thought it was safe to ask for, because it was oldies - gateway music. I listened on my Walkman, incessantly. I taped all my cassettes together by their spines into a kind of accordion, for portability (not actually that portable). I played those tapes until they wore out, and to this day I remember where the A side and B side would scratch and flip, like you’d be listening to Norwegian Wood and, suddenly, Dizzy Miss Lizzy (the worst). I would go to Tower Records just off Broadway to get them, one at a time. I had to make a judgment by the cover and song titles, like, Is this one going to be good, is this worth my fifteen dollars. They always were. I started out loving the early ones, the two double compilations with the red and blue covers, and then when I was a teenager it was all about, like, the White Album, and also Anthology which was amazing because you got to hear all the outtakes. I borrowed those later ones from the library, though. Nerd.
R: I loved whatever was played on the radio in Johannesburg, which was 90’s pop-punk, and some of the worst music of the late 90’s/early 2000s like Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” and “Mmmbop” by Hanson. I literally only first listened to Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, The Beach Boys, etc. when I moved to the UK when I was 13. It’s probably the thing I’m most ashamed about, my terrible early taste.
What was the first album you remember owning?
K: On the same day I got my first Beatles album, I also got a Stevie Wonder tape. I think it was a Best Of kind of thing. I remember it had a yellow cover and started with Hey Harmonica Man. I knew Stevie Wonder because I found his album Hotter than July hidden among all the classical records under the turntable in the living room, the sole and lonely evidence that any pop music had ever existed. I listened to that record in secret, and loved it. The cover told me everything: he’s slick and gorgeous in braids and beads, radiating heat. I was like, That’s a cool guy. Finding it like that made the music even better, because it was illicit. I mean, I listen to it now and, while delightful, it’s pretty tame. But then--I was sure it was dangerous.
R: I wish I could remember what my first album was called or even what was on the cover but I can’t… It was a 14-track album that was just drum solos. I’ve been trying to track it down recently actually because Kirini and I are doing this remote collaboration thing with people out in the internet world, recording beats for free for anyone who wants a real kit instead of the digi stuff. People can get on our Instagram if they want to participate in that. I’ve had a lot of fun over the past few days essentially just recording drum solos. It’s how I take a break from real work.
What is the one song you wished you could have written yourself?
K: Happy Birthday. For the royalties.
R: And I’ll just be the partner of the person who collects those royalties.
Do you have any habits or rituals you go through when trying to write new music?
K: No, not really. I mean, it’s an every single day kind of thing. So I guess my habit is, always be writing?
Who are your favourite artists you have found yourself listening to at the moment?
K: I don’t listen to music because I’m deathly afraid that I’m going to accidentally copy someone’s work.
R: And it’s kind of my responsibility to listen to a lot of music for mix referencing, though if I’m honest I find that I quickly end up just mixing our stuff purely based on what sounds good rather than what sounds most like other stuff.
If you could open a show for anyone in the world, who would it be?
R: My favorite people to open for were Beach House in Dublin in 2011. Stornoway opened, Villagers played second, and Beach House closed the show. I guess I could also count the time Stornoway opened the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury at the crack of dawn Saturday morning. Coldplay were the headline that night, so... I guess I opened for Coldplay?
K: Yeah, I don’t really think about that.
What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a musician?
K: It’s a really quick medium, so you get a finished product fast, at least compared to painting or writing prose. It’s concise like poetry but easier, because you’ve got the audio element that can carry you through if your words aren’t perfect. Also there is this lovely physicality to music - vibrations, movement. That is a really nice experience to have, and very different from putting paint on a canvas or sitting and typing at a computer.
And what is the most frustrating part?
K: All the parts that involve other people in the industry. Excepting Rob, of course. And recently Logic has been doing this thing where it mutes a track during playback, out of nowhere. That is fucking annoying.
R: Right?! I still need to figure out why it’s doing that.
And what is the best piece of advice you have received as a musician?
K: I’ve been lucky to have had other artists in my life - I’m thinking especially of the musician and composer Jon Ouin - who are firmly against the bullshit notion that you need to prioritize making your art into a business, a tendency that is in diametric opposition to making good art. If you can, you give yourself the privilege of time and space to sort your shit out. Let the rest come later. Capitalism is the system we have -- work within its constraints, but do your best to protect your artistic decisions from it. Art is art, with or without a market.
Kritters' new single 'What Do You Know' is available to stream now. Check out the official video for it in the player below.