On the Road with Echo Bloom
The EP for IVY Member Kyle Evans’ new Album Red sounds like it might have been lifted directly from the rolling hills of Southern Appalachia. There’s a banjo, a fiddle, and some tight, twangy harmonies about mourning a lost love. “I know your heart’s broken too/ Another rose will bloom for you.”
You can’t stop your foot from tapping, but you’re also aware of the electric guitar. (Most obviously, it takes a solo before the final refrain.) It’s a spirited choice, made by a spirited songwriter.
“I’ll hear something in a flash in my head,” said Kyle, when asked about his songwriting process. “It’s like I tuned into a radio for like five to ten seconds and heard a full arrangement.” From there, he takes what he’s heard and plans an entire song around it. “It’s almost like, I’ve got one puzzle piece, and I’m going to make the edge of this piece into a puzzle. Then, I need to fill out the rest of the pieces.”
Just off a European tour, Kyle’s band Echo Bloom is set to release their new album Red in 2016. In advance of the release, Kyle sat down with us to talk about his travels, his inspirations, and his views on the uncertain future of the digital music industry. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the article to check out the “Another Rose Will Bloom for You” from Red.
Was traveling with your band Echo Bloom as romantic as pop culture portrays it to be?
You know, it’s interesting; it’s like living with roommates in a van. (Laughs) But you also are kind of co-workers at the same time. We drove 7,500 km throughout Europe in like a month, so we spent a lot of time driving. We had this one spreadsheet that was really our master list and that would tell us where we needed to go. Each morning, we’d figure out where we were going, and we’d pop in the car and usually drive 4 to 5 hours to get there.
There’s a fair amount of routine associated with it, which is kind of nice. I think you naturally search for routine, whether you’re working at a desk or you’re working on the stage.
What do you mean people are naturally in search of a routine?
I think we’re habitual animals, at least I am. For something that’s as non-regimented as being a touring musician, you need to really be prepared and just roll with about everything. Every day is going to be a little different. On our tour, no one spoke German. We got lost.
There are all these weird, random things that are going to happen, but you kind of carve out these little areas of regularity. Like, we’re going to do yoga in the morning or drink coffee in a specific way. Sometimes, I think if I can do this one thing, then I have a little kernel of reliability in my life and the rest of the chaos can kind of hang off of that.
Were any of your tour experiences with Echo Bloom inspirations for any of your songs?
I always would listen to music while I was growing up, and it seems like when bands move from a studio project to a live project, the character of songwriting changes a little bit.
There are so many great 70s songs about traveling. I think that’s because these groups were live groups, and they spent their lives traveling. So that’s what they kind of knew what to write about it.
I think growing up when I was listening to any one of the number of songs about the concept of traveling or life on the road, I always thought it was a little self-indulgent and strange. This kind of intentional move to write about something that wasn’t necessarily known to the people who were going to listen to it, but after having that experience of travel a few times, it just kind of becomes your worldview. If you’re an accountant, you write about accounting. If you’re traveling around all the time, that’s what you’re going to write about.
Do you think that writing music about being on the road or traveling may be something that’s distinctly American?
I think there’s definitely some aspect of this mythic American experience that’s tied to driving and that’s tied to this concept of exploration, manifest destiny, or however you want to refer to it. I think everybody’s got an experience in the U.S. of driving—New York to California, for example—and that being this really impactful experience in people’s lives. Because you’re seeing this gigantic, amazing country that has so much variation, and it’s so distinct.
Europe’s a little more tribal almost. We would meet people in Germany who had never been to Belgium, and it’s like 100 miles away. We could’ve left at that moment and been there by lunch. (Laughs) It wasn’t that they weren’t adventurous people—that kind of traveling mentality just didn’t figure in. America’s this weird country of people trying to get away from something, and maybe that kind of still affects our psyche.
Do you feel like you as a musician have a distinct musical identity?
The way that I really like to write songs is kind of like the way I’ve been thinking about my career to a certain extent. I kind of view it almost as looking at a Seurat painting. You can zoom in really close, and when you’re very, very close to it, you just see a series of dots, and each of those dots look really distinct. Then you take a couple of steps back, and all of a sudden, the dots blend together into this full picture.
When I write songs, I try to think of those dots as being the distinct images or the emotions I’m trying to evoke in the lyrics or the music. And as those verses get combined throughout the song, you gradually get a fuller picture.
Do you think this digital age, where artists release singles and people are downloading and streaming singles, has downgraded the integrity of “the album” as a complete work: an album?
You know, I’ve thought a lot about that. You’re almost seeing a different movement right now—more maximalist, in a way, with Tamari Washington and Kendrick Lamar, who are putting out works that are almost three hours long. It gives you the ability to package your material in a lot of different ways—you no longer have to fit everything on one 70-minute CD or a 20-minute per side hunk of vinyl.
So, I think to artists, it gives people a lot more flexibility. Also, there are really great singles artists that are making some really amazing things. There’s much less of a burden of making everything perfect. If you’re going to make one record and put that out every two years, the burden that you have for each of those records to not totally suck is huge. But if you’re pumping out an EP, every six months—you can have a bomb, and you’ll be fine because you’re just going to put something out again in six months.
I think there’s always going to be an appetite for people listening to chunks of work that are around 60-minutes long. It’s been that way since people have been listening to symphonies in concert halls. That is a reasonable length for some body of work; however it ends up getting packaged I think is more an opportunity and less a restraint.
What’s your opinion on this whole streaming trend? Do you think it’s good for music?
It’s good for a lot of kinds of music. It’s good for people that tour a lot because it’s kind of like radio. The frustrating thing is that you see a group like Portishead, who is amazing—I think they published that they made something like $17,000 off of tens of millions of streams. Were they in a different era, they would have made a livable income from that. For an artist like them that doesn’t really tour a lot, the thing it forces them into is kind of becoming this luxury brand almost.
If you look at someone like Bjork, she’ll go an do a ridiculous tour every couple of years, where she’ll hit 15 dates, and she’ll play in a Renaissance Cathedral. These are all very bespoke events. They’re not going to be huge money-makers, but the way that her career funds itself is that she releases 10 albums a year of different repackagings that are really highly priced. You can turn into a luxury brand like that or design t-shirts or have colognes. I think a lot of people are moving in that direction, which is ok, but just different.
Kyle Evans is a member of the IVY Network (NYC). To connect and collaborate with him, register for IVY here.
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