It’s not uncommon for musicians to amass an international online following through their art ‘going viral’, but it’s more often a fate met by the creators of topical satire with incessant pop hooks or novelty ditties with feline-focussed music videos than the cultivators of instrumentally-advanced, forward-thinking electro-jazz. KNOWER are one of the bands bucking that trend in 2017; proving that serious grooves can pair perfectly with not-so-serious lyrics and that a rich sound, saturated in harmony, rhythm and electronic texture, can speak to both jazz connoisseurs and pop/dance consumers alike. The band have in the past taken on trending pop; putting their unique spin on Daft Punk and Lady Gaga, but this year has seen their own playful, D.I.Y. ‘live band sesh’ videos registering serious numbers online, capitalising on the hype of their Red Hot Chili Peppers support tour and rewarding their commitment to their craft.
We’re excited to see what 2018 has in store for KNOWER and caught up with vocalist and writer Genevieve Artadi to discuss as much about the band, L.A. and music making as we could!
It’s eight years since you graduated from your jazz studies in Los Angeles; what were the most vital lessons you learned and is there anything you look back on and think, “without that, I don’t know that I’d be the same musician today”?
GA: Everything, honestly. I was in sponge mode. Theory (gets me unstuck), arranging (I even had to arrange originals for a big band this year), improvising (I suck but I still want to do this well for future projects and just for writing ideas), performing in ensembles and piano class. Also finding people with a similar ‘fire’ as me. Even rules or situations I disagreed with, I take with me to do the opposite.
You met Louis and formed the group shortly thereafter, displaying a broad range of stylistic influences from the beginning. We know of Louis’ D’n’B breaks and your love for folk singer Linda Perhacs, but what else informs your musical direction and pleases you as engaged listeners?
My parents played music together, learning and rehearsing pop songs around me all the time when I was a kid. The people I befriended in school and after in the music world all like to play each other’s music, and I go to their shows, and get inspired that way. Hearing a song that has something special about it, and wanting to incorporate that specialness into my own music. Also life experiences, and trying to express my feelings about these as well as things I think about in a way that has my own vibe. Then putting things out into the world makes us acknowledge what is the next thing to say and how do we want to say it.
Punk? Big harmony? Crazy syncopation? Solos? Electronic? How to combine these?
You were involved in Snarky Puppy’s Family Dinner Vol. 2 in New Orleans back in 2015, cutting an amazing version of I Remember with the band and Jeff Coffin. What was the atmosphere like in the room and have you fond memories from the session, perhaps exchanges with new acquaintances or musical idols?
The atmosphere was like a real nice picnic. No private rooms, so we all were mixing together the whole time, people jamming in the kitchen, updating each other on our lives. When we performed our song, the support spilled down from the control room where all the other artists were. It was fun and magical. We had a lot of laughs with the others, I have a funny memory of a giant box of Emergen-C on our hotel room doorknob put there by Charlie Hunter. Also Louis making Becca laugh so hard she fell on the floor like a fainting goat. And when I had a migraine, Jeff Coffin gave me and others healing oil.
Artists such as yourselves, Vulfpeck and Jacob Collier seem to have carved a niche for yourselves in the online world, embracing humour and D.I.Y. aesthetics, capitalising on the opportunities digital media and modern music technology afford us. Have you been surprised by the online following that you’ve amassed and does online success feel as real and gratifying as getting out there and feeling the love from an audience?
You never know what is going to blow up unless it’s been done before, then you have a bigger chance. If you’re trying to do something different-sounding, it’s more surprising when it hits. But we work really hard and we put so much care into our music that we just want to show it to as many people as possible. And we were open to the record deal thing but labels were not interested, so we’re just surviving. The freedom to do what we want rules. Playing live for people is a different vibe, and was motivating when not many people were listening. Like, even if the numbers were small, the people were soooo cooooool and open minded. Online success is helpful, not as gratifying as playing live. BUT it gives us the opportunity to stay home and create and practice all the time, and to reach people so we can go all around the world and play.
Your live band cut of Overtime is a sheer musical masterclass! Does the video reflect your usual writing and recording preferences or does the idea of a big studio with reverb chambers and tonnes of outboard appeal to you as equally as home recording?
We like to do everything at home. Louis creates enormous sound landscapes in his home computer. Big studios are beautiful but they are hard to make the kind of music we make in because the time is limited.
We’ve heard some unbelievable music coming out of L.A. in the last couple of years and Thundercat, with whom you toured recently, has been involved in a lot of it. For those unfamiliar with the L.A. scene and who’ve never visited, what can you tell us about what’s happening there musically and possibly why so much great music is coming from L.A.?
Just a perfect time with a lot of inspired and inspiring artists making music here…We do hang out together occasionally but it’s not a big jam session… LA is a good place for people to have time to themselves to make stuff and then show it to each other. :] It’s a magical time.
Looking ahead to 2018 and your European tour, what else is in the pipeline and what are your hopes and dreams for the coming year?
Many more shows with more people attending thanks to the unexpected success of our live videos. Louis and I are both working on our solo albums to finish next year. And we will begin new KNOWER music as well. I’m practicing drums and piano so I can be flowing all the time!
Tickets for KNOWER’s UK tour are on sale now, fingers crossed you can pick up a pair before Christmas, but if not, Louis knows your pain…