Interview by: Ana Gomez
2017 has been dominated by the local music scene, and this is shown nowhere better than in Miami, home of the Cannibal Kids an indie pop band made up of Damian (vocalist, rhythm guitar), Dustin (lead guitar), Luke (drums), and Jordan (bassist). The group released their first single, “Troubled Mind,” on all platforms this April, followed by their debut full-length album, Bloom, in October. This LP drew them attention from listeners worldwide and earned them articles in Miami newspapers and slots at some of the city’s most memorable small venues. Last Thursday, I chatted with them via a glitchy, “potato quality” (as Damian would later say) Skype call, as the band crammed themselves into the room of their home studio, complete with a Local Natives poster-adorned wall.
What The Kids Want: So, the first thing I want to talk about is the new album, which I’ve been listening to nonstop. Can you talk a little bit more about the process of it: how it came to be, the flow, what songs you chose to put on it?
Damian (Cannibal Kids): The album took about a year and some to make. It was a really intense working kind of flow. We recorded half of the album six months into making it and then decided we didn’t want to do it that way. We tried doing it live and it just didn’t come out either, so we scrapped the whole project. We started over around September 2016, and we started to track the instruments here at our home studio, then taking that to our in-house studio at our record company to have our producer cut and track vocals for us, then mixing and mastering. As for picking the songs, back in the pre-production phase we had already picked them. Some had been written a long time ago, like when Dustin and I were 16, and others we were writing as we were recording. So the journey was definitely a long one. The album is basically like a journey of our career up to this point. The name of it [Bloom] represents that.
WTKW: It sounds like it’s been a long process, but I definitely think it was worth the wait. Along with the album came the music video for “Troubled Mind,” which I also thought was really cool and original. What was the inspiration for that, what were you guys trying to go for? Was the finished product what you envisioned?
Damian: The music video was cut out of a larger EPK, this video we made to send out to industry insiders to give them a better idea and a visual for who we are, what we look and sound like. We had gotten connected with a small film company that our record company knew of. They threw us the idea of it being four “insane” musicians that keep talking about being in this band, and that’s where the idea came from. We wanted the stylizing and the way it was shot to have Wes Anderson-inspired visuals, because we really like him. That’s more or less how it came to be, the directors threw this idea at us and we ran with it. Working on it was a lot of fun.
WTKW: In your album and singles, your lyrics are pretty poetic and abstract. What are some things you write about?
Damian: What I usually do for a song is come up with the bigger picture, and then focus on the smaller details. Every song is a completely different journey, but we always start with the instrumentals. Once we have that structure, I’ll take that and start applying melody first, and then words. I’ll sit down and ask myself what exactly I’m trying to say, how I’m trying to say it, what emotions I’m trying to convey. Usually it’ll take me a couple of songs before I feel like I’ve really hit the topic how I wanted to. There will be some songs we write that have the same story as another, like different attempts of writing the same song, but I usually don’t stop until I feel like I’ve written it the best way I could’ve written it. I do like to be less “on the nose” about the topic, I like to leave it up to mystery. I think you can make a song timeless by the words you choose. Leaving a song open for interpretation gives it a much more lasting quality. For example, there are some Local Natives songs I’ve heard in the past few years that I have a different interpretation of every time, because of the open way they wrote the words. I think that’s really cool.
WTKW: Was that something that led to the album taking longer than usual, the fact that you took that into account?
Cannibal Kids: The majority of the songs, yes. It took me a little time. I’ll write four verses, then chop those up, choose the best phrases, and put them into one verse. If you look at the song notes on my phone, I usually have one big note that has so many phrases that never get used. But the recording and producing definitely takes longer than writing. We wanted to make sure everything was like our sound and came out exactly the way we wanted, we didn’t want to take any shortcuts.
WTKW: Also, I know you talked about Local Natives, plus you have that poster in the background. Clearly they’re one of your inspirations for songwriting, but what are some other ones?
Cannibal Kids: For the sound you hear on the album, we were listening to a lot of guitar pop-centered bands during that time, like Two Door Cinema Club, San Cisco. For melodies, we listened to a lot of new wave pop, new wave lo-fi rock, ‘70s pop, so bands like The Smiths, The Weeknd, Mac Demarco.
Damian: That’s what I’m looking at when I want to write a catchy, memorably melody. Luke: I also listen to weird French electronic music, and we try to capture a lot of that to make it interesting and unexpected. That’s definitely in the details. We can take a simple percussion, a disco beat, and add the idiosyncrasies that maybe only a drummer would notice, but that’s how we create a “feel”.
Jordan: I like to listen to indie/alternative, and i listen for interesting bass lines. I like Vampire Weekend, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys. The truth is that we really aren’t just indie-heads or anything like that, but we are music fans before we are musicians. All day, I’m (Damian) just listening to new things from all different genres. It really matters to us to have a diverse pool to listen to, because the more you listen to, the more you can discover. Whether it be jazz, trap, electronica, new wave pop, vintage pop, it’s all really important to us.
WTKW: So the album is out now, but what are your plans for the near future?
Damian: We don’t want to spoil too much, because we don’t like making promises and not being able to keep them, but we’ll just say that we’re working hard to put together a tour, and possibly more music videos. Having the album, music video, and an EPK out there was all a part of building the foundation for us to go off of, so in the future we’re gonna push ourselves on promotion and really try new things, like better production and everything. This is really only step one.
WTKW: What about more long term goals?
Damian: Touring the states is definitely one thing. Another thing we really wanna do eventually is make a mixtape collaborating with a bunch of other artists, that’d be pretty dope. My dream is to be on stage with, like, Schoolboy Q, to be at a rap festival and be on a bunch of different stages. Also, starting up our own production company and producing other artists, possibly songwriting for other artists, because we do like to write more than just indie pop. Going to Japan would be huge, we’ve always wanted that. Winning a Grammy is like my personal goal. And just to make enough money to live comfortably, you know? To the point where I can just do music, that’s the goal.
WTKW: Are there any last things you want to say to your fans, or whoever is reading this?
Damian: We really can’t thank our fans enough for pushing our music video and for getting us to 1,600 monthly listeners on Spotify. We’re just speechless, honestly. We worked really hard for a year to make this happen, and to see that people have enjoyed it across the world has been the best thing ever. It’s really satisfying and fulfilling to know that we had a goal, we reached it, and now people can enjoy it. It’s been a hell of a year for us, probably our most defining one. We saw how hard we can work and push ourselves, and how far we’re willing to go to achieve our goals. And next year is gonna be even bigger- we can’t say anything, but it’s gonna be our year, so make sure to watch all our social media and our website.