Koven - Photo by Joshua Halling

Photo by Joshua Halling

After various manifestations and collaborations, the UK electro duo KOVEN are officially comprised of Max playing all instruments and Katie Boyle and on vocals. A few hours before they were set to take the mainstage at the EXIT Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION sat down find out what they are all about.

You two have been working together now since when?
Katie: Max has been working as KOVEN since 2011 but I only joined him at the beginning of this year.
Max: For a long time I wanted to become a duo in electronic music and although I have gone through a few people, I’ve worked with several singers, actually – it hadn’t quite worked out until I met Katie. Now it’s working out fantastically.


Do you have a good origin story?
Max: We just met at raves several times-
Katie: I was doing similar things, I was singing anyhow within a similar type of music so Max knew what I was doing and I was a massive fan of what he was doing so we met by being fans of each others’ work. So when he was looking for someone he contacted me and I was like: YAHHH!!!


Your music is described as ‘organic’ bass – would that be your designation of your own work?
Max: Organic? I like that. When it comes to electronic dance music I almost think of it as very plastic-sounding. It’s kind of like there isn’t much texture or depth to it. I am a massive fan of RADIOHEAD, BONOBO, and they’ve got their synth lines or piano lines but there’s an ambiance to it, a backdrop to it. A room sound, and that is what I would like to introduce with our work. JON HOPKINS is a great example – he has blended the two elements – the acoustic and the electronic fantastically.


Since you have been working together has that come about more often? It seems like your more recent work is more heavy – more emotive? Is that an artistic direction in terms of where you are going together?
Max: I prefer songwriting to gnarly, horrible synths.
Katie: Yes, definitely. We’re still keeping a lot of the heavy bass numbers because we both really like that side of it but we are going a lot more song-structure, verse- chorus with more melodies and the lyrics are as important as the production now.
Max: Rather than just a three-word lyric repeated throughout the whole song.


In terms of things that have come about in the past few years (within the genre) it has exploded onto the scene but now it has to do something – and that was the interesting thing about what I have seen with your work together thus far – it has substance to it.
Max: You get a lot of people saying: ‘The genre is dead’ or, for example, ‘Dubstep is dead’ and whatnot, but I think they’ve just narrowed themselves into thinking within – what’s it called? ‘Brostep?’ Hate to use the term, but they think: ‘Ok, that’s IT. That’s all there is’, but there are a hundred different paths you can take whether you call it ‘dubstep’ or ‘halftime’ or whatever you want to call it – there are a LOT more avenues to go down.
Katie: We want to have a nice crossover. I don’t really see why you can’t cross over a lot of different genres and still keep the vocal-heavy side of it as well, with full song structure and still maintain that bass-heavy music that goes down well in a club and just as well in a festival. That is what we want to try to achieve.

Koven - Exit Festival 2014

KOVEN live at the 2014 EXIT Festival

For EXIT Festival you are billed as ‘KOVEN Live’ – what does that ‘live’ look versus ‘just KOVEN‘? What are the elements that come into play?
Max: We try and make it as ‘live’ as possible but it is hard to get together a live band. I have been DJing for quite awhile – I came from a band background and never quite felt the same buzz as I did coming off a drum kit rather than being a CDJ-  so I wanted to get into actually DOING something. At the moment that is live samplers, live vocals and live synths but the overall aim is to get a live band such as RUDIMENTAL – really, amazing.


Right, that really surprised me. RUDIMENTAL are billed as ‘RUDIMENTAL Live’ – and on stage there are SO many things coming into play there – so many people.
Max: They’re amazing. That is kind of our aim. For the moment, we are building ourselves in order to separate ourselves from just DJing – nothing against DJing or DJs, but I think we put something more into it – and I’m just not a very good DJ (laughs). There are loads of great DJs, but I wouldn’t classify myself as a “DJ” – I am more of a musician, I want to play the instruments.


Which brings this thing into question – the instrument you guys play? What is that thing?
Max: We got into contact with a business in Bristol and they gave us a prototype of the AlphaSphere, so we went on tour with it to test it out but it is really just a midi controller. Each pad is a pressure point so when you push it in it releases CC data which you can connect to anything – like pitch, which you can cut off.


So this is like a percussion instrument for you, basically?
Max: Yes, we use it quite a lot. AND it lights up.

AND it lights up?!! There you go.
Max: We’ve turned up to a few shows and the lighting guys go: “Why the fuck have you got a disco ball?” and we have to say: ‘No, no no – it’s not a disco ball.’

‘DON’T hang it from the ceiling!’
Max: Yeah, its good – and visually it is amazing. It is very fun to work with.

What do hope and passion mean to you?
Katie: Hope and passion are two closely linked things. My hope is that I can one day live off my passion and that my passion – which is music, writing and singing – can be my full-time gig, my life, basically. My hope is to fulfill my passion for the rest of my life.
Max: I can’t beat that. (laughs) I was going to go into religion and dinosaurs and evolution and all that, but nope: I agree with what she said.