“Keep your heart strong and love long / And give kisses when you can” – it were such loveable lyrics and smooth retro pop beats that gave Californian duo KISSES the well-deserved attention three years ago with their self-titled debut album. Jesse Kivel and Zinzi Edmundson share not only a bed together as couple but also a certain passion for great pop moments, sunny melodies and addictable beats. And their sophomore lonplayer Kids in LA – Out May 14 via label Cascine – is about to prove that once more.
Once again the easy floating 80s sound of Edmundson teams up with Kivels voice which always got this certain melancholic undertone that gives the music of KISSES a unique note. The first two published tracks from the new longplayer – Funny Heartbeat and The Hardest Part – already hint for a high quality debut follow-up. So, perfect time for NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION to sit down with Kivel, discuss the new record, why their sunny songs are just a masquerade and what his favourite disco records are.
How would you describe the sound of KISSES to our readership?
I would describe it as melancholy pop with a bit of an up side to it!
How did the both of you first met?
We met in Los Angeles in 2003 when Zinzi was in her first year at Occidental. Her friend at the time – Gigi Kalika – was an old friend and I began hanging out around campus to kill time before my freshman year of college. We became close friends but did not start dating till a few years later.
It’s been three years since your self-titled debut and the upcoming second longplayer “Kids In LA”. What is the main difference between these two records?
This one is darker and a little more driving. This can be seen in both the lyrical content as well as the production by Pete Wiggs and Tim Larcombe. Discussing affluent kids in Los Angeles creates a different mood than the vacation love songs from the first LP.
Compared to the first album this second one seems to be even more focussed and does even more to naturally sound like a lost record from the late 80s. Was that the intention?
I’m not sure. The 80’s influence was mainly derived from a newfound interest in freestyle tracks from artists like Debbie Deb and Lisa Lisa. We did work hard to get the gated snare sounds from that era so I do understand why you would think that.
Is that Zinzi singing on the record’s final track “Adjust Glasses”?
That is Zinzi and yes, she sounds lovely
Why didn’t she sing before? Her voice is indeed quite lovely.
She has not sung on her own yet because I dont think I was ready to give up full time vocal duties but now I am.
KISSES: “We are really too neurotic to be laid back people!”
Do you have any special role models for this whole retro thing? Not only in terms of sound but also your looks and everything.
I think classic disco artists like Giorgio and Chris and CHIC really help us remember that this is all supposed to be fun and a bit playful. Whenever we get too serious, that era inspires and keeps us grounded.
Your music always sounds like a relaxed sunny day on a Californian beach. Are you two such a type of characters? Or is it just a form of escapism?
I think its escapism. We are always over here complaining about our constant illnesses and maladies, we are really too neurotic to be laid back people!
Jesse, you are also part of indie-pop band PRINCETON. How do these two projects go side by side? Did one eventually influence the other?
I think KISSES was initially a chance to express myself in a different way. By the second LP though, the KISSES album had started influencing my songwriting in PRINCETON.
You also once said you started KISSES because you had interest in doing dance music. You got any favourite dance and disco records of all time?
I would say Last Night a DJ Saved My Life and S.O.S BAND with High Hopes are two of the best dance tracks going.
How do you think about releasing the second via label Cascine?
It’s a good step!
You also did a couple of remixes in the past, just recently a quite grooving one for HAIM. You got any dream track you ever wanted to get your hands on but couldn’t make it due to not having the single stems or rights?
I think all of the tracks on C’est CHIC I would like to have a go at because they are so quiet and not mastered at a level that is good for a club. I would want to get in there and work on those tracks.
What do hope and passion mean for your music and you personal?
It means not letting setbacks prevent you from enjoying your life and making the life you want for yourself.