Interview With…Kuryakin!

It’s becoming a long, hot summer, as a certain gaggle of women fancying themselves as “The Aloud” might say. And in sweltering times such as these, there’s always a need for some chilled out music to top off the scorching summer heat. One of my recent discoveries from the blogosphere in the past week is the delightful Kuryakin, an electro-acousto duo hailing from Sweden. After a series of song releases over the past few years, Petter Gjöres and Johan Norberg have decided to put their recordings together onto one “greatest hits” compilation of sorts–an album called Still Here. Rich with layered, sweeping synths and sunny rhythms, Kuryakin’s music is simplistic and charming, offering a refreshing escape from today’s heavier variations of electronica. I got a chance to ask Kuryakin a few questions, so I’ll present thembelow. The boys also asked for us to excuse their English, which is a little bit adorable. Read on!

So who came up with the name, Kuryakin? Does it mean anything?

We took the name from the TV series Man from U.N.C.L.E. The Russian agent Illya Kuryakin is one of the two lead characters in that show. We had great trouble to come up with a name for the band. The name is kind of geeky and we took it because we couldn’t think of anything better, but now we are used to it. Illya Kuryakin is by far the coolest of the two lead characters as well so…

And how did you guys meet? Is it a lovely, memorable story?

No, we just met when we both studied history on the university in Uppsala. We met through mutual friends. Petter played together with another guy and at first they needed a drummer but since Johan was tired of playing the drums he got to play guitar. After a while the other guy moved to another country and Kuryakin formed.

Are you both still studying at University?

Yes but Johan who is becoming a librarian should be finished this spring. And Petter is just about to finish his masters in politics and teachers degree.

Do you guys play a lot of live shows, or do you stick to producing rather than performing?

It’s not very often but we have played more than ever this spring. It’s kind of hard when you are just two guys so the computer does a lot of work without anyone running it, because the both of us play guitar. In the future we would like to have other people on stage that can help us out, but we don’t know that many people who plays instruments and want to play with us.

The website says you use your laptops to make your music. What do you use to do so?

We have some music software and use different software synthesizers and sounds. Most of the songs are written on guitar though. Computers are great when you have limitations and can’t have for example real strings. It would be great if we could use more real instruments. We like big arrangements, but we also love to work with samples, beats and computer effects.

What kind of music do you like to listen to when not recording?

We both like ambitious pop music that is rather unpredictable but in the same time never looses the focus on melodies. Prefab Sprout and the songs by Jimmy Webb, Brian Wilson or Burt Bacharach is great in that kind of way. We are very much into soft rock from the 60’s and 70’s with bands and artist like Carpenters, Free Design and America, but also into indiebands like Trash can sinatras, The Sundays or Saint Etienne. We try to mix influences from that kind of music with everything else we like. Johan is also in to Rnb and hip hop and such but Petter doesn’t really like that stuff that much. We take influences from that type of music and other types of music too though, even if it maybe isn’t that noticeable.

What kind of music do you hope to make when recording?

Our general goal is to make beautiful music. We know that some people think our music is kind of cheesy, but music can be cheesy in a good way we think. We can’t seem to get enough of maj7 harmonies and strings. It would be great if our music isn’t boring, and if you are able to like the songs even if you think the sound is outdated.

Who would be your dream collaboration?

Paddy Mcaloon and the Swedish indieband Eggstone.

It looks like you’ve released a bunch of mini EP’s and singles over the past years, but this year marks the first time you’re releasing a more comprehensive release. How come you picked the songs that you did to make the album, Still Here?

We have only released a 7 inch on a Japanese label and one song on a complication album up to this date. Other than that it has just been sporadic mp3-releases. Still Here contains a lot of old songs we have worked on like the last five years. It’s very nice to finally release them and get them out of the way. We are kind of tired of these songs. But at the same time we rediscover them again and again.

Are you planning to continue on making music after this release?

Right now we are working on an album with 8 completely new songs for the Japanese label Fastcut Records. If things goes as planned it will be released sometime this year. We are trying to work a bit faster now, which sometimes is hard because we live in different cities. The new songs aren’t as electronic as the songs on Still Here. They contain more acoustic guitars and vocals without layers of reverb.

Why is Swedish pop so perfect?

We don’t know if we agree that it’s perfect. We really like some bands and artists like Jens Lekman, Cloetta Paris, Tough Alliance, Eggstone, Radio dept and Stina Nordenstam, but there is a lot of crap too.

What’s next for Kuryakin?

We will work on the album and keep on doing music for as long as we can and as long as we like it. Like we said before it’s a relief to have released the Still Here songs so we can concentrate on new stuff, and we really enjoy music making right now. We will also try to write lyrics that isn’t just nonsense about the weather, and doesn’t contain grammatical errors.

Thanks to Kuryakin for the interview! Take a chance to check out their MySpace here, as well as their website.

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