Kieran Blake
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Kieran Blake

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2014

Montréal, Quebec, Canada
Established on Jan, 2014
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I was left speechless if front of both this song and the video made by Montreal-based folk singer Kieran Blake - it is the most moving and heart-stirring thing I have hear or watched in a long time. The song is taken from a staggering called Songs From A Tunnel available on Bandcamp for free, which is a ride to instant chills and keen emotion as well as a rare example of raw talent. A great, great discovery. - IX Daily


This week, Toronto experienced a bit of a weather shift. Icy cold, streaks of rain chipping away at snowbanks, and the constant feeling of wet socks. Montreal’s Kieran Blake clearly wasn’t witness to this weather while writing What Vicious Glow, but the feeling is captured entirely. There’s heartbreak and shaking loneliness, but the brightness and freshness of the air is beautiful, too.

He takes folk and applies a soft-pass filter, filling his gorgeous melodies with woozy guitar, doo-wop backing vocals, and a whiff of experimental music. The focus, though, is Blake’s voice itself: vulnerable, expressive, and often mournfully nostalgic.

Blake starts out by advising and instructing the listener. You are informed that “sometimes you’ve got to get used to lonely” and to “think about a love that you haven’t seen in years”. That last instruction definitely gets you in the mood to process the themes of love lost present here.

Much of the album seems to chronicle a failed relationship with an unnamed “her” – he meets her during a sunrise, but the love quickly turns sour. “This kind of love won’t ever last, it starts too slow and ends too fast”, Blake sings. Through musical echoes and whistles, he continues to tell his story, plagued by uncertainty and loneliness. His perception of her changes, as does anyone’s idea of someone they should be emotionally leaving behind: “I loved her, I love her, I’ll love her, I will love her forever.”

Towards the end, you get “Last Song About Her”, which deals with the idea of writing songs about someone who hurt you. Sure, your writing is probably infused with real intensity, but then you also have to re-live the pain every time you play the song. The ordering of this song as second-last is interesting, strengthening the suggestion that all of the heartbreak preceding is caused by this titular “her”.

And he’s true to his word – this album finishes with “Satisfied”, presumably not about her. Though, there is a dark footnote added to his newfound happiness: “Your love keeps me satisfied, if only for a little while.” The title of this album is clear about the themes it contains. Love can be bright and beautiful, but can have a sharp, painful edge. Try not to fall prey to its viciousness.

Top Tracks: “Think About A Love”; “Oochie”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) - Grayowl Point


It's rare that a guy with an acoustic guitar sounds like no one else, yet somehow Kieran Blake pulls it off. A couple superficial comparisons come to mind: Modest Mouse, Daniel Johnston, maybe Vic Chesnutt. But Kieran Blake is out on his own island of sonic textures and yearning vocals and entrancing melodies. His most recent album, Songs From a Tunnel, is a raw and deceivingly quiet exploration of the artist's inner world, where things make sense in their own beautiful and mysterious way.

I first came across Kieran when I found the haunting music video for his song, You're Not a Sunrise, and got hooked when I progressed to his back catalogue. In preparation for his upcoming show at Le Cagibi this Thursday with Pat LePoidevin, I spoke with him about his creative process, his influences, his future plans, and the making of the video that drew me in.

When did you start recording music?

When I was about 16 years old I was living in my mom's basement in this cold blue room, no windows. I would be down there alone for hours and hours playing guitar, singing, recording it all over and over, trying to learn what worked and what didn't. I would record all these micro-songs about girls that didn't exist and listen to them a week later in an attempt to have 'fresh ears'. I desperately wanted to hear what it sounded like to someone else without having to play it for them. I was extremely neurotic about it because I was paranoid that I was horrible and if anyone knew I sang and wrote songs they would just humour me about it. So I wouldn't sing or play for anyone, ever. Not even my own mother. It was like some secret from the world. But one day my mom casually popped her head in the door and said "sounds good!". The jig was kind of up after that, and I would slowly grow more brave, although I wouldn't perform in front of anyone for another three years.

Who were your early influences? Are they the same now?

When I was growing up my mom would always play Beatles, Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison. That really shaped my idea of what 'good music' is, to me. I think that really influenced my love of these perfectly written little pop songs. You know? They're almost wrapped up with a bow. I try my best to write that way, trying not to date the songs too much.. to let them live kind of out of time. I was also lucky enough have three older brothers with a whole different taste. Basically since I could walk my mom's been pumping Rubber Soul or one of my brothers would blasting The Pixies or Michael Jackson or whatever. These early influences are real early, like childhood. They're still there, it's permanent, but the biggest influence on me as a songwriter was Elliott Smith. I learned how to sing by singing along to him. He was the big change that made me want to make music, rather than just listen to it; he's unreal.

Do you prefer playing solo or with more accompaniment?

It depends, if I'm the main act I feel like being as entertaining as possible, and it's more fun for everyone (including me) to play with a band -- but unfortunately, the louder you get the less people listen. When I'm opening for someone I tend to just play alone, but I'm still kind of paranoid it will be boring, so I think the best way to play is with a little accompaniment to accentuate what you've already got going on.

Where is the tunnel where you recorded your last album?

That tunnel is in griffentown, near the water. It's actually a couple blocks away from the late great Friendship Cove. My friend Dietrich Rosteck was part of an art show that took place inside the tunnel; I think it's some sort of storm tunnel but I'm still not sure.. it doesn't actually lead anywhere.The art show was great but I couldn't get over how cool it sounded in there.

How long did it take down there? And what kind of recording setup did you use?

I really have to give a lot of credit to my friend Nick Smith who came with me to record in there. We only legitimately recorded in the tunnel a few times, maybe three, but we went down there probably a dozen times. First to scope it out, then to do some recording tests, then one time construction was so loud we had to abort the session, then we had to figure out how to turn off this huge industrial fan in the next tunnel. Also, once you get in the tunnel it gets progressively colder and more damp the deeper you go, it was kind of horrible to be honest. The whole thing was recorded on a zoom h4 Nick had, that's like a small portable device you'd use to record a show with. It's got two inputs, so we had two microphones; one close to me and one deeper in the tunnel to catch the reverb and texture. We went back one time to do back up singing and a little drum stuff for some songs and then we were done.

Where did you get the idea for the "You're Not a Sunrise" video?

That was actually entirely the idea of my friend Andrew de Freitas. Andy and Nick run 'Port Vanderlay', the publishing group that put out my album. He also did the video for my song "Turquoise". Talented dude -- when someone I trust comes to me with an idea for a music video or something I usually just let them do what they want. It's important for me to restrict how much control I have once the songs are recorded, as to not become some kind of control freak. They usually give a new and interesting twist that I wouldn't have thought of. My friend Greg Zehna did this 15 minute music video with my song Thorn, it's kind of my Thriller. It's amazing. I love it, but I had nothing to do with it. I feel it's a healthy way to let go of the songs and let someone else do what they do with it.

What's next? Any new recordings or new projects on the way?

I'm working on an album that I want to get out later this summer, it's kind of a left turn. I don't think I could go any further in that direction after the Tunnel album without it turning into some weird atmospheric, painfully raw-nerve type shit. So this new album goes the other direction completely, a little relief. The songs are lighter and have a sort of classic fifties kind of feel without feeling forced. Or at least that's what I'm trying to do with them. - Midnight Poutine


When Kieran Blake recorded a whole album of songs from a tunnel he knew that he needed a video to correspond with the movement and imagery of the songs. That’s where production company Newfoundland Tack came in.

This beautifully rustic four-minute, one-take 8mm film for You Are Not a Sunrise was a collaboration between the artist and Newfoundland director Andrew de Freitas. Filmed in Montréal, the camera takes the place of another character as the single shot follows the vulnerable subject—Bianca Labiberté—around her romantically-lit apartment. The grainy texture and soft colours reflect the melancholic nature of the track.

Keiran Blake, an artist from Montréal, recorded this song and his whole album ‘Songs From A Tunnel’ from under a tunnel in a shaft beneath Montréal’s Lachine Canal. The album, which is full of impressive folk/rock tunes like this one, revolves around the atmospheric impression of the tunnel and its potent imagery.

The video is being released by Newfoundland Tack and Port Vanderlay, and is being premiered on Portable for your viewing pleasure right now. - Portable.tv


A fixture of Montreal’s lofts and dusty churches, Kieran Blake writes ghostly pop music with a DIY anti-sheen. His prolific output has ranged from ethereal acoustic music to jazz to doo-wop, all tied together with his high-pitched, Wayne Coyne-like croon. His most recent album, What Vicious Glow, saw him create a full band behind his complex compositions, while Songs From a Tunnel was literally recorded solo in an abandoned tunnel. A prolific artist, it’s always a joy wondering what Blake will do next. - AUX.tv


Kieran Blake is a Montreal songwriter and guitarist who inhabits the weird, dark corners of his city. Whether he's recording an album in a tunnel, performing a late night show in an artist loft, or working his day job as a janitor at the 90-year-old Art-Deco Rialto Theatre, he lives is life surrounded by Montreal's dilapidated beauty.

This comes through on some of his more recent output, like Dusty Crutches, Vol. II, a collection of songs recorded in one of the city's now defunct artist lofts; or in the music video for "Think About a Love," where he explores the gutted apartment above his with a VHS recorder. Other albums, like What Vicious Glow and the Rose EP, explore themes of lost love and longing through the dark haze of cigarette smoke.

Starting out as a student of Elliot Smith, he has since incorporated textures of rock, jazz, and, through his band, Hiroshima Shadows, Pixies-like sludge punk into his music. Blake's falsetto croon evokes artists like Wayne Coyne and Daniel Johnston - singers whose quirky, wavering tone renders them all the more interesting and expressive. We spoke with him recently about his music, his life in Montreal, and the inspiration he draws from things as diverse as failed relationships and hip-hop.

Noisey: Many of your album titles references the places where they were recorded - there's Songs From a Tunnel, and the two Dusty Crutches albums from different Montreal lofts. Does environment have a major impact on you?
Kieran Blake: Environment has an impact, but it's got a lot more to do with where I'm at emotionally. The tunnel album is a different story because I literally recorded the whole album inside a tunnel, so the environment was incorporated into the execution of the album sonically and metaphorically. The echoes and drips and sounds of the tunnel's environment became kind of like an instrument being played throughout, and the songs all being sung from inside of a cold, dank tunnel created a theme for the album.

The Dusty Crutches stuff is more just a delivery method for songs that don't have a home, so I guess it's inevitable that they are defined by the environment they were recorded because there isn't really anything else to thread them together; no theme or concept, but they inevitably end up having a mood because they were recorded at a specific time of my life.

Your most recent release was Dusty Crutches Vol. II - Friendship Cove Recordings. How did you pull together that material?
Those recordings were from when I was essentially living in a jam space, so I had access to drums, keyboards, amps, whatever - and I could play them whenever and as loud as I wanted. I ended up writing a lot of songs where drums were an important part of the songwriting process, and that's not usually the case for me. It was a big soundproof room with one window in the roof, so I could go a bit crazy and howl at the moon. It was a weird time of my life, so a lot of the songs are kinda weird. I remember a particularly productive night of recording where I was drinking directly from of a big 4 litre bag of stolen wine, alone, lifting it up to the moonlight to squeeze out the last drops into my mouth. I didn't steal the wine though, it was a gift.

That's a loft with a long history. When did you start hanging out there? Any favourite moments?
I had seen a few shows at Friendship Cove before, but at the time that I moved in I was sort of homeless and sleeping on my friend's couch in Griffentown, so when I heard the guys at Friendship Cove needed a roommate I jumped on it and moved in. All those guys were really cool and they were all in bands and everyone was able to practice and throw shows in the place where they lived, so obviously it was conducive to creativity for me to be around all that. But surprisingly my favourite moments weren't musical; like when we would go out and find wood for the furnace and watch Intervention and Hoarders together - we did that every week. Or when I was so hungry but had no food, so I ate one of my roommates huge pot brownies - I don't really smoke pot so I was pretty fucked up, laying in my bed staring at the moon. Or making my way through a punk show that was going on to get to my room, holding a bowl of Kraft Dinner, barefoot.

The first part of that series was entitled the Griffentown Tapes. Where did you record those?
Those were recorded by Roy from Red Mass in his apartment in Griffentown. I was pretty young and had moved to Montreal not to long before that; he was nice enough to set up his 4-track recorder and let me lay down some of my songs. They are the first 'official' recordings of my songs in my mind, so I decided to include them in the series because even though most of them went on to become songs from my first album they still felt special to me and deserved a home.

You're really into hip-hop, which is interesting because your own music is very different. How does hip-hop influence you anyway?
If there's any rap influence that has creeped into the actual sound of my music it would be mostly production, I guess, because a lot of the drums on my last album were drum machines. But I do take influence from the mindset of rap. It's such a relatively young genre of music that it's still pushing the edge of what is possible. Rappers and hip-hop producers basically do whatever they want to do because it's an art form that is very early in it's evolution when compared to more traditional genres. So it's less tied down by convention - I like that. It's also almost always about self-empowerment and independence, which is an attitude we should all have more of, I think.

What hip-hop artist are you into?
I really love A$AP Rocky. Odd Future are great too, Earl Sweatshirt is crazy talented. And Kendrick Lamar. I think it's crazy that Kendrick didn't win a Grammy this year for best rap album; that album is the best album I've heard in a long time, let alone rap album. Oh well, I guess it's just further proof that the Grammy's are a joke.

The music videos for "Yer Not A Sunrise" and "Think About a Love" have a very haunting quality to them. What's their story?
The video for "Yer Not A Sunrise" was entirely my friend Andy deFreitas' idea. He runs this production company Newfoundland Tack that put out my tunnel album on their tape label Port Vanderlay. I think it's beautiful. The video for "Think About A Love" I filmed myself with a shitty VHS camera that was glitching out, so it caused some cool fucked up effects to the footage. It was shot in my apartment and also in the gutted apartment above mine that has the same lay-out, so it was kinda like time travel to jump between the two, like before and after a devastating event. I also filmed 3 different female friends' faces and overlapped them to create a vague foggy impression of a woman, because the song is about thinking back on an old love.

You live something of a dual life, performing solo and with Hiroshima Shadows. What makes you keep the two separate?
As a solo songwriter, I focus on being melodic, and the songs all have themes of love, loss, hope, pain; it's generally pretty emotional. Whether it's sad or happy, it's always personal, and often after a solo show I feel bummed out because I've essentially just combed through my tattered romantic history for the umpteenth time. I do love it, and I need it - I feel it's a necessary outlet for me to express myself, but there are certain things that I feel the need to express that I don't want to express through "Kieran Blake"; like, I don't want to be the guy with an acoustic guitar yelling about religion or politics or whatever, I hate that shit, it feels so preachy and contrived.

So I started Hiroshima Shadows as a sort of second prong for my aggressive musical energy to be let out, it let's me touch on different topics, stuff that pisses me off or social things that concern me, but it also allows me to just write songs for the hell of it too without feeling like I'm being disingenuous. It creates a distance between me and my songwriting. Plus it's just fun as hell to play a loud guitar and yell - people thrashing around at my shows is a nice change too.

What's next? Any recording plans? New projects or collaborations?
I've been working on a Kieran Blake album for quite a long time now, doing a lot of pre-production stuff like figuring out arrangements of all the instruments and drum parts using a keyboard. It's going to be quite lush; a lot of piano and strings, very little guitar. It's kind of the final chapter in a story that's been threaded throughout my last two albums What Vicious Glow and Songs From A Tunnel - a final farewell. It deals a lot with the concept of loving someone from so long ago that you're not actually in love with that person anymore, you're in love the memory of that person in a weird way, and with time you've made that memory into something that doesn't even resemble them anymore. You've added hope and promise to that memory in an unhealthy way and you need to say goodbye. That's why it's really the end of the line for the theme because after a certain point you have to let go for real - because it's just you and your muse, and she's a ghost. I don't even know if people will like the album or not, but it really doesn't matter because in my heart I know it's necessary for me to finish this story.

Hiroshima Shadows just finished an album that we're gonna get out on vinyl soon, and I've also started a project with Ohara Hale called SHIM SHAM. It's lighthearted and old-fashioned with modern production - we recorded a 3 song EP of call-and-answer Nancy & Lee type songs, I'm really excited about it.

Greg Bouchard is a writer living in Toronto. He's on Twitter.

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Written by: Greg Bouchard
May 9 2014 - VICE / Noisey


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

For the past 8 years Kieran Blake has been writing, recording, and performing music in Montreal. He has managed to carve out a place for his honest and melodic musings in a city otherwise polarized by loft party pop or sweaty punk rock. This year Kieran has been mentioned as an 'unconventional Canadian singer/songwriter you need to hear' by Aux.tv and has been interviewed on Vice Magazine's Noisey.com about his 'falsetto croon' that 'evokes artists like Wayne Coyne and Daniel Johnston' and his unorthodox recording style.  With a “raw sense of melody and atmosphere” his music  is known to explore themes of love and loss by creating a landscape of “yearning vocals and entrancing melodies.”

http://www.midnightpoutine.ca/music/2012/07/step_inside_the_world_of_songwriter_kieran_blake/

http://www.aux.tv/2014/02/11-canadian-singer-songwriters/

http://noisey.vice.com/en_ca/blog/kieran-blake-dusty-crutches-vol-2-interview




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