Iron Fist Wrapped in a Velvet Glove
Kayo Dot can’t be pigeonholed, explained, or even narrowed down by most, which is why I think many people find refuge in the challenge. “Listening to us is like looking downward and inward, as we try to create an individualist experience for everyone in the room,” says frontman Toby Driver after the band’s Jacksonville performance. I chatted with Toby and his striking violinist, Mia Matsumayi, about their newest record Blue Lambency Downward and picked their brains for thoughts on new wave experimentation.
Kayo Dot started in 2003 as an off-shoot from the former avant-garde metal conclave, maudlin of the Well, and has expanded beyond metal gradation into a more symphonic arrangement. Even though this new project still finds itself in the clutches of the metal reign, it somehow draws a solidarity or darkness outside of the boundaries, beyond the heavy realm. Toby assured me that the metal scene has indeed been good to his projects, but he has noticed a sea of blank faces lately, whenever they’ve performed. Mia identifies it as “intense introspection” and I agreed that it was all in deep thought and reverence. Whether or not the blankness is of sheer awe or intrigued confusion, it is obvious that the audience is enthralled, they just don’t know what to make of it.
The latest record reveals a more abstract tonality with movements and cues that thrust the song forward. It’s fluid, without stops or pauses distracting the flow. “It’s more composition and less free reign in this album than compared to our last, Choirs of The Eye, which had less emphasis on songwriting and was more difficult to perform live.”
The band has more of a “revolving door” type vibe as they invite musicians to perform with them on stage, leaving the songwriting to Toby’s artistry. The current lineup consists of: David Bodie (of Time of Orchids and MATH) – drums; Terran Olson – keys, clarinet; Patrick Wolff – saxophone, clarinet, flute; Daniel Means – saxophone, clarinet, guitar; and Mia Matsumayi – violin. Toby says his influences are no longer shared with other musicians because he lets instrumental sounds give him the cues. He works with the body of the instrument as his muse and writes songs through them rather than the process of the music.
Kayo Dot seems to cater to the metal audience, but the latest record, Blue Lambency Downward reflects a more polished and composed performance, more like a manifested dream rather than an outplay of dark and heavy breakdown arrangements. Driver expressed his contentment with how the record has been received thus far and also let me know to keep a lookout for a maudlin of the Well comeback record. A MySpace fan base has collected enough money to support the production of another record. “For the fans, by the fans. It’s pretty cool stuff.” Toby said to me.
Toby didn’t hesitate to give me the full scope of every bit of my interest, and despite that I couldn’t get to my questions about his influences or his favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles character, he responded quickly with a calm and elegant swagger, very complimenting of his beautiful violinist, who gleamed like an angelic mystery beside him more than anything else. Nonetheless, I left the conversation with a new respect for Kayo Dot’s instrumentation and recalled that by the end of the night, most of the audience was intrigued with them as well.
Kayo Dot: www.kayodot.net