Bent Knee played a breathtaking show on the 1st of June @ Rough Trade NYC. We got to catch up with Bent Knee before their show, and they gave us some in sight on their new record, Land Animal.
Ben Levin: In this album we talked about how it’s hard to keep up with technology. Times are changing because we are evolving biologically at a slower rate than our technology and our society. Very 2017 type of stuff, feeling disconnected even though we’re even more connected in many ways. Also, a bit about racism and inequality and stereotyping.
Vince Welch: On the more musical side, the record was written in a small time frame so we compressed the writing process, that had a lot to do with why we used simpler forms of music on this album than previously.
How long did it take to complete Land Animal?
Chris Baum: We put the record together the summer in between touring, we would go out on the road and then we would come back and write. We were in the studio in November.
BL: The writing would have been less than a month, 3 weeks, the whole production process was about 6 weeks.
CB: There were seeds for a lot of songs before.
How did you all meet and come together to form Bent Knee?
CB: We all met at school, at Berkeley. Ben’s kind of the connecting dot for most people. He and Vince met at a high school five week program at Berkeley, and then Ben had a band, and I connected with the violinist from his band. Gavin was invited on board after our second drummer quit, Gavin and I had never met and for some reason he had it in his head that I was an Austrian underwear model.
Gavin Wallace: I had been friends with Ben since my first semester at college, and I had seen his Ben Levin group once or twice, and I also saw Bent Knee once before I joined. I never talked to Chris, and someone either told me or I dreamt it that he was an Austrian underwear model on top of being a violinist. The first rehearsal with everyone, Chris was there and I was expecting an accent, but there was no accent and no underwear.
Jessica Kion: I met Ben in the cafeteria.
What is your creative process when you’re composing?
CB: Everything starts out as an individual idea, and someone will bring in a demo, and they bring it into our rehearsal space where we fight about it and tear it apart and reassemble it. Once we feel like we can play it out, we play it in front of an audience to get a reaction. Vince is our mix engineer and he makes a lot of decisions as to what things should be highlighted where, which then influences how we ultimately deliver the song.
What are some of your music influences?
BL: A big influence on this album is a guy in Switzerland named Nik Bärtsch, who writes minimalism rock, it repeats a lot and evolves very slowly in a textural meditative way. Similarly we were also super influenced by Kendrick Lamar, he’s one of our favorite artists. On his album To Pimp a Butterfly, there are so many amazing beats that we hadn’t really tried to integrate into our music yet, so we were really drawing from that too.
Do you have a creative team you work with for visuals and music videos?
BL: I went to highschool with Greg Bowen, and he’s done some of our album art and 4 of our music videos. Two from our previous record and two from Land Animal. Also a man in Japan, Riki Nitabaru, we’re doing an animation with him right now, and he did our album art for this record, and also a music video for the track Good Girl.
What are your plans as a band for the rest of the year?
CB: We’ll be on tour a lot. We’re on tour till mid June, and we’ll take a couple weeks writing for a new project, that will be debuted in the Spring. Then we’ll hop on the road again, through the end of the Summer.