Following on from their hugely successful UK tour, California orchestral rock specialists Kan Wakan are set to release their highly anticipated album Moving On this August.
It’s been a career defining summer for the Silverlake natives. With tour dates and live performances receiving rave reviews, the album’s release looks set to be the icing on the band’s proverbial and multilayered cake.
With a sound described as epic no less, and a vocal which draws comparison to that of Adele and the late, great Amy Winehouse, Kan Wakan have all the tools necessary to turn an exciting ambition into a rather splendid finished article.
Formed in 2012, the brainchild of Bulgarian composer and multi-instrumentalist Gueorgui l. Linev, Kan Wakan have gone from strength to strength, building momentum and quite a following along the way. The group’s live performance suits a multitude of venues ranging from the intimate to the cavernous with their distinctive sound translating beautifully.
Driven by a wonderful blend of orchestral power and dreamy tones entwined with Kristianne Batista’s almost anthemic vocal, the album may yet prove to be one of the pivotal sounds of this summer.
We caught up with the California jet-setters to discuss their recent UK tour and of course the superb Moving On.
Here’s our Kan Wakan interview in full:
LADIM- Firstly, congratulations on the new album. Just how satisfying is it for you to have reached this point in such a relatively short space of time?
KW- Thank you! Honestly, for us it felt like ages. It’s been almost a year now since we finished recording the album and there is a great sense of relief to see it go out into the world.
LADIM- We found the album hugely captivating and immensely thought provoking, yet at the same time wonderfully catchy and uplifting. Is this a blend which you specifically work towards, or would you say it’s simply a matter of writing what comes naturally?
KW- I’m really glad you enjoyed it! It’s more of a natural progression I’d say. Striking an appropriate balance between the two is more of an intuitive process where there’s a rudimentary approach to shaping the sounds and mood of the music, and an emphasis on building threads with layered instrumentation and textures. Eventually it may lead to a cohesive idea that is more cerebral, and other times more direct. A lot of times it will start off with a simple concept that develops viscerally before other elements are added. I’m not sure if we’re doing it all backwards, but it feels alright to us!
LADIM- I read somewhere that you were described as the new Radiohead, and it’s a comparison which has perhaps gathered a certain momentum. How does such a huge comparison sit with you guys?
KW- I really hope not.. There are many examples of left of center, visionary artists that have managed to influence the progression of popular music, and Radiohead is undeniably at the top of the list today. OK Computer was the second CD teenage me ever owned, next to Lenny Kravitz (thank you NOW music 1998), and there is definitely an early influence there and a level of admiration for the band. But I find that it’s a very common and convenient reference, often used with good intention to place up and coming alternative acts in the same category to establish an air of familiarity with the musos… But it doesn’t ever add up. There is only one Radiohead, just like there was one Pink Floyd, Beatles etc, and the comparisons never really live up to the hype.
LADIM- You guys were just in the UK. How do you find your music translates to audiences on this side of the pond? Do you find a difference in audience energy?
KW- There was some intimate shows and a couple of festival performances at the Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City which were very exciting and fun for us. We also played in a house in York for a local House Concerts series which was very special. I think people really enjoyed it, and as we went through our set more people came in to watch us and it was overall a really positive response for our first time being overseas. I think anytime you see an unfamiliar act at a small club there is an air of skepticism and people stand back 20 feet from the stage, which can sometimes create an uncomfortable divide. But we were lucky enough that people were so responsive early on and there was a sense of real connection with the audience. Our first concert at a church was in Brighton and that was an evening to remember! We hope to do that again and we really look forward to coming back to the UK soon, we love it here!
LADIM- We touched upon that Radiohead comparison, but is there anyone you’d liken yourself to or take inspiration from vocally?
KW- I’d say there’s possibly a bit of Bill Withers, Nina Simone and some Beth Gibbons influence. Kristianne has a very eclectic playlist ranging anywhere from Bad Brains to K-pop, and there is a varied mix of influences throughout.
LADIM- As the album flows it explores a huge range of tones and moods- it’s hugely atmospheric throughout. Do you think this is born in the studio, or is it the result of your writing process?
KW- Conceptually it came together before the actual studio recordings, step by step during the writing, demo and pre-production process. The recording sessions were more or less magnifying what was already in place and elaborating the fine details and nuances of the moods and tones. We were also really nervous at first to work with our favourite engineer Darrell Thorpe and wanted to make sure we had our end of it together before we got into the studio with him. He also played a major role in helping us see our vision through, as he has the experience and knowledge to make anything possible in a studio environment. Our mix engineer Tom Elmhirst was also extremely instrumental in making sense of it all as we had hundreds of layered sounds per track, with all the strings and various instrumentation in place. He really was able to tie it all together and bring out the emotion of the music and vocal in a very concise yet tortuous way.
LADIM- When we think of Kan Wakan it conjures thoughts of that warm, smooth vocal, really vibey basslines and awesome strings. Such a rich blend can be difficult to label, perhaps orchestral rock is a suitable term? How would you describe your music?
KW- We’ve definitely gotten that one before. I believe the “orchestral rock” definition will be further skewed when people really get a chance to hear the full album. Sometimes adding a string arrangement to a song is enough to label a piece of music as orchestral, and in our case there is a lot more going on throughout the album that we’d want people to discover. We’ve also gotten “cinematic”. For now I prefer to go with “Mid-century Prog-chestral Mod-funk”.
LADIM- Your sound is very distinctive, beautifully unique. What do you think is the key ingredient which sets Kan Wakan apart?
KW- We all strive to be different, whether that is the end result or not. And everyone wants to be a part of a community, but I think above all else we’re honest with ourselves and we really enjoy what we do. Hopefully that somehow resonates with the people listening.
LADIM- Finally, what does the future hold for Kan Wakan?
KW- This year we’ll be touring in support of the album. We hope to release some collaborations which we’re super excited about, and begin work on some new music as well. There is so much we want to do, and hopefully we’ll get to share it all with you soon.
Moving On, the debut album from Kan Wakan is released on August 11th through Virgin EMI. In the mean time, check out the video for the anthemic Like I Need You.