Kate Stables is quite serene for someone in the thick of a whirlwind trip to New York. The Winchester, UK–born, Paris-based musician, whose band This Is the Kit is touring in support of their new album, Moonshine Freeze, is sitting in the lobby of Manhattan's Ace Hotel. We're discussing their latest album, following the previous night's show at Brooklyn's Baby's All Right. Their rapid-fire stateside visit leads into their European tour, which features their biggest show to date, this September at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire.
The album, produced by frequent PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish, is spaciously arranged around Stables's intimate folk songwriting. On songs like "By My Demon Eye," she sounds utterly calm while singing "We are both not enough / and too much." I mention to Stables that the song could follow Lorde's "Liability" on a self-reckoning playlist. She pauses before saying, "For me, it's actually blaming someone else for a difficult situation, but it's funny cause quite often the opposite is true, or interpretable."
Stables says there's a light and dark link between the songs and the album's artwork, which is a pinhole photograph of herself she took in her Paris building's courtyard. She builds the cameras herself when she can steal away from her busy schedule of music and motherhood. When I ask how being a parent influenced the record, Stables says it shows up in the "sort of dull things, like time management. I don't have any time on my own anymore unless I really fight for it."The things that Stables does fight for, including singing in her own accent, show up throughout Moonshine Freeze and our illuminative conversation.
Thora Siemsen: How did growing up in Winchester influence your taste in music?
Kate Stables: I have to sort of pinpoint the things that did influence my taste. It would've been my parent's music collection, my big sister's music collection, and my friends. My parents listened to a lot of American and British folk music. Bob Dylan is what I can mainly remember. Some holidays in the South of France, [we were] listening to Paul Simon's Graceland album. My sisters were into Tracy Chapman, and for a while they were into Sting. I remember hearing that coming through their bedroom walls. By the time I was discerning [and] not just listening to whatever was on the Top 40 radio, I was really into the Beta Band and the Velvet Underground.
TS: You've been recording as This Is the Kit for over a decade. When did the band originally form?
KS: It started out just me, and slowly people joined in. People would come and go depending on where I was living or what town I was playing in. This most recent version of the band has been going for maybe four years. It's settled down to a hard-core three other members, and they're great. They're good friends and amazing musicians.
TS: Are there shifts you've noted in contemporary folk since you started recording as This Is the Kit?
KS: If I think about it, there probably have been, but I haven't been studying it. I've always felt uncomfortable with singing songs in someone else's accent, like an American accent, for example. A lot of European or English artists do feel comfortable doing that, but because I don't talk with an American accent, I feel like a clown if I sing an American accent. There was a time when everyone would automatically default to singing an American accent, and now people sing in their own voices a bit more.