Brooklyn-based Kodacrome is made up of Elissa (vocals/synth) + Ryan (synth/electronics) and, together, the pair craft melody-driven electronic-based music that veers toward the pulsing atmospheric. Their 2012 EP, Perla, was good, but their brand new, just-released track “Strike the Gold” is superb and has us excited for what’s to come from the band.
We sat down with Elissa + Ryan over the holiday weekend—and by “sat down”, I mean “emailed with”—to find out what else is the horizon for the duo, why not every electronic band needs to sound like a rave, and why otters should be able to play chess. It’d just be a useful skill for them, okay?
raven + crow: Alright, lame start to the interview, but how would you describe Kodacrome to anyone who hasn’t heard you all?
Elissa: Not lame! I guess dark synth-driven pop.
Oh, I always feel bad asking bands to describe themselves. It’s akin to being asked to describe your strengths + weaknesses in a job interview. “Kodacrome just works too hard some days….” Where does the band name come from, by the way, and what’s with the anti-Kodak/-Paul-Simon spelling?
Elissa: We chose the name for its percussive qualities. We just loved the sound of the word—it’s so crisp and defined. I wasn’t exposed to any of the classic American singer-songwriters growing up, and I never heard the Paul Simon song. But now everyone likes to play it for us!
Ryan: it just sounds and looks good. I’ve shot on Super8mm Kodachrome film and liked the reference, although neither of us actually considered the Paul Simon song at time. Hopefully Google search figures it out soon.
Oh, I have every faith in Google’s algorithms and their commutative might. I read that you relocated to Brooklyn from San Francisco to pursue the band more seriously, Elissa. That seems like quite a leap. Was that a difficult decision to make?
Elissa: Ryan made it easy for me, because he never wastes time questioning the nature of his career path. I guess I had some moments of trepidation, since I was leaving a kind of golden-handcuff job at the time, but I’m so glad to be done making that choice and having that conversation.
Forunte favors the bold, right‽ And how are you liking Brooklyn so far? I know we don’t have the crazy hills + lovely weather, but it ain’t bad digs.
Elissa: Oh, it’s great! I truly love the grit and the non-relaxed nature of it.
We pride ourselves on our dirty edginess. Did you all find it difficult to collaborate creatively long-distance before the move?
Elissa: No, it was pretty easy! We actually use the same workflow now—taking turns and giving each other space. The only time it’s tough to work remotely is when Ryan’s touring with other bands, because then he just doesn’t have all the tools or the wifi at his disposal.
Ryan: Yeah, working long distance went very well. At times things moved a bit slowly, especially when it came to finishing tracks and polishing mixes, but creatively it was smooth. We are both pretty tech savvy with sharing projects and file transfers and such.
What do you two do in your non-music-making lives?
Elissa: I mostly DJ for bread and butter. And I do the occasional freelance writing job. Between that and Kodacrome, I’ve got my hands tied. I guess I like to try to cook when I can. It takes some sensory pressure off of my ears.
Ryan: My ears don’t get much of a break. I produce and mix for other bands in NY, and I’m on the road a lot as a front of house engineer, often mixing 7 shows a week. I’m happy when I’m working on music though, in any capacity. I also work as a freelance set designer and graphic designer whenever I can fit it in. We are both super-busy.
You’re telling me. So, your new track, “Strike the Gold”, is awesome. I assume there’s some more new music in the works for the coming LP. How do you think it differs from the songs that make up your 2012 10″ EP, Perla?
Elissa: In this batch, I haven’t been forcing myself to stick to as many traditional song structures as before, which is really freeing. I’m making it a point to give Ryan a lot of space to express himself from a production standpoint.
Ryan: Oh boy, that sounds like a lot of pressure on me doesn’t it? It’s true though, this record has less traditional song structure. I think on Perla we wanted to showcase our diversity and on this record we’re honing in on a more consistent sound and texture.
Well, for what it’s worth, I’m excited to hear more new tracks. The independent electronic music scene is such a crowded field. It’s one of our absolute favorite musical genres but, at the same time, there can be a lot of creative overlap in it too. Have you made any deliberate moves to stand out among the crowd…or is it all more organic than that for you all?
Elissa: The standards we set for ourselves are pretty insular, and I think that’s ultimately going to be enough…at least I hope so, because we’re pretty hard on ourselves! The density of the scene here comes more into play because of the sheer ambition we are exposed to on a daily basis. It’s so refreshing to be around motivated creative people who believe in themselves!
Ryan: We definitely let things happen naturally. If anything, what sets us apart is that we don’t pay much attention to what everything else sounds like. Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy much of the electronic music coming out right now because I do!
Well-put, both of you. We’ve found that another pitfall of electronically based pop can be a less deep live show, especially if everything’s keyboard-/computer-/sequencer-sourced or doesn’t employ any live drums. Do you all build the band out at all for live shows?
Elissa: We have in the past, and we’d like to do it more eventually. We’ve pretty much phased out the laptop all together, which makes the set a lot more athletic for us to execute. I don’t know if anyone can tell. But we’re definitely really busy up there!
Ryan: That’s always a tough battle but—and bear with me here—I think it comes down to dynamics and expectations. When an electronic band is playing a set, does that always have to equate to a loud dance party? Can an electronic pop act like us play dynamic music with slow builds and soft ambience on a drum machine? Brian Eno can do it, right? What interests me is how this kind of music can potentially transfer to a listening room or a theatre. I’d hate to resort to spectacle—I believe our music can ultimately stand on its own. I hope that’s not lofty or pretentious.
No, no—totally makes sense. And very good point on expectations. I think my main gripe with some live electronic acts is getting the feeling that I’m just watching karaoke over original material, but it sounds like you all have the dynamics of the live experience down. Alright on to more serious matters—quick fire time: Favorite bar in Brooklyn?
Band you can’t stop listening to lately?
Ryan: Atoms For Peace.
I think I’ve heard of that little indie band. Best thing about NYC in the summer?
Elissa: Back patios at 8PM.
Ryan: Garbage-melting, sticky, blazing heat.
Amen to that, brother. Spirit animal?
Ryan: A ram.
Elissa: Yes. I was attacked by a ram back in the day when we lived in the trees. They’re way more powerful than they look!
Ryan: Also, an otter that can play chess and ride a bicycle.
Wait, simultaneously? That otter would definitely need his own YouTube channel.
Listen to Kodacrome’s new song, “Strike the Gold”, below. And be sure to catch them Wednesday night as they open for Clementine + The Galaxy and Vandana Jain at the Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory.
You can visit Kodacrome’s site to listen to + purchase their previous EP, Perla. Join their mailing list and get a free track from the EP.