This Is The Kit: ‘I write about the world, but through my eyes and my particular prism’
Over the course of five albums Kate Stables, aka This Is The Kit, has plotted an idiosyncratic, but utterly charming path through folk, indie and jazz. Shire Folk caught up with Kate just after the release of her latest critically acclaimed album, Moonshine Freeze, and just after her superb set at Folk by the Oak, to talk bugs, rummaging and being out of the loop.
SF: You’re at a folk music festival. How do you feel about that?
TK: I’m definitely up for it! I think it’s possibly other people who’ve decided to call what I do ‘folk’ more than me. I’m not against it because I feel like there’s a folky element to my writing and performing and what instruments I play, but I do worry that sometimes it could be infringing on some sort of trades description.
SF: We always say folk is very broad church.
TK: It’s true. I feel like it’s people sharing music and storytelling in a way. Even if there’s no words, even if it’s instrumental, I feel like there’s an exchange between people. That’s kind of folk music – for me anyway.
SF: I thought that was a fantastic set. How was it for you?
TK: It was good. It’s our first festival of the festival season – outdoors and everything – so it was a reminder there’s a bit of speedy set-up, and how impressive it is seeing a whole field full of people. It’s really nice, but it felt a bit like sort of being reminded how to ride a bike. It was great!
SF: I haven’t had chance to listen to website Moonshine Freeze yet, but Bashed Out has been barely off my turntable – it’s a fantastic album. One of the things I wondered about was that you don’t appear to have a conventional approach to writing a song. How do you approach them?
TK: Someone recently described it as a collage and I think they hit the nail on the head a little bit. I write lots, pretty much all the time, and so I’ve got lots of notebooks around and bits and pieces. When I get time to myself and I can sit down and write write I see what I can do, match things up and connect the dots as it were. So it’s a bit collage-y, a bit jigsaw puzzle-y, and a bit scavenge-y. I’m a rummager, so I think that’s why I write songs as well.
SF: There seems to be a jazz element in there in the sense that it doesn’t follow the linear structure you might expect.
TK: Yes it’s true. I think Moonshine Freeze might be the first album where I’ve got noticeable choruses. It’s definitely not on every song, but it is on a couple! Some people say ‘it hasn’t got any choruses’ and I realise it’s nice to have a framework to be stuck to, but for me music isn’t about that.
SF: I’m a fan of the off-kilter myself.
TK: Yes exactly, I like a bit of off-kilter as well. The things that I like to listen to and the things that I like to play are in the music, so it’s a question of me hoping other people like it too.
SF: You live in Paris now?
TK: Yes, I grew up in Winchester, then I lived in Bristol for a bit, and for the past twelve years I’ve been in Paris.
SF: Do you think that influences the music at all, being out of the mainstream?
TK: It must do, but it’s really hard to know how. Also, I am in the UK a lot as that’s where our gigs have been. At the same time it’s true that the band members that are UK based are really up to speed with all the bands around at the moment and I don’t know anything or anyone, but I’ve seen quite a few Parisian bands! So yeah there’s a certain amount of being out of the loop. Just gigging, touring and meeting people is what I like, so I feel lucky that I get to meet a lot of people.
SF: It’s great that you have Rozi Plain in your band. I love her solo stuff. Have you known her long?
TK: Yes she’s a total gem. Me and Rozi are both from Winchester. When I started secondary school I went to the after-school juggling club and I made friends with someone called Sam. He’s been one of my best friends ever since, and his younger sister is Rozi. So we met that way.
SF: One thing I’ve noticed is that there are a lot of natural elements in your songwriting – bugs, seeds, insects, spores. Is that just chance?
TK: It’s definitely not conscious. I’m not thinking ‘ok what natural thing can I get into this song’. It’s just part of me in the same way that it’s part of a lot of people, I think. We’re humans. We live on this planet and this planet has bugs and spores, the wind, water, so they all play a big part in our lives. As a songwriter they’re bound to go in and come out again. It’s just the world, but through my eyes and my particular prism.
The latest album by This Is The Kit, Moonshine Freeze, is out now on Rough Trade Records.