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k.d. lang's incredible voice will fill the airwaves when we broadcast an intimate session with the Canadian chanteuse and her new band, the Siss Boom Bang, recorded in front of a live audience at Apogee's Berkeley St. Studios. Hear gems off her new album as well as a revealing interview with host Anne Litt. Join us at 11:15am on Morning Becomes Eclectic.
Banner image: Bryony Shearmur
Anne Litt: Everybody, k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang!
AL: I have my tequila.
k.d. lang: You do? Oh, jealous!
AL: Thank you for that. You've really livened up the KCRW function.
kdl: With tequila?
AL: Yes, usually it's warm white wine. That's how we roll.
kdl: Ha! Gary, just turn the monitors off, I think. It sounds like it's giving feedback.
AL: So, hi everybody, welcome! Welcome, I am so excited to meet you after all these years.
kdl: I Know, it's true. I listen to you religiously. I am sure everyone here does.
AL: So, I want to talk about the record. To me, this record kind of circles back to the early records I heard with you with The Reclines that sort of introduced me to you and who you are and what you did. So, will you just paint a picture for us about how this record evolved? Like why this record, why now?
kdl: Yeah.. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I know that when we were on the Watershed tour, at sound check, I was playing guitar, singing some Gillian Welsh and I was feeling this thing coming out of me. And I was manifesting this guitar player who wrote lyrics that were more of a rock thing. So, through a mutual friend, Gordon Reddy, who was working for me and worked for Guster, said… Hey Joe, you got to do it.
Band mate Joe imitating Gordon: (Canadian accent) Hey, you know, you should meet my friend Joe.
kdl: Yeah, he's Canadian. Not Joe, Gordie. Gordie's Canadian. Sounds just like that and so I did. I met Joe backstage at the Ryman Auditiorium.
AL: Just on that tour.
kdl: Yeah, on that tour, right. And I felt something. I like the way he dressed. I loved his smile. I felt something. So then, after I finished with the Watershed Tour I emailed him. I said, send me some stuff. I listened to it. I loved it. I booked a middle seat on Southwest and flew to Nashville.
AL: That's very spontaneous, right?
kdl: I know, my girlfriend was like, you're what? And I went, yeah. And she said, "I think it's great that you're following your instincts." So, I went down and we wrote "Water's Edge" and "Perfect Word" the first day.
AL: Really, just from getting together? And you know, basically, I don't know how well you guys know the record yet, but you sort of played side one, right?
kdl: Yeah, side one.
AL: So, you went down there. Were all these guys there?
kdl: Well, Daniel Clark over there, and Josh…you're not Josh…(laughter) Josh has left the building.. Yeah, he probably is at the tequila, probably showing some girl how to open a beer with his belt buckle, (laughter) that's probably what's happening (Piano is played) Yeah something like that, "Siss Boom Bang" is what happens.
AL: Siss Boom Bang, tell me about that name, I wanna hear this.
kdl: Ok, so Josh and Daniel were in the Watershed tour and Joe brought Lex in to this session and Daniel suggested we bring Freddie Eltringham in. (Lex Price, the bass player).
The second everyone walked into the room, which happened to be July 4th weekend, it felt like fireworks. It was palpable, the energy was so high, everyone fell immediately in love with each other. There was respect, there was communication, there was joy and there such enthusiasm for making music. And THIS music. We didn't even talk about it, everybody just gravitated towards the instruments that they wanted to play and in three days, eight songs were recorded.
AL: That's amazing, and I have to say, when I walked in tonight, I walked in the middle of your sound check, and I was in the control room and I looked out and all of you (what six of you, five of you?) were smiling. I've never seen such happy people (laughter) it was like Prozac nation
kdl: It was because tequila is on the rider as well. (laughter)
AL: Yeah maybe so, but it just seems like you guys are having a blast and I hear that in the record. I hear joy, I hear excitement and magic.
kdl: Yeah, I mean Joe and I sat down in the beginning of the album and actually verbalized the intentionality of it. We wanted to make an unpretentious, joyful record that made people feel good. That translated to the band as well.
So anyway, Siss Boom Bang. I gave the record to my best friend to listen to, which I always do and she phoned me a few days later and said "its starts off as a KD Lang record, it's really beautiful you know, then Siss Boom Bang the band kicks in" and after like 60 days of not sleeping trying to think of a band name and looking up every word ever devised in the English language on the internet for band names -- they're all gone --(laughter) Siss Boom Bang, I went, "there it is."
AL: It's perfect and it captures the spirit of what you guys are doing here. So tell me about the writing process a little bit. It seems like this was super collaborative, lots of co-writers, is this the way you do it now? How do you usually work in songwriting?
kdl: Prior to this record, I usually write the music with somebody, like a collaborator, and then I stew and have this huge arduous dialog between me and my editor for like months and months and I end up gaining a ton of weight and smoking too much pot.
AL: I like that, that works, it's whatever works right?
kdl: But, it didn't happen this time.
Daniel: (What didn't happen?)
kdl: The arduous dialog.
So, here this is for you. (Hands Anne Litt a gift.) So, anyway, we just wrote the lyrics at the same time and it was highly collaborative – it's not any autobiographical music really. I mean, obviously it stems from our experiences but, we just allowed each other just to go and it wasn't working, "No, let's try something else," and it was non-judgmental. It wasn't heavy, there was no prohibitive thinking or intellect or anything. It was just, "Let's finish this song."
AL: Tell one story – I heard a story about how you wrote the song "Sugar Buzz," which I'm hoping you'll get to tonight. And I really loved what I heard but I want you to tell it – will you tell how that song came about?
kdl: Sure! Yeah, yeah. So, I wanted to write a song, "Sugar Buzz" for some reason and I texted Joe and I said, "I really want to write a song called Sugar Buzz," and he was like, "I don't get it."
Joe: (At First.)
kdl: At first – but then…
So we started texting each other lyrics ideas. He wasn't into it but then he went, "Well, I'll try some lyrics anyway." So we texted and nothing became of it. So I flew down to Nashville again and we were working on this thing I'd been working on, on guitar, and we came up with a form and we went, "Wow that's really great, now what on earth are we going to write it about?" And I went, "Wait a minute!" And I pulled my iPhone out and I pulled up the texts and I literally sang the texts in order and it was the song.
AL: Ok, that's what I heard but I didn't actually believe that that was possible.
kdl: No it's true! It's totally true.
AL: Really, do you still have the texts?
kdl: Yeah, I do.
AL: Perhaps if you forget the words…
kdl: Yeah, right! I'll just pull up my iPhone…
AL: That'll be your teleprompter. But that's amazing. I think that speaks to how organic the process was for you guys.
kdl: Yeah, and something I never really get to get around to talking about is Josh and Daniel wrote three songs with me: "I Confess," "Habit of Mind," and "Sorrow Nevermore." (laughing) Thanks Josh…
(Daniel plays piano riff as Josh stands up and opens a beer with his belt buckle. Audience laughter.)
AL: And there's a cover on the album that…
kdl: See what it's like? See?
AL: I know I want to go – I want to join the band. I wish I had a talent.
kdl: That's easy. We can do that.
AL: It's really nice. And there's a Talking Heads cover on the record which – any comment?
kdl: Yeah. I actually have wanted to do "Heaven" as a country song for a few years. I always heard it as a country song and, being a Buddhist, I always love the idea that Heaven is a place where nothing happens. Because Buddhists, you know, I've come to realize that Buddhists actually focus on the glass half empty – I mean – in a good way.
AL: I like that. Well, maybe you'll sing it…
kdl: We will. I have it written in because I heard that you wanted us to sing it.
AL: I did – I geeked out last week and I sent a list of songs I was hoping they would play tonight.
kdl: No, but I will do anything for you because the very, very first time I ever heard one of the Siss Boom Bang songs on the radio, I was in Australia and I turned on my iPod and my KCRW app…
AL: We paid her for this…we paid her a lot of money for this…
kdl: …and Anne was on and she played "Habit of Mind" and oooooooooh, what a high! It was so high! And it was the day the record came out in Australia and I thought, "Oh, this is auspicious."
AL: Well, that was the song that captured me when I first heard the record. Tony Bennett has called you the greatest singer of our generation.
kdl: Just…just this generation?
AL: I'm guessing he's exempting you from his generation.
kdl: I'm kidding. No, people say that to me. I don't know how to respond to that…
AL: Well, no you don't have to respond to that but I'm just sort of setting the stage, which is that, I actually went on Twitter earlier this week and I said, "Hey I have this opportunity to talk to k.d. lang this week and what would you want to know?" And a lot of people actually responded to me with one of the things I was wondering too – when you're singing you don't have an earpiece in, how – I mean, you're pitch perfect – how do you do that? Do you train every day? Do you practice every day?
kdl: I'm not pitch perfect because I remember a horrible mistake I made earlier tonight…
AL: Well, I don't think anybody in here noticed. But do you practice every day? What do you do? How does this work?
kdl: No, you know, I think it's more – and I'm not pitch perfect by the way – but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I was the youngest of four kids that studied classical piano. So like for hours and hours, literally hours and hours, for probably sixteen years, seventeen years, every day after school I heard Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, (name here I don't know), over and over and over and over for so long every day for so many years. Except me and then Sister Xavier told me to quit and try singing.
AL: Those nuns…
kdl: You gotta listen to those sisters…
AL: Those nuns are hardcore…I like that. OK, so tour! I know you've been to Australia and Canada and so forth as the record starts. You're about to embark – I know you're going to Stage Coach – I don't know if anybody out here is going to Stage Coach this weekend – but you're closing down Stage Coach.
kdl: We're going to go right into the fire immediately…
AL: I love it! So are you excited about the tour? Belle Brigade is out with you and we're giant fans of theirs…
kdl: Yeah, Belle Brigade – Secret Sisters are going to be…
AL: Oh – Love them!
kdl: Teddy Thompson who we love, love, love…
AL: Oh love him – love…
AL: Is this music you're listening to now? I mean what excites you?
kdl: Well, I listen to KCRW…
kdl: Alright so…so yes! We're working on Jessica Lea Mayfield too so hopefully...
AL: She's adorable…
kdl: She's awesome!
AL: She was great! She was on KCRW this morning…
kdl: I heard it!
AL: Alright I just want to ask you, actually just two more things and then I'll let you guys play some more music because I know that's why everybody here is here.
kdl: No, they're here for the tequila. (Laughter) It's free. isn't it?
AL: But I think you and I – I think we must live in the same neighborhood because over the years I see you all the time and I've never actually come up and said hi to you. My husband religiously goes to the Ivar Farmers Market on Sundays.
kdl: Oh yeah.
AL: And he'll come back and say, "I saw k.d. lang this week!" What do you love to do in Los Angeles? I know you're about to be on tour for the next stretch but what's your thing?
kdl: Farmers Markets.
AL: Do you cook? Are you a chef?
kdl: Yeah – No, I'm not a chef, but I'm a cook. I love to cook.
AL: Could we get you on the cooking show?
AL: Memo to Jen Ferro. Evan Kleiman's next guest…
kdl: And you know – the LA River along the 134 there's – right at Victory – there's a, like a little – I don't know what it is – it's like a little reservoir that's got lots of growth. There's so many great birds there. And you have to know which tunnel to get to and to get under it and get there but -- oh man, there's such great birds. And there's – I don't know – I just love the juxtaposition of this beautiful sort of habitat beside the freeway, under the power lines. I don't know, it's beautiful.
AL: Well, thank you for coming. I am so excited that you're here and I'm so honored that I was the one chosen to speak to you tonight.
kdl: You're the one!
kdl: We love Anne Litt!
AL: The last thing I want you to mention because, I think, this is a song you are about to play, is when I was listening to the record-- I listened to it a bunch then, last week, I heard the lyrics "Sing it loud" so everyone knows who you are." Am I saying the lyric right?
KD: Ya, ya.
AL: And then I really started listening to that song. It moved me. It has moved several other people that I have spoken to. I just wanted to know if there is a story about that song before you go back to playing.
KD: There is. Joseph, come up here. Joe wrote this song.
Joe: Hi there
KD: I don't know why you sent it to me. I think secretly you knew what was going to go on. Yeah, you sent it to me.
Joe: I was, like, check this out. I wrote it for my niece.
KD: He wrote it for his niece.
AL: It was an anthem that stuck with me. It spoke to me.
KD: When I heard it, I immediately -- I know he wrote it for his niece and the beautiful attentions behind that -- but when I heard it I just heard this song that was, to me, it's kind of a beautiful plaintive anthem for the individual. It's for anyone, for your mom, for your dog, for your kid, for anyone. It's just, you know what-- live life, go team go, ya, sing it loud. Thanks Joe for this song.
AL: Thank you. Joe Pisapia, Musical Director
KD. You are a riveting interview by the way.
AL: So thank you for that. Right now everybody, we got Set Two of k.d. and Siss Boom Bang.