Photos by Christopher Wozniak.
Kyle Avallone is one of those staples of the New York music scene. A sign you’re in the right place whether it’s because he’s performing or just part of the crowd. Although he is not old enough to be “old New York” he is reminiscent of an older New York. A stark contradiction to the scene at Botanica where Kyle and I met — the place packed wall to wall with the kind of obnoxious soul sucking imbeciles that have slithered their way out of Murray Hill. Moving across the street to a bar only slightly less miserable, the interview was done while to an onslaught of Britney Spears and other coma-inducing shit playing in the background (although bridging the gap between the expected and the bizarre the Ramones were playing upon arrival and the Smiths played as we exited).
In preparation of upcoming song releases as well as his performance at this month’s Cult Citizen, I spoke to Kyle to get an introduction into his lo-fi, moody and curated world. Read below and make sure you get to the show early to catch his performance!
Wanna walk us through your music career so far?
Most recently I played bass with Cut Worms for about a year. I basically just met him at his show and we hit it off, became friends, he was playing to his own tracks and he has an incredible voice. He’s kind of like a long lost Everly brother. His voice is amazing and the recordings are like a fucked up version of the Everly brothers — the Everly Brothers meet Ariel Pink. There’s something crooked about them because he plays everything himself. We got to do some pretty good shows and recently things were getting really busy for him and I wanted to do my thing.
Before that I played bass for Shilpa Ray, did some touring around the east coast with her. I’ve known her for eight or nine years, we’re old friends and she’s great and has always been a great encourager as for doing your own thing. When we met I had Rosy Street which was a country tinge band — primarily me and my tunes but also my partner Jon Catfish DeLorme who now plays with Psychic Ills and also played with Shilpa. Before that I did solo acoustic stuff, the singer songwriter thing.
With this new stuff I was basically just demoing new material, my computer had broke and my roommate had a half working four track in the living room. I started recording on that and realized that these recordings had a life of their own. To go do them with a band would be starting from scratch. They’d lose the identity they have so that’s when I really started this project.
Playing solo do you find that you’re overwhelmed by the available options?
Well the benefit of collaboration is that there’s a certain kind of magic that one person can’t do. A great band you can’t do that with one member. You couldn’t have “Search and Destroy” without both James Williamson and Iggy Pop.
Yeah to get “Sister Ray” you’ve gotta have John Cale clashing with Lou Reed
Exactly! You need that friction. So that is missing but what’s benefiting is that I think I had a stronger vision with a band, I just couldn’t hone it in with the players — I couldn’t get them to do what was in my head. When you work by yourself you can do exactly what you want to do. It’s almost like directing a film — you’ve got all these pieces and you can put them in however.
To me it was refreshing, it felt like I was allowing the circumstances of the band, the rehearsal space, the lack of availability to stop me from moving forward. The downside of working by myself is it just takes longer because we can’t just all stand in a room and play at the same time. I have to do it all and it takes longer to flush it out but it’s been fun!
How have you been recording your stuff?
I had my friend Vincent Cachionne mix them. He’s in a band called Caged Animals as well as Soft Black and he does regular work out of his apartment. I record everything on the four track, dump it into garage band, add a couple of things and then he mixes it. Both of my finished songs had been recorded a couple of times before that and then I go back and fix what needs to be better. Because it’s on a four track it’s inherently flawed. But I like it — I liked that middle space of orchestration but also something a little unpolished.
There’s a pretty big debate within the music industry about analogue vs. digital
Well, with analogue you’re trying to make it sound as good as you can, like I’m doing with the four track, and with digital you’re kind of backpedaling. You’re like oh we want it to sound warmer because tape actually has character to it. With a digital single you’re trying to make it sound more organic. I think it’s use what you have though.
What’s the least inspired you’ve felt so far?
For me or just for the whole thing? [laughs] I think in New York there is always that constant struggle — it’s so expensive and right now might be a more disheartening time. There’s so much less, venues are closing all the time and opening less frequently. I can’t tell if it’s because the music at these venues is less relevant or if the real estate market is so out of control — it’s really hard to tell. In Detroit is there really more going on? Is music flourishing?
When I first moved here people just had loft shows where they lived. It didn’t really matter they were just like okay we’re having a show at our house and now no one I know even lives in a loft anymore. 10, 20, 30 years ago there was a neighborhood where it was arguably affordable to live in as an artist or a musician and do your thing. Now there’s very little of that anywhere of that in the five boroughs.
There are certain neighborhoods and streets in New York that are just empty shops and shop windows now. No one can, or even wants to pay that type of rent.
A Starbucks or a Mac store is all that can afford the rent, a mom and pop cant pay that rent. I think it’s probably a combination of both. The real estate market and whatever, the rock pop song kind of world is just less relevant as far as young people go. It’s weird — people talk about the more classic music of the 20th century than they do the current artists those realms. They still sell Led Zeppelin t-shirts at JC Penny because they can, they can reissue Bob Dylan records every two years and for a 40th and 50th anniversary and that stuff does better than the new stuff.
What’s in store for the Cult Citizen show?
I’m looking forward to it, playing live is what it’s all about. I would say now especially that I’m recording by myself the whole time the performance is really the only collaborative effort so I really look forward to it. It’s been exciting. Now that I really play on my own I don’t know whats going to happen at each show. I get to interpret the situation because I’m really just moving at my own pace.
Lastly, how would you describe your sound as an experience?
A man walking down a dark alleyway in a long trench coat, he sees a small red light outside a door, he walks in and the door shuts.