Listen up, this is a robbery
What happened when the Kin hijacked this interview
It started off with a simple, casual question: “How has the tour been so far?”
And the interview was immediately co-opted. Isaac Koren of the Kin, an up-and-coming grit-pop trio based in New York, informed me that he would ask the questions from that moment on. And though he didn’t ask more than a handful, he really didn’t answer any questions, either. Instead, 40 minutes of unorthodox insanity ensued. There were laughs. Cringes. Nervous sweating.
Isaac and his brother Thorald, vocalists and multi-instrumentalists from Australia, playfully talked over each other. Shakerleg, the stickless drummer—we’ll get to that later—with a thick Brooklyn accent, opted to move around the tour van, in and out of phone range. They were driving through Texas, presumably exhausted from a spontaneous musical robbery of Starbucks at 1 a.m. the night prior. We’ll get to that later, too.
The overarching theme was chaos.
“When are we gonna grow up?”
“Never date a musician.”
“This is so unprofessional—I swear we’re better in person.”
“We have no musical influences,” Isaac said, which would have been appreciated, had there been a question about musical influences.
As the time passed and we tumbled deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole, the Kin’s steadfast silliness became more and more impressive. And it became more and more clear that the band will put on a memorable show at Assembly on Friday. The group is known for creative, high-energy live performances, and its Interscope Records debut, Get On It, is made up of five supercatchy, danceable synth-pop songs. They linked up with legendary producer Tony Visconti (best known for his extensive work with David Bowie) to release the EP this past fall, and it has already gone gold in New Zealand.
Here’s some background: The Koren brothers transplanted from Adelaide, Australia, to the Big Apple in 2001. The brothers provided two different reasons for the move, and who really knows which one is accurate.
Isaac: “We were fleeing the law, and our mom was fleeing, too. It was a family exodus.”
Thorald: “Our mom had a midlife crisis and decided to go back to theater, to go to Broadway … and we trickled behind.”
Regardless of the reason, they formed the Kin, first as an acoustic duo and then as a band with rotating members. They released a few albums independently, eventually met Shakerleg in a subway station and signed with Interscope in 2011. Quickly, the Kin tread toward the cusp of stardom, scoring an opening spot on Pink’s international tour as well as a live performance on Conan O’Brien’s TBS talk show Conan.
“It’s something less PG-13 every year,” Thorald said. “There’s more swearing, more drums without sticks, more bleeding hands.”
Indeed, the brothers met Shakerleg and his wild, stickless style in the New York City underground, where the drummer spent 10 years playing for pennies. Now his hands are constantly throbbing, swollen, bandaged and, as he put it, “actually upset.”
“I was not as good at playing with sticks as I wanted to be,” Shakerleg said. “I thought if I wanted to make a living in the subway stations, if I wanted to get people to stop and pay attention, I had to do something different.”
Currently the band is headlining a two-month national tour. Later this year, it hopes to release its debut full-length with Interscope.
In the meantime, the Kin will continue filling up free time with its notorious, previously mentioned “musical robberies.”
Essentially, the band runs into an unsuspecting place—a restaurant, a college lecture hall, a radio station, a police station in Indiana—with their arms in the air. “This is a musical robbery,” they announce, before proceeding into song, or before getting kicked out.
“Sometimes you see a place that just needs a good robbing,” Isaac continued. “You see a place, it’s quiet, and you go back in blazing. People are scared, excited and upset all at the same time.”
Usually, the robberies are spontaneous ventures of the heart. But if the Kin was to prepare a musical heist, its target may or may not be the Capitol.