Formed in 2016, London-based band KYOTI are an alternative pop trio who embarked on the ambitious ‘Project Twelve’ putting out a song each month of the year. Not only that but earlier this year they released their EP ‘Restart the World.’ With their synths and beats and meaningful lyrics, they’ve grown a lot since they first started. We had a chat with lead vocalist Ed Burgon about their sound and style, how to stay motivated and what the rest of 2019 has in store for them…
YOU ORIGINATE FROM NEWCASTLE, BUT ARE NOW BASED IN LONDON, DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS THE BEST LOCATION FOR YOUR MUSIC TO THRIVE? WHY IS THAT?
We met in Newcastle and our sound and attitude to making music is definitely influenced from our time there. We loved being part of a smaller scene up there where everyone knew each other, but the great thing about London is the huge diversity of musicians and venues. There’s always fresh surprises and new places to play or new people to play with. But London could learn a lot from some of the smaller cities’ attitude towards building musical communities.
APART FROM OTHER MUSICAL INSPIRATIONS, WHAT ELSE INFLUENCES YOUR SOUND AND STYLE?
We’re all big fans of theatre and film which definitely influences our approach. A lot of our songs have an epic cinematic feel and we incorporate video and projections in to our live show which gives them a really dramatic theatrical element.
WHERE DOES YOUR INSPIRATION FOR LYRICS COME FROM?
My main influence has always been the singer-songwriters of the 60s and 70s: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, etc. But when I discovered hip hop as a teenager that really changed up my thinking when it came to lyrics and I started experimenting with more complicated ways of writing. There’s nothing I love more than a clever rhyme, or a turn of phrase that perfectly sums up an idea or makes you think about something in a new light. While I used to write a lot about personal issues, such as my battles with mental health, increasingly I’ve been writing about political and social issues, such as rising nationalism and over-reliance on technology.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR KYOTI SO FAR?
As is the case with a lot of musicians nowadays, self-releasing has been the biggest challenge. We want nothing more to show the world our music but having to do so on a budget with no support from major companies can be hugely taxing. When you release a song and it gets a good response though, it makes it all worth it.
A LOT OF THE TIME LIFE CAN GET IN THE WAY, HOW DO YOU GUYS GET THROUGH TOUGH TIMES AND STAY MOTIVATED?
As we’ve grown up time does seem to be harder to come by, and finding time for the band has to be much more scheduled nowadays than it used to be. Doing something like Project Twelve has really made us spend more time on the band and always gives us something new to look forward to. You find that working on one track for months and months and then releasing it can give you a kind of postpartum malaise, but with Project Twelve that’s not an issue because the next track is only four weeks away!
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE GROWN A LOT, NOT ONLY AS A BAND BUT AS MUSICIANS, SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR JOURNEY?
We’ve definitely grown a lot. Much of KYOTI’s journey has been about finding our sound together. We come from such different musical backgrounds that finding common ground that we all enjoy making has been a process, but as we’ve worked together we’ve all developed a respect for each other’s styles and what each brings to the table. It’s a careful balancing act but that’s what gives KYOTI its distinct style.
SO LET’S TALK PROJECT TWELVE, IT MUST BE HARD AT TIMES TO BE ABLE TO PUT OUT A COMPLETELY NEW TRACK EACH MONTH, HOW IS THAT GOING FOR YOU?
It’s great. Terrifying, but great! A lot of the tracks we’re releasing have been part of our live set for a year or more, so to get them out is wonderfully freeing and it’s great to spend time honing them and getting them right. Obviously, we’ve got new stuff as well. Our December track is a brand new one which we wrote in a couple of sessions and managed to get together in just over a month. Working that quickly means you don’t have time to second guess; I’m definitely an over thinker sometimes so it’s a blessing in disguise in a lot of ways.
HOW COME YOU CHOSE TO DO A TRACK EACH MONTH, RATHER THAN JUST RELEASING AN EP?
Releasing in this way is something we’ve always wanted to try but didn’t feel like we had enough experience before. We felt this was the perfect time because of the way everyone consumes music nowadays – track by track, instead of as albums. We’ve always written in a really broad range of styles but this just wasn’t coming across online because of the way we were releasing. Coming up on Project Twelve we have some pretty crazy instrumental tracks as well as slower, more soulful singer-songwriter style tracks, alongside the electro/synth pop sound we’ve already released. Project Twelve has freed us from those constraints so now people are getting to see the whole spectrum of what KYOTI encapsulates.
WITH THE TRACKS YOU’VE RELEASED SO FAR FOR PROJECT TWELVE BEING ‘EARLY DAYS’ AND ‘BOUND’ WHAT HAS THE RECEPTION BEEN LIKE FOR THESE?
We’ve been really pleased with our fans reception of the tracks, a lot of whom know the tracks from our live shows, and we’ve had a some nice write ups from blogs. The best thing was having ‘Bound’ played on BBC Introducing North East which was a great validation of the track from our spiritual home!
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT SINCE FORMING IN 2016?
Releasing “Restart the World” earlier this year with Seahorse Music was a great experience and we really enjoyed working with label runner Sarah Howells, of Bryde fame. Then getting it picked up by Kitsuné Musique, which is a label that we’ve loved for years, was incredible and a kind of “pinch yourself” moment.
But having a whole crowd sing along to “Restart the World” at a sold out single launch was a real highlight. It may sound cheesy, but the best moments are when people come up to you after a show and say “that gig was amazing!” or “that song spoke to me”. Working with cool indie labels and getting played on the radio is fantastic, but nothing beats affecting people in a room directly.
YOU GO BY THE GENRE OF ‘ALTERNATIVE POP’ OBVIOUSLY THERE’S AN EVER GROWING AMOUNT OF TALENT BASED ON THAT SPECIFIC SOUND, WHAT MAKES KYOTI STAND OUT FROM THE REST?
We’ve always struggled with giving ourselves a genre: alt pop, synth pop, art pop, etc. We don’t really think in that way. It’s more about what sounds cool and what works for the song. But KYOTI stands out because we’re focussed on taking you on a journey and we want our songs to give you something new every time you listen to them.
WHAT ELSE CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE BAND THROUGHOUT THE REST OF 2019 AND MOVING INTO 2020?
More from Project Twelve! Our December track has a festive theme – it’s our pass at writing a Christmas song! – and we’re selling it and giving all Bandcamp proceeds to The Samaritans. Christmas can be a really tough time for people in need and The Samaritans helped me out this time last year so we wanted to give back with this song.
Then in 2020 we’ve got another nine track to release across a range of styles and moods, a headline show at the sixth month mark in March, and then in Autumn next year we’re looking to do a big celebratory show where we play all the tracks. And then after Project Twelve, who knows!?