The departure of a member can be fatal to any band; just as well as it can give new energy to some. The Australian/Swedish electro pop group Kate Boy just evolved from a trio into a duo and lived to tell the tale. I meet the remaining members, Kate Akhurst and Marcus Dextegen to discuss Peter Gabriel, sound art and the philosophy behind the music.
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“It was heartbreaking” says singer Kate Akhurst when asked about Hampus Nordgren Hemlin leaving the band to become a chef, not less than one month before the release of their debut album “One”, which saw the light of day on 6 November. “But it almost made our passion ten times bigger” she continues, “because this is what we really want to do.” Markus Dextegen agrees and tells me that he and Hampus has had a ten year long musical relationship, since before Kate Boy and Rocket Boy, the trio they had prior to meeting Kate.
Understandably this is an emotional subject; since they did not only part ways with a band member but also a dear friend (the band’s promotional manager Georg compares it to removing one leg from a three-legged chair.) But still, the show must go on, and the live performances will have to be adapted to two performers instead of three. Markus and Kate already played their first show as a duo with reworked songs and Kate says that “Our audience supports us as a 2-piece.”
We go on to talk about “Human Engine”, the fourth track from the upcoming debut, a song that portrays an urge to morph into something more than a human to overcome challenging situations, such as the one they’re in right now. Another angle to the tune that the duo discusses is the heart being the engine, working effectively in symbiosis with the vulnerable and beautiful human soul.
As sources of inspiration, Kate Boy has listed great names such as Brian Eno, David Bowie and Kate Bush, along with books like “New Fashion Japan”, and among them Peter Gabriel has been mentioned several times. Markus explains that Gabriel’s inspiration doesn’t come solely from his music, but from his way of making it. “[Gabriel] hasn’t tried to fit into something already done; he contributes to music by making something new.” That is something Kate Boy takes after, aspiring to sound personal, but they do see value in honouring influential music. “It is very important to tribute beautiful music” says Markus. “I would never put down anyone who tries to replicate a musical emotion” he adds and mentions the Swedish group Music is the Weapon who reincarnates the energy of the remarkable Fela Kuti.
Markus himself listens mostly to techno by the likes of Swedish pioneers Adam Beyer and Joel Mull and he calls them “sound artists” rather than song writers. The balance between those two worlds seems to fascinate him and I ask about their choice of equipment, their way towards finding the right sound. Roland Jupiter synthesizers are frequently used and due to the fragility of the old instruments, they cannot be transported from Kate Boy’s home town Stockholm, thereby making the music they have made so far a direct product of the Swedish capital.
On the cover of “One”, designed by Lee Griggs, Kate Akhurst is pictured in the same way as she was in the first ever Kate Boy picture: in a straight forward portrait. There is a striking difference between the two and Kate says that the album cover is the evolved version of the Kate Boy character, an entity that is separate from the band’s members. She concludes by saying that this open minded entity has just started to change and hopefully it will continue to evolve as it goes along.
Words by Filip Lindström