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An Evening’s Romance

Oct 22, 2010 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Kisses take their name very seriously. The Los Angeles duo Jesse Kivel (vocals) and Zinzi Edmundson (keyboards) spin Baltic-style pop laced with shamelessly sweet lyrics—sung with a conviction that would make Jens Lekman proud. Theirs is a world of martinis served straight up, drives under a starry sky, and retro interiors untouched by hipster hands.

Music for hopeless romantics, Kisses’ shamelessly nostalgic debut album, The Heart of the Nightlife, will see the light of day (or dark of night) November 16th. In honor of the power of love and silly love songs alike, we spoke with bandleader Jessie Kivel during a recent U.K. tour about the origin of Kisses, first kisses, and how the combination can make for a few unlikely rock star moments.

Laura Studarus: I’m actually calling from Los Angeles.

Jessie Kivel: Wow. Shout out.

Yeah, the city misses you two. How is Manchester treating you?

Well we haven’t been mugged yet, so that’s good. Kidding. We just got here an hour or two ago.

Have you been in the U.K. for a while?

We’ve only been in the U.K. for two or three days. We were in Japan for a week before that.

Going back to the formation of Kisses, how did you and Zinzi meet?

It was her freshman year of college. It was my freshman year too, but we went to different schools. I had a few weeks before my school started. I went to go visit a friend at her school. I met her there and we became friends and started dating a few years later.

I’ve gotta know, was she impressed by your other band, Princeton?

Very. [Laughs] I don’t know, just joking. She’s in the room right here, along with everyone else. Funny…but yeah, I think so.

When did the musical collaboration come together?

Pretty recently, probably since the beginning of this year.

Was she a musician before this?

No no. This is her first band ever.

And you’ve been bouncing around the Los Angeles music scene for a while.

Oh yeah, I’ve been bopping around.

Since this project was conceived as a solo project, how did you decide to work together?

I recruited her. I was just making the record and thought it would be nice to have more people involved. Zinzi became involved and it just went from there.

How much actual collaboration was involved?

Not much. I think, you know, the record when I started recording it was something that I was doing on my own. The idea of it becoming a band was mostly post record. Zinzi guests on some songs, but for the most part the idea of it being a band project came about later. That’s why, like Zinzi’s involved in the band, and now we have Carl—the dashing, yet amazing, drummer.

Is he in the room too, prompting you on that one?

Oh yeah!

If you were to describe your sound with emotions rather than words, what would it be?

I feel like sentimental, melancholy—bridging that gap.

Do you feel like there’s a level of nostalgia to what you do?

Oh yeah, definitely that! That’s a good word too.

You’ve worked quite a bit as a travel writer as well as a musician. Where is the best place or places in the world to listen to Kisses?

I usually like listening to music in the car. Maybe in your car, driving home from somewhere late at night.

What was your first kiss like?

Oh that’s a good one! I actually haven’t been asked that! Let me think. Trying to remember. I was definitely a late bloomer. It had to have been my first girlfriend in high school. I went on a couple of dates with her, and was very scared to kiss her. And then, I think we kissed in front of her door. So that was my first kiss. My biggest memory of that was that we would make out in front of a bank nearby after we came home from school.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done to impress a girl?

Oh that’s good too. When I met Zinzi I really wanted to go out with her, but she had a boyfriend. I had intense heartache in school, wanting to ask her out. I was thinking about it all the time. You know Islands, the restaurant? I had lunch with a friend there. I had written Zinzi this elaborate note that I thought she would like. And it had a picture of me I was going to send to her. And my friend was like—my friend was a girl named Erin—“You can’t send this letter! I once got a letter like this from a guy and it freaked me out.” So I was like “Alright. I’m not going to send it.” So I think I played it cool. We’d go to shows and stuff together and hang out. But I didn’t do anything more elaborate than that, I don’t think. I didn’t send her the letter.

So your friend Erin saved you from the letter.

Exactly! It would have been a disaster. She had a boyfriend and it was just not appropriate.

Once of the influences on your MySpace is silly love songs.

Well the song, “Silly Love Songs,” but I guess that could apply to other things.

Other than “Silly Love Songs,” what are some of the silliest love songs you can think of?

Well I think “Silly Love Songs” by Wings is a pretty silly one. Good question. Hey Zinzi, do you know any silly love songs? We’re thinking.

I’m open to collaborative answers.

Exactly. Still thinking…. Oh, you know what’s a silly love song because I just did karaoke—Ricky Martin “She Bangs.” Zinzi’s talking. Oh, “Return of the Mack” is a good one. I don’t know, any ‘90s R&B track might work.

Do you go out and do karaoke a lot?

No, it was just when we were in Japan. We had to go with our amazing tour guide and label owner. He took us to karaoke in this awesome 10 story building. We looked over the city and sang really funny karaoke songs.

Amazing. That sounds very Lost in Translation.

Exactly. He wanted to indulge us. He’s very pro-America and obsessed with American culture. He knows that everyone in indie bands have seen that movie. He wants you to have that Lost in Translation experience. Or it’s something he can relate to you with. He’ll see something and say Lost in Translation. It was that point of reference.

Have you had any other surreal travel moments?

The whole Japan tour was pretty surreal because I had never been there and we haven’t done a whole lot of touring. It probably all comes from being in Japan. I just think playing shows and having people come see us is pretty surreal. You know what was surreal? We were signing autographs in the train station. I have no idea how people would know we were getting off the train at a certain time. Sometimes people would be waiting at the venue, but when we got into Tokyo there were these two girls that had some photos of me in Princeton, and also some photos of Kisses and they just found us! We signed them, and I just couldn’t believe it.

Wow. You’re a rock star over there.

[Laughs] I guess so!



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