Nate Kinsella on Birthmark’s “Birth of Omni” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, February 29th, 2024  

Nate Kinsella on Birthmark’s “Birth of Omni”

Fatherly Advice

Jan 23, 2024 Photography by Shervin Lainez Web Exclusive
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Major life events often give way to seismic perspective shifts, and for Nate Kinsella, the introduction to fatherhood in recent years has spilled over into not only new feelings and experiences but a new way of viewing his own artistry.

Kinsella remains busy with other outlets these days, most notably with American Football (as well as Joan of Arc and LIES), but Birthmark is his personal channel for musical expression. Birth of Omni is Kinsella’s brand new album (out now on Polyvinyl) and there’s a beautiful intimacy at work in the music even as the compositions expand and contract in inventive ways—from noisy exuberance to disco turns.

We recently sat down with Kinsella to ask him more about the approach to a new Birthmark album and a healthy editorial process that gives way to the final product.

Matt Conner (Under the Radar): Your new album is rooted so deeply in fatherhood, that it’s obvious you had a lot to say here.

Nate Kinsella: Yeah, on previous albums, I kind of approached every song as its own piece of a puzzle. The feel of the music is what united everything and there are general threads through it. But with this one, it was fun to have something with a definite centerpiece. I have a lot to say about this new thing, and I have very personal things to say about it, too, which is new.

Another thing I’m thankful for as I get older is that I’m not as guarded or concerned about the things that I reveal. I’m not as protective of myself as I used to be. I would shroud things in ways that only I could understand. I’d protect myself in that way, knowing I had to share this thing and put a song in a space where I feel okay with it knowing that someone else will eventually hear it. I have way thicker skin now all of a sudden. Maybe it’s having kids or whatever, but I just don’t give a shit. [Laughs] And it’s so nice. It’s really nice.

So I guess a few things I had going for me is that I had this crazy new experience happen while also getting older and finding that this project was really just for me. If others are out there checking it out, that’s great, but the most important thing is that it resonates with me in a deep way.

I think maybe I’d been doing a disservice to myself. I needed to learn that it’s really okay to get in there or that it’s okay to just say it. You’ll thank yourself later. I feel so much closer to the music having revealed things in a very plainspoken way about how I’m feeling.

Have you felt this way about an album before?

Yeah, actually. I mean, I’ve felt close to each one after completing it. Well, I always take a very long time. I usually set a deadline and then I have to pry it out of my hands. I set it up so that I have to hand it over before I feel like I’m really ready. But for this one, I felt ready. I was at peace with it. I spent a lot of time with it and there was a year where I made super-minimal changes, so that was a good sign. I thought, ‘Okay, this must be it. I’m good.’

Is that when you normally know it’s done? When the edits are coming sparingly?

Yeah. I have a million versions of everything. I have a tweaked version from each week and some of those are huge—like I’ll double the length of something or I’ll reverse an entire song. I’ll put it in the blender or pull it apart. But they do get smaller and smaller once I feel like I’m getting closer to something. So it’s a very gradual focusing, so when the changes become so small, that’s a good sign.

Another good sign is when I listen to everything having not heard it in a week and write down notes. Then I’ll set that aside, go back a week later, and listen while reading my notes and disagree with everything I said a week prior. I realize then that I’ll always be myself a week from some point so that generally means I’m good with where things are.

That sounds very healthy to not only make notes, but then give yourself time to apply the notes.

[Laughs] It’s been a long learning process, but time away is key. Give yourself time to forget what you’ve done, to forget the amount of effort you just put into something, some little production thing you want to do that took up 12 hours. You can get tied into the energy or the effort you put into that thing. But when you can walk away from it and come to it, it’s easy then to say, ‘Maybe that’s not the right move.’

I throw away 90 percent of what I do. I made this record over the course of five years and threw away 90 percent of it. I had to learn to look at that as a success. That mountain of things I have found is part of the journey. You have to climb on it. You’re getting to where you need to go.

When I was younger I didn’t think of it that way. I’d get upset with myself and I had to learn that this is actually a healthy way to do it and to change my perspective on that.

I talk about this with Mike, my cousin, because we did an album a couple of years ago that was just the two of us. We were like, ‘Oh, we made that change, but it didn’t work. Throw it away.’ We’re very used to editing. When you put on your editing hat, you realize that it can’t all be here. It waters it down. If it’s not making an impact, get rid of it. So that’s how I think of it anyway.

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