This Is the Kit on “Off Off On” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, June 14th, 2024  

This Is the Kit on “Off Off On”

Power in the Process

Aug 05, 2021 Issue #68 - Japanese Breakfast and HAIM (The Protest Issue) Photography by Ph. Lebruman Bookmark and Share

If timing is in fact everything, This Is the Kit’s Kate Stables has got it in spades. Not only did she wrap an international tour performing with The National in support of their I Am Easy to Find album at the end of 2019, the finishing touches on This Is the Kit’s fifth album, Off Off On, were made the following March. Worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns followed in the wake. Stables was featured on three songs on I Am Easy to Find and her intersections with the band go back well before that.

“Bryce [Dessner] used to live in Paris and they were my big sister’s mates. I didn’t do anything with them properly until Wriggle Out the Restless had come out,” Stables elaborates, referring to her 2010-released sophomore album. “We were doing a gig in some little basement in London and some of the guys from The National came along. Aaron [Dessner] was really into it and bought a CD and later on asked if [their label] Brassland could re-release the album.”

In spite of the emotional depth and humanistic explorations of Stables’ songwriting, her quick wit is ever-present. Sitting behind the coffee table in her Paris flat, Stables jokes that her selection to perform with The National was because, “I was on the record and I was available. I also probably fit the ‘not a nightmare to tour with’ category.”

While on tour the songs of Off Off On began to emerge. Stables explains that there is no way she would have had time to write if touring with This Is the Kit. “On tour with your own band you are in charge. You’re all squished into a van, sleeping on people’s floors. The only time you’re on your own is when you go to the toilet. When you’re on tour with The National you get your own hotel room.” Between waiting for soundcheck and days off, this left plenty of time for Stables to focus on her songwriting.

Off Off On is characterized by a front-ended frenetic tapestry of both internal and external conversations. “I feel like life is a dialogue,” Stables says. “It’s a conversation with ourselves and other people…and sometimes you can’t tell them something directly so you just have to talk about it inside your brain.”

The Josh Kaufman-produced album evolves to a gentler pace over its course, with Stables taking herself out of the songs and into the role of observer. Later album highlight, “Was Magician,” pulls from one of Stables’ favorite authors, sci-fi icon Ursula K. Le Guin, and begins with a young sorceress coming into her powers. “I’m trying to express the power, groundedness, and energy some people have, even though they don’t realize they have it,” Stables explains.

What is most apparent in speaking with Stables is the care taken in her songwriting. It’s fitting that Stables best expresses her craft in one of her other passions—pinhole photography. In describing this Stables holds up a camera made, ironically, from an old iPhone 3 box. “It’s not like a phone camera,” she explains. “You have to get a light-proof bag, put the paper in it, change it around, let it stand there for however many minutes. I like how long and fiddly [the process] is. It makes you slow down and choose what you want to take a picture of.” The same could be said of her layered and thoughtful songs.

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 68 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

Also read our 2017 interview with This Is the Kit.

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