Analogue Music | Kevin Krauter

Kevin Krauter

By Matt Conner

Give it an extended listen and you're in it.

Kevin Krauter's new album, Toss Up, creates a pleasing and pleasant sonic space and then wraps you up as you settle in. It's cozy without necessarily being warm and always inviting.

"It's easygoing," as Krauter describes it.

The Hoops bassist and solo artist blames his "sonic sweet tooth" for the music he creates. The table is naturally tilted toward "pretty" music, whatever that means for him at the moment. Toss Up is, indeed, a very, very pretty album. It's also damn good.

Analogue: You just wrapped some tour dates. How does it feel playing your own songs from Toss Up versus band life?

Kevin Krauter: In some ways it does feel very different because it is very different. But the people playing in my band, like Keagan [Beresford] and Jack [Andrews], also play in Hoops. We have a friend Alex Grove who has been friends with Jack and me since high school, and she's playing bass with us. Our friend Ben Lumsdaine, who engineered and produced, is playing drums. So it's all homey. They're all people I'd be in a band with anyway, so in that way it feels like a regular tour.

Although I'm starting to realize like, oh shit, I have more responsibilities than I used to probably. [Laughs] I should probably take charge more since people depend on me. That's a little different, but it's nice. Everyone is really good together. We all really mesh, so it's been really nice so far.

Analogue: This new album has such a beautiful and even pleasant environment that almost swallows you up when you listen to it all the way through. That made me curious about your vision for the recording and whether that was an aim or just an organic byproduct of what you brought to the studio?

Kevin: I think it's a little bit of the latter. I didn't really go into this project with a concept in a way, since all of the songs were written sporadically. Some of them are a year or so old. A few were written just before we went into the studio.

Kevin Krauter, Toss Up
Kevin Krauter, Toss Up

As far as continuity is concerned, I think I have a real sonic sweet tooth. I just can't not make stuff that I think sounds nice. I like making pretty sounding stuff. I've had to come to realize that's what I do comfortably, so if that's my thing, just roll with it. That might not be the case forever. It comes up that way with any of the Hoops stuff I write, too, where it's pretty sounding. That's my fallback. So it makes sense that every song feels nice and atmospheric and peaceful because that's what I'm drawn to make my songs sound like in the first place.

I definitely didn't set out with a solid vision for an atmosphere behind the whole thing, although obviously I want everything to try to fit together sonically. I want it to live in the same sort of realm and not take it too far out of balance, but a lot of it was accidental I think.

Analogue: That sonic sweet tooth, is that true of the art that you consume as well?

Kevin: Growing up, it was at least what I gravitated toward. I mean, I used to be into metal shit back in middle school and high school and nowdays I'm also into punk music. I'm actually in a punk band with a couple other friends. It's not a strict rule for me, but for when I'm writing and producing, it's something I feel most natural expressing.

I just started doing vocals in this punk band and it feels funny to me being up there pretending to be tough and stuff. [Laughs] I try to make it a joke anyway, because as I found out growing up, taking myself too seriously doesn't work out in my favor most of the time. I think a lot of my sonic aesthetic come from that, from me not wanting to take myself too seriously and sort of pursue an easygoing kind of route.

Analogue: When you were first describing it, it sounded like you were just resigned to it rather than excited about it.

Kevin: I just think about when I was a kid and tried to make a stupid joke or wear a certain style of clothes that, in retrospect, didn't work. [Laughs] I think a lot of us can look back and think, "Okay, I've done a lot of cringe-y shit in my life." I shouldn't beat myself about it, but it's obvious that I shouldn't try to take myself too seriously. I can't pull it off. Some people can, but I feel like my affect is more drawn toward something more easygoing and aloof.

Analogue: I know Drew [Auscherman] has his own solo work and you do, too. Is there any tension in wanting to give proper time or attention to one or the other?

Kevin: Not really. Hoops has always been a secondary thing to all of us, anyway, even when we were touring and putting out stuff. At the moment, we're all pursuing our own things, so we're sort of chilling. That's how it's always been since none of us have ever lived in the same city. It's always been us coming together to make music. So we're always doing our own shit anyway. That's how the dynamic of Hoops happened naturally because we'd all write our own music and bring it to each other instead of coming together to write an album.

Analogue: Is that creative freedom good for all parties, including the band?

Kevin: Yeah, totally. I've never felt stifled by Drew or Keagan or anything and I think they would say the same. We've grown up playing together long enough to understand that we have short attention spans. We're all very ambitious and self-driven and do our own shit. Sometimes we aren't willing to wait on the other for so-and-so to happen. It's a common understanding we have now. There's no bitterness. No one says, "Oh, you're writing solo stuff now. Why aren't you writing Hoops stuff?" That's never been the case.

And it can all be in flux, too. A couple songs from this album, when I first started writing the keys part, I actually had a Hoops song in mind. Then life happened and I think, "Oh, I can use this for myself." So there's no black and white to it. The collaboration with all of us has been about what wer'e feeling.

Analogue: I read about a lot of solitude for you in terms of the album's creation, and it made me think that I'd likely want to spend so much time layering and tinkering as much as I could. What's your own relationship with restraint and self-editing?

Kevin: That's something the process of making this album helped me learn and grow in, especially working with Ben Lumsdaine. I think we went into the studio together with this understanding that I had a bunch of shit and then we wanted to add a lot more. But then once we'd tracked everything, we just wanted to trim the fat wherever we could. There was no mercy. The minute someone said, "I don't know if that drum machine fits with it," we could cut it and move on. Ben is really good at making those critical decisions, which is good because sometimes I'm not as good at that. It definitely helped me get into that mindset, to be willing to make big changes or show a lot more restraint and focus more on the small, subtle things.

Analogue: Was that painful at times?

Kevin: Kind of, but I tried to get myself into a state of mind that could admit, "This is good. This process is ultimately good. Don't get upset. Don't get offended. Don't get annoyed." My ego isn't worth saving for a few songs on an album.

Analogue: What does the rest of the year look like creatively?

Kevin: I'm writing currently for a new EP I want to put out soon—just stuff I've had in my back pocket for a minute and new stuff that's come out of a recent spurt of writing. I like to be spontanous enough to record it quickly to put it out. As far as touring is going, I'm taking what I can get in the moment. I just got a new European booking agent, so I'm hoping to head over there this year. That would be really awesome.