BN1 Chats With… Kate Boy

Right now, Sweden is a real hot bed of hit-making. Indeed, it’s now the world’s third largest exporter of pop music. Look at almost any hit song and there’s likely to be a Swedish name or two amongst the credits. One of the newest names is that of Kate Boy, a Stockholm based electro pop trio comprising of Swedes Markus Dextegen and Hampus Nordgren together with Australian-born Kate Akhurst. When the band were in Brighton for The Great Escape, BN1’s Gary Marlowe had the opportunity to put some questions to them.

What do you think it is about Sweden that’s so conducive to creating music that the rest of the world likes so much?
Kate Boy: It’s probably due to Sweden being a small country, at least in terms of population. For songwriters it means you can’t survive on Sweden alone, you need to think internationally. As a result, it’s quite common for Swedish songwriters and artists to get their success abroad before it filters back to Sweden.

We know about Avicii and First Aid Kit and Seinabo Sey (who’s also here for TGE) but what of other emerging Swedish artists? Who else should we be looking out for?
Kate Boy: We really love Amason and GOAT, but also check out a band called Tussilago who just released their first album, great music!

You have a very androgynous name, what was the thinking behind calling yourselves Kate Boy? Presumably, you must have encountered some confusion as to whether Kate Boy is a solo artist or a band?
Kate Boy: We liked the way that the name Kate Boy was unclear if it was a solo artist, or a band, a boy or a girl. It shifts the focus on the music, which is what we’ve always wanted to do. We also feel like it represents exactly the way we work, as one unit, almost as if Kate Boy was a character that gets created when the three of us make music together.

Earlier this year, you were in Austin, Texas for SXSW, like The Great Escape, it’s a festival that champions new music. How was that for you?
Kate Boy: South By was so much fun, we played six shows there over four days and really tried to have the full SXSW experience of burning the candle at both ends!

For new bands, getting exposure at events like this is clearly a big deal, but with so much competition how do you ensure you stand out?
Kate Boy: We think the best way is being well prepared for the worst case scenario, simply because normally you have less than fifteen minutes to get on stage and set up your gear. That mean there are no proper sound checks, and often something unexpected will happen. So if you’re well prepared then your chances of doing a good show are higher! But at the end of the day, no matter where you’re playing or what show it is, you’re there to connect with the audience and have fun, the more you give of yourself the better the show will be.

This isn’t your first time in Brighton, you played The Haunt last November. Did you have time to look around?
Kate Boy: Yes, last time we got a chance to look around, it’s a really cool city!

When you’re not touring or recording, what kinds of things do you guys like doing? Do you have any unusual interests?
Kate Boy: Exploring the weird part of YouTube is a bit of an obsession for us. It’s amazing what people create and put up there. “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” could be one of the funniest things ever. “The Crazy Fast Cream Whipper Pump” and “Weber Cooks – Rice-a-Roni” are both pure entertainment!

For those who haven’t heard your music, how would you describe Kate Boy’s sound?
Kate Boy: Robot/organic is a good way to describe it. We like combining electronic and sampled elements with organic and acoustic elements, Growing up, we were all so different in what we listened to and what inspired us to make music, but that diversity has helped to create how we sound like we do.

In terms of your musical influences, people often mention the likes of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush.
Kate Boy: Yes, both were artists we started talking about the first night we met. Both of them have something absolutely unique and magical about their sound.

You began Kate Boy back in 2012 and famously recorded your first song within three hours of meeting each other. So why has it taken you so long to put out an album and when can we expect your first full length?
Kate Boy: We wrote Northern Lights the first time we met, but it wasn’t finished until a long time after that. When you want to make everything yourself, from writing to producing and mixing, making the artwork and videos, it takes time. We don’t get anything handed to us. We want to create our own art and something that feels genuinely like us and that means that sometimes you try things in one direction and then in another to see what’s going to happen and that takes time.

These are tough times economically. How challenging is it being a new band in today’s music industry where traditionally musicians made money primarily through selling their music?
Kate Boy: It’s challenging for sure, but luckily we’ve been able to do lots of shows which has helped us enormously. That’s also one of the main reasons we’re playing The Great Escape. To share our music with people who may never even have heard of us before.

How do you see the future of the music industry?
Kate Boy: There’s going to be a change in the way we consume music. In many ways we are actually paying more for music now than we did ten years ago. We have friends who bought a couple of records in their whole life and now they’re paying $120 a year on music. People are listening to music more than ever, it just has to organically evolve into the next phase and with streaming services like Spotify, Tidal and now Apple Music, it’s happening right now.

Without revenue from a hit record, do you worry about the economic side of things? Or are you able to sustain yourselves through touring and merch sales?
Kate Boy: We don’t have any merch yet, but so far we’ve been able to sustain ourselves through touring and with the support from our label. That said, it is a worry for any musician, even those on the top of the charts are probably worried how they will sustain it.

Finally, what’s next for Kate Boy? When can we expect to see you again?
Kate Boy: We definitely hope to come back to the UK later this year, hopefully in the autumn. But right now our focus is on finishing the album. We can’t wait to tour the new record, as always, we want to try and fit in as much as possible!

By Gary Marlowe

Follow Kate Boy at @KATEBOYofficial

Image created by Images Out Of The Ordinary from a photo by Eric Hart

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