If I told you that The Kissing Cousins are arguably the best band in Echo Park right now, you could be forgiven for sitting there, in your Norman, Oklahoma bedroom, or wherever, and thinking, well that don't sound like such a big deal to me. Except... here comes some relentless neighborhood boosting, in the past few years in this chronically expensive city, Echo Park has gained a reputation as the last affordable livable area of Los Angeles and as a consequence has been a magnet for all sorts of amazing writers, film makers, musicians and artists... We have two of this towns best music venues, the Echo and the Echoplex, and across the street at Taix's lounge there is the most wide open and diverse booking policy, with no cover charge ever. I'm not kidding, we just had a month of Rickie Lee Jones and even while she was here, Kissing Cousins were still the best band in Echo Park.
The Kissing Cousins are, Heather on guitar and vocals, Beth, drums, Rhea on bass and Kara manages the flute and keyboards. For their live shows they often include Alexis on the glockenspiel and Paula on violin. And recently Ben has been helping out on bass guitar too. The band began over the phone. But we met over at the Short Stop.
"When we began, Beth was living in Charleston, South Carolina," Heather begins, "We created the band over the phone and MySpace, as she began learning the drums and I attempted to write easy tunes to play."
The Kissing Cousins sound encompasses an uncommon musical mixture of instrumentation and song structures all at once, playfully simple and complex, it's still a road less traveled... "I think the songs naturally fell into that vibe," Heather, the garrulous one, explains, "and... We enjoy the fact that our recordings truly represent our sound and performance as a band." What you hear is what you will always get. For me it's overwhelming, it's like reconciling structural engineering principals with the visceral beauty of a building. It's courageously contemporary.
When Jeff Cloud at the label Velvet Blue heard them and wanted to put out an EP straight away, Heather's good friends, Rhea and Kara, whom had been 'interested and entertained' by the idea of the band, joined in. "It happened as simply as that." Heather says, "Our first show was in October, 2005 and the EP was in the shops in December. It has been so much fun and such an adventure ever since!?"
When I wonder aloud, who if any are their musical peers, the list generously full of the unusual suspects... "Summer Darling, Map, Starflyer 59, Richard Swift, Nico Stai, Deathouse Chaplain, Wait Think Fast, Twilight Sleep, and The Monolators. And others." They say...
For shits and giggles... whoever said that first? We play the, "What was your first record? Game..."
My first record I remember is Alvin and the Chipmunk's Christmas
carols. But, I think my first independent purchase had to be Cyndi Lauper's 'She's So Unusual.'
Beth: U2's Achtung Baby
Rhea: Dead Kennedy's - Too Drunk to Fuck, unless we want to count the NKOTB tape when I was in 3rd grade. (actually, we do.)
Kara: The Janet Jackson CD 'Janet' back in '93. I'm definitely known for being the band member with the shitty taste in music!
They've just finished recording their first album, Kara says it is a continuation of their UnEasy listening vein, "I think that's not only inherent in our music, but in us as a band. There is a certain dissonance in many things about us- for example the eclectic way our outfits may clash on stage. Our music can be similar to this. However, there's always something tying it all together. For us, it's our red shoes, for the music, it's the lyrics or..." "I guess that depends what kind of music makes you uneasy," Rhea says, "easy listening makes me uneasy, so therefore uneasy listening makes me easy-wait what?! Nevermind!"
Kara says, "There is most definitely a brooding sensibility about all of our music. Even our anthems come across as less pop, but more murky perhaps. I think that Heather does a great job of keeping us... A little undefined. One thing that is certain in our music is that we are not your average girl band and we do not want to be pigeonholed as such."
"That is just the way they become, no matter how hard I try to write a happy girl pop song!!!" Heather adds.
Finally we get to the all important non-musical concerns... Clothes, shoes...
Heather laughs, "We love designers and shoes! We're definitely girls! Kara is in the fashion industry currently, Beth is a professional organizer, Me and Rhea are in the medical field, I used to do hair and make-up, Paula is a TV writer, and Alexis is a TV producer, so we all have our non-musical concerns. Coming together and playing is catch up, hang out time for us, I look forward to it, it gets me through the week!? "Are we really talking about shoes or is this a loaded question?" Rhea asks. "By non musical concerns are you referring to the fact that when we are not playing rock music that the Kissing Cousins like to go out in our red shoes and save the world?"