Kerala Dust, the bluesy electronic crew, is set to hit the stages in Australia for the first time.
With gigs lined up at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory and Melbourne’s Corner Hotel, the London-born, Berlin/Zurich-based quartet brings a fusion of blues, techno, and psychedelic rock influenced by the likes of CAN and Tom Waits.
Ahead of the Aussie adventure, we caught up with Edmund Kenny and the Kerala Dust crew to delve into their beginnings in London’s diverse music scene to their recent escapades in Berlin.
We get into the evolution that is “Violet Drive,” recorded in the picturesque Alps, and released in Feb of this year, alongside their sublime new single ‘The Rain’.
Happy: What are you up to today?
Kerala Dust: Busy in the studio! We’ve been picking up bits and pieces of equipment while on tour this year, different instruments and effects including an old Italian organ a few months back.
We’ve been on the road almost all year, but now we’ve just had a few weeks back and are really digging into what the next chapter of the band should sound like.
Happy: Tell us about where you are from? What’s the scene like in your neck of the woods?
Kerala Dust: We met in London while studying at a university called Goldsmiths in South-East London.
London was a huge melting pot of styles and influences, from jazz to indie to the most experimental noise you can imagine. You can catch great music in London any day of the week.
Berlin has its own thing going on – often more electronic-focused and very producer- centric, but you can likewise always find something interesting to listen to.
Especially when we’re bogged down in album production, it’s great to get out and hear something completely different, which often informs what you’re doing, often in an abstract way.
Happy: Describe an average day?
Ed: Wake up after wrestling the snooze button for a while. Drink strong coffee. Take the dog out, feed the dog. Meditate. Make toast. Switch on the instruments.
Make music for the next 8 hours with coffee breaks. Meditate. Make dinner (two veg one protein one carb). Either work on more music or go drink beers down the road. Read a book. Go to bed.
Happy: How did each of you come to discover your passion for music, and what drew you to form a band together in 2016?
Kerala Dust: I think we all found music in our childhood, and for all of us it truly gained its meaning in our teenage years, when music can help you start to make sense of the world, especially if you grow up feeling like you don’t belong somewhere.
I guess it’s about meaning – those songs mean something special to you as a teenager, and you try to imitate it first off to try to make sense of it. And then as you carry on you start to figure out how to put your own mark on the music.
We lived in the same house in London is what drew us together! Ed had produced a few songs including an early one called ‘Nevada’ and formed a band in order to play those songs out live.
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Happy: Can you share some of your favourite memories or experiences from your time spent in London nightclubs? How did those moments influence your approach to music?
Kerala Dust: 9am with Ricardo Villalobos at Fabric, in 2015. This feeling of endlessness in the music, music that just unfolds and unfolds – you’re in a trance. I think that has influenced the music a lot, the desire to induce a state of trance.
Happy: What’s the story behind the band name, Kerala Dust? Is there a special significance or meaning behind it?
Ed: I worked in a charity in India for half a year in 2013, close to the Himalayan border with Nepal.
There was a doctor working at the charity who was from the Indian state of Kerala, and he told me a bit about where he was from – what stuck was the lovely syllabic combination of sounds in ‘Kerala’.
Fast-forward two years to a dorm room in London, and I was struggling to come up with a band name. When I found it, it felt like something I couldn’t put my finger on, and was a name that I wanted to write music for.
Happy: When you’re not making music, how do you like to spend your free time individually? Do you have any shared hobbies or interests outside of music?
Kerala Dust: We often meet up and just have beers together! Recently we’ve started a weekly poker game in Berlin, haha. Maybe it was the influence of playing in Las Vegas last month! Our keys player Tim also has an allotment, he’s a big gardener.
Happy: What are some of your favourite moments from the road, and how do you handle the challenges of being on tour?
Kerala Dust: Getting enough sleep is the challenge! Favourite moments are either unexpected moments of beauty during long drives (driving through a blizzard in Scandinavia, stopping at Hoover Dam in Nevada, or the Salt Flats in Utah).
Or moments of beauty and harmony with an audience during a show. This year’s shows in Los Angeles, London and Berlin come to mind as special ones.
Happy: With over 150 international shows under your belt, yo’e played in various countries and cultures. How has this global exposure influenced your music and perspective as a band?
Kerala Dust: One of the biggest gifts of travelling so much has been to go to record stores in every country and dig into local gems that you just wouldn’t find out about.
For example, there’s an amazing Indian psych-rock scene from the 70s onwards that hardly anyone knows about.
It’s great to hear something known such as psychedelic rock in a new cultural context, I think that opens up your own ears to new possibilities for a given style or sound.
Happy: Can you share a memorable or unexpected encounter with a fan during one of your tours? How do these interactions impact your connection with your audience?
Kerala Dust: The craziest moments are when people show you tattoos they’ve made of your lyrics! It’s kinda nuts – you come up with a lyric and then two years later, they’re literally printed on someone’s body forever. It’s amazing to know that words you wrote mean that much to someone though.
A concert is always a process of give-and-take, as in it’s a totally reciprocal exchange of energies. You can feel it in your entire body when people are really invested in the music, and that spurs you on to give everything of your self to the audience.
Happy: As you gear up for your Australian Shows, and because touring often involves spending a lot of time together as a band. How do you maintain a harmonious dynamic on the road, and are there any routines or traditions you follow?
Kerala Dust: We’ve been getting on fantastically! You’ve got to respect people’s space for sure, but we’ve got a great team on tour.
Lots of laughter, lots of time spent together, and then complete respect for people needs when necessary.
Happy: Are there any particular artists or bands, not necessarily in the same genre, that you have been listening to lately and find inspiring?
Kerala Dust: Been listening to JJ Cale a lot on the road recently. Lovely touring music, a sort of wistful joy that sounds great while watching the countryside pass you by.
Happy: What’s next for Kerala Dust? Are there any exciting plans or projects on the horizon that you are eager to share with your fans?
Kerala Dust: First up we’re coming to Aus for the first time which we can’t wait for! In the long run, we’re working on our next album. Can’t share too much yet, but we’re very excited.
Happy: Lastly, what makes you happy?
Ed: Communion, the gathering of many people in one place.