Interview: Mayfair Kytes ‘Animus’


Interview: Alyssa Cavanagh
Image: Courtesy of On The Map PR

Melbourne four-piece, Mayfair Kytes have released their debut album, Animus, alongside quirky and musically dazzling single, Sleepyhead. Layered with exquisite vocal harmonies and opulent string scores by Willow Stahlut (Cinematic Orchestra), the single is perfectly textured by bold, discordant guitars accentuating the song’s inimitable musical brilliance.

Storyboarded, hand-animated, filmed and directed by Melbourne artist, Thomas Russell (Hiatus Kaiyote, Chet Faker, Flyying Colours), the fittingly artistic video for Sleepyhead follows contemporary dancer Geoffrey H Watson as he saunters his way around an empty white room, tearing off layers of bulky clothing in an act of defiance, musing as his heavy steps become joyful skips with each layer shed.

Recorded in just over a year with close pal, Nick Herrera between his notable home studio and a converted chapel in Melbourne’s inner north, the album features performances from string players from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, as well as extra synths and production added by Hiatus Kaiyote’s Simon Mavin and Paul Bender.

We spoke to Matt Kelly the lead vocalist from the band about the newly released album Animus,  and quizzed him about the enchanting album.

Talk us through your debut album, ‘Animus’.

“Animus” is a collection of songs written and recorded with strings, horns, 3-part harmonies, bizarre pop melodies, angular guitars, synth-scapes and a stark narrative… it is an experimental pop album.

 What sound can we expect from the LP?

We have been calling it folk art pop, though there are no boundaries when it comes to what we try to create. Also don’t expect too many choruses.

Could you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind creating ‘Animus’.

It came about from a project I wanted to start with a dedicated string section. Something lush and sweeping to close your eyes to when you listened. They were all sort of ballads or at least songs with feelings that set out to do no more than create a sense of beauty. Not trying to be cool, sexy or badass, just honest. And that in itself is kinda badass innit? (jokes!)

 What are your influences?

The derelict industrial area that I live, its green sunsets, the long Melbourne winters and the beautiful landscape that exists beyond the city boarders, the long stretches of highway between places. Friends, family, lovers. Good music, strong minds, our inspirational music community here.

How did you get into writing music?

I wrote my first song at 8 years old. I would say I owe that to my mother who tried to direct my creative streak into something.

Are there any musicians or producers that you admire?

Producer wise there’s Arca, Nigel Godrich, Steve Albini, Rick Rubin.

Musician wise there is always Nina Simone, Bjork, Sam Cook, Tom Waits, St Vincent, David Longstreth, Daniel Rossen… honestly I could go on for hours, this is just the international list, on our own home turf there is a whole lotta people I could say…

Could you take us through your writing/creative process?

My writing process has changed over the years, as in once I used to be able to spit out a song everyday pretty much. But now I tend to work on something a lot, refine ideas. I often record my improvisations and begin to search for the subliminal narrative in my voicing’s. Sometimes a song still arrives full and ready in the one moment but not as often. I like to experiment with my ideas these days, so a song is never really finished til it’s mastered.

Tell us about your single ‘Sleepyhead’ and the inspiration behind the quirky animation?

The film clip was directed, animated and shot by Thomas Russel. I think a lot of the themes revolve around shedding the past as well as trying to smash male stereotypes. This is my interpretation from what he has told me anyway.

 ‘Animus’ explores the themes of loss, acceptance and reprieve; it’s also described as a ‘kind of a reverse break up album’. Could you elaborate on what you mean by that?

The reverse break up thing refers to the songs telling a story over the course of the album, a story that begins with trauma and separation anxiety and working its way towards reconciliation and peace (of mind at least). It is a tale that anything you believe worthy of effort should be treated with the correct amount of respect. It is about love.

 What can we expect from you in 2016 and beyond?

We just wanna see how people react to the album. We will also have some very special shows coming up later in the year, some gigs in unconventional venue settings (if everything goes to plan). We also will be hitting the festival circuit later in the year and continue to write, record and release as it comes.

Debut single Sleepyhead and the new album Animus are out now via itunes. 

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