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Kesem | The role of a musician today

Hailing from Los Angeles, Kesem, originally formed in 2018. Meaning “magic” in Hebrew, the band’s name aptly summarises their sound. Inspired by the progressive and psychedelic, with some added punk rock influences, the resulting soundscape delivers a captivating effect. Their new album, ‘Post-Terra’, follows the release of their self-titled EP in April 2020.

Metal Digest had a chat with the band about the role of musicians in society, and how the events of the past year affected their work.

Welcome to Metal Digest!

Congratulations on your first full-length album, ‘Post-Terra’. You collaborated with the legendary L.A. punk icon Paul Rossler (Screamers/45 Grave/ DC3) to produce and engineer. This must have been an extraordinary experience! Did you give Paul complete creative control and how involved were you in the process?

Josh:  It was great after a year of lockdown to get out of the house and record, and Paul felt like part of the band.  Paul offered suggestions, removed parts that weren’t working, or helped to get the best sound out of the songs with us.  This album is the first one that I have tried just singing on, and he helped get what I had in my head out on parts that I was struggling with, it was more a confidence thing.  It can be so different screaming than trying to sing, it just after years of screaming doesn’t feel powerful enough.  Overall, because we had nothing to do but practice for the 2020 year without the distractions of touring or anything, we had a lot of time to work on these songs and when we went to the studio, it actually took us only 4 days to record everything because we were so well-rehearsed.

This album is more than just music. How does your work comment on current social or political issues?

Josh:  We wrote the album during the 2020 year, so it contains a lot of emotions that we were experiencing while living in lockdown. 

This includes isolation, frustration at the political turmoil being spewed out every day, and just this overwhelming feeling that the world was going to end.  But we also added in the hope that it was all going to end soon, because it seemed that the vaccine was close to being released. 

We were going to originally go in to record around December of 2020, but due to the surge in cases, the date got pushed back to the week after the insurrection on the capitol, and because of that I edited some of the lyrics.  The album became a concept of like-minded people stealing a rocket, traveling through space and finding a new world to start over again.  It’s a journey, from leaving this world in a stolen rocket full of hope to start a new, to being confined for a while in a spaceship wanting to get out, to finding a new world and finally feeling free.  While a lot of that is taken from 2020, it’s written as a means to escape or add to a feeling, and we really want people to have a good time listening to our album, so while all these things are in there, it’s not specific, more implied.

What role does the artist/musician have in society?

Josh: There are so many different ways this could be answered depending on the band.  Our role as musicians to me is to entertain, some things have entered our album, but it’s not a specific call to action, maybe it will change us, but I don’t think we will be a political band. 

We all felt we had an obligation to speak up, luckily the last president is out of office, but it’s going to be some time before this country heals (if it ever does), and we wanted to do something, make a mark in our way.  I write what I feel and I had a lot of time stuck at home to read, review and be aware of what was happening in the world. 

Music is so integral to everyone’s life, whether people want to buy it or not nowadays.  Our band isn’t trying to recreate the greatest pop song, or milk a fad, or whatever, but if we can improve someone’s day then that’s all we are after.  If we can make some people forget the crap they are going through in their lives, our mission is accomplished.  We really wanted to provide a fun escape, an audial journey.

There are various textures in this particular album. How do you achieve that multilayered sound?

Josh:  We all have an extensive pedal collection.  There are a lot of effect pedals.  Before Ben joined, I would use a Mellotron and moog pedal for atmosphere in the instrumental sections and make it feel bigger than a three piece.  Luckily Ben joined and plays keyboards with a bunch of pedals which has really made our sound so much better.  Jay has a ton of pedals too and is a very creative sound manipulator.

Creativity flows seamlessly from track to track in ‘Post-Terra’. Do you remember what motivated your creativity when you first started writing this album?

Josh: A lot of what we do is written when we are jamming in our practice room mixed with parts people come in with that they write from home.  Jay is also very much into adding samples that build up or end a song.  Some things were parts that just worked and we kept them, others like the acoustic song, we added towards the end of the writing process.  

I think overall the way it flows and sounds is mostly down to how much we have connected musically.

How would you describe your relationship with social media?

Josh: At first it was boring, and I think we are not always the best at it.  But as things get busier it’s becoming easier because we have so much to work with.  It’s always funny to see what takes off and what doesn’t work, it never makes sense.  For example, I recorded Jay doing a silly dance backstage at a fest we played that had way more views then something way more interesting than we thought would be more entertaining…

What are you most proud of?

Josh:  I think all of us are most proud of Post-Terra.  We come from punk and metal bands, and we really pushed ourselves to be more than what we did in previous projects.  All of us tried new things and because of this have already made progress as song writers into new territory.  We have about 5 new songs that are starting to sound strong as a result.  Ultimately, I want to keep moving and releasing albums, especially if we keep going through 2020 and 2021 for a bit with the surges and opening and closing, might as well use this time to perfect our craft.

The emotional frustration and desperation from events over the past year have been poured into your art. Did you find the process freeing?

Josh:  I’m sure everyone can understand how great it was to get out of the house and use all these emotions to write and play music, to pound out frustration or elaborate on the overwhelming sadness we were feeling with some of our more intricate moody parts. 

It felt great to get all these emotions out, even if we are still going through them.

What’s the next step for Kesem?

Josh: We are hoping we can start playing out of town again, it’s still hard to commit to anything as venues open and close due to the latest numbers of cases.  We are also still heavily writing more music, and hope to record again soon.  But for the immediate future, our new album Post-Terra is coming out 9/24. 

 Thank you for your interest and hope you enjoy the record!

Thank you for the wonderful interview.

Until we meet again,

Chelf on behalf of Metal Digest.


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