Four years ago Kinema front man Dom had an argument with his then girlfriend. He stropped his way into his studio to write a self-pitying, maudlin song about the misery of relationships, “or something really boring like that”. Turning on the equipment as he slumped down, a wall of LEDs twinkled at him. The little red and green lights winked a welcome home and suddenly all was right in the world.
“All of a sudden I couldn’t write anything bad,” he recalls. “I just felt so good and so happy. I shut the door behind me and being in the studio filled me with such a wonderful warm feeling.””It’s such a touching story!” laughs guitarist Andy.
There’s a line in the chorus of the song that emerged that night, new single ‘My Beautiful Machines’, where Dom sings, “You’re never rude or mean to me” over jolly, picked guitars and gentle, lush keyboards and an 80s disco groove Chromeo would be proud of. It’s a subtle dig at his old girlfriend of the time but that’s as moody as the pop princes get.
“The rest of it is pure synth love,” smiles Dom.
“It’s the only song we’ve played in every one of our sets,”
“And I haven’t had a girlfriend since,” Dom laughs. “That’s absolutely true! I’ve still got the machines.”
“The thing is you can’t upgrade girlfriends,”
offers Andy by way of an explanation.”
And you can’t sell them on eBay when they get old either,” adds keyboard player Ross.
With just a guitarist, a keyboard player and a singer, Kinema aren’t your average Brighton band. A clean-cut mix of r’n’b, classic house, disco and a touch of funk, you’re never going to see them rock out.
“We like things as undistorted as possible really,” says Ross, one of three studio geeks in the band. “As soon as we cross over into that rock realm we start to get a bit scared. Like, the guitar parts need to be sharp and concise, never strummed. Not pushing it and being showy, whacking a distortion pedal on it.”
“Essentially it’s pop music,” says Dom. “We want to get people to dance, we want to get people to listen to the lyrics, and we want to get the personality across in the tune as well.”
It’s absolutely working on tracks like this year’s ‘Circles’ – a crystal-clear, soft-edged melodic seduction (more like the pseudo-geek fumbling of Erland Øye than getting touched up by Ne-Yo). Its soul-lifting chorus instantly takes squatter’s rights in your head. A recent addition to their set-list declares a love of Usher, not a typical touch-point for Brighton bands. We’ve known Dom long enough to know that it’s not a joke, but is his tongue just a little bit in cheek? Where do they draw the irony line?
“It’s very hard – when you’re writing tunes about how you like Usher, and, you know, girls and dancing – to explain to people that you’re taking it really seriously,” says Dom. “We spend so much time and effort on the songs, every note is pored over. I’m sure people often think that we’re just messing around.”
“It’s not as silly as some people think it is,” confirms Ross, who makes deadly serious dance music as Boss Kite, one of the British skweee scene’s major players.
Kinema’s love of r’n’b comes from the fact that the studio is at the core of everything they do. They produce all of their own tracks and, like the polished American r’n’b acts, there’s not a note or sound out of place. Nothing jars. “When you listen to r’n’b it’s an absolutely beautiful, crisp sound,” Dom explains. “Playing some scratchy indie record after that doesn’t caress your ears in the same way. So you start listening to r’n’b more and more, just to get that fix.”
“I think people really like r’n’b generally,” says Ross, “they just don’t want to admit it. They listen to loads of things that are definitely r’n’b, like Michael Jackson. If someone drops ‘Yeah’ by Usher in a room of drunk people they do all go crazy.”
“We’re not into the whole ironic thing,” Andy confirms. “A lot of people think us listening to r’n’b is being ironic, taking the piss out of it. But we’re not. It’s very danceable – it gets girls moving – which has always been our thing too…”
“We don’t make this macho twat music where it’s all, ‘Yeah! Grrrrr!’,” says Ross. “There’s no aggression and we like the sexiness about it.”
The only downside of this smooth approach is that as Brighton’s premier pop band they’ve got no one to share a stage with. Promoters, looking to build bills of artists with an electronic edge struggle to find playmates for them, put them with inappropriate acts like brilliantly raucous AD/DK, something we were guilty of at our Brighton Live gigs (“We like those guys but we sound nothing like them,” smiles Andy).
It’s not a problem in London where Kinema are adored. Straight away they started playing with bands like Grosvenor and My Tiger My Timing at parties where people wanted to dance.
“We tend to mainly play in clubs, which is cool,” says Dom. “A gig tends to be everybody standing and watching. I just saw Chromeo and they had everyone dancing, I guess because they have the same thing – no one is really sure if they’re a band or a pop act. People respond to us by dancing rather than watching, which we really like.”
KINEMA’S CHRISTMAS PRESENT :kinema: have written and recorded an exclusive song especially for you lucky SOURCE readers called ‘3 Wolf Moon‘. You can download it by clicking on that title there – the one in the last sentance.
SINGLE: ‘My Beautiful Machines’ out on Hot Pockets in January
LIVE: Jam, Weds 8th Dec (supporting Delorean) and Concorde 2, Sat 15th Jan
Words by James Kendall Photo by James Kendall, Matt Barker and Rosie Kendall
Christmas jumpers from a selection at Beyond Retro
Thanks to Jonjo and Tom for welcoming us into their lovely home