Boston’s Bent Knee have to be the most remarkable and unparalleled band to emerge this past decade. Their genre bending music defies all expectations and classifications like no other act I know, and their new record Land Animal takes their inventive art rock to new heights. Already set to be one of the finest albums of the year, I just had to talk to the band about their latest creation. I was lucky enough to chat to astonishing frontwoman Courtney Swain about the record:
Thanks for your time! You’ve just released your stunning new album Land Animal, are you happy with the way it turned out and with the reception it’s been getting?
Thanks for the interview opportunity. Happy to be able to have a conversation with you.
We’re very happy with the album and the rollout. Releasing an album is a lot of work. The writing, pre-production, the recording, and the mixing/mastering process is challenging, and the promotion campaign surrounding the release takes a team and an immense amount of effort, too. It’s really rewarding to see ourselves improve and refine each part of the process every time we put out a new release. The anticipation and excitement that we heard from people waiting to get their hands on the music was really surprising and humbling. This release has been really exciting, and we’re so grateful that we get to share our new work with so many listeners!
This is your first release on Inside Out. Did the added pressure of moving to a major label influence the way you made the record?
No, not really. For each of our three previous releases, we tried to make the best album with the resources and knowledge at hand. So, the same went for Land Animal. Our goal was to create something that we were all happy with, and something that surpassed our previous work in terms of writing and production. I think the six of us are in agreement that we were able to achieve both.
You’ve certainly been busy, as it was only last year that you released Say So. Do you feel like the band is going through a particularly creative period at the moment?
I would describe it more like a growth period. Writing songs or music is a constant thing for some in the band, so creativity is always in season. The process of arranging songs and putting together releases is more like work (fun work, mind you), but we’ve all been eagerly busting our tails to grow the band. Having a new release is important for accumulating press, putting together shows/tours, and the band’s economy, so we’ve been working as hard/fast/smart as we can.
Land Animal is about as diverse and eclectic as music comes these days, but with that in mind I can’t help but wonder where else there is left for you to explore musically?
There’s definitely more that we haven’t explored than what we’ve touched on. When you think of how Radiohead went from The Bends, to OK Computer and Kid A, we could argue that we didn’t go diverse or eclectic enough for our fourth release. We’re already working on what’s next for the band, and we’re trying a very different writing process that involves orchestral percussion instruments, and a 25-30 minute long-form composition. So, I think what’s next will be a very different sound and an exploration of something else.
Which track on the new record would you say you are most proud of?
Most proud of, eh? I have a couple of favorite songs, but my proudest moment on the album comes in ‘Holy Ghost’. I love the vocal that ended up on the record. When I first heard the mix, I was surprised by my own performance and I kept saying to Vince; “wow, that’s such a good vocal take!”, as if it was something that didn’t belong to me. The song ‘Holy Ghost’ itself is about creativity. I think of inspiration as something that visits me as opposed to something that I have inherently, and I feel there was a particularly awesome “holy ghost” with me when I tracked those vocals. I’m proud I was able to channel that.
You shared a stream of the full album before it was released, which is something that seems to be becoming increasingly common. What were your reasons for sharing it early and do you think more bands should follow suit?
That’s an interesting question. We started aiming for First Listens because all the artists we follow do them. In my understanding of the way press work for new releases right now, the height of interest happens just prior to release. Thus, the importance of album premieres and first listens. I don’t know if it will always stay that way. There’s a blog in Boston that stopped doing premieres because they realized the requests were overwhelming their inboxes, and coordinating the timings and exclusives etc was a lot of work. I think for the time being it’s a good thing to follow suit, since it feels like the standard.
I’m sure such an inventive and intricate record must have been influenced by a lot of equally amazing music… but looking beyond those, who would you say are your biggest ‘guilty pleasures’?
Hmm… I do enjoy Maroon 5, if that counts. Also, funny tidbit; I really like Miles Davis’s “Doo-Bop”, because it was the only Miles Davis album my parents had when I was growing up. I listened to it recently and found it hilarious at points, but I still enjoyed it…
Now that the record is out, what have you got planned for the rest of the year? Any chance of you visiting the UK?
We’re currently on a US tour, which should keep us busy until the end of the summer. We’re planning on Europe next spring, but those plans are still coming together. Visiting and playing in the UK is something we’re all looking forward to, and I hope it happens soon! We’ve been getting a lot of love from UK listeners, writers (like you!) and radio people, and we’re really happy about that.
Massive thanks to Courtney and the band. Their new album Land Animal is out now, and I urge all my US readers to catch them on tour!
7.23 Dekalb IL @ The House Cafe
7.24 Minneapolis MN @ First Avenue & 7th St Entry
7.25 Lawrence KS @ The Bottleneck
7.27 Denver CO @ Larimer Lounge
7.31 Seattle WA @ Barboza
8.1 Portland OR @ Analog Cafe & Theater
8.2 Bend OR @ Volcanic Theatre Pub
8.4 San Francisco CA @ Café du Nord
8.5 Los Angeles CA @ Bootleg Theater
8.7 San Diego CA @ Soda Bar
8.10 Austin TX @ Empire Control Room & Garage
Details and tickets at bentkneemusic.com/tour