OTM Chats With Future History’s Kevin Ker About Frightened Rabbit, TIMAs, Whales (Oh My!)

It’s TIMA (Toronto Independent Music Awards) season again, and OTM is pleased to report that Future History has received nominations in the “Best Live Band” and “Best Singer/Songwriter” categories!  It’s no secret that their sophomore album Loss:/self is an OTM top pick for 2012 and it’s great to see the band garnering well-deserved attention.

OTM managed to snag Kevin Ker for a chat in the virtual office about Loss:/self, the challenges and satisfaction of seeing the project and band come together, and the band’s nods.  Oh, and there may be lollipops (you’ll see what I mean)!

Kevin Ker
Photo via Band Website

OTM:  Congrats on your TIMA nods! What was the reaction at Future History HQ when the news came in?

Kevin Ker:  To be completely honest, we were surprised. We were aware of the “Best Live” nod from a show we played quite some time ago, but it was the “Best Singer/Songwriter” nod that was completely unexpected. We are very proud of the songs on Loss:/self; it’s really nice to be considered in a category that generally appears to be reserved for more “radio-friendly” genres of music.

Touching on the Singer/Songwriter nod, how far would you say you’ve grown as a songwriter from the very first compositions to now?

Ha ha… To be honest, I don’t completely remember my first “composition.” I’m sure it was heavily influenced by Nirvana, full of pre-teen angst and likely created by Justin and myself beating on a drums and guitar in one of our respective basements at the age of 13. If anything, it was those years of development and writing that taught me the skills to express myself through music.

Loss:/self is an album with a definite conceptual journey for the listener to take. Which came first: the songs or the overarching theme?

I believe the songs were planting the conceptual seeds from the beginning, albeit subconsciously. We knew we wanted to create something cinematic in scope. It was evident from the start that we had some kind of message or emotion to convey; I’m not sure we entirely knew what that message was… I guess it’s quite similar to the subconscious free-flow exercise in grade 10 English, an age when we really have no clue what’s happening but simultaneously have all the answers.

Now, when I listen to the completed record, read the lyrics, glance through the book and artwork….it all makes sense.  The story and theme are there in plain view… It’s like we assembled a puzzle with all the pieces upside down. For this, I would generally give a little credit to fate, while Justin would give it to coincidence… It’s our eternal band struggle *winks*.

Loss:/self is an ambitious album, even setting the concept/themes aside. How did the album come together as it did? How were stylistic choices made (for example, the whale call; the group stomp session)?

I think as the overall concept and theme grew in scale, we felt the representation of those concepts and themes needed to intensify as well. Ironically, we brought a large group of people into the studio to saturate a song about solitude:  “Surrounded by Faces” is about having many people around you, yet still feeling alone for having lost the ones you truly loved and those who truly loved you. Sometimes, we forget to look behind us while looking ahead. We are constantly told to move on, forget the past, but we don’t realize that the present becomes past before we even recognize its presence…  So in turn, we’re always looking to some place we’ll never be.

The loneliest whale was a story that inspired a variety of emotions. The frequency of the whales destitute call fit perfectly with a song that represented an extremely dark moment in my life…  As strange as it sounds, I felt akin to the whale…She may not know, but she has sang for thousands now.  We gave her credit in the album for being an integral part of the emotion in that song. It truly has touched a lot of people. Cliche, but…. she is not as alone as she may feel.

What song was the most challenging to capture in studio?

This answer would probably be completely different depending on who you asked. I would personally have to say “Good Little Robot” or “Leaves.” The pre-production demos for both of these songs were extremely textured and fleshed out. When we recorded them we took a different direction for both… In the end we really missed the initial feel of both songs. We had to strip back through many layers to find the songs again….then we rebuilt with a new approach. They sound much closer to the original demos now.

With an album this layered in instrumental and other sonic elements, working up a live version can often be challenging. How difficult was it to work up the album for live shows without losing that layered and engaging feel to the songs?

Surprisingly, it occurred very naturally;  the only real difficult part was finding the right people to perform the songs at all, finding the right members to complete the FH line-up. Once Dawe, Paul and Dante were in the fold, it just kind of happened. Everyone was excited to recreate the album live. It was like each member listened to the record intensely, dissected the songs and tried to reproduce as much sonic ground as possible… Because of this approach, I feel like the live show is even more intense and lush than the record itself…

Will we be seeing any other older tracks popping up in live shows alongside “Names For Numbers”?

Absolutely! We have re-worked a few tracks off of Self-Titled. They sound better than ever and we’ll be unveiling them in time. If we had the budget and time I would love to re-record the whole first record…just for the personal enjoyment! But, alas…we’ll just have to look toward a possible live record to capture their reincarnations.

What artists are currently catching your attention, as a fan? Any new essential albums I should be adding to my acquisitions?

Once again, a question that would vary greatly depending on which band member you asked. For me, personally. I have fallen madly in obsession with Producer Peter Katis, and the records by Frightened Rabbit and Jonsi of Sigur Ros. I’ve been listening and focusing on Producers a lot lately.  It truly is incredible how much they can shape a sound…how you can almost unveil a great producer by the textures on a record…  They, like bands, have their own sound and feel.  I guess with the new FH record in the very early writing stage, I’m hoping to discover a producer whose textures will best complement where we are heading.

Future History gets the call for a dream tour. Who else is on the bill with you?

Hmm, I’ll throw a couple in here to keep all the guys happy…. I’d say: Frightened Rabbit, Mutemath, Bon Iver and um Bjork (for personal reasons) if it’s a festival tour….We’ll add Dave Matthews (I heard he gets great pot). We’d also add Radiohead on the condition that they would let us use all of their gear….mainly the Ondes Martenot (look it up…it’s badass)

The world is ending in ten minutes. You have time to listen to one more song before it ends. What song do you choose?

“Sunshine, Lollipops & Rainbows” by Leslie Gore (twice)

What’s next for Future History?

Plans for the third record are well under way. I’m writing some of the best material I’ve ever written… We plan to “bunker down” for a few months in an incredibly inspiring space and capture everything…. We have such an incredible group of musicians in the band now…it’s very exciting to start a new record with together. Like Loss:/self we hope to make something with depth and meaning….We also have a Canadian tour in the works…Hopefully it will coincide with the release of the new record. In the meantime…look for some b-sides from Loss:/self to surface…. We cut around 5-6 songs throughout various stages of making the record.

Thank you so much for your time, Kevin!  OTM eagerly awaits new material and congratulates Future History on their nominations!

You can learn more about Future History’s songwriting and live show by checking OTM’s past coverage of the band.  You can sample the album and keep up with the band at their official website.  Stay tuned as well to the TIMAs official page for full coverage of the awards and links to grab tickets to the October 6th gala at The Phoenix.

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