Putting an album out is a special undertaking. Putting a debut album out though? That’s a something even sweeter.
In this essay Mickey Cooper from Kilns chronicles the long, but rewarding process of creating You Can Bet Your House On Me.
We started recording You Can Bet Your House On Me two summers ago. At that point we didn’t have a band name, only a batch of songs I’d written that Davey and I had been jamming on sporadically while I was performing as a solo artist. From the first sessions, there isn’t a whole lot that made it onto the album, and in hindsight I look at that time as an exercise in us just being a room, figuring out what we were. I was the common link between everyone in the band, so we were getting to know our dynamic as four mates at the same time as four people in a band. In the early days there was a real unspoken battle as to who would come out on top as “the funny one”, and the constant attempts to outwit or burn each other were dizzying and exhausting. We bonded over the impossible deliciousness of Green Goddess smoothies at Tahina in Northcote, and breaks for downball (handball? foursquare?) in the carpark. To this day the role of “the funny one” remains up for grabs, but we’re much less anxious about it as I think everybody just assumes that it’s them.
There were songs that didn’t make the album which were very punk-rock, and songs that leant much more into my alt-country influences. Where we landed as a band is probably somewhere in the middle of that, or at least somewhere that acknowledges these influences and genres without really feeling the need to strictly align to any of them. As we spent more time together, rehearsing and recording across three different studios – Los Bomberos in Northcote (R.I.P), The Aviary in Collingwood and finally Sunset Pig in Collingwood – we slowly found our step. The more we realised that we didn’t need to belong anywhere in particular, we started to feel like we belonged. The familiar and the unfamiliar, the cool and the uncool, the hi and the lo fi: I’ve always been drawn to things that are made in the spaces between. I think they have a better shot at avoiding the judgment of time, and instead reveal more of themselves as time passes. Kilns aims to exist in that space between, and You Can Bet Your House On Me is the documentation of us finding that out.
The best part of listening to this album for me is hearing the incredible mark that three of my closest friends have made on it, so I wanted to write something small about each of them…
James is a brilliantly talented musician and singer, who has spent most of the past decade playing in a much more acoustic/folk realm. When he first joined the band he was constantly telling us he didn’t know how to play electric guitar; how to make it produce the sounds that he heard in his head and to harness it’s full expressive potential. He was so far out of his comfort zone, but slowly gained more and more confidence and connection with the instrument. The moments in the studio where we were all at our most hyped were definitely whenever he’d come up with a guitar part that no-one saw coming or could have possible imagined existing. If the ten songs on YCBYHOM were being prepared as a batch of muffins, these moments were absolutely the choc chips. Singing harmonies with him is an absolute pleasure too.
I knew Sam was a highly competent, efficient and smart studio engineer through working with him on the very first RAT!Hammock EP. What I didn’t know then was how seamlessly he could switch back and forth between that role and his bass player role in the same session. His capacity for concentration while recording/mixing the entire album and writing his own thoughtfully constructed bass lines, was incredible to witness. Since we recorded all of the band tracks live, between takes while the rest of us would be discussing Uber Eats options or trying to out-funny eachother, he’d be sitting in his desk chair, bass in hand, quietly adjusting levels on the fly and comparing sounds before swiveling back around just in time as Davey counted in for another take. Somehow he’s also a master at keeping the vibe in the studio consistently up. I don’t know how he does it.
I’ve been playing music with Davey for twelve years now and have gotten to know intimately how he works as a drummer. Outside of music he’s a draftsperson, and I think part of why his skillset translates so well at both drumming and drafting is that he sees a song and a space in a similar way: as a project; something to plan for and fill in according to its own specific needs. When I show him a song idea, his approach is to take that idea away with him and sit with it for a while before coming back to me with feedback. The drum parts he comes up with are always meticulously thought through and grounded in their intention. Sometimes they’re exactly what I had in my head, sometimes they’re wildly different, but we have a way of landing on common ground. It’s a process I’ll always have so much respect for, but when I hear the songs on this album, I hear a distinctly new quality to his playing. There is an element that is more in-the-moment; more heart than head; more willing to deviate and explore. I think it’s taken his drumming, and consequently these songs, to another level.
The songs on You Can Bet Your House On Me are contemplations on human relationships and anxiety. I think there is a definite thread of optimism and resilience that binds them together, which I really hope reveals itself to the listener over time. The album is a document of an eighteen month period of our evolution as individual people, as a group of friends, and as a band. It’s been a joy to get to put it together with three people who I love and respect so much. I write songs compulsively, and always wanted to be in a band that was prolific, leaving a catalogue of music in its wake. I know it goes against the grain of how music is released and consumed right now, but that really doesn’t bother me. I wish my favourite bands made more albums.
So here is our first one. We hope you like it. If you don’t, we’ve already started the next one.