Picture a tangle of string. Imagine following that string from one end to the other, all the while taking twists, turns, returning back to where you started before finally finding the other end. It’s a great analogy for music in general, but serves as a particularly clever description of Danny Harley and his solo project, The Kite String Tangle.
Five years since first hearing music from Harley, we now have his debut album. How does he feel about it finally coming out? “It’s amazing! It’s a huge milestone for me. I’ve been doing music for so long and never released a debut album. It’s been a goal for me and it feels good to get something out.” He continues, “I was in a weird position because I’d released an EP and it exceeded my expectations by a long shot and so I kinda feel like I’m on my second album.”
Vessel, The Kite String Tangle’s 2014 EP in question, was very warmly received, gaining four and five star ratings from audiences and numerous notable publications and introducing us to an ambient style of dance music that Australia has rarely encountered. So, what was influencing Harley as he progressed from such a successful debut EP to an album? “I kind of draw influence from a lot of different stuff. Musically, in terms of production, I lean towards more left-field electronic artists – people who concentrate on textures – ranging from Brian Eno and John Hopkins to Jamie XX, Bonobo and Caribou. Then there’s artists like London Grammar or Bon Iver who write in a more classic song structure. That’s who I lean towards more for melody and lyrics. There’s a big range, but it’s all kind of modern stuff, with the exception of Brian Eno,” he chuckles. “I’m under the impression that there wasn’t really a glory period for music in the ’60s or ’70s. There’s artists that are just as good now, but you just have to find them and pay attention to them before they become a classic act, where like they’re selling Led Zeppelin shirts in City Beach or Target even. It’s a weird thing to me!”
Genre is a particularly passionate topic for Danny. In the internet age, music is so accessible that people aren’t pigeonholed into a particular genre anymore. He elaborates, “It’s more of an eclectic audience now. I feel like a while ago, you were either a rock person or you were a rap person or you were into R&B and that would define much more of your personality than it does now. Right now, people will listen to Chance The Rapper and then Bon Iver and they’re just all over the shop and that’s totally fine. I feel like it’s a pretty eclectic time musically for the common sort of person.” This leads to some reminiscing, “My Dad used to give me five pounds when we were living in the UK, and I used to go to the CD shop and get a different pop-punk band CD every weekend!”
We were first exposed to the talents of The Kite String Tangle through his dance/pop band, Pigeon, in 2012. The five-piece Brisbane band released big booming numbers featuring a combination of harder edge synth to rocky dance tracks (think Pendulum). It wasn’t until Harley moved into a solo project that his love of more ambient and soothing music came to the fore. With this album though, he has brought back some of the tempo that was seen in his old band. “I think having stopped that [band] it kind of subconsciously influenced a lot of the album because a lot of the album is more energetic than the EP. The EP started as a more sombre, down-tempo side project and the album is a lot more dynamic and has a lot bigger epic moments and is more crafted for the live show to an extent. I’ve expanded my band. I’m playing Splendour with a keyboardist and a drummer and a couple of horns, a big lighting show and some guest vocalists!” All of a sudden, The Kite String Tangle has become a full band experience! What was once a solo electronic project has become so much more.
This brings us back to the tangle and complication of a project that is certain to take many more turns before reaching the end of the string. With the recent upload of The Prize as an acoustic track featuring beautiful vocals from Tiana Khasi alongside Harley’s, the topic of an acoustic album came up. Would he entertain the idea? “Absolutely! I’d love to do that one day. A lot of the artists that I really connect with are in that sort of ilk.” One of his favourites is the ever-changing Sufjan Stevens. “He’s an amazing career artist that I’ve been watching the whole time. I love everything he does and I love how you will never really know what his next album will sound like. I would love to model my career like that. So maybe I will put out something acoustic with strings. I’d like to keep people guessing!”
Harley isn’t one to rest, and despite working on this album, he has found time to be involved in the creation of a new label with his management company, UNIFIED (now re-branded as UNIFIED Music Group) dubbed Exist. Recordings. Harley is involved in the marketing plans, A&R and signing artists in his vision for the newly founded label that already boasts Lastlings and Golden Vessel on their roster. “I’ve learnt a lot from the artists I sign as well. They’re so clever and they all work in different ways. It’s cool right?” It’s not only cool, but a sure-fire winner for the artists selected.
Harley has just wrapped up his performance at SITG before heading out on a huge tour in support of Odesza in September, with more to come from KST himself later in the year.
19 August, The Last Frost Festival, Innovation Campus, UOW, Wollongong
14 September, Auckland Town Hall, Auckland*
15 September, Forum Theatre, Melbourne*
16 & 17 September, Enmore Theatre, Sydney*
14 October, Red Deer Music & Arts Festival, Mount Samson Amphitheater, Brisbane
* Supporting ODESZA