He was in the Bay Area for less than 24 hours, but after stealing 20-something minutes of his time, we’ve concluded that Danny Harley (otherwise known as The Kite String Tangle) could easily be a native.
A well-spoken vegetarian, cabernet sauvignon drinker, and up-and-coming music maker, Harley made his San Francisco debut at Rickshaw Stop last Thursday evening with Swedish trio Kate Boy.
“Given the Chance,” the lead single from Harley’s debut Vessel (2014), exploded on SoundCloud over the past year. The EP’s six tracks are an interesting collection of delicate stylistic fusions that could be summed up as downtempo pop meets IDM meets PBR&B, if absolutely necessary — regardless, it’s a pretty impressive piece of work written, performed, and produced by himself. We’re anxious to see him develop a signature sound. (He was also very recently verified by Twitter, if that’s an indicator of anything.)
We couldn’t stick around for the show, but here’s the transcript from our mid-afternoon chat:
The Kite String Tangle in one sentence — go.
It’s my life.
What do you like most about the solo project and music production?
It’s completely untainted by other people. I’ve been in bands a lot throughout my music life, and I really like collaborating with others, but it’s a totally different experience to do it by yourself — it’s completely original and the end product is 100% yours.
There’s a slight tragedy to your moniker. You told AAA Backstage that it contains a sense of “innocence, nostalgia, and complication.” It kind of speaks to being caught in a situation, “in a tangle.” So… where would you rather be?
That’s a tough one. I’ve used the name for ages; I don’t even think about the words anymore.
In that case, where will you be in five or ten years?
I hope that I would be able to maintain a career for at least ten years in music. I’m lucky in this that it’s all I do now — I get to travel and play shows and that’s awesome, so I hope that I’d still be doing that.
Who are you onstage with?
Probably still by myself. Maybe with some other musicians, but still as The Kite String Tangle.
Who’s opening for you?
Many of your songs are these longing, optimistic ballads. Thematically, you’re holding out for someone who you’ve lost. Who’s the lyrical centre of Vessel? Is it about a number of people?
It’s about a number of people. The writing took place over at least two years and spanned a great deal of experiences. I’ve always been in longer relationships for most of my life so it draws a lot of inspiration from them… though there have only been a couple.
The album cover — it’s like one of those “guess the closeup” activities in the children’s pages of National Geographic — what is it exactly?
Actually, I have this artist — I really like his stuff, so I contacted him. He lives in Argentina, his name is Francisco Canton, and I got him to do it. I have no idea what he used, but I think it’s some kind of coloured smoke. It’s cool.
The intro to “What If,” man. The percussion throughout that track, and the EP, is exquisite.
What sort of instrumentation do you typically use in the studio and how do you conceive that component?
It’s weird, I went to a high school where the music program was quite predominant in the school. It was nice because they had all this melodic percussion like marimbas, glockenspiels, vibraphones, timpani.
Oh, I love the vibraphone.
It’s such a nice sound. Have you seen it when they bow it?
I actually saw that last Saturday at another show. I’d never seen [a vibraphone bowed] live, in a rock setting! It was exciting.
Yeah, all my friends were doing [percussion]; I was being a guitarist at the time, but I took a lot of influence from that. I always had an affinity with percussion. I would sample it a lot — I actually went to my old high school to sample.
Did you grow up in Australia?
Largely, a lot in the UK as well.
You have one guest vocalist on the album, Tiana Khasi. You met her at a performance. Are you still in touch?
Yeah! She came with me on my last tour in Australia for the whole five weeks. She’s awesome; she’s good fun.
Can we write a song together?
We’ve got what, half an hour? Better get cracking.
You did “Stone Cold” in a day, I heard.
Yeah, it was super quick. Actually, I was just in LA and wrote a song with some guy in four hours. It was the quickest song I’d ever written with someone; it was great.
Haha, just “some guy?”
No, I didn’t know him — he’s a songwriter. Lots of those types in LA.
What about the Adventure Club feature? Where did you meet?
We had the same management at the time. It seemed like a super natural thing. They were looking for a top line, so I did the vocals and lyrics, they produced the track, and that was that. Fixed it on the EP and it did really well.
Yeah, they’re huge.
I know you’ve played SXSW and Coachella in the past, is this your first US tour, though?
Yes. Coachella was a guest vocal for Adventure Club, but I only recently got my visa, so as soon as I got it, I got over here.
So you’ve had three shows. No, two shows, and this is your third. Wow. How is it treating you, the reception?
Awesome. It’s really cool — I travel by myself, like, I just met Christo [my tour manager] over here. Since I travel by myself, it’s always a bit intimidating or scary to be somewhere different and then perform, but then once you’re in a venue…
It feels like home.
Yeah, it’s the same thing. So it’s been really nice, yeah.
How are Kate Boy?
Kate Boy are awesome! I only did my first show with them on Tuesday. They’re so nice. It’s like two Swedish dudes and an Australian girl. She’s Australian, too!
That’s so funny! [What a coincidence!]
Yeah, we get along really well. I’m looking forward to touring with them; it’ll be fun.
And you’re doing your whole tour with them?
Yes, except Vancouver and a show in New York. I’m doing those shows on my own, headlining. They had a day off.
Nice! That should be exciting. Have you been to Vancouver?
Never. I’ve never been to Canada.
I can’t wait. A lot of people tell me Australia and Canada are like, sister countries or something.
Anyone in the Commonwealth is family! Now, sometimes it’s hard for musicians to tour on a single EP — do you supplement your sets with covers? New material?
A little bit of old, a little bit of new, and a cover.
Is that the Lorde one?
Yeah, but I was doing a different one back in Australia.
A different Lorde song?
Oh no, a Flight Facilities song.
Lorde was in Berkeley a couple weeks ago. Every single piece of confetti had her face on it; I thought it was ridiculous.
You know you’ve made it big when… there’s where you are in five years. With uh…
Confetti. That’s insane. Did you get a piece?
I grabbed a bunch for a friend who couldn’t make it, yeah. So, Flight Facilities. Are they from Australia too? (Mmmhmm.) They’re great.
They’re really really good. They just released an album; it’s really really good.
Oh, I should get on that. Are we expecting any releases from you in the near future? I know Vessel just came out.
Yeah, it’s been about a month and a bit, but I’ve already started writing for what I expect will be a debut album. It feels very important and I want to make sure I’m happy with it, so I don’t want to put a deadline on it.
How long does this tour take you?
This one’s only a few weeks, then I’m heading into the UK for another couple of weeks.
Then Christmas at home?
Yeah, a bunch of festivals and stuff there, too.
Oh good. Here are five shotgun questions — one: what do you use in your hair?
Ooh! I’ll either use brylcreem, which is super old man kinda stuff; it’s weird. Or I’ll use my girlfriend’s curling mousse or something like that. I have something equally girly on tour with me right now.
[Two.] Describe your “breakfast of champions.”
Probably what I’ll get in Australian cafes all the time, which is like organic salad or toast with avocado and some poached eggs. Avocado is the best thing in life, ever.
Number three: what’s the significance of the Venice Beach sweatshirt in the “Given the Chance” clip?
I have no idea! I got that clip done very early on — it’s pretty cool — I paid my friend $200 to do it. I didn’t really have a part in the costume design, haha.
[Four.] Last film you saw?
The Double (2013). It’s by this director named Richard Ayoade — he’s only done two films; the other one’s Submarine (2010).
[Five.] Plans for your stay in San Francisco?
Literally, in and out. From here, I think we’re eating dinner at the Thai place across the road, I’ll play the show tonight and then I guess I’ll stick around for a few drinks and come back [to the hotel]. It’s kind of annoying, because all the shows are like that.
Tomorrow morning [before your flight]? Maybe grab breakfast at a cafe in Haight-Ashbury?
Okay, Ashbury? … it’s so annoying, I really wish I were here longer, which will be the case for everywhere I go.
Well, you’ll just have to come back! Finally, congratulations on your Breakthrough Artist of the Year ARIA nomination! Thoughts on your fellow nominees (5 Seconds of Summer, Andy Bull, Chet Faker, Iggy Azalea)?
Thank you; it’s pretty ridiculous. Like, Iggy Azalea — number one across the world or something. 5 Seconds of Summer, too. Chet Faker I love.
Are they “breakthrough” though? I feel like they’ve been around for a while.
Yeah, I don’t know how it’s judged or how it works, but I’m just happy.
Will you be home when they announce those?
Yeah, I will! It’s the start of December and I’ll be back the end of November, so it’s perfect timing. I get to go to the awards, get a suit, and embarrass myself.
Is that televised in Australia? Is it the major award?
Yeah, it is. We only have one, really, so yeah. I get to practice my loser face in case, like… “I’m disappointed but they totally deserve it.”
If you’re on the east coast, in the UK, or in Australia, unwind at one of The Kite String Tangle’s upcoming showdates. Otherwise, sit tight — he’ll be back soon, no doubt.
Article by Joanna Jiang