New Sound 023 \\ lo-fi psych-pop duo Kit Sebastian reveal a dreamy debut

15th July 2019
Like many of us, we hope that an email would lead to something amazing. For Kit Sebastian, it did. 

Multi-instrumentalist Kit Martin and Merve Erdem, a vocalist and multi-disciplinary artist from Istanbul, together form Kit Sebastian. They sent an unsolicited email to Brighton based label Mr Bongo at Christmas time, 2018. What followed, not long after, was a deal to release their debut album, ‘Mantra Moderne’. 

The album’s taste for nostalgia is emphasised in its lofi-crispy production, but balanaced in the now with its self-aware lyrics and contemporary influences, spanning Anatolian Psychedelia, Brazilian Tropicalia, 60’s European pop and American jazz. Fans of Khruangbin, Portishead and Arthur Verocai can take note of their album release on 19 July. 

To introduce the duo ahead of their debut album, we took some time with both Kit and Merve to talk about the first gift to come from Kit Sebastian via Mr Bongo. 

\\ How did you know that you should be making music together? How did you connect?

Merve: It happened quite unexpectedly. Only a month after I moved to London, I saw Kit’s post on social media – he was looking for a Turkish singer. I have never professionally sung in my life before but always wanted to. I responded to his post with a naive video of me as a pseudo villager, singing in the mountains of the Black Sea region and he liked it. As we talked about music, film, aesthetics and many other things, we realized that we had quite common artistic and personal tastes. I also learned about many great musicians thanks to Kit who has exceptional music knowledge. We share a vivid curiosity towards different cultures and a desire to find similarities and a common universality.

\\ The album pulls on some fascinating, varied resources and inspirations, tell us about how you bring your ideas together.

Kit: I think our inspirations were both the same and acquired organically but in a different way. The period of recording happened to be during a period where I was finding many rare records from the Middle East, Martinique and Africa in rural France. Some were so rare that they felt like a sign from the universe to study this music and it inevitably became enveloped into our identity and unconscious musical DNA.

‘Happy accidents’ were also a factor. For example, in the first track that was recorded, ‘Yanımda Kal’, I inadvertently played a flat 2nd instead of just playing the 2nd (not being a saxophone player). This resulted in a scale reminiscent of certain maqams, changing the universe of which it belonged to. Regarding the lyrics, it is a bit different. We both talk about what we want the song to be about and then write them.

\\ You were the first act ever to be signed to Mr Bongo following an unsolicited email. How did you react when you heard back from them?

Merve: More confused than anything, after being a big fan of their reissues and attitude as a label, it was an honor.

\\ Tell us about the track you’re most proud of on the record?

Merve: This is a difficult question. I think I am very proud of ‘Kuytu’ and ‘Durma’. The creative process of ‘With a Sense of Grace’ was quite fun as well.

Kit: For me, I love ‘Kuytu’. It is hard to balance emotion with aesthetics, yet Merve’s singing is so expressive here, and even if one doesn’t understand the lyrics, the meaning is not lost, I believe. When I listen to it, it explodes with authentic feeling.

\\ What’s coming up for the rest of this year?

Merve: We spent the last months forming our live band – we want to be on the road with them playing as much as possible. Music is more fulfilling when you share it with people. Since Kit played all the instruments in the album, the idea of finding people was a bit scary at the beginning. We were both used to the comfort of our studio recordings in a tiny room in Kit’s place. We didn’t have much connection with other musicians. However, the band came together and we really enjoy our live shows. The songs change quite a lot when we play them live. So, hopefully, there will be lots of gigs next year – we will be playing in Rough Trade East on 10 August.

Kit: We’re also working on new songs, which we’re excited about. Video is something we’re interested in. In the barren age of the ‘content creator’ why not take their prolific quantity of output, mode of sharing, and try and create beauty using organic forms?  Particularly by analogue means. When we’re not producing music, we are working with film and photography; not in mind of promoting us as a duo, but to promote an aesthetic which we enjoy and have tried to conceptualise.  

Photo Credit: Munéyuki-Sugiyama

Pre-order the debut album from Kit Sebastian on Bandcamp

Listen to an exclusive mix from Mr Bongo, who play Love Supreme Jazz Festival this Summer

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