INTERVIEW: Chris Baum of Bent Knee Talks "Land Animals" Returning to Colorado & Future Plans
Bent Knee have had a whirlwind of a year so far, and it's still far from over. The Boston art-rock band is in the midst of tour dates in support of their recently released album, Land Animal, which brings listeners on a journey through commentary on today's globalized society and how people continue to evolve in a world of ever-growing complexity. As the band's Chris Baum says, we're living in a pivotal moment in human history, and Land Animal is a direct reflection of that.
As part of their current tour the band will bring their show to Larimer Lounge in Baum's home state of Colorado this week. Fans can purchase tickets to the July 27th show HERE. As for the rest of the year? It seems that Bent Knee still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Stay tuned for more and read the interview below!
Interview by Dom Vigil
Can you tell us a little bit about Bent Knee for any readers who might not be familiar?
Bent Knee is a band of differing influences and conflicting ideas. We pull bits and pieces from across the musical spectrum and have tailored our writing process to allow for this source material to shine through our music. Everyone in the group comes from a different musical background and continues to have contrasting artistic influences; permitting these differences to co-exist together is the primary reason why we sound the way we do. “Art rock” is the very ambiguous genre we’ve been thrown into, so to narrow that down a bit, we have particular affinities for experimentation, intricacy, unusual song form, and dynamic contrast.
You’re in the midst of tour in support of your newest album, Land Animal. What has been the highlight of these shows so far?
It’s been enormously gratifying watching our audience grow with each album cycle. Our last two tours were spent on the road with The Dillinger Escape Plan and Thank You Scientist, which were wonderful experiences with exceptional bands, but it’s especially validating to know that on this run, these crowds are here to see us, specifically. There’s nothing quite like seeing people wearing Bent Knee t-shirts in the audience and hearing them sing along to the choruses.
What are you looking forward to the most on the upcoming dates?
Colorado is my home state, so I’m very much looking forward to bringing Bent Knee to Denver. Aside from that, I’m thrilled to be returning to the west coast. We’re a Boston band, but our very first tour began in California, and it’s been ages since we’ve played there. It’ll be a lovely dose of nostalgia. One of my favorite parts of this bizarre occupation are the friendships I’ve developed and maintained the world over. Rekindling these relationships in each city we visit is a joy, and helps to stave off some of the drudgery of cross-country touring.
If someone is coming out to see Bent Knee for the first time on this tour, what can they expect from the live show?
We’re a band that’s built for live performance. All of our music is written specifically for the stage long before it’s brought into the studio. Venues are our playground, our laboratory, our sanctuary. Performing is a cathartic, transcendent experience for us, and it’s my sincere hope that this feeling is shared by our audience as well. Live music is the quickest path to human connection and pure emotion that I can think of, and if we’re doing our job correctly, our show is no exception.
Land Animal has been out for about a month now. Looking back on the album, what would you say you’re most proud of?
It’s hard to pinpoint anything specific at the moment; I’m just proud that we finished the thing! So much has changed since our last record, “Say So”, came out last year. We toured with some amazing bands, joined the incredible APA booking roster, and signed our first contract with a major label. Due to the development of the latter two relationships, we needed to churn out a new album at blistering pace. It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least, and we burned a lot of midnight oil turning the record around in time. That said, the consolidated production schedule has resulted in what I consider our strongest collection of music to date. "Land Animal" a succinct, lush, beautiful album, and I’m honored to have played a role in its creation.
When you first started working on Land Animal, did you have any major goals in mind?
Although we didn’t have any specific goals going into production, we wound up focusing more on the concept of "groove" on this release. While our last record, Say So, involved quite a bit of experimentation with song form, we were much more interested in playing with rhythm - how it moves and functions underneath the melody - on Land Animal. A lot of this comes from our love and admiration of hip-hop's current landscape. Albums like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and Flying Lotus’s You’re Dead have had a huge influence on our writing over the past year.
The album is a sort of snapshot and commentary on life in the 21st century. Were there any stories that you really wanted to tell with these songs? What do you feel you had to contribute to this conversation?
All art is a reflection of the age it’s created in to a certain extent. “Land Animal” is essentially a meditation on the allures and repulsions of modern life. The name comes from the struggle for survival outside of the ocean, a habitat in which organisms freely move in three dimensions. Creatures outside of that environment engage in a constant battle with gravity. Land animals are explorers; survivors. In the midst of great struggle, we trudge ever forward. Each song on "Land Animal" tells the story of human survival in its own way. As complex social issues and technological breakthroughs continue to shape our evolution as a species, they echo our early efforts to step foot onto land. We’re living at a pinnacle moment in human history, where current and near-future innovations could either result in the downfall or salvation of our species.
What would you like listeners to be able to take away from Land Animal?
Our society is growing far too accustomed to seeing things as either black or white. We live in a world of immense intricacy, and simplifying complex issues and relationships into click-bait headlines is throwing the world into bigotry and chaos. A connected, globalized society should be bringing the world together, not tearing it apart. If anything, I hope that our music offers the opportunity for contemplation, self-reflection, and camaraderie. “Land Animal” is an album of hope, which may not be apparent on the surface, but feelings of isolation, apathy, and helplessness can be eradicated in part by sharing them with others.
You have tour dates planned throughout August, but after that, do you have any other big plans for this year?
We’ll be touring as much as we can throughout the year, and are working on something mysterious and exciting that’ll debut in early 2018. Stay tuned.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
You’re most welcome, appreciate you taking the time. It’s not often we travel to Denver, so if you, dear reader, have made it this far, I strongly encourage you to come see us on the 27th! You can hear our new album at smarturl.it/bentkneelandanimal and find out more about the band at bentkneemusic.com.