EP Walkthrough: KESMAR’s experimentation pays off with new EP, Up to You
A combination of both old and new influences, Up To You reveals the type of musician and sound that Nathan Hawes is settling into.
It’s clear that Nathan Hawes - also known under his musical alias KESMAR - has been busy over the past six months or so, moving away from his beginnings of folky singer-songwriter and embracing a new path full of synths and electronic drum patterns. This new direction has already proved promising for the Sydney-based musician, having released successful debut track, Feel It Again and recently finishing up a tour with Vera Blue. Hawes is hitting the ground running, in this new territory of an EP that boasts his ability to accommodate and evolve as an artist. The chilled, yet constant electronic beats creates the special sounds that make up the EP Up to You, yet somehow shows the experimentation he’s been playing with. His desire to create a new name for himself after playing acoustic guitar for ten years is definitely reflected in this brand new modern six-track project.
Spanning six tracks, Up To You ultimately feels like a semi-throwback, as many of the tracks relish in major-sounding 70’s disco loops disguised by contemporary influences. Despite it being a completely new sound, there’s a confidence that comes with every synth and drum sample, with the artist - an ‘artist to watch’ in 2019, according to YouTube Music - solidifying his place as one of the country's most exciting and promising new names. Dive into the EP below, with a track-by-track walkthrough from KESMAR himself, who walks us through the album's creation and central themes one song at a time.
Feel It Again
Feel It Again was the first single released as KESMAR. Instantly after writing it, it was a track I needed everyone to hear first. The track was written with LANKS in his apartment in Sydney, early 2018. The whole song came relatively quickly; most of it was written in the first session. I then took it home, did some additional production before taking to Melbourne to re-track vocals, add live drums and synths with Tobias Priddle. Once we had tracked live drums, it completely opened up the song, gave it more life, and the groove it needed.
Mistake was the last track we finished when making the EP. Tobias and myself spent a week experimenting heavily to try and make a chorus work that unfortunately was just not working. It wasn't until my manager came in to listen, that the outside pair of ears is just what we needed. After listening to it so many times we became completely desensitised to the song. Deleting the old chorus and starting fresh gave us new inspiration. Turning away from my beloved Juno 60 to the Prophet 08 harsh brass pad opened up the chorus giving it space.
Collide was most definitely a tough one to break. It went through so many changes, and by the end, Tobias and I couldn't tell what was right. Although at times it was painful to finish a big session, I learnt from it, and to trust the initial idea. Collide was simply a case of ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ and it went through about seven different versions, then after taking a week’s break from recording, we reverted back to the initial idea. It taught us to trust ourselves more and we found a certain confidence we needed, to finish not just Collide, but the EP itself.
Up To You
Up To You was written with my good friends Tobias Priddle and Tim Ayre. It was our first-time meeting, but after sharing references and our love for great European bands such as Phoenix, we instantly knew it was a good pair. The sessions started off with a simple Linn drum pattern, Tim on the Rhodes and myself on bass. Once establishing the groove… melodies and lyrics were naturally crafted. One of my favourite moments in the songwriting process was after the session had finished. I was driving home and listening to what we just made. I think in the first 30 seconds I’ll know if I love it or hate it. Up to You found a place to resonate with myself, Tim and Tij. It found us in a close friendship and writing circle.
Coasting is the most downtempo track on the EP, sitting at only 80BPM. It gives the EP a chance to wind down into a slow groove. This is definitely a track that took its time to get right. It went through a lot of production and structure changes to really get the vibe right. In the end, one live drum take was all it needed to tie the whole track together, sitting behind the beat and experimenting with loose drum-fills, it was executed perfectly on the tubs by Nate Woody. Coasting is about when you find yourself in life just getting by; telling yourself there’s nothing wrong, ignoring hard conversions until eventually, it has to be let out.
Crushing is another track that had some drastic changes from the demo, to the final product. Written in March 2017, my ideas and vision had changed a lot, and during that time, I believed the track needed to be re-worked. In the end, it was the keys played by Tim Ayre, that helped the track find it’s base and that whirly pattern he created under the chorus, I thought was genius. It sat in the pocket enough, that it made it easier for me to record some large Analog Juno pads to still be the main piece of the song. In the breakdown of the track, you can hear it being soloed and builds this very satisfying effect. Lyrically the track was taking from a past relationship, delving into self-doubt, feeling like two people in different places but forcing it to work.
Saturday, 4th May – The Workers Club, Melbourne
Saturday, 18th May – The Vanguard, Sydney
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