It’s entirely possible that the members of Cincinnati’s The Kiss Me Everlasting are as skillful at acrobatics as they are at music, given the juggling and wirewalking required to fit the band into their hectic schedules.
Former Ruby Vileos vocalist/guitarist Ali Edwards divides her time between work, school, her son and KME, while former Ass Ponys drummer Dave Morrison (who also did time in Ruby Vileos, among other projects) and bassist Max Bender (former four stringer for Thee Shams and also a member of several other local bands) perform similar balancing acts, juggling employment and personal lives with the band’s gigging, writing and recording calendar.
Clearly, vocalist/guitarist Dan McCabe walks the highest wire and keeps the greatest number of plates spinning simultaneously. In addition to his Herculean (and yearlong) efforts to wrangle the ever-growing annual MidPoint Music Festival in Cincinnati into some semblance of order as the festival’s director, McCabe co-owns and operates Over-the-Rhine club MOTR Pub and manages to maintain a healthy family life. But he still manages to devote a fair amount of time to The Kiss Me Everlasting, whose just-released self-titled debut was a late entry in the packed field of the “Best Albums of 2012” derby.
One of the dominant features of KME, the album and band, is the fascinating interplay between Edwards and McCabe as vocalists and guitarists. Edwards somehow manages to sound ethereal and earthy simultaneously, while McCabe’s instrument offers a gruff tenderness reminiscent of Tom Waits in his early ’70s troubadour period.
“Ali has a very unique voice; I’m a secondary unique voice,” McCabe says in MOTR’s basement. “I’ve been in bands where those unique voices run parallel to unique instruments. That’s why I’m excited about this record. It’s about the voices and how they’re presented. It’s been a fun pursuit to build music around voices with character that are distinctive and worth sticking up front.”
The Kiss Me Everlasting’s roots go back to the dissolution of McCabe and Morrison’s last band, Campfire Crush, nearly five years ago. (Along with his booking legacy at clubs like Sudsy Malone’s, McCabe has also played in bands like Warehouse and Roundhead.) KME morphed into existence in McCabe’s basement while Campfire Crush experienced some personnel shifting.
“There’s not a clear demarcation of its beginning,” Morrison of KME.
“It was a transition from Campfire Crush into this band. Things changed and these opportunities opened up. There were two women in Campfire Crush, so when I was thinking about women singers or musicians, I had my all time favorites and (thought) maybe a certain person named Ali would want to come down and make some noise with us. When the three of us were in the same room, I would consider that the beginning of this band.”
Edwards’ arrival brought an interesting dynamic to the nascent group’s creative process, which in turn completely altered its trajectory.
“Ali was a songwriter, so coming in, Kiss Me Everlasting was immediately defined,” McCabe says.
KME solidified with the arrival of Bender, which allowed the quartet to begin playing out with as much frequency as everyone’s day-planners could accommodate. As the band’s sonic identity became more pronounced, so too did the foursome’s collective writing voice, as evidenced on KME’s stellar 11-track debut. An Indie Pop-fueled amalgam of Velvet Underground and Jesus and Mary Chain, KME feeds on the unique guy/girl harmonic tension that has characterized modern Cincinnati icons like Over the Rhine and Wussy. KME’s strong compositional skills combined with the intoxicating blend of Edwards and McCabe’s voices make the band a formidable force.
After nearly half a decade of playing, writing and refining, KME has amassed a voluminous catalog of material. But when it came time to actually create a permanent document of that material, some decisions had to be made.
So how does a band pick their favorite 11 “children” to represent them in the wider world for the first time?
“At the time we went into the studio, those songs were the ones that we felt we had the strongest vision of and were the most defined for all of us,” Edwards says. “We had pretty low expectations, like ‘If we come away with three good demos, we’ll be happy.’ And the debacle was that we came in and in a short amount of time, came up with seven or eight very good sounding demos, and then we went, ‘That sounds great, what are we going to do now?’ This was just going to be this little EP thing. So we decided to go back and finish it out.”
“And we put a couple of songs to death,” McCabe says of the tunes that didn’t make the LP. “They don’t all survive the scrutiny. We approach songwriting in a very fluid way. We approach a song from (one) direction and then we’re like, ‘Fuck that, what if …?’ “We have fun setting songs upside down and experimenting. We don’t play out a lot, we play to ourselves. In that situation, we have the luxury of saying, ‘It’s been that way for so long, fuck that …’ We’ll manhandle songs often. It’s a fun evolution in our basement. The fun thing is the live experience is an evolution, as well.”
That deliberation is a hallmark of The Kiss Me Everlasting’s creative process. The band didn’t hurry their debut and, as McCabe noted, they don’t book an inordinate number of shows around town merely for the sake of playing out. KME’s experienced membership has a purposeful outlook on its career path and that will continue into the foreseeable future.
“I don’t think anybody’s in this to get in front of their adoring public so everyone sees them in a certain light,” Morrison says. “That’s fun and healthy for a lot of people, but for us, we were concentrating on the product the whole time. This record represents five years of trying to find it. We took a lot of time and spent a lot of money to make this record — not to make it great, just to finish it and agree on what was good. And it was hard, because we’re all employed and have children; we can’t even have this as our No. 1 vanity.”
THE KISS ME EVERLASTING join The Ready Stance and Koala Fires for a show Jan. 12 at the new club 1207 (1207 Main St., Over-the-Rhine).