Q&A: Musical Journeys and a Didgeridoo with Isaac Koren of The Kin

What is a typical performance day like for you?

– Wake up in the hotel bed next to my brother.

– Fight our way to the local diner.

– Circle up around directions for the six hour drive through traffic to the next city.

– Have a smoke.

– Laugh and cry in the van, and sing loud songs.

– Load in like roadies, and pay off the local panhandlers.

– Sound check (the most fun musical moment of the day perhaps).

– Have dinner.

– Get dressed, and get your ass onstage for the next hour or so.

– Circle up.

– Have a drink.

– Say hi to some friends.

– Drive to the hotel and sleep.

– Or not at all …

How did you become a musician?

By accident, really. I was jamming in the backyard around a bonfire with a mate named Sam Joole — check him out — in Sydney, and we were 14 and 15 years old. He said, “Sing for me, Zack,” and I started wailing the blues and haven’t stopped since. Two weeks later, I was singing in his band in front of 250 kids.

What was your first instrument?

The voice.

Did you parents/home environment influence you?

A lot. My mother is an original hippie — original cast of  “HAIR” [the musical] —  and dad is from an intensely musical family. Check out my cousin’s band at MySpace. Dad would wake me up to Pink Floyd, and I would come home to Janis Joplin.

When did you and your brother start the band? Are there any fun early stories of you guys collaborating together?

Our father, Nils, was to remarry. We had no clue what to get them, so we wrote him a song. It was kind of a Simon and Garfunkel number with harmonies, and we felt the need to keep doing it ever since.

What is your creative/song writing process?

It’s different every time. It’s quite an undifferentiated experience, and linked more to what I’m hearing and seeing around me and how I’m feeling in it. Often melody leads the way; lyrics can come easy or not at all. The process with Thorald or any other writing partner has to be symbiotic and in the moment. Any time I feel contrived, I stop and have a cup of tea.

Who are some of the bands you list as your biggest influences?

Pink Floyd, Massive attack, Fleetwood Mac and Keane.

When and how did you learn to play the didgeridoo?

My grandmother gave me a didj for Christmas five years ago from Mt. Warning, New South Wales, and I took it into the bath tub with me. By the time I got out, I could make the right tone with my mouth. A week later, I could circular breathe. I was given permission by an elder to play it at Woodford Folk Festival in 2008. I like to make beats with it…drum and bass in one!

What is special about the instrument and incorporating it into your songs?

It’s a unified sound. A monotone. It stops people in their tracks and internal conversations, and brings us to the rumble in the chest. It sounds like a thunderous prehistoric fart. Were still finding ways to bring it in, really. Needs a good sound guy.

What are three tips to learning and playing the didgeridoo?

Push air out from your stomach, store air in your cheek like a bagpipe, and make a ‘raspberry’ with your lips in one side into the waxed end of the instrument.

Why and how did you start your own label? How has it affected the way you distribute your music and engage with your fans?

Out of the desire to get the music out there and not wait around for the ‘industry’ to understand what we were doing. It has given us the ability to tour with artists we like, and make fans one at a time. It has also given us the ability to really explore for our own sound. With Shakerleg [NYC street performer] on drums, we are getting closer, I feel.

Any other insights into the music industry in the U.S. that you can shed light on?

It’s a big country, so finding out the geographical landscape is a good way to reach your audience more quickly. There are regional tastes and music communities.

What are your favorite music venues in America?

Rockwood Music Hall in NYC, Iron Horse music hall In Northampton, MA, and House of Blues in Chicago.

Best intimate venue in New York?

Rockwood music Hall.

One stand-out, new, up-and coming Australian musician/band?

The Melodics.

And standout stories from performing in the U.S.? Collaborations?

Touring in support of Rod Stewart last year in arenas throughout America and Canada was an amazing learning experience.

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