Prove your humanity

Following the release of their debut album, Kisses, Mosquito Coast’s Conor Barton had a chat to Grok about recording in New York City, being vulnerable with music and the band’s long-distance relationship.

How do you feel your sound has developed since first releasing Call My Name in 2015?

Our sound has definitely matured, and we’ve got a far stronger vision now of what we want to sound like. When we recorded Call My Name, we really didn’t think about it too much, there was no expectations of what would happen to it. Being given a platform has definitely encouraged us to push ourselves further outside our comfort zones and try and improve our writing skills. On Kisses, we’ve employed a lot more synthesizers and vocal harmonies, and I think there’s a bit more angularity to the songs—they have a bit more of an edge than Call My Name.

Each song on the album feels connected to the next. What was the writing process like for Kisses?

The writing process for Kisses was quite fragmented—some songs were finished in Falcon, others in Fremantle, and a couple only took shape once in New York. We’ve tried to buddy them up a little, for example, the first two songs were written in quick succession. We wanted to include interludes not only to weave the songs together but to also to create more of an overall atmosphere—for us, they really fill in the gaps, act as palette cleansers and let the listener know when they can take a breather.

Kisses is a warm and dreamy album; it feels very intimate listening to it. Where did the inspiration for the album come from? And was it difficult to make yourselves so publicly vulnerable for this album?

Over the last three years, we have both experienced so much—first loves, moving out of home, moving to different cities, touring, etc. Kisses is a collection of songs that is inspired by those situations. For us, we can connect each song to a person that was with us along those rides, whether it be a fleeting crush or a long-term partner. We’ve tried to explore fresh love and heartbreak, as well as the bits in between. In terms of being vulnerable, it was always a goal for this album to be more direct in its lyricism, and for listeners to be able to understand what we were talking about, so it wasn’t too difficult because we knew what we had to do [Laughs]. But yes, there were some points where we had to push each other to open up, and that meant some real emotions flowing in the studios—it was the first time we experienced tears while recording.

How was making this record different to your previous releases?

Making Kisses was a lengthier process than our past releases, mainly because it’s our first album, and we hadn’t navigated such a large format before. We also made a lot of it while living in two different states, so that meant a lot of emails being sent back and forth and impromptu voice memos. While in the studio, recording was also a lot more spontaneous and fluid—everything was always set up, so whenever we had an idea, we could run in and record it instantly. That level of freedom definitely had a strong effect on the album—some of the fun details like doo-wop harmonies or disco percussion came from us experimenting in that environment. We were able to try things we hadn’t done before, and not worry if they didn’t work out.

You recorded the album in New York City, what was that like?

Recording in NYC was a wild experience. We were there for fourteen days and recorded for twelve of them. When we arrived, it was snowing, and when we left it was 28 degrees. It is such an overwhelming city, but luckily, we were in a chill part of Brooklyn that we got to know quite well. We hung out at The Lot Radio a lot, got to do some record shopping, and even snuck into a club to see Daniel Avery. Having Nicolas as our guide definitely made things a lot more special.

What was it like working with Nicolas Vernhes on the album?

Working with Nic was incredible, he is such a yes man and is always open to trying any idea. He really encouraged us to create original sounds, mess with conventional song structures and attempt things we didn’t think were traditionally “us”. He also works super quickly, which meant that we got the album done quick enough that we had enough time to really solidify every track, and give time to the ones that needed love. His record collection definitely influenced us too, especially the first New Order record and Gang of Four.

How does living on the other side of the country to two of your bandmates work out? Is it difficult being a long-distance relationship in that sense?

It involves a lot of emailing and texting voice memos! It just means that we really cherish our time together when we see each other, and try and put time aside for us to create together. We’re also just really great friends, and have been for a long while, so that makes it easier 😊

Do you have a favourite track from the new album?

‘Paris, Texas’ is both of our favourites! The way it turned out was so unexpected, it really just took on a mind of its own. Still when I listen to it, I get excited knowing that the B section is about to break out. It’s also super fun to play live.

What can we expect next from you?

Naomi is working on a jazz-influenced project called Special Feelings and I’m going to start a Roxy Music cover band.


Mosquito Coast’s new album, ‘Kisses’, is out now.