f you’re partial to the floaty soundtrack beloved of Ibizan sunset bar compilations and aspirational TV adverts, you’ll doubtless have nodded blissfully along to seminal track Slip into Something More Comfortable. The soaring strings of the Engelbert Humperdink-sampling tune launched Kinobe onto the global stage back in the 90s, at the height of the boom in chilled electronica.
The popularity of such lush sounds hasn’t really waned since, and now Kinobe are back too, with their first album in nine years. It’s all the result of founder member Julias Waters striking up casual chit-chat with his Kentish Town neighbour Chuck Norman. The duo chatted to us in the offices of their record label, New State (also based locally), to discuss their meeting of minds, music and how NW5 rivals Ibiza for inspiring a new wave of chillout classics.
JULIAS: We first met as neighbours living in the same Gospel Oak block. Chuck’s kids were about to start at the local school and my daughters were already there. After a few months of nodding in the corridors we got talking and realised that we both musicians. Our daughters then became friends, so we would have been thrown together eventually via the children.
CHUCK: I had a shed in the garden where my studio was set up, so in between school runs we started hanging out there and jamming, writing a lot. Much of what eventually became the new album, Golden Age, began life in that shed in Lissenden Gardens.
J: When we started, though, we didn’t really know what the project was going to be. Both of us wanted to be around our kids when they were growing up, so our focus was suddenly all about being at home. As they got a bit older, space in a studio became available with perfect timing. We knew we had some tunes that could probably make a Kinobe album, so we got serious about creating that sound.
C: Previously it had been very instrumental, but there are more vocals on this album than ever. We had a really good selection of different voices and we wanted them all on there. With vocals you can reach more people.
J: Kinobe has never been about the faces, always the music. We use an ongoing range of guest vocalists: Rich Hale and Lucy Chapman were both Gospel Oak School parents as well. That becomes your world, day to day. From bumping in to each other as neighbours to all the photographers, artists and even the record label we’ve used, you don’t have to look very far: there are just lots of creative people working in a very unassuming way around here.
C: And being with New State Music has been fantastic. They are such nice people and really showed their commitment to us in pressing vinyl and CDs for the album. Having something tactile at the end of all the work is a massive reward, because it’s sadly not common anymore. We derive our music from classic sounds: we use a real drummer not drum machines, as we want it to sound real throughout, so having in available in an analogue format is lovely. You can hear technological changes in music immediately, like the arrival of Afrika Bambaataa, so we needed to make sure the drums weren’t too big like some massive 80s thing.
J: It really comes from both of us having a love for movie soundtracks, and not necessarily modern ones. A lot from the 60s and 70s, where their choice of sounds suits the picture. In the past, ideas for tracks have come from a picture or a still in my mind. The sounds that come naturally to me often seem like the ones that would fit into a classic Italian euro-spy movie. Of course, there are no rules to what we do musically, but it’s obvious not to spoil that atmosphere that you’ve created by then introducing a drum machine or something from the wrong decade. We’re not trying to create a pastiche of an old-sounding record, but our cinematic sensibilities and shared taste in music, having that appreciation for soundtrack composers like Ennio Morricone or David Axelrod, it puts it in a certain context. That’s one of the reasons why we work so well together: we have a large crossover of the styles that we appreciate, and we both like to hear it coming back at ourselves in the studio when writing our own stuff.
C: While we wrote it at home in Kentish Town, we wanted it to feel exotic, sexy, and to evoke a feeling that we’re sitting on a rock somewhere else, looking at the sunset. Our productions don’t really go in for sharp edges, there’s lots of splashing around.