Thursday, November 15, 2012

Kite Party

A single spin of Kite Party’s Baseball Season reveals a band that’s in absolute sync with one another. 

For example, “Welcome to Miami”, the full-length’s first song, combines a crystalline lead guitar, its melody sparkling like light in a chandelier, with another grumbling, muttering one; singer and guitarist Russell Edling’s husky howl climbs across these complimentary contradictions, sewn together with a third rhythm guitar and bass, as drums pound to a strict, robotic beat. Though these melodic elements click to create a complex whole, each remains coherent and interesting on its own.

For Edling, the band’s synchronicity is easy to explain: He and Justin Fox, who plays guitar and keyboards for Kite Party, are musical kindred spirits. “Justin and I have known one another since we were nine years old when we played soccer together,” Edling explains. “When we were in sixth grade, I remember one day I brought him in this mixtape that I made for him, and he didn’t know what to do with it.” The cassette contained songs by Operation Ivy, Screeching Weasel, and other punk-rock bands that might startle any unsuspecting sixth grader. “He was polite, like, ‘Oh, cool. Thanks,’” Edling laughs. “I think he probably did listen to it eventually.”

“Since that point,” Edling adds, “he and I have pretty much been stuck together.”

Edling and Fox not only discovered music by swapping it back and forth on the bus to school, but they also mastered their instruments together. “Justin was the one who got the guitar first and got really good at playing it; he just had a real natural talent,” Edling remembers. “Once he got rid of his first guitar, I bought it from him. So then he and I both started taking guitar lessons at this crummy music store together.” Because of this, Edling and Fox speak to each other as collaborative songwriters. “I’ll just start playing something,” Edling says, “and he’ll start playing something that builds off of that, and we just build off of what one another are doing.”

Baseball Season, released by Animal Style Records in 2012, was written collaboratively—by Edling and Fox, but with the other members of Kite Party as well. “Usually, songwriting is just sort of spontaneous,” Edling explains. “We’ll be like, ‘Okay, we’re going to write a song today!’ and we’ll go down to the basement and play for an hour and maybe come up with something. A lot of the songs on Baseball Season were literally just us in the basement coming up with something.”

The band’s songwriting approach may be one reason why Baseball Season’s sound is so difficult to pin down. The tempo and tone “Jaws of Life” seems somber; Fox’s electric piano and drummer Pat Conaboy’s time-keeping cadence navigate the song through a romantic landscape created by Edling’s elegant lyrics and Andre Pagani spinning, scribbled guitars. Meanwhile, a song like “Arizona” tumbles with a playful energy; while fuzzy guitars and a flickering organ drape over Tim Jordan’s minimalistic bass like blankets on a clothesline, Edling’s roar rises, soars, circles restlessly in the air. “‘Arizona’ is sort of about how we’re dealing with this dichotomy of being a punk band and not being a punk band,” Edling says. “It’s through the lens of [bassist] Tim, who grew up in Arizona. I see the world sort of through his eyes a lot of times because he’s a lot more involved in the punk music scene.”

Aesthetically at least, there isn’t a lot about “Arizona” (or Baseball Season, for that matter) that seems punk-rock. Even a song like “Southpaw”, which bristles and barrels with a momentum that seems consistent with the style, becomes airy during its vibrant verses. Edling wrestles with this, since punk-rock resides at the root of Kite Party—not only its influence and formation, but also its fanbase. 

For him, though, punk-rock is less about sound and more about its context. “I think that a lot of what makes us a punk-band is just the way we depend on one another and the community and the bands that we play with,” he says. “It’s a very collaborative thing, especially in Philadelphia right now. There are so many great bands right here right now.”

In this way, Baseball Season is a genuine reflection of its context: A celebration of collaboration, of seemingly disparate ideas that (somehow) combine with grace and power and honesty, of friendship that amounts to something so much bigger and brighter. “Nothing we do is ever about the efforts of one person.” Edling concludes. “The funny thing is that I don’t think I ever would have thought of myself as the kind of person that would be in a band if it weren’t for Justin and I being like, ‘Hey, let’s play music together.’”

Edling and Fox performed these songs on an autumn evening from their friend's house in Pennsylvania; Edling sang and strummed an acoustic guitar while Fox played a wide array of small and large keyboards. Conaboy provided moral support in the background, but did not contribute to the recording.

"Arizona" and "Jaws of Life" appears on Kite Party's 2011 record titled Baseball Season. "Follow Me" is an unreleased Kite Party song, though the band intends to include it on their next release. "Colors and the Kids" is a Cat Power cover; the song originally appeared on the 1998 album Moon Pix.

Visit the band's Bandcamp page for more music.

Sorry, but these songs were taken down due to space constraints. Please download The Switchboard Sessions, Volume Three for a track from this and other sessions recorded in 2012. If you're desperate for a copy of these tracks, please see the "About the Switchboard Sessions" page for info on how to contact the author.

To download these tracks, click on the song titles and download them from the player at

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