When brother and sister duo Nic and Eliza retreat to their basement to work on the electro-acoustic songs of K N O X, they emerge with music that evokes an oddly energetic nostalgia. Their combination of a truly acoustic performance—clicking tongues and snapping fingers—with a sparse electronic sound is involving and unique. Though they’re still new to many people, K N O X is using their tantalizing Internet releases to build buzz in anticipation of their upcoming debut EP. We’re excited to introduce you to the greatness that is K N O X. Enjoy!
Serial Optimist: K N O X is probably still a mystery to a lot of our readers. Can you talk a little about who you are, and why fans should glom onto your music?
K N O X: K N O X is a bit of a mystery to us as well. We are a brother-sister duo who create and perform music together; our interests and sounds span both the electronic and acoustic worlds. We have an affinity for melody and affection for abnormality.
SO: One of the first things that struck me about your music is the way you balance contrasts, like the tendency for a track to swing from frenetic to moody very quickly. Even the way you describe yourselves, as an “electro-acoustic” band, suggests a dual-nature. What drives that bipolarity?
K N O X: We are both drawn to the idea of connecting extremes. As individuals, we’ve both had our own unique musical experiences and explorations apart. Coming together, we wanted to see those personal instincts and creative complexions included in our collaborative sound. Suppose we have mom and dad to thank for letting us duke our differences out in the mud.
SO: Even though there are big moments in your music, listening to it feels like an intimate experience. Do you find it challenging to provide that fluctuating emotion in your live performances?
K N O X: Yes. We tend to have a lot of layers in our music, things that can’t necessarily be “played” in the conventional sense, say on a guitar or drums. For many audience members the sight of electronic devices or a laptop is estranging. We use many midi devices and triggers in our live performances so we try to also include acoustic elements whether it is a mandolin, vocal harmonies, kazoo, percussion or PCP piping that we picked up from home depot. The aural and visual are so inextricably linked. In many ways we try to mimic the moment of composition, that utterly private and devoted moment. That’s what we aim to invoke in our live audiences.
K N O X – “In Between (The Voices & While They Were Speaking)”
SO: Your website mentions Brooklyn as your hometown. Did you two grow up there? Does your music reflect a Brooklyn aesthetic?
K N O X: We actually grew up in a small apple town in central Massachusetts. We both studied music in NYC and stayed on living in Brooklyn thereafter. Brooklyn is a creative frontier. There is an inimitable freedom here, being able to throw a show in a friend’s basement and have 70 people show up after just one Facebook blast. Your listeners are more than an audience; they’re your community supporting you because they love you and the music you stand for. It is an aesthetic comradeship, or just youth, not sure yet.
SO: Not many siblings have the kind of relationship that lends itself to creative output. How does your collaboration as K N O X affect your relationship as brother and sister?
K N O X: We lived together for a year in Brooklyn. We would both practice, compose and rehearse our separate projects in the apartment. At that point it made more sense to just collaborate. It seems that a blood effort was always hidden in the mix. There are baby photos and videos of us marching around the house blowing on tin whistles and hitting guitars. We’ve become great friends throughout the process, something that wasn’t there before necessarily.
SO: What instruments do you use to compose your music? What tools do you use to produce and mix tracks?
K N O X: We use everything and anything we can get our hands. The upcoming EP utilizes a lot of field recordings that we have been collecting over the past two years: subway sounds, public landscapes, pots and pans, wildlife. We transform and shape them until they are an imprint of the original sound but unrecognizable as to where they came from. Most of our songs are composed on guitar or piano then produced and organized in Ableton Live. Ableton is our main program for recording and performing as well. We are enamored by its potentiality; it is a bottomless pit of capabilities if you’re willing to put in the time. We’re presently recording in the basement of our childhood house. We’re surrounded by the toys, gadgets and instruments that we were raised with. Incorporating the sounds of these items into our recordings has been a powerful experience. In a way, it’s an echo of nostalgia, an aural record of the past.
SO: It’s very difficult to ascribe genre labels to K N O X. Even the term “electro-acoustic” seems too broad a tag. What musical influences led you to develop your style? What influences you today?
K N O X: We agree that “electro-acoustic” isn’t much of a genre tag, more of a gargantuan umbrella. We live in a truly unique time in that we can access the past, far and obscure through the click of a mouse. We are inspired by so much, from the consequential sound events of walking down the street to 20th century innovators to vintage pop to 80s industrial underground to what are friends are playing. We try to absorb as much as we can and emit what feels natural.
SO: I understand you have an EP coming out soon. What can you tell us about working on that album?
K N O X: Working on the album has been an explorative experience. We’ve been off the grid all summer, writing and recording in the town that we grew up in. There are very few distractions in the woods. We’ve really been stretching out, throwing paint on the walls (so to speak) and just pushing ourselves to try new things and develop new sounds. K N O X is still an infant project for us. We’ve made a couple big discoveries working together; probably the biggest has been learning how to maximize the other’s strengths.
K N O X: It’s free PR, really. It’s a vehicle that can connect you with anyone in the world, our fans are out there, we just have to find them. Besides playing shows, it’s the next best way to get people interested in you, and keep them interested. We live in a nano-second world.
SO: What are your goals for K N O X going into the future?
K N O X: At this point our goals are humble and attainable, to play lots of shows around the Northeast and generate new material. Our EP will be done in the beginning of September; from there we will start rehearsing for our tour dates this fall. We’re also planning to release another EP and video before the New Year.
SO: Thanks so much and we look forward to the new EP!
K N O X: Thanks!