New York’s Lip Critic have released first single on Partisan Records ‘It’s the Magic’ and played just three dates in the UK as part of a tour that included the EU. Two dates were in Scotland so I grabbed the chance to sit down with Bret Kaser, Connor Kleitz, Daniel Eberle, and Ilan Natter before the gig at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh. Already confirmed for SXSW and End of the Road next year, 2024 is already shaping up well for the 4-piece, although with two drummers I was wondering just how they were going to fit on the venues stage tonight!
What do you think about being called a “new band” by NME?
We’ve been together about four and a half years but it still feels like we’re very new. It’s only now that we’re doing more shows so it’s only recently started feeling like a band.
You’ve had two EPs (2019 debut Kill Lip Critic and 2021’s Lip Critic: Truth Revealed) and an album (Lip Critic II in 2020) out to date, which is quite a chunky body of work
We have this discography yeah, but post COVID is only really when we started playing shows outside of our university. We were playing a lot of shows locally but really didn’t start touring a lot until Covid restrictions were lifted. It feels like two years as opposed to four. And with all the Partisan Records stuff it just feels like a new chapter.
How did signing with Partisan Records come about?
Our manager sent some music to Tim (Putnam) who does all the A & R. And Tim really liked it. We had a meeting with him and we hit it off. We just felt very comfortable talking to him. And it felt like he got it. Very lucky. Feels very random. It feels really good. Even finding our manager, we weren’t really looking and he found us. All of these have been a series of positive events. With Partisan we feel they get what we’re trying to do and are not really trying to push us to do things that we don’t want to. Tim is the CEO too so he’s choosing all the bands but it’s also his label.
How did Lip Critic start in the first place?
We all went to college together. And Connor, Ilan and I were all doing music in college. And Danny was doing ampo and journalism. And he was playing drums, and in every band I was seeing. I really loved his band at the time On Pink, they were just amazing. And so we’d hung out. We all then played together because of the cancellation of another band and they threw us together to play. But then we just kept playing together. And we sort of tailored the idea a lot more towards being an actual form of a band that we thought was new and interesting to write music in.
With your mix of hip hop, punk, hardcore, dance, it seems like Lip Critic are a number of different bands. For the four of you to gel, especially because it’s not one thing, must feel pretty special.
It’s hard to say where we grew up in the age of the internet. You know around a scene that’s popular when you’re coming of age. But none of us would I think say that we’re genre specific listeners. Danny loves hip hop and all this stuff just as much as he loves hardcore. And I love club music just as much as I love metal. The idea of being a very genre specific act, at least for me, didn’t really make sense because it feels cuts off. You’re putting yourself on a grid already of saying “Okay, well we have to do like this specific thing to stay in line with what we said we were”. We’ll pull from anything at any time we want to.
And for me, it’s feel like I have such a horrible attention span! Connor has sent me stuff and it’ll sound like nothing that we’ve ever done before. And there will not even be a second in my head where I’m like, “oh, maybe we shouldn’t do this“. I think we’ve done it on this track ‘Angel’ that I threw in at the last minute. It was a production session that was, essentially a house track that I’d been producing on my own and took all the sequence drums out and just sent it to them as the core production of it without any percussion, and then had them play drums over it. I had no idea what they were going to play, or what angle they were going to take, and it didn’t sound like anything we’ve done before. We’re starting to gel into this thing where we’ve made ourselves kind of random or eclectic enough to where it’s a lot of things can sound like us and we can sound like a lot of things but it’ll never be fully lined up with any one genre.
I feel like we teach each other about the music that we are into and that also informs what we do. So I feel the whole genre list kind of thing also comes from learning and being exposed to new music from each other, as well as new stuff that’s coming out. Just playing together and it just being stuff that none of us by ourselves would come up with or even, listen to so I feel like that’s a big part of it too.
But I think the four of you have to be able to work together with that view and not all musicians are going to fit within that.
Yeah, I was gonna say it’s special, but lucky. I think about it all the time, I’m like, “How did I get these people to agree to do this?” and I’m sure that everybody kind of feels that way in their own right, like “Wow, I can’t believe this. We’re still here doing this!” You know, there’s a lot of safer bets as bands that you could take, but yeah I feel a lot of that has to do with the unconventional instrumentation of our band as well. It leads to wanting to experiment where we’re always going to come from everything we can because the options are honestly endless.
Would I be right in saying your song creation process is very much improvisation together?
It usually starts off with Connor and I producing together or separately, a song that has a very loose form, and it’s maybe a few minutes long, and then we’ll go to the studio with the two of them, and having listened to it, they’ll come up with parts. We’ve honestly done every record differently, but at least on the one that we’re working on now, it was whoever had these ideas that they felt most confident in would start. During the pandemic I think the structure of how I’m putting stuff together was almost entirely forced, because of the fact that we did everything remotely. I don’t know, if it’s for better or worse. We put out six songs before COVID, and then during COVID, I want to say 16 or 17!
Wasn’t that just such a wonderful thing that the technology during the lockdown years allowed you to do that. It must have given you a focus and a purpose in the most awful of times.
It was totally my light at the end of the tunnel. I was always thinking about whatever project was going on. I was getting sucked into that project and then starting the next project. It was the most productive year musically I’ve had in, probably the last five years.
So can we expect an album in 2024?
Yes, we have one that will be out in May and then we have another one that’s been done for a year that will be coming out on Partisan. We were listening to the 10 recorded tracks in the hotel room the other night, kind of refreshing our memory. And we’re like thinking wow this is a lot of music! We just really like to make music so we keep on doing it.
Partisan Records must be delighted! There obviously isn’t a problem with a lack of material!
They were so great. We did all the mixing ourselves and Partisan heard it and they were comfortable with it, which is very special. I think we are more than just musicians, we know our way around the computer. We both work in sound as our jobs, but it’s still was very special when you get approval from the label, especially being who they are.
I have to ask about Pitchfork in Paris. How was that?
We opened one of the days and we read a review that said why would Pitchfork put on something so loud and violent at the start of the day! There was a really good turnout and the other bands were great. They had this essentially pseudo fog machine because everybody smoked indoors! It was sort of like a fog effects but without the big budget! It was awesome. And then we met up with Militarie Gun and Regional Justice Centre, and saw sets at Supersonic which was just an awesome night. A lot of our friends were there too.
So final question. Is it true that during the gig you improvise?
Yeah, I mean we have a setlist, but there’s definitely moments where there’s looseness, which again, you can only get from really playing the instruments versus a set track or something. I mean there is drum parts where we know how many beats have to happen between here and there, but whatever they choose to fill those beats up with is up to them. I would say the lyrics are probably the most rigid thing, so I’m not improvising them, unless I forget! We don’t have a click track, so there’s no metronome locking everything in, which is how it’s done if there are electronics and live instruments together on stage. But we don’t do that at all. Connor and Bret are playing their instruments the exact same way that would happen on a guitar or a bass. We have the ability to speed up and slow down and I feel like that’s a huge part of the sound.
And I can confirm that the two drums did fit onstage at Sneaky Petes later that evening – and what a show Lip Critic delivered. Look out for more from the New Yorkers in 2024.