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Interview: Kenseth Thibideau

Kenseth Thibideau
Kenseth Thibideau
Courtesy Temporary Residence LTD

With a resume that includes time spent in noteworthy bands like Tarentel, Rumah Sakit and Sleeping People, multi-instrumentalist Kenseth Thibideau has finally stepped out on his own with Repetition, his first solo album for Temporary Residence LTD. Inspired by Krautrock and European Prog, Repetition consists of eights tracks centered around grooves and delays that compliment Thibideau’s minimalist lyrics while providing a warm and mellow template from start to finish. A current resident of San Diego, Thibideau has remained a fixture in the local music scene as a touring member of Pinback and Three Mile Pilot while also serving as an engineer at locally run Singing Serpent Studios. We recently sat down with Kenseth, after a hard night of partying, and discussed his lineage as a musician and how he narrowly avoided flying into New York City on 9/11.

Do you go out to shows quite often?
Kenseth Thibideau: Not very often, I used to go more but these days I haven’t been going out that much. Like I said last night was kind of rare especially to stay until the end. Usually the only time I’m going out is if I’m playing. I’ve been playing a lot lately at the end of last year. As far as going to see other bands, it doesn’t happen too much unless a friend's band is playing or like something special is coming to town. I like that there’s more shows happening, I like that there’s a lot of stuff at Tin Can and Soda Bar’s picking up.

What’s the story of you coming out to California and forming Rumah Sakit?
KT: I moved to California in 1993, for college in Redlands California, which is a small town near San Bernadino, and that’s where I met the other guys from Rumah Sakit, and we decided that we needed to move to a big city together. Originally we were going to do film, we weren’t going to do music, we made little movies together. Because we had some friends that moved to San Francisco and loved it up there, we would go up to San Francisco together. We moved there in 1997, and then the film thing kind of fell through and we started playing music. I joined Tarentel right when I moved up there just because they needed somebody, and it was again mutual friends. I was playing with them but it was more just for fun, but then they put out a record and I did a tour with them and it was really fun. Meanwhile I started playing with my friends from Redlands and we formed Rumah Sakit. I juggled both of the bands for a while but then it was kind of impossible because everybody was wanting to tour all the time. We were young and ambitious, so I had to choose one and I chose Rumah Sakit. We did some touring and put out a couple of records.

What was the official lifespan of Rumah Sakit?
KT: Late 1997, or it was probably 1998, to 2001. And then we got back together in 2005, but we didn’t record we just toured.

So then after San Francisco you moved to San Diego?
KT: Yeah, while I was living in San Francisco we played a lot of shows with Rob Crow and Thingy. Basically just from being friends; I needed a change of pace from San Francisco at that time, it was really expensive. It was the big dotcom boom in the late nineties, and it was ridiculously expensive. And it was hard to find a place; it was almost impossible to find a place to live. So as soon as my lease was up instead of like dealing with trying to find another place to live, I moved to Arizona where my parents were to save some money, and then during that time Rob convinced me to move to San Diego, or at least to go to San Diego for a little while and play with Thingy. December 1, 2001, I moved to San Diego to start practicing with Thingy.

It looks like you moved here right after 9/11.
KT: We had a show on the 12th of September for CMJ in New York, and we were flying into JFK on the 11th. That morning Pea Hicks went to the airport early before we did, it was going to be Thingy and Optiganally Yours doing shows for CMJ and that’s what we were practicing for when I moved here. We were going to fly on September 11 into JFK and our flight was at 10 a.m., then we got a call from Pea telling us to turn on the TV, and all that was going down. We never left the house. So that morning 9/11 happened, and obviously everything was cancelled, and Thingy eventually fell apart after that too because of differences and also Rob was getting really busy with Pinback, so eventually I started playing with Pinback after that.

That explains perfectly how you started playing with Pinback, how did you get hooked up with Sleeping People?
KT: Rob told me to come to this show that a band was playing that he’d seen before. He was like, “You’d really like it; they totally rip off Rumah Sakit. So I went to go see them in North Park at some record store, and Sleeping People was playing as a three piece, and I met them that night and we all had dinner, me and Rob and Joy and Kasey and Brandon; we all went to Rancho’s. I wasn’t planning on playing with them I was just friends with them for a while. After seeing them a bunch I started to hear bass lines for some of the songs they were playing, so I asked them if they want me to try out basically and it clicked really fast.

Is Sleeping People over or do you guys have plans to record and tour again?
KT: We have a new record coming. It’s an EP but it’s a twelve-inch. There are two really long songs, one’s eight minutes and one’s ten minutes, and they’re going to be a on a full twelve-inch vinyl. Temporary Residence is putting it out, so after that comes out which will probably be this spring or summer, Kasey and I and Brandon talked about playing some shows to support it or whatever. We just have to get in touch with Joi, she’s out in Switzerland.

How is Repetition different from your other projects?
KT: This stuff is the first record that I did of music that pretty much just represents me and what I want to do. And I’m not trying to say anything with it. I just enjoy listening to it, I enjoyed writing it. It was something that just came out easy. I liked it a lot and other people seemed to like it so I put it out.

I dig it, it’s very laid back.
KT: Yeah that’s what I wanted. I wanted to make a record that was really mellow.

It’s on iTunes and CD, did you guys press up any vinyl?
KT: No it’s not unfortunately. I’ve done so many recording projects with Temporary Residence, and they’ve been very generous with all of them in putting out vinyl and it’s really expensive for him. So this one they were just going to do CD’s and when I sell all of the CD’s they said they’ll repress the CD’s and vinyl. I don’t know if I’ve sold them all yet.

I think the album would sound nice and warm on vinyl.
KT: I know that’s the ironic thing is that I never wanted vinyl for the other projects, and then now for this project I specifically was thinking vinyl for it.

Do you have any shows coming up?
KT: I’m going to go on tour with Maserati in April, they asked me to open for them. It’s not going to be for the whole tour, it’s just going to be five dates on the west coast.

Where are those dates going to take you?
KT: Tucson, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Are you playing at The Casbah in San Diego?
KT: Actually at the Soda Bar.

They’re booking some pretty good shows there.
KT: I’m excited about that, they’re getting more touring bands and stuff like that. I like that venue, I think it sounds good.

How was the tour you did at the end of last year?
KT: Yeah, we went up the west coast in November. It was like eleven dates and it went really well. We played some bars and a lot of galleries and co-ops and stuff like that.

And how did the songs translate live?
KT: That’s what I’ve been working on all last year. I have different friends play with me; I’ve had a bunch of different people come in and out. Another aspect of the record that I wanted to emphasize was that I kept it simple. It’s really easy to learn, the songs are only two parts, so I could just have people come in and out. I wanted it to be open like that. Sometimes we have a drummer, sometimes we don’t.

Why’d you call it Repetition?
KT: I thought it was perfect for it because every song features a delay. There’s a delay on the guitar, there’s a delay on the keyboard, so when you hit one note it repeats. So there’s that, and repetition in general, I think it’s kind of like repetition in life; the sun and the moon and everything that repeats itself throughout life. And if you want to go there, even life and death itself; things die things are born, just this repetition in life. I wanted it to be really simple and existential.

Do you ever see yourself doing a solo album that’s more aggressive and not so laid back?
KT: Oh yeah, totally. In fact I’m working on some music right now that is more aggressive, and I’m playing with Brandon the drummer from Sleeping People. It’s just called Kenseth and Brandon right now. It’s totally faster and more aggressive. I’m probably going to put out more music under my name. It might be more upbeat; it might be different. I definitely don’t like to do just the same thing.

Does Kenseth Thibideau have a message for the children?
KT: I will quote Terrin Dufrey, who used to play in Boilermaker and Jade Shrader. Chris Prescott wrote an email to all his friends about his last words, and they really resonate with me a lot. “Always move towards progression and always be happy.” Take it for what it’s worth, but I like those.

Kenseth Thibideau’s album Repetition is out now on Temporary Residence LTD