Soda Bar may not look like much during the day, but its close observance of emerging indie bands has the venue maintaining a regular staple of national acts mixed with San Diego's local elite. With South By Southwest (SXSW) starting this week, Soda Bar is a hospitable beacon to touring bands on their way to Austin, Texas. SanDiego.com recently sat down with L.A. based band Kisses to talk about tour budgets, Robert Palmer and cheap eats on the road.
Kisses is the project of guitarist Jesse Kivel and keyboardist Zinzi, it’s high concept aphrodisiac pop that is supported with a live drummer. The inclusion of an organic rhythm section is essential to the bands warm and dancey feel. Without it they would be like many live bands saving tour space and tour revenue by relying on a laptop. “I think most people have to see something that’s unique to the live setting” states Kivel, “Carl, our drummer, couldn’t get across the border in Vancouver and so we played a drum machine show, and I was really missing the drums. It’s a big part of our live sound.” Touring behind the debut album The Heart of the Nightlife, Kisses music recreates a suave uptown eighties dance party night after night. “A lot of bands right now are really earnest,” says Zinzi over a dinner truck meal. “I think we are weirdly attracted to that cheesier eighties demeanor, but also kind of self-aware at the same time.”
When compared to the many DIY tours booked by other bands playing to get to Texas, the band isn't roughing it yet. “Sometimes more people come out to those shows then venue tours booked by promoters because there is a built-in audience, house party, or a school with an alternative space.” Kivel explains over French fries “Those shows are really good for up and coming bands; the tough thing is that sometimes those bands don’t get out of that loop. It is a very insular loop, you might pack a room, but those fans are not like the fan that will pay to see you, which at the end of the day is what you need to sustain yourself.” Kivel's distinguished voice may have you picturing swimming pools in L.A. penthouses but on stage the band indulges in everything about the eighties, sans the excesses. “A lot of contemporary artists sing in a lower voice, I really like their music, but their style and how they carry themselves isn’t as cool as in the eighties with Bryan Ferry and Robert Palmer. Those guys owned it. I don’t quite take it to the next level where I dress that way at our shows, but for our videos and stuff I try to do the Bryan Ferry type visual of what a crooner was.”
On the bands upcoming show at SXSW Kivel displays a once-bitten philosophy “We’ll do one show, and that will be special, we’ll only do one instead of ten, maybe no one will care since there are so many bands playing. Bands who already have a ton of buzz will continue to get buzz, bands who do not have buzz, will not get buzz at SXSW.” For now the band's popularity is growing and that is enough to bring out bar goers on a Wednesday night. However Kivel is optimistic about the bands touring future, “We're doing four shows in Vegas in April at this hotel, that could be really lame, but we’re going to try to take something lame and re-contextualize it so it becomes cool. It would be cool to do a cruise tour. These things are always looked at as the end of a band’s career, when they were in Vegas or playing on a cruise ship.”