Kerosene Kites

an interview with Beth Kille & Erik Kjelland
by Mike Huberty
December 2017

Kerosene Kites

Kerosene Kites

The two members that make up the KEROSENE KITES have been performing in the Madison music scene in various acts over the years, but the common thread with both of them is that they both write a ton of music as well as shifting from Rock to Country and Americana over their past few releases. So it makes perfect sense that songwriters Beth Kille and Erik Kjelland would team up to harness their copious creative powers together in a Folky Pop duo. Their first two releases were Christmas-themed, but now they’ve shed their Santa suits and their brand new album, Float Away, released on November 30th. They’ll also be performing around the area at Roxbury Tavern in Sauk City on December 14th and Fisher King Winery in Verona on the 15th. We talked with Erik and Beth about Float Away and their upcoming shows in the area.

MI: What inspired you guys to want to work together?
We initially met at a songwriting workshop in 2011 but didn’t reconnect again until 2013 when I went to one of The Mascot Theory shows and was blown away. I chatted with Erik after the show who said we should try to cowrite sometime. Our first co-write was “I Am the Wrecking Ball” (one of the tracks on the new record) and we were both happy with it, so we just kept going. When we got together for another cowrite, we realized we both had a bunch of unfinished Christmas songs in our catalogs so we came up with the idea of doing a holiday album. Since our bands tend to slow down gig-wise in December, it was kind of nice to have something to get hyped up about in the winter. We also came up with the idea for Flannel Fest (a charity event with multiple Americana acts) at one of our early cowrite sessions. I think working on that project together made us realize that, not only do we have similar songwriting styles, but we also have similar work ethics. I often refer to Erik as my “brother from another mother” when I talk about our collaborations. He’s constantly sending me emails with answers to questions I am literally opening my email to ask him. I don’t know why we think so much alike, maybe because we’re both ambidextrous Pisces. Whatever it is, it’s really refreshing to work with a musician who is as talented, professional and kind as Erik who is also excellent at follow through.

ERIK: It can be a rare trait for creative persons to also have business-like drive behind their art. Beth and I both dream up crazy ideas, but we also have the tenacity to make sure those ideas actually happen. That’s what I admire most about Beth, and why I enjoy creating with her in KEROSENE KITES.

MI: What does KEROSENE KITES mean?
When we came out with our first holiday record, The Northstar Sessions, Erik, who is also a talented graphic designer, created this sweet logo for the cover art that had two back to back K’s to represent our last names that kinda looked like a star. When we decided to keep writing and doing shows together though, we thought we should come up with something resembling a band name, since everyone massacres the pronunciation of our names, by the way, it’s “Kill-ee” and “Chelland”, but we didn’t want to ditch the logo. We went through the dictionary looking for cool K words….and KEROSENE KITES was born.

MI: How did you guys write the new record? In the same room, over the computer? What was the process like?
Some of these ideas were fleshed out while sitting in the same room but a lot of it was done by passing ideas back and forth over emails. We’re both busy with other musical projects and our families, so finding time to actually sit down and create in the same room is pretty rare. We’d each keep snippets of ideas in rough recordings or scratched out on scraps of paper that we’ll toss at each other from time to time. We’re both pretty prolific writers and don’t tend to overthink the process, I personally don’t believe in writer’s block! That’s not to say we didn’t tweak stuff along the way but I think there’s a high level of trust between us. I generally feel that if an idea came out of Erik’s creative head, it’s gotta be a darn good one so it’s best to roll with it!

MI: What’s the title about? Float Away… is there some kind of theme running through the album?
Float Away represents the endless possibilities that open up once you realize there is nothing holding you down. We have a lot of references to “air” and “flying” throughout our lyrics, even the “kites” in our band name. Its all about freedom to create, to expand, to try something new. What is great about Kerosene Kites is that we have no restraints with this project. Not many artists (none maybe?) release two holiday albums before they release their debut non-holiday album.

MI: What are the upcoming shows going to be like?
For our album release party on November 30th we pulled out all the stops and have a fabulous full band - Jim Smith (formerly of CLEAR BLUE BETTY) on drums, Art Ranney (was in a band w/ Erik called THE FALLEN ROADIES) on bass, Shawndell Marks on keys, Beau Osland on guitar (Gabe Burdulis played on the record but Beau is a kick-ass stand-in!) and Kenny Leiser (of WHEELHOUSE) will play fiddle. For our Fisher King show though, we’re just playing duo. The full band would be too loud for that space! Wish we could tour the country with that troupe though. How sweet would that be?

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Kerosene Kites
CD: Float Away Record Label: Stone After Stone

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