We met up with Kai Undrell back in April 2019 after attending the premier of his short film ‘Stand-Up’, this time we’re meeting over Zoom to discuss his excellent second single ‘Can of Worms’.
I’ve listened to the tune on Spotify now quite a few times and am really impressed. For someone just releasing their second title it’s an amazingly polished piece of work. The sound is very of the moment, my children listen to Declan Mckenna, Rex Orange County, Oliver Tree, etc, I can hear snippets of these in what Kai does yet his sound remains unique.
“It was recorded in my bedroom so can aptly be described as ‘bedroom pop’” explains Kai, “a new genre of music bringing artists together digitally from across the world, recording in their bedrooms and looking to the internet to find mixers, producers etc.
“I found Daniel Svetlof through the internet, he lives in Greece, and I was really pleased with his approach. When you produce a track like this it becomes very personal as you’ve been responsible for the whole thing, and it was important that the sound and vision doesn’t get lost in the mix. Daniel was responsible for mixing and mastering and he fully understood what I was after. I’ve been through six other producers to date!
“I played drums and guitars on the track, and Daniel came back with the piano bridge which I was really happy with.”
Kai is already working on his next title which is due to drop about the same time as this edition will be dropping through letter boxes.
I was interested to find out how Kai got from a blank sheet to a fully rounded track. “Some tracks come together very quickly; they can be done in a night. From a bass riff to a demo, usually things are going around in my head for a while, then you spend a bit of time getting things down, it starts to sound like the tune in your head, the hairs start to stand up and you’re getting close.
“The track I’m working on now started from a single line that popped into my head whilst at work. I built on this to get to the full track.
“It’s a bit more difficult when you’re working alone, you have to play within your capabilities. I can play bass, but not well, I’m happier on keyboards and lead guitar so it does limit you.
“This is where I miss working in a group of creatives, you can bounce ideas off each other, often working towards something that you’d never achieve alone.
“When I started out, I was sounding like all the bands I love, my first musings sounded like the Kooks and David Bowie. Over the last few years, I’ve developed my own sound. Inspired by so many different things, the 1970’s in particular, there’s a nostalgic sound to what I do,” says Kai.
Kai’s influences include, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Abba, Blondie, the music his parents play, his dad plays guitar and his mum dances to Abba… don’t all Mums? Lyrically ‘Can of worms’ is not personal, his mum never walked out on them, Kai loves being able to tell a story through his music, like films, it’s a creative outlet, it lets him escape from the everyday.
“Over the past year I think many people have been forced to consider things more,” says Kai. “Personally, even though I’ve worked through lockdown, I’ve felt a bit trapped, so the internet has been so important, it’s enabled me to connect with, and find new friends.
“Life needs to be broken up with the social things which hasn’t been happening. Maybe the experiences of the last year have influenced my direction, escaping into music, listening, writing etc. However, I think it’s important to stop and take a break, too much of the same thing can take you down a creative cul-de-sac if you’re not careful.”
I was keen to understand what Kai’s views were on Chesterfield and his life at college. “I was home educated until the point I went to college”, Kai told me. “I always knew I wanted to do film, probably from the age of four I’d had an interest in being behind the lens. Being home educated gives you time to focus on the things that you enjoy.
“I studied media and then went onto a level 3 course in film and tv, college was a really positive environment, there are some people there very passionate about what they do. If you have a passion, they’re great at supporting you and helping you turn it into a reality.
“There is a hub of cultural, creative, artsy people in Chesterfield. Through music and college, you find them, I’ve had some great support from Aaron Brown (s40time.co.uk) and people through the young contemporaries’ scheme, however there is always a feeling that the artsy stuff happens up the road in Sheffield which is a real shame.
“When I filmed ‘Stand-Up’, I used the The Avenue and was so impressed by what I saw when I walked through the doors, hidden away on Beetwell Street it had a real feel of a city venue. There are so many local bands, people like Clear Vinyl helping to bring this cultural scene to the surface and I’m working on a documentary about the music scene in Chesterfield, which I hope will help us get recognised as a cultural destination.”
Kai also loves the way Chesterfield pulls together. For his artwork he wanted a nostalgic feel so it features him sitting in a Simca 1100 outside Hipper House on Wheatbridge Road, the car lent by Mick Ward from Newbold, who has a real passion for these cars and runs the Simca magazine, the photographer, Ellie Rhodes who we’ve featured in past S40 Locals. A group of locals coming together to produce something timeless and unique. Kai adds “I know nothing about cars, I can’t drive but I can appreciate the look of them, like food, I’m vegan but can appreciate the look of a nice steak!”
What advice would you give those reading this? “Inspiration comes from anywhere, you don’t know when or where it will come, when writing or composing you often need to work on the bits you have, and something will come from this,” explains Kai.
And, lastly, if you had one track to play on repeat all day, what would it be? “One track, uhm.
‘You better believe!!!’ by Declan McKenna.”
Thanks to Kai for his time, be sure to check out ‘Can of Worms’ and familiarise yourself with his tune of choice from Declan McKenna.
Spotify: Kai Undrell
Words: Paul Chapman Images: Kai Undrell