Interview with Kalimur

4-piece rock band Kalimur reached out to me on Twitter asking me to listen to one of their songs and I couldn’t be happier about the whole situation. A song review soon turned into a Skype call with singer Brett Steinberg and bassist Tyler Berkich, who were both down-to-earth, lovely people. If one thing was clear, it was their passion for music.

If you’ve read my review of their song ‘Thieves Of The Night’ you’ll know that I really respect these guys and think they’re on their way to great things. We talk about their inspiration, their taste in music and what to expect in the future.

So, how did you guys all meet? Were you friends beforehand?

Me and Tyler, who plays bass, became very good friends at the beginning of college. He was my neighbour at our dorm, we were friends for a couple of years before we ever kind of decided to really pursue this as a band. I had a solo project and he ended up playing some shows with me, kind of sporadically and then ultimately we just felt like we really wanted to pursue this thing as a band. We met Alex, who plays electric guitar in the band, at a mutual friend’s graduation party. So down the line, Tyler and I are trying to find other musicians to make this band a reality and Alex kind of had perfect timing because he reached out to me on Facebook and so the timing couldn’t have been better; Tyler and I decided to jam with Alex so he brought an acoustic guitar over to my room and the chemistry was there and we loved playing with each other, so then he came on board. Basically, to make a long story short, we had a lot of shows booked and our drummer at the time ended up parting ways with us for various reasons, but we were left drummer-less with a week until basically one of our biggest shows which then kind of expanded into two months full of like fifteen shows that we had booked. Alex had a family friend named Jonah who he said was a great drummer, we were desperate so gave it a go. Jonah agreed to play the show with a week’s notice, he listened to some of the recordings that we had and we practiced with him twice – which is not a lot – before our show. The situation was absurd but he did as well as anybody with a week’s notice could have done. We were so impressed with how good he was and professional and a great guy and that’s how we completed the four members.

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The band name Kalimur isn’t actually a word but something you’ve made up, so what has it come to mean to you? Or what would you like it to mean to the fans?

I think the cool part about it is it’s a clean slate, it’s not bringing any kind of connotations with it. There’s no baggage. It’s something that we as a band and the fans represent, and it’s made up of the music that we create and the experiences that we share with the fans and everything in between. Everything that goes into the movement of what we’re trying to do and create and share is what Kalimur stands for and I think it’s an interesting idea, that it’s just whatever experience or emotions that you get out of this is what it is. That’s kind of the essence of what we try to do with music too. We definitely try to tell stories and there are obvious directions that we take emotionally and instrumentally, but ultimately there have been many times people have had a different interpretation of a song that we thought had a clear message to it, I think that’s kind of the same thing as Kalimur. It’s in the eye of the beholder, whatever our music and our experiences with all of you guys and your experiences with us means to you – then that’s what the word means.

I think it really sets you apart from the majority of bands who come up with a name that relates to their music or how they want to be perceived. This is something that has a different meaning to everyone, with no right or wrong.

That’s the thing that’s always really attracted me to music in the first place, music doesn’t just take you to another world sonically, but also – like reading, you are given the characters and given the story line and yet the world that you kind of perceive from those words are probably completely different than someone else who’s reading the same book. I think that’s the beauty of art in general.

What inspired you to become a musician?

I think I’ve always been more sensitive to the world and ideas and philosophy and all that kind of stuff from a young age. Early on I was never really one to gravitate towards music, you’ll hear these biographies about musicians who started playing piano when they were 2; I didn’t really get into music until I was 8. But, I mean, I think that I’ve always been attuned to emotion and feelings, I’ve always been a deep thinker and I like to talk about things that make you question things. A lot of people on my Mum’s side of the family are very into music, so I think it’s kind of in my DNA in a sense to gravitate towards music. I don’t have a specific answer to it, I’ve always gravitated towards music. I’m more attuned to emotions and wanting to feel deeply in a way that is evoked through music.

Was it what you always wanted to do?

I wanted to be a famous baseball player, I wanted to be the next Derek Jeeter. That didn’t really work out too well. It’s funny, I was really into baseball as a kid, and then when I was about 13 years old I started really getting into music. Towards the end of middle school you’re figuring out about yourself, it was just a very organic shift. I went from being obsessed with baseball to shifting that obsession and amplifying it tenfold when it came to song writing and performing and singing and everything that is music related.

To you, what is the most important part of the song?

I think melody. I think the most important part of a song is melody when it comes to the success of a song, you’re going to have a much harder time no matter how good the message and how well composed and how brilliantly thought out the lyrics are, you’re going to have trouble getting people to want to hear it if you don’t have a melody to grab them.

[At this point Brett receives a call from their bassist Tyler, who had just got to his hotel in Idaho and wanted in on the interview (which he thought hadn’t started). So this led to a 20 minute long conversation about music with Brett whilst we waited (and maybe 5 minutes with Tyler) and let me tell you – these guys have awesome taste.]

How does the writing process work for you guys?

Tyler: It varies on song to song, like every member has written a song before. Like Alex will pitch something, Jonah will pitch something, I’ll pitch something but Brett’s the primary songwriter. Usually, he’ll compose something on piano or he’ll write some lyrics or have a melody, he’ll text me a voice memo and ask what I think. It’s a big cohesive effort, it starts most the time with Brett setting up a foundation, whether it’s a line or a melody, and then everyone comes together and gives their thoughts about it and it grows from there.

What do you think are the easiest and the hardest parts of writing a song?

Brett: I’ll say this; certain songs come so easily and are quick to write, like inspiration strikes you. Other ones are a labour of love and it takes a little more time to say what you’re trying to say. I think the most important bit is melody and I think that tends to be, not always the hardest part but the most crucial thing that you need to make sure is right. Even if I were to write a melody, Tyler sometimes listens to it and goes ‘let’s take this – it’s like a general piece of marble and let’s chip it away’, give it some variations and some uniqueness. Make it a little more intricate because melody is the thing that’s either going to grab a viewer or leave them uninspired. Not always the hardest, on average the lyrics are the hardest thing to write, but the most crucial thing and this requires the most assurance that it’s spot on when you’re writing.

What song would you recommend to someone who hasn’t heard your music before?

B: I think that kind of changes for me at least. What do you think Tyler? You have your favourite!

T: If I had to put my personal favourite aside, because everyone in the band has a personal favourite. Probably the one that best represents our music and lyrically kind of gets the theme we stand for, because thematically we are talking about all these events in our lives and talking about all these different things, we kind of have a central message or perspective through which the songs approach life events and the things they’re writing about. I’d say, sonically and lyrically, Thieves of the Night. For someone who had never listened. It stands for what we as a band go for, musically with the piano leading and melody driven is our ‘sound’.

B: Agreed.

What would you like to achieve through your music?

B: From a stand point outside of the audience, I’d like to personally feel that it’s valid. I sing these songs that we write on stage constantly and if I’m not singing something that I truly believe in and that truly chronicles what I’ve been through and the emotions that I’ve felt, then it’s not worth writing in the first place. We’re all going to be performing these a lot, I’ll be singing these a lot and we need to be standing behind the message. I strive to create music that makes me feel something every time I sing it and tells a message that is genuine, and then in terms of an audience I want it to resonate with people and to be there for people for the nights that don’t end and when they really need a source of comfort. If we can achieve that for our fans then we’re doing our job.

T: Yeah, I agree. There are obvious selfish reasons for doing it; it’s what we want to do and we’re bringing together all these different instruments and creating something that’s great. I think I speak for the rest of the band and myself when I say the audience is the most important reason for doing it, the people you’re reaching with your music. Music can speak where words fail, like when you can’t quite describe how you’re feeling that’s where music can come in. Despite language barriers people come together through music and it’s really a magical thing. I think relatability is something everyone strives for, just to reiterate that. If we can create something in each of our songs where not just in us it can instil something but in everyone listening, like they have a circumstance that’s relatable for them. I think it’s really cool when people write a song about one specific event in their life, but it’s written in a way it can be applied to everything. It can be anything; a song for someone when they need comfort, or need something to get their anger out, anything that can be relatable and bridges that gap I think that’s why we do it.

Who, musically, do you think influences you? And who do you admire in the industry?

B: The funny thing about us is that we all have very distinct differences in our music taste but we also have a lot of common ground at the same time. Imagine Dragons is a huge common denominator for all of us, we’re all huge fans of Imagine Dragons. We all respect each other’s music, like Alex, our guitarist, loves Hey Rosetta! and he got me into the band and I love their stuff, Tyler loves a couple of their songs and can appreciate what they do. Even Tyler’s music – as much common ground as Tyler and I have with Imagine Dragons, OneRepublic and Coldplay, he’ll show me a song by Breaking Benjamin and maybe it’s not in my wheel house but I can respect it and see where he’s coming from. So, personally Coldplay would be one of the bigger contributors for my musical inspiration.

T: That’s tough. For the bass, a man named Jeff Slicer plays the bass phenomenally, I love the way he plays. Everything else, song writing and composing wise, I look up to the lead singer of Breaking Benjamin, Benjamin Burnley, and I really like Josh Ramsay from Marianas Trench – he’s so cool. All of us have that common ground, but everyone has weird things, like I like hard rock music and Jonah our drummer likes Street Light Manifesto. It’s cool hearing those influences come together to make a general sound. We all know the core thing we’re going for, but it’s being drawn from everywhere.

B: Like Alex, when he plays a guitar he’s very influenced by the blues. You hear those inspirations come out in songs that are kind of not so obvious but definitely have an effect on our creativity and interpretations of the main genre we are doing in this band.

Who would you like to work with in the industry? Choose a top 5.

B: Chris Martin, John Mayer, Ryan Tedder, Paul McCartney, oh man, either Dan Reynolds or Billy Joel. Can I say 6?

Yeah, you can say 6.

T: Dude, you just cheated.

I’ll let him off, he said Ryan Tedder and Dan Reynolds.

B: I mean, I basically won some brownie points with that one.

T: As for me, I think Dan Reynolds is a phenomenal composer, so I would love to write with him. I think, he’s so creative, if you listen to all of the sounds and the production that Imagine Dragons’ do whilst still being them, how he can hear those things and plan them out in his head and have all these weird instruments complement each other, it’s just great. I’d love to collaborate with him and just wrack his brain and hear what he hears and understand him. Ryan Tedder writes some of the best lyrics that I’ve ever read, they’re so relatable and so good so I’d love to write with him too. Freddie Mercury, I would just want to write a song for him, so I could write something crazy and have him sing it. There’s so many, Lennon, McCartney. Everyone would be so good to collaborate with. And then maybe, John Mayer.

Fondest musical memory?

B: In a general sense, anytime I get to play to an audience and look into someone’s eyes and see the music resonate with them and can really tell that it means something to them, that’s my favourite. But specific wise; I saw John Mayer at Maddison Square Garden and that was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to, some of those are my favourites yeah.

What was the first song you remember listening to?

B: Livin’ La Vida Loca by Ricky Martin.

T: Dream On by Aerosmith.

See, I can’t remember the first song I ever heard. That was a really quick answer.

T: I heard that in a Kindergarten music class and everyone was trying to guess what the band was.

B: It was easier for me because that was like the only song I’d listen to for the first 6 years of my life.

T: That explains so much about you.

If you could create your own band, living or dead, who would you bring together?

B: Flea on the Bass, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ringo Starr on the drums.

T: You need to have Mercury singing.

B: Freddie Mercury singing. Maybe, John Mayer on guitar. Or Eric Clapton.

T: Seconded. I’d see that band live.

B: That would be insane!

Personally this is my fave Kalimur song – Give it a ilsten!

Have you ever met an idol, or someone you really look up to and had a little freak out about it?

T: I went to see Three Days Grace, I’ve never bought a VIP pass or anything, the show was starting in like 30 minutes and we were running late, we were just walking down the street, and a guy walked by with drumsticks. My Mum was like ‘is that the drummer of Three Days Grace?’ and I chased him down the street, stopped him, asked for a photo and had a mini meltdown.

B: I didn’t have a freak out, but I went to see Andrew McMahon live and gave him my solo project’s card and was like ‘hey, listen to my music, please, it would be really cool’ and he looked at me and said ‘yeah’. But I’ve never had a freak out, meet your idol experience.

If you had a choice; CD, vinyl or digital?

B: If I had a record player, I’d definitely buy vinyl. But, if we’re looking at current circumstance then CD’s. Physical copies are always better; getting to hold it makes it tangible.

T: I would take a CD, because you can play it in more places. There’s something about driving around with your windows down with music blasting, yeah vinyl would be cool to hear it how it was meant to be played, but there’s something about rocking out in the car. CD’s are more versatile.

I love the little booklets in the front, like looking at the photos and seeing if the lyrics are printed out.

B: Yeah, all those little behind the scenes things are cool.

What would be your comfort food?

T: Brett’s answer is anything!

B: I force them to be avid diner goers; after practice and after shows. Get a chicken sandwich, mozzarella sticks, chocolate milkshake.

T: Waffles, pancakes.

B: We’re very much diner enthusiasts.

T: Brett gets stressed out at the diner though.

B: There are too many options on the menu. I mean there’s breakfast, lunch, dinner or brunch. It’s too much.

 

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

T: Actually, we just did this last time for our headlining show, we all huddled up.

B: That was during the introduction of the show.

T: It was cool though. Usually, Brett and I are hyped from 10 in the morning. Watching the other bands gets us hyped up. Jonah goes on his own like 30 minutes before the show and sits in quiet. Our guitarist does that too. Brett and I are just hyped all the time.

 

What’s been a moment that’s really stood out to you guys on this journey?

B: There’s three. First, is the album release; seeing that come out on iTunes and Spotify, seeing people react to it – that was amazing. Two, we played a place called Toad’s Place, which has a really professional stage and an upstairs area which is basically like a little shack. And we were stuck with the shack. We were able to communicate with every person in the venue for like 10 hours, from the beginning of the festival to when we played, and it was one of the best shows we’ve played. The third one would probably be our headlining show, that we really recently had, just because we were actually able to see a movement happening, we had fans come, we saw people singing the lyrics back. We thought it was going to be a good night, but it exceeded at least my expectations. It showed we are able to create a movement and see that it is resonating.

T: I would emphasise the headlining show, the record was fantastic we got to promote that for a while, but the headlining show – so much was one it. It’s your name, you’re the band people want to see, so if no one wants to come see you then no one’s going to come. You get to pick the bands that are on the bill, the location, so if it’s a flop it’s completely on you. We never really had an assessment on how big we were starting to get or if people are really liking what we are doing, so then when the night came and we had 80-85 people there singing along for us and getting excited and getting us to sign things. That’s when everything kind of switched, it’s one thing to be opening for another band and people to say you sound good, but that was our show. So it was the biggest most iconic moment so far.

 

 

Have you started working on things already or are you taking this time to sort of bask in what you’ve already done?

B: We’re always writing. Whenever we all have time off from school, even though we are all working our asses off in other things, we take advantage of that time and make sure we are writing and creating and continually pushing ourselves as artists and writers. We can’t say too much in terms of future releases, but I will say that some good stuff is on the way and we have definitely been pushing ourselves towards some exciting things this summer.

Nice teaser! What advice would you give to any aspiring musicians?

B: Don’t think that playing crappy shows, at crappy venues, to crappy audiences is necessarily a bad thing. You know, it builds character to play bad shows, because when you play good ones it makes it all worth it and I think it makes you appreciate it a lot more. As cheesy as it sounds, your character is based off how you deal with failure instead of how you bask in success, take failure as something productive in getting you to where you want to go.

T: That’s a good one. Make sure you’re doing what you love, if you’re doing it for the right reasons, like it gives you a way to express yourself and you’re writing to connect with people the other things will fall into place. If you’re just doing it to be famous or just because you feel like it then it’s going to be hard, and when you play shows like that then you’re going to get discouraged, but if it’s what you want to do and you keep on doing it and go through that grind and even when you play 5 or 6 empty venues then people will listen. Just work hard and never give up.

Pretty good advice. That was it, thanks so much guys. Anything you want to say before we go?

B: Thank you so much to the people who are listening, to the fans, it makes us inspired every single day. We really are getting, everyone gets mixed reviews from some people, but we really are getting positive and inspiring feedback and it really makes a lot of the difficulties of making a band work, which is a labour of love with some people living further away than others, as much as we get out of the music we get just as much out of the fans and interacting with you guys. It means a lot that you’re listening and the music is resonating. Thank you. We want to take the fans with us wherever we go, so a big high-five to all the fans out there.

Kalimur

Like I said, lovely people with a genuine love for their fans and a real love for all things music. Check out their music, their debut album ‘Ghosts We Used To Know’ is out now and keep an eye out for what’s next with these guys – I’m sure it’ll be great.

Check them out on social media, they’ll definitely make you feel welcome:

Twitter: @KalimurBand

Facebook: Kalimur

This interview took place on 14/08/15.

Are there any questions you’d have liked to see? Let me know below. I’d love to hear what you think.

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