"We’re all just going to die. Why not go all out with this?" On the eve of the electro-soul outfit's album release show at Hotel Foster, Kiings talk life, death and music. Plus: stream the new album, "WWYDF."
Music producers frequently come across merely as sound technicians who can lay down a solid foundation and let others build their artistry upon the established framework. That’s not the case for Sean Foran and Chris Siegel, the two Brown Deer disc jockeys that make up electro-soul outfit Kiings. While the duo’s debut full-length WWYDF features an assortment of impressive guest singers, including Chris Porterfield, Colin Plant, WebsterX, Bliss & Alice and milo, the welcomed additions basically perform as highly-talented surrogates to further embody Kiings’ creative mission.
“Why do we want this? Why do we live for this?” former San Fermin vocalist and Milwaukee expat Rae Cassidy sings on the album’s opening track. “Feel” sounds vibrant and personal coming from the fervent singer but she’s basically channeling what’s been eating at Foran and Siegel the past three years.
“When we formed Kiings, it was when we came to terms with our own mortality in a way,” Foran says. “Like, what are we doing? We’re all just going to die. Why not go all out with this? We know this is our true calling. As long as we go out with it, even if we fail, we’re still going to die like everybody else.”
That hedonistic attitude led to brazenly reaching out to any artists they enjoyed, no matter how popular and uninterested. They ended up landing some of the city’s finest musicians and a few great talents from outside the scene.
“Literally we were just making tons of instrumentals and constantly sending them out to anybody and everybody we wanted to work with. We had no fear,” Foran says but quickly corrects himself. “Well, not no fear, but we embraced the fear.”
Brooklyn-by-way-of-Superior-Wis. singer Christine Hoberg was one of those random hookups. Siegel first noticed her work on Flight Facilities’ soothing electronic music track “Clair De Lune,” which went gold in Australia. He dropped a few Wisconsin references in a Facebook message and she expressed interest. She appeared on the first Kiings song “Explain Myself” in 2012 and contributed to three tracks from WWYDF, including the album’s infectious pop standout “You Can’t See Me.”
“We first love the artist we reach out to and if it works out, it’s a huge added bonus,” Siegel says.
One of the more interesting collaborations on the album comes on “Garden” which brings together two local musicians whose spotlights have grown substantially in the past few years, albeit in different genres. The amalgam of Christopher Porterfield from Field Report and the rapper milo seems like an odd pairing at first, but the two fuse flawlessly.
“The key for us is that we never try to force anything,” says Foran.
The album title is an acronym for What Would You Die For?—the answer to which is, obviously, being able to create this kind of music.
“A lot of our music is down tempo,” Siegel says. “This album has a moody, down tempo, bedroom feel to it. It’s very telling of where we were creatively over the past two years. We took a lot of leaps and chances, even outside of the music.”
Those leaps and chances include Siegel quitting a full-time corporate job and Foran moving back north after a stay in Chicago to focus on crafting tracks under the Kiings moniker.
“It’s been a bit of a difficult transition,” Siegel says. “This is all we want to do, but we’re scrapping by at times. It’s a moody, slowed down pace.”
“I think the next album will be a little more up tempo because a lot of it for me was based on my current mood at the time,” Siegel continues. “I couldn’t have created a Top-40 trap song. It would have felt gross. There are a lot of tracks that didn’t make the album that we both started and they could have been poppy tunes, but they just didn’t feel right.”
Kiings celebrate the release of WWYDF on Thursday at the Hotel Foster with Christopher Porterfield, WebsterX, Bliss & Alice, King Courteen, Siren and Colin Plant. Doors open at 9 p.m. Listen to the full album below.