"In a way, I feel like Kiss Critique—and Nick—saved me," admits singer Casey Seymour, who battled vertigo while recording the band's debut album. The recently formed dark-synth-pop duo performs its "one and only show" this Friday night at High Dive.
Just late last spring, guitarist/singer Casey Seymour and drummer Nick Wieczorkowski, with fellow members Anton Sieger and Robert Thomas, released their third album as ’60s psych-pop group, Ravi/Lola. Shape Up Shoulders was the band’s best effort to date, a record that felt like an early evening sun bursting through the sky after a heavy rain.
For Seymour and Wieczorkowski’s recently convened side project, Kiss Critique, that breezy, inviting atmosphere quickly dissipated and the storm clouds re-emerged. The duo swapped guitars and drums for synthesizers and drum machines on 11-track dark-synth-pop debut Allegations. The two embody the characters of Boy Lonely and Nick Sickly, the former suffering from vertigo-induced mental illness and the latter enduring never-ending love-sickness.
In advance of the band’s first (and perhaps last) show at High Dive on Friday, Jan. 12, Seymour discusses his battle with vertigo, how writing in character exposed himself more than in Ravi/Lola, and whether this is truly the end of Kiss Critique.
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The mood on Allegations is tense and dark. The instrumentation (mainly synthesizers and drum machines) remains relatively sparse and the lyrics touch on some melancholy topics, like sickness and the swearing off of love. That’s quite a left-turn from the latest Ravi/Lola album, which was warm and spirited. Can you discuss why this side project explored darker spaces?
I was suffering from vertigo due to an inner ear infection for the entirety of the recording process. I didn’t believe the doctors and was convinced I was dying which was a cloud around the whole writing process. A lot of our friends were in troublesome relationships and seemingly unhappy, so I adopted their lives into the songs and created a personal narrative. We ended with the song “Let Love Go” as kind of a mantra for those who inspired the lyrics. It also serves as an end-cap to the album. It begins with a literal breakup and ends with a conceptual breakup. This album is the diary of Boy Lonely.
You use the alter-egos “Boy Lonely” and “Nick Sickly” in this new project. Why did you decide to use different personas for this album?
The names fit conceptually with the songs and their lyrical themes. I was very lonely in dealing with my illness and felt very afraid. Feeling scared makes me feel like a child. Nick Sickly came about because he often becomes sick of himself. Any excuse to escape reality and become someone else is welcome.
Do songs come easier when writing for a specific character?
Lyrically, absolutely, but I admit Boy Lonely is much closer to the real me than Casey Seymour is in Ravi/Lola. There is a lot of honesty, vulnerability and self-obsession in the lyrics on Allegations. Being in a character made it okay to be open, but it did make me question if I’m playing characters all of the time. It also allowed me to stop caring about musical clichés in pop music, to create those big hooks and sing about love and not feel trite.
Did you find writing and recording this album cathartic?
It was amazing. Nick sent me a message saying he bought a synthesizer and drum machine and asked if I wanted to record. We had been working together in Ravi/Lola (home recordings) for a while so we had a solid chemistry already. Lyrically, it helped me work out some issues. Musically, it was all about experimentation and was different than what we were doing in Ravi/Lola. We both learned a lot about pop song structure, how to make hooks, and memorable phrases. The primitive drum machine forced it upon us and my limited knowledge of synthesizers also played a part. In a way, I feel like Kiss Critique — and Nick — saved me.
In that way, do you feel that this album is hopeful?
It’s told from many different perspectives, and people need to experience different perspectives to understand themselves and the reality we all live in. Some of the lyrics are about taking control, some about losing control. By the conclusion of the album we find this happy medium. It becomes clear on the last entry of the diary where Boy is pleading to let love go. He believes it’s the only way for him to feel well again, to give up loving life or not being able to love it the way that he used to. Every song is about something different, but the theme of moving on is present throughout: breaking up, wanting what you want, feeling ill, looking good and not depending on someone else to fulfill your happiness. We believe it to be hopeful.
The High Dive album release party on Friday night will be Kiss Critique’s “one and only show,” according to the press release. Is this project finished after this weekend?
Never — we plan on working on the next album posthaste. Ravi/Lola is finishing up our next album so we will probably begin shortly after that. We have new drum machines and another keyboard. Will there be another show? …