‘Independent Channel,’ Domino Kirke’s remarkable new collaboration with Here We Go Magic’s Luke Temple, grew from an unlikely seed.
“I knew Luke from around the neighborhood,” remembers Kirke, who resides in Brooklyn. “We’d circled each other for years without putting a name to the face, but I’d been a fan of his songwriting since long before we’d met. One night when I was playing at The Knitting Factory, he showed up with some mutual friends. He told me that he’d been making beats with the intention of having a female vocalist on them and was looking to write with people. I got really excited when I heard the tracks because they had such melodic bones! The first day we got together, I arrived at his apartment feeling slightly intimidated because I hadn’t written with anyone in years, so to break the ice, he just handed me a Time Warner Cable bill, and I started singing the words on it. Cable bills have some pretty moving stories woven into them if you look closely…”
The duo’s musical connection that day was instantaneous, and the unassuming cable bill proved to be the spark for a yearlong partnership resulting in a stunning, dreamy, four-song EP.
Kirke’s no stranger to finding inspiration in the everyday world around her, though. She grew up in an exceptionally artistic family and learned by example from her father, Simon Kirke, who played drums in classic British rock bands Bad Company and Free.
“My father toured a lot, so when he was home, I lived in his studio,” says Kirke. “I was always writing with him, playing him what I wrote, or listening to him practice. I grew up listening to Stax box sets, R&B, gospel and blues. I’ve played piano since I was eight, and I sang in choirs for as long as I can remember. I was the designated musician in the family, so I was always aware of the lifestyle that came along with it.”
While her younger sisters followed their passions for acting (Jemima stars as Jessa on the HBO series ‘Girls,’ and Lola appears in ‘Gone Girl’ and stars in Noah Baumbach’s latest Sundance breakout, ‘Mistress America’), Domino’s penchant for song shone through from an early age. She studied classical voice and piano at the prestigious LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City after moving there with her family from England. She signed her first record deal as a teenager, collaborated with Grammy-winning producer and artist Mark Ronson (Adele, Bruno Mars, Amy Winehouse), and toured the world with everyone from Gang of Four to Lily Allen with her band DOMINO, which was also featured in Lena Dunham’s acclaimed film ‘Tiny Furniture.’
In 2013, after taking time off for the birth of her son, Kirke released her solo debut, ‘The Guard,’ which earned attention from EW to Billboard. But ‘Independent Channel’ showcases an entirely new side of her artistic personality, with haunting, ethereal melodies, swirling synthesizers, and enigmatic lyrics.
“The songs that I’d written before were so much more literal,” she explains. “First and foremost, I wanted this EP to be spacious, because that just made sense for me and where I was in life. Luke and I were in very similar transitional places at the time, so it was nice to be able to write and know that it would come across. I wanted to give the listener an opportunity to dance, be still, do the dishes, or sing along. I wanted the listener to be able to impute whatever they need onto the music, to have it dance around them.”
The EP opens with “Son,” a richly layered, explosively percussive track inspired by Kirke’s experiences with motherhood.
“That was one of my favorite tracks that Luke sent me,” Kirke remembers, “and the rough melody that I came up with just from listening to it was very similar to his. The layering of the vocals is Luke’s magic and his vision and it really got me revved up because it was the first time we came together and truly explored a new sound that was unique to both of us.”
Before handing off the second track, “Birth Right,” to Kirke to complete, Temple sketched out the rough lyrics, which took on additional meaning after the fact as an “unintentional” nod to Kirke’s other work as a birth coach (she founded her own Brooklyn-based collective, Carriage House Birth).
“I’d tell Luke what I did the night before and he would nod and agree but he never really understood,” says Kirke. “Then I attended the birth of his nephew and he saw firsthand what I did. It gave him more of an understanding and the song a new meaning as a little homage to me and my lifestyle. The song is also a bit about dating in this city,” she continues. “How we can’t keep up, and we just keep searching without really knowing what we want or deserve.”
The title track, with its looped vocal samples and nervy percussion, was born during that first day in Temple’s apartment when Kirke picked up the fateful cable bill, while “Ordinary World” came together in the Catskills in a free flow of ideas between Kirke, Temple, and bassist/synth player Tyler Wood (Joan As Policewoman, Oh My Goodness), who joined in recording the EP.
“The recording really didn’t have a session vibe,” says Kirke. “It was just us coming together to create something without being sure of exactly how it was all going to pan out. It felt like everybody had low expectations, but at the same time we were having fun, respected each other, and were all fans of each other.”
‘Independent Channel’ is a work of spontaneity, full of unexpected sonic twists and turns that embrace the magic and the mystery in the world around us and demonstrate the full emotional power of openhearted collaboration. It’s the sound of love and trust, strength and vision, fear and anxiety. Who better than a birth coach to help deliver it?