If you’re a fan of My Bloody Valentine, The Cure and/or The Beach Boys, chances are you’ll find something to love about Kigo. It’s the imaginative work of solo artist Dwayne Pearce, a Brisbane-based noisemaker with a passion for abrasive guitars and woozy atmospheres. His music recalls the signature sounds of the golden shoegaze era and demonstrates the power of what one man can do at home with some amps and recording gear. Lots of beautiful noise! Of course, it’s not all happy days for Dwayne. In this Q&A he sheds some light on the music, his struggles and the uncertain future of Kigo… For those new to Kigo, can you give us some background on when you started out with music? I started out writing songs when I was about 12 years old and I’ve been in bands ever since. It wasn’t until 2013 that I really thought about doing something with the songs I had written. Some of the kigo songs like guilt, and i won’t, i can’t feature riffs I had written years ago but was too shy or afraid to release. I put out guilt at the start of 2013, and really expected nothing to happen, I was just happy to release something. Congratulations on the new EP ‘Close (Enough To Kiss)’! The vocals are a little clearer on this one – what did you do differently from previous releases? On this release I concentrated a little more on melody, and a little more on how the songs will flow into each other. I didn’t really try too much different. I used the same writing process as I always have, but I just took a lot of time off from writing kigo songs; I was considering walking away from the band altogether, but I felt that the songs I had written for this EP were really strong, and I had to release them. Not sure what the future holds for the band yet though. Did you use many effects on the vocals? Is there a vocoder in there? I don’t really use too many effects on the vocals. Some reverb here or there, and a lot of EQ. On a few songs from the new EP I use some pitch shifting, and sampling of short phrases vocal phrases. Vocals are always the last component I add to the songs. Are you happy with the response to your music so far? It would appear that the ‘name your price’ digital download model is working out for you? I’m kind of amazed that people (at least seem to) care. I just wrote these songs for me and put them online to check off a personal goal I had made for myself. To release at least one EP of solo music, that I actually liked. Are you ever plagued with doubt when writing new material? What are the biggest challenges? I’m always plagued with doubt; always second guessing myself. I’m a really anxious person, and honestly I’m terrible at knowing when something I’ve written is good enough to release. My biggest challenge is keeping myself motivated, and keeping myself interested in writing one style of music. I think that’s kind of why I keep myself so busy. I’m a manic depressive, so when I feel “up”, the songs kind of just fly out, and I have to be quick enough to catch them. Song writing takes a lot out of me. I can stay awake for days on end just writing and recording. I get scared that one day, I’ll go back to the well one too many times, and there’ll be nothing there. It is a symbiotic relationship really. It causes me a lot of pain, but it helps me express my pain. It’s hard to explain I guess. Out of all the songs you’ve released over the past 18 months, which is your favourite and why? Unquestionably my favourite song I’ve released is i won’t, i can’t. I think the melody is both the sweetest, and the saddest I have ever written. It was really tough for me to record, and it is really tough to play live just because when I recorded it, I wrote it to mean one thing, and now in hindsight it totally means another. It kind of breaks my heart, but the melody is probably my personal favourite song writing achievement. Last year you released a lot of music (five EP’s and an album), how do you manage to produce so much music so quickly? I think I manage to release music so quickly because of my song writing process. Writing songs only in dreams allows me to trust my judgement more I guess. I can’t really explain it. I guess I just trust myself more than I used to; what used to be a slow, arduous process, now seems to come together with less effort. Can you tell us a little about your creative process? Like I said before, I only write songs in dreams. The morning I wrote close (enough to kiss), I just kind of flew awake, and ran to my guitar and played the riff as it was looping around in my head. It’s pretty simple I guess. I’ve asked this before but – how do you approach your big guitar sounds? And how do you discover new sounds to keep it fresh? I approach my guitars sounds as the most important sound on the recordings. I love to experiment with EQ, and subtle pitch shifting. I really just hear a sound in my head, and then turn on some pedals and just hope I can replicate it. Most of the drums on your releases sound programmed and/or electronic. Do you spend much time working on patterns? Any plans for bringing in a live drummer? Other than the guitars, writing the drum patterns would definitely occupy most of my time. I just use samples, and a step sequencer, and just kind of randomly program something into it. If it doesn’t work out, I try again. Currently there are no plans for a live drummer just because I prefer the sound of the drum machine live. Simple as that really. Your debut album ‘So Lost Now’ was released last November. How did you decide what to use on the album given the amount of other releases you had out? Honestly? I just wrote 13 or 14 songs, chose the best 10 and added them together. I am kind of disappointed with the album and think there are only 3 or 4 songs on there that I think are good enough. I was in a terrible place when I wrote the album, and I think it kind of shows. I don’t think it represents kigo as well as the EP’s do. I’m not sure I’ll ever write another album, just because the process of writing the first one was so awful. What’s your go-to gear set up? My gear setup is a Jaguar into a JCM900, with an alesis midiverb, a yamaha fx500, and a couple of pedals. It’s pretty simple really. Last year you mentioned plans to assemble a band for live shows, is that still on the cards? Yeah, I have played a few shows since then but they have been pretty small. I have a band together now, I’m looking to expand and add a few more guitarists. My band at the moment though consists of myself, my friend Mae on bass, and my brother Julian on guitar. You’ve worked with J. Francis on both his albums. What was that experience like? And are you two related (same last names)? I play keyboards and guitar in the live band for J. Francis, and I donated (should be read as: “had no clue what to do with”) the keyboard riff to glowing on the first album, and a guitar riff to blue light on the second. It is really great working with J. Francis because I’ve known the guys in the band for so long, and it’s great playing with my friends. J. Francis (Julian) and I are brothers, so it has always been fun to work with him. I remember hearing breathe tonight from the first J. Francis album and just being amazed. I was totally blown away, and knew I could never equal that, so I’ve just been trying to write songs that are even half as good ever since. Do you have any other creative projects going on? Play in any other bands? I have another solo band called afterwalker, which is really hard to record as it takes a lot out of me. I tried to make it the exact reverse of kigo; whatever that is. There isn’t really much I can say about it really. It’s something you need to hear to really understand. It is such a horrible experience to record the afterwalker stuff, and I think you can hear that when you listen to it. What are your main influences when it comes to song writing? I know the Beach Boys hold a special place in your heart! My main influences are fairly obvious really. MBV, The Beach Boys, and The Cure. I like certain aspects of each, and I try and join them together when I write kigo songs. I like the dreaminess of MBV, the melodies of The Beach Boys, and the pop sensibilities of The Cure. I also reference New Order a lot when I write drum beats, lovesliescrushing when I create guitar tones, and some black metal bands when I create the mood of a song. Does it bother you to be compared to My Bloody Valentine? Or are you happy to wear those influences on your sleeve? Not at all. I started this project simply because I love their music so much, and next to The Beach Boys, they are my favourite band of all time. I am flattered to be compared to not only my heroes, but in my opinion (and for want of a better term), the “gold standard” of shoegaze bands. I’m glad that what I’m writing reminds people of MBV, and I gladly acknowledge their influence. How do you feel about the state of shoegaze as a genre? Honestly? I have no real idea how it is going. What I hear, I like. I guess I can’t really complain about it, or champion it. Like I said, I kind of have no idea what’s going in the world of shoegaze. What’s the music community like in Brisbane? Do you have many opportunities to collaborate? The community seems small, but active. I don’t really collaborate with anyone to be honest, and I don’t really get a chance to see many bands live. I am a hermit, and I really love staying indoors. I’m also really protective of the work I do. It’s really hard for me to step back, and let someone else have any input into my work, so I’m kind of terrible to work with. I spent a long time worrying about that, and trying to change, but to be honest, I’m okay with it. I write these songs primarily for me, about me, and I really find it hard to let anyone in on my recording process. So, I guess I couldn’t really say what the scene is like in Brisbane, because I’m kind of not part of it. What are you listening to at the moment? Do you have any new music recommendations for SBWR readers? At the moment, I have been listening to a lot of 80’s stuff like The Cars, and Trans by Neil Young. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac. No recommendations really. I have terrible taste in music. Are there plans for a physical release (vinyl)? Maybe one day. I don’t think kigo is a band that really needs to release anything physically. I guess if the demand was there I would consider it, but for now it’s not something I’m really thinking about. Sorry. What’s next for Kigo? I think the next step is to probably play one or two shows this year, and maybe release another EP or two. I’m not sure what is going to happen in the future, and to be honest, that kind of excites me. close (enough to kiss) could be the last kigo EP ever, and if that proves to be the case, that is fine by me. I’m really proud of the EP, and if it serves as the last thing kigo ever releases, then so be it; I would’ve said all I need to say. Who knows though? I might get really busy, and write another 5 EP’s by the end of the year. It’s kind of day by day at the moment. Day by day. *ED’s NOTE – I hope it’s not the end for Kigo. But if it is, thanks for all the amazing music. Look after yourself Dwayne! Download all of Kigo’s releases @ Bandcamp.