New Artist Spotlight – Kurt Riley

NameKurt Riley
MembersKurt Riley: vocals and multi-instruments
Rick Kline: bass guitar, bass synthesizer,
backup vox
Charlie Jones: synthesizer, keyboards,
Sesu Coleman: drums, percussion
LocationIthaca, NY, USA
Similar artistsOscar Wilde, Brian Jones, Marc Bolan,
Freddie Mercury, George Orwell, Buddy
Holly, Gary Numan, Keith Richards, Vangelis
Debut releaseBrighthead (2010)
LinksWebsite | Facebook | YouTube
The Music Addict’s VerdictBritish glam revisited for the 21st century
Kurt Riley

How was the band formed?  
Well, it’s a funny thing. I’ve been working as a solo artist since 2008 – before that, I was the leader of my beautiful teenage band, a proto-punk R&B outfit called The Steel Hearts. Shortly after starting on my own, I released Brighthead, produced by BOOTS (who went on to work with Beyoncé, FKA Twigs, and Run The Jewels); in 2016, I released a concept album about an alien king who comes to Earth to save his queen – this was called Kismet, and is greatly beloved by my fans. Shortly afterwards, I released Tabula Rasa, my third album. Beginning in 2018, I began releasing singles exclusively, knocking out Love Is In My Heart (a synth-laced entry into the Great American Songbook), Failure of Imagination (dedicated to booking agencies and record labels across the country, ha ha), and most recently, Be Cool. Each of these singles has been very well received, and we’ve had a ball putting together gorgeous music videos for each one.

What’s your songwriting process like?   
Everything begins with the melody. Absolutely everything. If it can’t get stuck in my head, how will it get stuck in anyone else’s? (laughs)

What are your influences?
The fin de siècle. Dystopian fiction. The beauty of childhood wonder. The zeitgeist. Some desperate attempt to wrangle hope for the future out of a civilization which has spun horrifically out of control. And, of course, from my eternal pantheon of heroes: The Rolling Stones, T.Rex, Queen, The Beatles, and Mr. Bowie.

How would you describe your music?  
Metapop. Music in the mirror is closer than it may appear, but keep your eyes on the road ahead.

What’s the one thing that makes you stand out from the rest?
The band itself. My bassist, Mr. Rick Kline, is so versatile; he can play everything from doomy synthbass to theory-informed jazz lines. Mr. Charlie Jones, our synthesizer wizard, can do everything from Tangerine Dream-style soundscapes to bluesy licks on the ivories. And Mr. Sesu Coleman, our lovely drummer, brings a wealth of knowledge from his incredible resumé (Magic Tramps, Alan Vega) to bear on these tunes. As a band, our sonic influences are so wide that we can perform virtually any kind of music I write and throw at the fellas. (laughs) Bless ’em.

What’s your latest release?   
Be Cool.

Have you ever played in Montreal?
We’ve not played live yet for our Northern cousins, but we’re looking forward to doing so in the future. The gracious Mr. Alan Cross of Toronto’s 102.1 FM had some very kind words to say about my single Love Is In My Heart, saying that “it is terrific; Bowie-esque, Marc Almond-esque, Placebo-esque. Visually arresting…the song deserves some exposure.” So hopefully we’ll be exposing ourselves in Canada sometime soon. Or something like that.

What are your touring plans for the next few months?
In 2018, we performed extensively across New York state. In 2019, we are going to break into the festival circuit, and we’ll branch out into other states within the Union. We’re also cultivating a strong international following, and our digital presence goes a long way in bringing my music to folks from Belgium, India, and beyond.

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