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Orange Pop: Things are heating up for Kiev

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

It’s taken years for new local band Kiev to finally hit its stride. The quintet’s players have been jamming and creating music in the same social circles for years, but it wasn’t until late last year that the final pieces came together.

“I feel like this is the strongest we’ve ever been,” drummer Brandon Corn said during a recent interview.

Now, he and the rest of the group — vocalist and guitarist Robert Brinkerhoff, keys and sax player Andy Stavas, bassist Derek Poulsen and keys and guitar player Alex Wright — are easing their way back into the local music scene, recording new music and landing bigger O.C. shows. The band plays Friday night at House of Blues Anaheim along with two outfits celebrating record releases — the Rye Douglas Band and Hindu Pirates — as well as local favorites the Union Line and Pacific Hurt (formerly Aushua).

In April, an English production company took interest in Kiev and flew producer James Lewis (known for his work with the Wombats and the Pistolas) out to the West Coast to record a few songs with the band, after which he returned to London to mix them.

“We wanted to put in as much effort as possible and wanted to make sure that at least a couple of us were there during the mixing process so that our voices were heard,” Corn says. “We all wanted to go but only Bob and Andy were able to get away. It would have been fun … expensive … but if we all could have gone we would have made a band party out of it.”

There aren’t concrete plans as to what will become of those sessions, but Corn says the band is hoping for a vinyl release. For now, the group distributes homemade discs at its shows, ripped and packaged in its Orange warehouse/studio.

Kiev also was excited to be part of the OC Music Awards’ best live band showcases this year. It didn’t make it to the finals, but Corn says the band was honored just to be part of the process.

“It was honestly really cool. Obviously we don’t ever want to make art a competition — it’s all in good fun. (But) I think with friendly competition, it can drive other bands to expect more from themselves.”

Being asked to perform in the showcase also signaled to Kiev that it was finally headed in the right direction. Though it has only recently coalesced into something stronger, the group actually started nearly seven years ago with just Brinkerhoff and pianist Grace Peters. The duo played together for several years before finding Corn and Poulsen, but eventually that quartet realized that “we just weren’t happy with the music, and we weren’t as excited as a new band should be,” Corn says.

So they decided to take some time off, Peters left the band — and nearly two years went by before any more music was attempted. Corn says they felt like strangers once they re-entered the local music scene, a matter compounded by the length of time it took to find just the right players. But with Stavas and Wright finally on board, the band began to work on new music, slowly sorting out what they wanted to sound like.

“I don’t know if we even have that figured out yet,” Corn says. “I think it will always change — I hope it does or else we’ll get bored. It took us about two years before we figured out what we really wanted to do in this project as a band. We wrote a lot of different songs — most of which aren’t good — and we played a lot, and failed a lot, before we could pinpoint what it is that we did well.”

Though there are vastly different musical tastes within the group, Corn says they all agree on Radiohead and Wilco as well as composer Steve Reich and jazz musician Oscar Peterson as key influences. Kiev typically practices five nights a week in its warehouse, striving to perfect its sound.

“I don’t think (perfectionism) is a negative thing,” Corn says, “but there’s a lot of work to be done, so we try to put in as much time and effort as we can.”

Indeed, though each member works a day job to keep the bills paid, virtually all free time is spent working on new music, making old material better, or booking local shows.

“We’re blessed to have people offering us to be on some of these better shows,” he says. “When we very first started, we played the smaller places like Gypsy Lounge and Detroit Bar — those places are the best, but we got lucky in being part of this music community where people have added us on shows at the Grove or the House of Blues now. It’s been such a good thing for us.”

Kiev play with the Rye Douglas Band, the Union Line, Pacific Hurt and Hindu Pirates on July 9 at 8 p.m.  at House of Blues Anaheim, 1530 S. Disneyland Drive. $12.50. All ages.


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