Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
Mount Kimbie 2024

Mount Kimbie’s Personal Best

07 April 2024, 12:00

As they release their fourth album The Sunset Violent, Kai Campos and Dom Maker take Joe Webb through five keystone songs of Mount Kimbie’s dynamic and eclectic career.

At times, it can be hard to pin Mount Kimbie down.

The London and LA-based outfit occupy a musical space extending way beyond the “electronic-stroke-indie” category that they’re often erroneously assigned to.

Across their discography, Mount Kimbie have drawn upon sonic cultures as seemingly disparate as shoegaze, garage, post-punk, and hip-hop, carving out a nuanced, introspective sound that’s enhanced by subtle and sometimes off-kilter production.

Their new record, The Sunset Violent, comes with great anticipation, arriving seven years after their previous full-length studio album, 2017’s indomitable Love What Survives. Yet when I catch up with Kimbie’s Twin Peaks — Kai Campos and Dom Maker — from Maker’s place in King’s Cross, the mood is very much one of relaxation, quiet confidence, and excitement.

“We’re both really excited about starting up again,” says Campos, guitarist, songwriter, and, on the side, a techno-wiz who’s headlined Printworks and has a show on Rinse FM. “It’s been the longest break in our career in terms of being out of the cycle of either touring or working towards an album, so to have new music out and to be engaging with the world in that way again feels very exciting.

You get to take everything you’ve learnt as a more mature artist and bring that into how you’re going out into the world.”


At this point, the group are a dab hand at the release cycle, and although they’re entering their 15th year of releasing music, their mindset has shifted toward acceleration.

“We’re more interested in putting stuff out faster now and keeping the writing going,” explains Maker — also of a sparkly solo career that’s seen him produce for SZA and Travis Scott. “Where we’re at now in our creative headspace, it feels like the perfect time to keep firing at it.”

Originating as an duo, Mount Kimbie began releasing music in 2009. Their debut album, 2010’s Crooks and Lovers, was met with widespread acclaim and saw the group become nominated as paragons of the highly sought-after ‘post-dubstep’ sound.

Subsequent releases pushed them into far-out, often unexpected territory: 2013’s evocative Cold Spring Fault Less Youth bore the first of several fruitful collaborations with King Krule, while Love What Survives offered a hazy collage of post-punk and lo-fi.

Today, Mount Kimbie operate as a 4-piece, their transmutation into the dusty, guitar-oriented surrealism of The Sunset Violent due in large part to incorporating the talents of Andrea Balency-Béarn and Marc Pell.

“The live show now is way more expressive, and maybe a bit more satisfying,” Maker explains. “Just knowing we have this infrastructure live has definitely fed into this record and will bleed into a lot of the future recordings that we do. It feels way more natural to release a record at the moment that’s more ‘live’.”

As such, it is no wonder that what follows for the band is a massive European and American tour, before returning to the UK for festival season. Chief among their bookings is a headline slot at South London’s RALLY Festival, a sweet one for the band to hit having spent a lot of time growing up in the surrounding area.

“There’s so much great creative stuff happening down in South London, vibrant little pockets of community”, Maker eagerly explains. “To headline it is sick actually, and I’m really excited to be in a position where we can headline festivals like that.”

The question, then, is how to distil such a varied and cross-disciplinary back catalogue into five songs for their Personal Best.

“I just tried to go through key moments,” Campos says. “Once you’ve released music and the songs resonate with people, they have their own life, and they end up meaning more to you.

Maybe the key tracks are fairly predictable, because they’re the ones that have resonated with people the most, but I’ve picked out moments that at the same time were key moments for us.”

“Maybes” (2009)

KAI CAMPOS: The first one I picked out was “Maybes”, which was on the first record that we released on Hot Flush and was the first piece of music that we worked on together. It’s a good place to start because it’s when me and Dom met each other.

I’d started the song with this guitar recording that I’d made — which is funny, because the new record is very guitar-heavy, but that instrument has always been around and the first track we ever made was very guitar-heavy in its own way. I just had that loop and Dom was making a film and was going to use the first bit of that — which is the beginning of “Maybes” — for the soundtrack.

We were living in halls in South London and were very interested in the end phase of the dubstep scene in that area. There were a lot of garage influences in that scene, and we were taking in a lot of garage music second or third hand, so the idea of the chopped up vocal technique was very of that era. Once that had become part of the song, it felt like something clicked into place for us, in terms of making sense of where we were and what we were doing.

For the first piece of music that we made together to have the life that it did was obviously really insane, you don’t expect that to happen. For us, even getting a couple of comments on what was then Dubstep Forum was a really big deal and something worth celebrating.

The fact that Dom sent it off to Paul (Rose — founder of Hot Flush) in the first place reflects a key part of our relationship — I would never have thought it was finished enough or good enough to even bother sending it off anywhere. We were just really happy it was released on a label that we listened to and that we saw as a key part of an exciting scene.

BEST FIT: That must be really rewarding, being picked up by someone you actually listened to and a scene you wanted to get involved in. Did you send a polished version of the track at the time?

DOM MAKER: I have a feeling that we sent a handful of songs, maybe three or four, that were probably all unfinished. Paul handled us really well at that time and was a guiding presence that we really needed. We didn’t understand the mechanics of the music industry. He was really instrumental in terms of helping us find our path with it.

Everything was kind of unfinished. We were throwing ideas at things, and that was fine. There was a certain level of naivety because we were so young — we didn’t really care too much.

I guess especially when you first start making music, you’re possibly throwing a lot of things at a wall and seeing what sticks. You can really hear the convergence of a lot of different sounds, and your enthusiasm for that.

DOM MAKER: I think we were excited to have both found someone else we had a shared language within music. It was more like, ‘Fuck, we’ve made something that we both like,’ and we were reveling in that for a really long time.

Were you surprised that it was something you both liked? Did you know you were both coming at it from a similar situation?

DOM MAKER: It was just through experience. I’d grown up with a lot of frustration, that whenever I tried to do music with other people it was a total disaster, in that they wouldn’t be interested in being committed to it at all. There was always an imbalance.

Kai was the first person I’d met who was fully absorbed in making music and was covering himself in music all the time, listening to it, sharing records with me, and all of that.

I think you can hear a lot of that fusion happening on the songs. I think that’s the catalyst for the music on that EP. The fact that it was very different was this collision of all of these ideas, and being careless and free about it.

Maybes 2

“Carbonated” (2010)

KAI CAMPOS: We had a deadline from Hot Flush about finishing the album (Crooks and Lovers), and my main concern was I wasn’t sure whether we’d done anything that was very new compared to the EPs we’d made. A lot of our older fans would say it’s their favourite album and, I think because of the speed at which it was made, it’s a naturally very cohesive record.

“Carbonated” was the last track that got made for it and it was right at the very end, when there wasn’t enough music and a day left.

DOM MAKER: I remember phoning Kai at six or seven at night and he was like, ‘I think I’ve just started something that we could probably slip in’. We literally had to hand it in the next morning. Twelve hours later, “Carbonated” was formed in the way it is now.

KAI CAMPOS: It’s difficult to know which tracks will extend out further than just the natural cycle of releasing some music. That one’s certainly stuck around for yonks and it means a lot to lots of people, which is great.

With the benefit of hindsight, I guess it neatly encapsulated a lot of what we were trying to do up to that point. There’s a lot of trademark things about our sound that are all wrapped up in it. It’s one of those tracks that you’re kind of amazed at the reception and the life it has outside of what you anticipated.

BEST FIT: That makes a lot of sense — look at any streaming website and it’ll say it’s one of your best-known songs of that period, like a figurehead for that time. I love the rainfall sound — is it a field recording, or a sample from a synth maybe?

KAI CAMPOS: Due to the nature of the time I was making it, that’s actually a sample of another track on the album, called “Would Know”. It’s one of those happy accidents. It’s just that track, really aggressively high-passed with a filter, and it sounded like a hi-hat loop. Sometimes that’s enough to get you writing something, but it’s literally just lifted from another track on the album, which is… I don’t know whether that’s cool or not!

It’s interesting, like a little Easter Egg. You’ve previously described this period as making music at the tail-end of dubstep. How do you feel about the dubstep tag being put on those early releases?

KAI CAMPOS: It has almost nothing to do with it really, apart from the time. If the same record was to come out today, nobody, I think, would make that association at all.

Even as late as 2008-9, that scene was way more varied than over the subsequent years, where it got reduced to a much narrower sound. It quite often happens when people are figuring out a genre in the moment — it’s a much broader thing, then it becomes a bit of a caricature as time goes on.

At the time it didn’t seem absurd, like it does now. Our music had this slight garage influence — certainly in the types of rhythm, the vocal sampling, that kind of came from there — and we were releasing on a label that had previously put out seminal ‘proper’ dubstep records.

You would very occasionally hear somebody try to play one of our records at a night that we’d gone to at the time, and you could tell that we weren’t coming from the same world. In terms of the mixing, the tempo, and the production, we had a much more bedroom studio, indie-fied approach.

The big part that was missing was the sound system, so it was always outside of that, regardless of how much we liked that music. It was always an awkward fit. And now as the years have gone by, it just seems more and more ridiculous.

Someone you collaborate with a lot, James Blake, his early dubstep releases like The Bells Sketch also reflect a real variety within the sound.

KAI CAMPOS: Definitely. He had much more of an ear for the engineering side of it. He was more interested in the weight of stuff and exploring the sub-frequencies, which wasn’t really our terrain. And then other people that we were linked with at the time, like Joy Orbison, those guys were more seeped in dance music culture than us.

Crooks and Lovers

“You Took Your Time” Feat. King Krule (2013)

KAI CAMPOS: This was the first track that we worked on with King Krule. I put this one down because it’s the first time that we had a studio that wasn’t in our kitchen, and it’s the first time that we had the experience of somebody else coming in to work on stuff. It’s the beginning of what would be a really good relationship with Archy.

I distinctly remember having lots of ideas as little loops, Archy recording the first vocal takes and the life that this brought into the studio and into the song, which opened our perspective about what we could do in terms of making music.

We ended up going to another studio down the road called Press Play, which was run by this guy Andy Ramsay, who ended up becoming a big influence. We went there to record some stuff and then Archy would come to those sessions. There’s a big old harmonium there that ended up becoming the second half of the song, and so many lines that come out of that first meeting and those first seconds of working with Archy.

BEST FIT: When you collaborate with other artists, do you already have in mind a close connection between the instrumental work and the lyrics that they bring? Do you give a sense of a brief, or see what comes out of it?

KAI CAMPOS: Normally the way it works for us is for it to go hand in hand. The instrumental will be in a very early stage before anybody starts working on anything. In that way, whatever somebody brings to the very first idea informs your decision-making with the instrumental, so they’re intrinsically linked.

I guess what you’re hoping for is that first moment of somebody bringing something to the table to add to something you’ve started. When it’s good, it opens up this road in front of the song that you didn’t see previously, so you end up with something that’s greater than the idea you would have had, and it’s not entirely the idea that they would have had for it.

Something’s got to come out of that initial moment, hasn’t it? There’s something very specific about that very first time when you’re playing the track together.

KAI CAMPOS: Yes, the flash of possibilities of what you could do, and some level of inspiration that comes from hearing someone engage with it.

With certain chords there’s a million different things you could do over the top, so when someone takes a turn on something it can be really surprising and really engaging. You get to listen to the music in a different way.

Cold spring

“You Look Certain (I’m Not So Sure)” (2017)

KAI CAMPOS: I think with that album (Love What Survives) in general, the live stuff was starting to influence the studio work, and there was a bit of a feedback loop going between those two aspects. So, I chose this one because I think it’s symbolic of the beginning of a change of direction for us.

DOM MAKER: It was Kai and Drea [Andrea Balency-Béarn] who made that song, and that was cool, because Drea had never really been on record with us.

Obviously, she’s now in the band and fully anointed into the fold. Her voice is brilliant and hearing her over Kai’s guitar was a really good fit.

When it came to figuring out how to play the songs live, it became the most fun song we had in the show for us to play. All of us used to look forward to playing it. And now we’ve got a shit load of them on the new record.

BEST FIT: I love her vocals on the recent singles you’ve put out — they compliment the sound really beautifully.

DOM MAKER: There’s another one on the new album called “Yukka Tree”, which started in a similar format, where Drea and Kai got in together and figured it out. I’m a big fan of it — Drea’s fucking amazing

Love what

“Dumb Guitar” (2023)

DOM MAKER: We started with a sample, the sound that goes through the whole record. Kai came into my little room in the house we were renting in the desert in California, we played through a few bits, and one of the loops that I’d made out there was that particular synth line.

Immediately, it was like, ‘OK, that one’s good’, so he took it into the main studio and played guitar over it, these big, big chords, similar to “Maybes” actually, these massive crashing chords that were really held and had these long feedback sounds, and it was really perfect for the desert. But we never actually committed that to tape or anything.

The vocals took me bloody ages, trying to find a vocal melody or grounding it in was working. Eventually, that spoken word flow at the beginning was the first vocal that we laid down, and it was after that that we got into the B-Section and more chorus-y areas.

It feels really turbulent, that song. It reminds me a lot of the sea, and a lot of that kind of imagery and scenery came out of the instrumental when I was writing the lyrics. It’s quite a chunky song.

KAI CAMPOS: Like “Carbonated”, I think it summarises what we’re doing with the new album in a way, it became a very obvious single when we were looking at that. It neatly gathered a bunch of the ideas that we were exploring throughout the record and put them into a four-minute pop song.

BEST FIT: I know what you mean, like this is where you point to a track and go, ‘This is where you start with this record’. It’s a lot hookier than a lot of the other tracks you’ve put out before, but in a compelling way.

KAI CAMPOS: That’s the hope!

DOM MAKER: Basically, we were trying to make every single bit of it a hook, or at least that’s what we tried to do with the melodies. So, yes, it’s really fat, really chunky. It felt like you could sing along with it.


The Sunset Violent is out now via Warp

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