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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week – Kind Monitor
Monday, July 21, 2008

My buddy Louis Logic invited me to a show of his a few months ago at The Zipper Factory Theater and on the bill was Kind Monitor, a project of one Joshua Guthals. The indie rock group struck a chord with me with their unique cover of “Billie Jean” and Louis Logic laced remix of their original song, “Cairo.” According to Guthals, the band’s name represents a bit of a guardian angel quality, with Kind meaning a source of kindness in a cruel world and Monitor meaning someone assigned to watch over another. This week I caught up with man behind Kind Monitor to find out more about the group, how an indie rocker linked up with an indie rapper, and the inspiring charity project they’re working on together.

Adam Bernard: Start me off with the Kind Monitor story. When and how did you come together and become a group?
Kind Monitor: Kind Monitor developed out of a deep love for intellectually oriented beautiful rock music. I was living in England doing a year abroad at Oxford and there was this moment where I found myself leaving my apartment having written yet another essay on some Dickens novel, mad at myself for giving up on my music studies in high school, walking down the rainy streets of Oxford to a music store and buying myself my first guitar so I could become a rock star like all the people who make the music that excites and stimulates my head. I wanted to do that to other people's heads. That was about ten years ago. Songs began to spill out of my head and at some point they reached a critical mass and were begging to be played and heard by other people. That required a couple of little things; me to tackle my crippling stage fright and shyness and, well, to find a group of amazing musicians to come together to build these songs into something that could be shared live with audiences. Kind Monitor came together as a project that could finally start playing on New York stages when several of my close friends basically staged an intervention with me. They were like, “Joshua, you've been writing songs for years, you love music, it's all that you do… how about let's be in a band and get you out of your apartment and on stage?” I owe those friends a lifetime of thanks. It just goes to show, that a dream deferred does not always dry up like a raisin in the sun.

Adam Bernard: Just this past week Kind Monitor released their first EP, Somebody Saves My Life Most Every Single Day. What do you hope people feel when they put it on?
Kind Monitor: I hope it’s a romantic world for the listener, and the songs are all a bit blue, too, so maybe people will feel some nostalgia and melancholy. What's so cool to me about pop songs is that in three or four minutes you can be swept up in a whole world of thoughts and ideas and feelings that disrupt your mental course and with these songs we wanted to create that space for the listener to drift off sideways, or up into the air, and then gently deposit them back down on the ground at the end of each song.

Adam Bernard: When I saw you perform Louis Logic dropped a guest vocal on “Cairo.” How did you link up with him?
Kind Monitor: Louis and I met through our mutual friend and collaborator Sonia Manalili. Louis has been like a music industry mentor to me, showing me the ropes, standing up for me when I make mistakes, introducing me to cool creative people in the industry. As Kind Monitor has been workshopping and developing new songs I've taken to heading to Louis' pad to play him the rough versions and in exchange he's played me rough versions of the outtakes from his new project that's currently in development stages. I have to say he's helped me keep my head up, mostly to keep from falling back into stage fright and shyness just by sending me a text or email telling me to keep up the hard work.

Adam Bernard: I know you also have a special project you're working on with him called Project: Reversible, which is a fundraiser seeking to target some major social struggles, including racism, homophobia, environmental problems and suicide. How did this come about and why are you taking on such huge topics with this project?
Kind Monitor: A good friend of mine, Nels Bangerter, edited the gorgeous film War Child about a rapper from Sudan, Emmanuel Jal, who overcame the darkest aspects of humanity to become a mouth-piece for examining the roots of ethnic cleansing and the devastation that has been shaking Africa to its foundations. I went home after seeing it knowing that I needed to contribute something meaningful to people with my music, and that I had that potential in me. To make a very long story short, I wrote a song called "Reversible" that speaks to the great potential we all have within us to move past the pain of our individual and collective pasts to find our truth and beauty and connection. I wrote it for a friend of mine who was hurting pretty bad because of some awful things that happened when he was young, hoping to provide him a musical support in the form of a four minute song. At live shows people regularly cry during the song and tell me afterward that it stirs up memories of friends they have lost through suicide and reminds them of mistakes they know they are making in their own lives. I told Louis about all these thoughts swirling in my head about reinventing "Reversible" after seeing War Child and we started asking people around us, “what would you reverse in this world if you could?” We listened to people's thoughts and got excited to tackle this all by raising money through sales of a song. Now Louis and I are rerecording "Reversible" with a full band, some urban beats and a greatly moving rap by Louis and we'll use the song's placement in commercials, movies, etc., along with downloads on iTunes, to raise funds for our most pressing social problems as told to us by the people we've interviewed. The idea is, listen to our song, trust in your own ability to reverse what you doubt it is possible to change, and donate some money toward social causes through supporting the song.

Adam Bernard: That’s fantastic. Now, I can’t finish this interview without asking about your cover of “Billie Jean.” What made you want to try and tackle a Michael Jackson song and how did you go about switching it up?
Kind Monitor: During my years of struggling through intense stage fright I was living in San Francisco on Haight Street a few blocks from where the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin had their homes. At the time it was so difficult for me to believe in myself and my own songs that I started composing and recording reinterpretations of my favorite 80's songs as a pathway to becoming comfortable sharing my musical identity with other people. I figured, well, if I'm going to live a few blocks from the epicenter of 60’s music and start to record indie version of 80's songs I might as well aim high, so my first self-produced effort was a cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," one of the great popular songs in the history of recorded music. I decided to recreate it as a plea for forgiveness in front of an invisible and unsympathetic jury of the public. That lined up well with the disastrous situation that was unfolding for Michael Jackson in the press at the time, too, so I was taking my childhood hero's song and updating it for the aesthetic of the times during his fall from grace and indie musicians’ rise to fame.

Related Links

Kind Monitor: kindmonitor.com
MySpace: myspace.com/kindmonitor


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:48 AM  
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