Kai is the person behind the self-produced and self-signed rock/metal band Esprit D’Air. On stage he will be the vocalist and guitarist backed by a band but behind the scenes, the multi-instrumentalist is active as the songwriter, composer, producer of the band project, in addition to mixing, mastering, designing and promotion.
Reformed in 2016, the London-based band has been working hard to gain traction in the rock and metal scene. Hard work pays off, as the band has been touring Europe (with even a show at our own festival in 2018), winning awards and producing impressive music videos, to mention a few. It was about time that we had a chat with Kai about how new songs, designs and music videos of Esprit D’Air get created, especially since he recently released a new single, titled Nebulae!
AVO Magazine: Can you share how you come up with new music and what the process is of it?
Kai: Sometimes, I am visually inspired—I like to browse photos, artwork, landscapes, and nature. Sometimes, I may just come up with the chords, then loop it endlessly until I think of melodies that stick! Exploring new places also often sparks a lot of inspiration, too—for example, how Amethyst was written during my time in Iceland, and how I took the inspiration in the video too. There isn’t a set process that I stick to, so it’s difficult to explain the process of it.
However, I will say that every song we have ever created is started digitally before it is performed. Doing it this way means that I can be really meticulous about each section. I always start with the instruments first—I always think about the music before the words and melodies come in. With Leviathan, I started with the drums and the rhythm that was in my head. I then layered it with the bass, and the guitars and the synthesizers came naturally. After the song is created, I take it to a room with live musicians and we learn it after. Most of our songs are done this way.
AVO Magazine: What about the process of how you come up with the idea for the cover designs?
Kai: Most of the time, we look at the words we use in the song and try to come up with underlying symbolism. I always like ethereal concepts and abstract objects, and when Daishi (former drummer) and I used to work together during university days between 2010-2013, we were (and still are) big Final Fantasy fans. A lot of the concepts, such as the Rebirth crystal was inspired by those games, but some of them are not so obvious. In fact, some of the concepts we come up with are so abstract that even though we do develop the idea and the final piece, it still remains a ‘mystery’ to us (haha), but I always find those concepts more interesting. It keeps people guessing, and for them to interpret the piece.
AVO Magazine: Making music videos is a bit difficult right now, although you have recently produced a stunning music video with an interesting story for the song Leviathan, can you explain how the process went from concept idea for the video to the creation of it?
Kai: I began talking to Andy Mihov, the director, from March 2020, soon after I finished recording and producing Leviathan. I was really impressed by his works with Bury Tomorrow and other projects that I just had to get him to do ours. We never really had a real “concept” video before. Most of the videos we’ve had until now have been performance videos.
Anyway, both of us began talking about it at a very early stage. We were on the same page taking inspiration from the works of Hideaki Anno, and Roger Deakins. We didn’t want to overstretch ourselves and kept the story simple and symbolic. Much like our artwork, we wanted to leave aspects of the story abstract and open to interpretation. Andy came up with all the ideas and we were ready to shoot in the summer of 2020.
However, neither of us really could have predicted that the pandemic would last for as long as it has been going, and it was not looking possible to shoot at the original dates. The costs, the crew, and insurance also increased, so we had to look at getting additional funding and postpone the shoot. We set up a crowdfunding campaign and livestream concert to replace the show we had originally organized, which was very successful. Thanks to our supporters, we were able to produce such a stunning video. Visually and aurally, it became one of my proudest works yet.
AVO Magazine: Can you share more about the motivation (where you get that) to continue with making new music and stay active as a musician as it is a fact that it is rather difficult, especially now!
Kai: It sounds really corny, but music is my life. I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I mean anything. I would be very depressed if I did not do music. My motivation to do music is motivated by my love of music, my love of playing music, my love of creating music. As you can tell, I love music… but seriously, it’s only natural for me to be so invested and motivated to create and perform.
Musicians who do it for the music have a passion for what they do. A lot of people will never understand the personal sacrifices and energy we put into making our own art, no matter how hard things get. As a DIY musician, I work day and night, and my day is gone in a blink of an eye, but I am doing this because I love it. I know it is not meant to be easy, but I would not have it any other way.
AVO Magazine: Do you have a certain motivator (a person or maybe a series) that you follow/listen to to get a boost from it?
Kai: I have to be honest and say that there isn’t a particular motivator, but I like to surround myself with other hardworking musicians. I love seeing my friends succeed, creating, and putting their work out there, especially in these tough times. We work as catalysts to motivate each other, and we have to support each other.
AVO Magazine: How do you look at Patreon? You recently started it and now there is a certain ‘pressure’ to produce new music, bring it out every 6 weeks and stay in contact with your supporters.
Kai: I always give my supporters my all because I am really grateful for having them around, so keeping in contact can only come naturally for me. However, coming up with new music isn’t something that I can do every day. It’s not a process that can be forced, but I always put a lot of time into it. There certainly is pressure, yes, but I am determined to make this work. The ‘pressure’ also keeps me busy! I hope with Patreon, it would eventually ease the pressure, too. Streaming platforms such as Spotify do not pay out a lot to musicians, even if you have hundreds of thousands of streams a month. Having that direct-to-fan connection with Patreon and their direct support really does go a long way.
AVO Magazine: What excites you the most about being a musician, but also what are the less exciting things?
Kai: The stage is what excites me the most. I am sad that I cannot experience that right now. I still remember the feeling of my first ever concert. There is not a feeling that beats that excitement. The less exciting thing about it is carrying your own equipment. We don’t often have roadies, and I don’t have a lot of muscle strength (haha).
AVO Magazine: After a day of working on new music, how do you make sure you can unwind, or is your head working 24/7?
Kai: Lately, I haven’t really stopped working, not even on weekends. I hope to resume a more normal life. If I am not playing guitar, I am drumming. If I am not drumming, I am singing. If I am not singing, I am thinking of what to post next on my Instagram (haha). Seriously though, going to parks helps me unwind and helps keeps me active.
My new single, Nebulae is out now. The song is about taking charge of your own future and moving forward, which is exactly what I am doing right now!
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The official website of Esprit D’Air can be found here, where you can find the latest news, but also the online shop and online community.