The Minimalist Foundation of Kate Boy
It’s rare to find an emerging band who come across so strong in both the audio and visual departments with such simplicity as Kate Boy. The band was formed out of a collaboration between Swedish musicians, Hampus Nordgren Hemlin, Markus Dextegen, Oskar Sikow Engström, and Australian, Kate Akhurst. They have developed a sound that many compare to an updated version of The Knife or Depeche Mode—industrial sounding, but with lyrics that are anthem worthy and infectious. Visually, they create some of the most interesting concepts to watch, while remaining minimalistic in their approach. Their identities remain mostly hidden in their self-directed music videos like The Way We Are and Northern Lights, and their color pallets tend to remain simply black and white. Hampus points out, “With us being in Sweden, [black] is sort of the climate there. So unintentionally you end up adapting to that, you grow up with it.” Kate chimes in, “When I first came, so many people work black there, so they sucked me in as well. It’s a clean minimalistic thing we like. A nice clean foundation to start out of, and let the music speak.”
This clean foundation quickly becomes much more than a blank canvas for the band’s music to rise above – it becomes another voice for the band. The choice to remain in solid color blocks of black and white is so declared that the video’s deliberate aesthetics build the band into something more than just their music. With these first few videos, they are lighting the torch that will lead the band into the realm of fashion trendsetters.
When speaking with the band about their first video, “Northern Lights," Oskar informed us that it was shot in the basement of their studio, using nothing more complicated than a swivel chair, a white wall, and some cut up paper. They achieved some shots (without hiring any visual effects specialists) that stump even seasoned music video editors. Oskar played around with the editing for a few days in order to get the look that they wanted. “The first one was done by us in the basement for the $100. $50 going to beer and food,” Oskar admits. “The second one we booked a studio, but we always kept that creative direction, idea, and editing within the band with 100% control.”
Although the process is often longer for them when they are doing everything themselves, they wouldn’t have it any other way. At least for now. Markus explains, “We worked a whole year together before we released Northern Lights. Usually a band or an artist in our position, they would get involved with a producer, mixing guy and a mastering guy.. but it takes more time than a conventional album because we’re doing it all ourselves.”
Self-proclaimed “control freaks," they also had their hand in the design of the outfits they’ve worn during their performances. What looks like a cross between a SWAT team suit and a parachute apparatus, or tactical apron, we found out that the clothes were carefully designed and chosen by the band. Oskar tells us, “We made them together with German designer Jana Hipp. We just wanted to make something that had that military/utilitarian look, and could still create cool shapes and could still be feminine.” Kate adds, “We wanted something for the guys and me, united team, uniform.”
The feeling that they are indeed a “team” is so strong, it’s hard to imagine what they were doing before they formed the band. Kate was living in LA for 5 years, writing songs for other artists, before she decided she wanted to pursue her own musical career. She decided to head to Europe and ended up in Sweden, where she met Hampus, Markus, and Oskar. “When I met those guys, I realized I wanted to do this as a band, as a team,” Kate declares. Hampus further explains the story, “We were all trying to be songwriters with different people and different genres, and that’s sort of how we met- we were introduced by a friend of ours that said you guys would probably get along together musically. So, really, when we first met it was to write music for someone else, and then it sort of felt too good to give away."
Photographer: Koury Angelo
Art Director: Kalvin Lazarte
Stylist: Laura Mazza
Special thanks to our friends at Sonos Studios