“Real success is not on the stage, but off the stage as a human being, and how you get along with your fellow man”, was a quote by Sammy Davis recently posted by Kate Akhurst on her band’s Facebook page. As wise as it sounds, it underestimates the powerful life force that beholds audiences when Kate and her production team Rocket Boy (which together makes Kate Boy) come to town.
The Australian/Swedish trio took to the stage in the basement of Old Street’s minuscule hip venue XOYO last Autumn and created such a bubble of high voltage energetic electricity over the audience and a thunderous storm of hypnotic pulsations, that for two hours, the atmosphere transformed into a 20,000 arena. Hell, they could probably do the same magic in a living room. Every platform is as equally important. Describing the indescribable wouldn’t do the band’s art form justice but it is conclusive from the start that they were destined to be somebody’s new cool favourite band.
The challenge accepted by the Synthpop innovators was to capture that glowing energy, intellectual philosophy and rigorous heartbeat inside a jar and present it in a mobile form. Thankfully the impactful composition of the sounds and production quality on their self-titled EP Kate Boy perfectly show their craft. With just six tracks, it avoids any nonsense of fillers and every track is wondrously distinctive yet threaded together by their own calculated style.
Kate Boy take the best elements of The Knife’s ground breaking influence including complex synth arrangements – that flow like an orchestral repertoire – and their dark-black aura that lurks sinisterly inside sparkles of beauty. Whilst Australian-born and Lykke Li-look-a-like Kate Akhurst takes the strong, deep and spiritually possessed moments of Karin Dreijer Andersson’s refrain and is even close to imitating her voice-decoding alterations, which suit the shape-shifting textures. It remains authoritarian, even amongst the multiplied electric drums and futuristic keyboard equipment.
However, within the experimentation and stamina, there is an underlying message of equality that exists throughout their brand, from inside their lyrics, to their enigmatic music videos to their promotion photos. The idea of art before self is already a Swedish notion but the Stockholm-based band take it further. All three members wear black baseball caps and dress in the same uni-formal black skeleton-hoodies, which aptly camouflages them as shadows into the environment of a gig venue and removes all ego in their extravaganza.
Their latest single “Higher” is said to be close to their heart because it suggests an ambitious and hopeful mission of becoming pioneers of social thinking with lyrics such as: “Higher than myself, higher than anything else. Cause I dream of the day that we can say that we changed us. We are equal, higher and equal“. It is a song that uses physical heights as a metaphor for aspiration.
It illustrates their interconnectedness with all essences of the song working together and being mathematically captivating and appropriate for its adventurous travelling. It second guesses the listeners from steady punches in the verse, rattling rave-ready techno, faded out sound intermissions, drone-keys and electric pan-pipes. It could be the sound of the future. It’s also immediately charming for Arkhurst’s unique extra-syllabic emphasis on pronunciation of words “eee-qual” and “highhh-yer”
“Northern Lights” is technically spell-binding and addictive initially for its computer-generated creation of strumming sounds and the chaotic clumsy personality of the synths but it reveals to be the crescendo foundations for a wild and haphazard chorus. “Open Fire” has a consistent thumping bassline but its swirls of shimmering electricity and Akhurst’s emotional larger-than-life voice-holding is enough to feel travel sick.
“Self Control” synchronizes the Marble-House-esque keyboards and vocals effectively and is somewhat a motivational anthem. It is a song that isn’t strict and narrow and allows for plenty of live improvisation and crowd-interaction. “The Way We Are” plays with multiple layers of vocals and intoxicating tribal rhythms but is most intriguing for it’s new-jack-swing-era factory machinery motion pattern of the electronic elements. It could be the remix part of a Janet Jackson video but inside a space station.
The free-spirited moments also being an accurate vision of the live-hysterics. Whilst finale “In Your Eyes” contains dystopian lyrics such as: “activate emotion waves, oppression down“, and is accompanied by synth heaven, harmonies, backward-tape wipes and an army-marching strength that is a kin to Woodkid. Its unmatchable confidence is the perfect tool to leave the listener with a lasting impression.
Think of this release as a preparation for their unmissable live experience and with recent shows at South by Southwest and in Barcelona and Estonia, the word of their magic is spreading fast. Kate Boy’s self-titled EP is out now on Fiction Records, purchase it here.
Words by Matt Hobbs