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Timber Timbre

Taylor Kirk's formerly solo-project turns into a three-man team with sinister violins on moody soundscapes

Timber Timbre began as an independent project for Taylor Kirk. These days, the once-bashful singer-songwriter has grown his solo project into a three-piece band, in the company of Simon Trottier and Mika Posen. Their music? Unparalleled folk: clangy reverberations lingering like disquieting spirits, boot heels rhythms clicking like a sinister reckoning, violin notes squinting and squeaking like the taste of sour pickles, hiccups and creaks shimmying throughout. It’s the audio incarnation of the literary Gothic: full of raw, moody, mystery-shrouded soundscapes.

Taylor Kirk has a wonderfully gentle manner in person, and reveals himself to be an eager and ever-evolving creator. Onstage his hushed performances pierced by primal whoops and low rumblings inspire quiet reverence from the audience. Currently on a European tour, Taylor Kirk took some time to discuss his in-an-ideal-world cinema collaborations, his upcoming doowop(!) record to be released next spring and how to fake intimacy in a public setting.

Dazed Digital: Could you describe your music trajectory?
Taylor Kirk: I started making four track recordings. Mostly I would play other people’s songs: Neil Young, Pink Floyd. Not much singing, kind of whisper-singing. Then I started to write my own instrumental compositions, just really simple things. When I moved to Toronto, where I was studying film, I started playing drums and keyboards in other bands. I was making films – but I was making films so I could make the music for the film.

In my early twenties I started to write songs and make recordings. I never showed them to anybody. And then eventually I did. I guess it began as a song-writing endeavor. When I eventually got the nerve to start playing for people, I had to do it by myself. I was playing sets with a loop pedal, doing the self-accompaniment thing. That’s when I started using the Timber Timbre moniker. But I think I reached the full potential of what I could do with that, of playing by myself, pretty quickly. So I found some nice people to play with.

DD: Your music is so signature – you can recognize the mood of a Timber Timbre song almost immediately. It has a similar presence, I find, to Jonny Greenwood doing the music in There Will Be Blood – really haunting and indelible. Given your film background, have you ever thought about doing something collaborative regarding film and music?
Taylor Kirk: I was really inspired by that [collaboration]; I thought that was a really good marriage. There aren’t any filmmakers that I would ever have the nerve to approach. But that’s something I’d for sure like to do.

DD: Well, if having the nerve wasn’t the issue, who would you want to work with?
Taylor Kirk: Paul Thomas Anderson is a great Hollywood director. I think I would really like to do something with Werner Herzog – he’s one of my favorites. Oh, Peter Mettler! He’s made a lot of experimental documentary films. I think it’s a good idea to say this, to get it out there, who knows what’ll come of it. 

DD: There is an incredibly intimate feeling to your songs; how do you make that translate for a performance setting? 
Taylor Kirk: With recordings there’s very much a rock band type of format; the recordings are bass, drums, organ, guitar and voice. And the last thing I want to do is make a rock show. It’s not that I’m not excited by that, it’s just that I’m not that type of band leader or presence. I don’t know how to put on that kind of show, it wouldn’t be natural to put on that kind of show. I’ve never been terribly interested in trying to recreate the songs that way. Having this kind of weird instrumentation and stripped down arrangement, really super dynamic, helps it retain a kind of intimacy. 

DD: What are your own musical tastes?
Taylor Kirk: I’m excited about what my friends are up to. Bruce Peninsula, they’re from Toronto, they’re good friends and I think they’re really exciting and making really original music. There’s another project called Tasseomancy; they used to be called Ghost Bees. It’s a folk duo, they’re twin sisters and they’re making music unlike anything. We made a recording together actually a year ago. There’s also a guy Colin Stetsonhe’s in Montreal, he’s a saxophone player. He’s making amazing solo saxophone music, really remarkable.

DD: Can you talk about your future projects?
Taylor Kirk: We made a record. We did it! It’ll probably be ready in April. It kind of sounds like ‘50s doo-wop music. It’s a bit more beat-y; a bit more upbeat. It’s maybe even danceable or dancey. No, it’s not dancey at all. There are some songs in major key on the record, which is different.

DD: Why doo-wop after folk?
Taylor Kirk: A friend of mine, who actually plays in Bruce Peninsula, is a DJ and does these sock hop nights in Toronto. He made me compilations of early rock and roll music– not the stuff that your hear on the radio all the time. It made me excited about that era. I guess it was the same reason I got excited about folk music, it sounded really pure to me, and now I can hear that again in those early rock and roll recordings. I got really into it, that box set of doo-wop music. I always loved those girl group recordings, Phil Spector era type of stuff. I guess it got in there.