Kali Masi - Sound In The Signals Interview

I recently had the opportunity to interview John Garrison and Sam Porter of Kali Masi. We discussed their new album, ‘[laughs]’, what they wanted to leave listeners with on the closing track, how some of their favorite moments were the most challenging moments when recording, vinyl and merch designs, and more. Check it out below.

First, thanks for the interview.

JG: You're welcome. Thank you for interviewing us. 

Your new album ‘[laughs]’ came out recently. Have you been pleased with the listener response so far?

JG: We think! It's difficult to gauge people's reactions without talking to people in person or seeing how they respond when we play these songs live. All we have to work off of is tweets and Instagram tags. So it'll be pretty interesting once we get back to real life. 

What was it like recording and releasing it during the pandemic? 

JG: We get this question a lot, but we actually finished recording right before the pandemic. But we mixed it, mastered, and organized artwork through Zoom/Facetime calls. Releasing it during the pandemic was... fine. It's sad to not get to play these songs live yet or have a real record release show/tour. But it is what is. We've adapted.

I really like the closing song, “The Stray”. I think it closes the album strongly. Can you tell me about writing that song and why you chose it as the closer?

SP: Initially I was really going for a Gang of Four feeling with the song, I had the bass line and guitar riff for a long time but I was struggling with the melody. I tried a lot of different stuff that didn't work. I thought it would be cool, since the song is about power addiction and losing control, to make the song feel like it was coming apart, with these dissonant 'train horn' harmonies. They sound like a dial tone and it creates a stress that was much needed. We put The Stray at the end of the record as an exclamation mark. The final lyrics are 'All luck is made with good intention, love and grace'. That's what we wanted to leave people with. 

What’s one of your favorite moments from recording the album and what was one of the most challenging moments?

JG: It was fun to travel out of town together and be at "album camp" at our engineer Jay Maas' house in Massachusetts. His house has a studio in the basement and the four of us all slept in the same room on bunk beds on the second floor. It was rad to do it all together away from home. Even if it wasn't our "turn" to record we were still in the same room supporting each other. That being said, that was also a challenging part because we recorded drums first so once I was done I was pretty much DONE. I had a moment of "wait am I even in this band? I haven't done anything significant for a week." But that's just the order of things. I still enjoyed hanging. 

SP: My favorite moments were also the most challenging. I love recording! There were some songs that did not have lyrics written. Everyone had done their jobs and it was a make or break moment for me to really do mine. My band and Jay and Dave all trusted me to finish these songs, they encouraged me to do it. It was a lot of pressure but I think those songs came out really strong and pushed me vocally that a more relaxed situation wouldn't have. 

The artwork for the album is really interesting. What is that image from and why did you choose it for the artwork?

SP: Our friend Chris has been photographing our band since its infancy. When we were figuring out artwork, we turned to him to see if he had any suggestions and he sent that photo to us. It's a pile of discarded parade floats in an abandoned building. We felt like it fit the ethos of the album. Somewhere at the crossroads between celebration and decay. 

You released the album on vinyl. How much input did you have in choosing the variants and packaging?

SP: We had complete control, there were a few ideas that we cut due to costs (confetti in the album sleeve, a small book, more colors on the vinyl) but we ended up really happy with how it turned out. 

You’ve released some cool merch items including some grip tape for skate decks. How did you come up with that idea and do you have any other neat merch items planned around the album?

JG: Thank you. We had all these leftover stencils from big "Kali Masi [laughs] out March 23rd" signs we were spray painting on sidewalks and sending to friends. I used to paint on my griptape when I was a kid and I've been meaning to get back into it. So I ordered 60ft of griptape and started messing around with Kali Masi art on them. Thought.. let's sell em!

SP: More cool and weird merch coming. Don't want to ruin the surprises!

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

JG: Thanks for the thoughtful questions! 

SP: Thanks for checking out the record and interviewing us. Really appreciate the time.

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