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A Splendid Talk with... Kaleidoscope Horse | First Contact

Kaleidoscope Horse (Top Clockwise): Desiree Das Gupta, Sean McDonnell, Sam Maloney, Taylor Barber, Kyle McDonnell

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Peanut Gallery: Sounds


Hello there, Kaleidoscope Horse! It is nice to make your acquaintance. Who will be representing the band in this quaint chat together?

Hey Nick, can I call you Nick? What do you go by? I’m Des - I’m a lead singer/synther/writer. 26 years old, musician living in Toronto.

You can call me Nick or Nicholas (or Piers, my official first name / music moniker). I’m very flexible. Thank you for asking, Des! Who are the other members of Kaleidoscope Horse and how did you all come together to form the band? What is the origin story?

The band started when Sam Maloney and I met in college at Seneca’s Independent Music Production program. On day 1 she asked me to go grocery shopping with her and I essentially moved into her student housing (aka never-ending sleepover style) and we started writing music together. We didn’t notice at the time, but we were holed up in her walk-in closet writing an album that was really free-form and had no rules whatsoever. The name came from a giant drawing I made with crayons on Sam’s wall of a horse with technicolour wings. Kyle McDonnell, who is our bassist, was another student in the program and took notice of what we were doing and was the first person outside of Sam and I that made us feel like we were on to something - whatever that was. Kyle introduced us to his band - Sean (his brother, and guitarist) and Taylor (drummer) - and they agreed to back us up on whatever we did.

For such a spectacular amazing band name from your multicolored crayon creation, your music together must be equally as riveting. How would you describe Kaleidoscope Horse’s music?

I would describe our music as cinematic, psychedelic, and very emotion-based. Emotions aren’t always logical but there’s always a root and a connection as to why those things are being felt - so we do have reasoning behind our musical choices. We’re inspired by classic sounds - the incredible harmonies of doo-wop, heart-breaking old country ballads, groovy jams that you can dance to; but we’re also really into new post-punk, math rock and progressive rock. There is no box to what we do - we fit into a lot of genres.

With such sonic diversity, what are the Kaleidoscope Horse’s influences and heroes?

Not an easy question considering we listen to anything and everything, and it’s pretty individual. I would say our current influences include Patsy Cline, Zeus, CRUMB, King Gizzard and Radiohead.

Why these bands in particular? What do you take away from each?

It’s so hard to talk about it as one person of five, but Patsy’s simplicity and heartbreak are unbeatable. Zeus’s full band harmonies and nostalgic sound (as well as local heroes). CRUMB is so tight - full of multiple influences, trippy and beautiful. King Gizzard’s live show is incredible, and their experimentation with their instrumentation as well as their signature groove is undeniable. Radiohead has a huge career and has done something genuinely unique and bold at every turn - I appreciate their mentality about being music-makers in general.

If you consider your music emotion-based, it does not surprise me that you have an eclectic musical palette for various styles, both the old and the new. Can you give me a few track examples from your discography where a genre or an amalgamation of them evokes a certain emotion?

I think a really great example of this is “Honey, I’m On A Trip” which uses lounge jazz to paint a picture of a boozed up 1950’s husband going on a performative business trip to cheat on his dying wife - but the song also is about how nothing is black and white in such a cliche motif. The spaced-out yet straight-forward rock breakdown expresses the emotional mess that the character really is despite his best efforts of numbing what he’s actually going through.

“Idious Carrie” has a pretty classic 90’s alt-rock intro and outro that for me emotes new beginnings with a bitter-sweet acceptance.

“Something Went On, Something Went Off” uses classic doo-wop harmonies that at the outset make it feel like things are okay - but then they break which again reveals a cacophony of longing and wanting things to stay the same between two people.

In addition to evoking emotional response, does Kaleidoscope Horse’s music deal with certain themes, concepts or issues? Are they things that you try to express from the beginning of a song’s curation?

When we write, we’re expressing from a place that needs to be expressed - it’s usually only once we have a bit of it down that we start to understand where that’s coming from, which then informs the way we finish the song. We are all students of ourselves, constantly evolving and learning. We take a lot of personal responsibility for the way we experience the world, and we are all people driven by a wilderness of emotion. We like to empathize with extreme characters and consider why people do the things that they do - cheaters, stalkers, murderers. We like to draw correlations between these darknesses and how we all can relate. But there’s also tons of magic and personal power themes. Mostly everything we do is about personal transformation.

Personal transformation is a cathartic sentiment! In addition to reasoning and reacting to characters and life around you, do you look upon yourselves and your own life transformations?

Totally. It’s really all just a projection of ourselves.

Being a quintet, how is Kaleidoscope Horse’s band dynamic? Do you all gel well? What are your favourite activities apart from the music that gets you all together and in good companionship?

We’re a family. We have multiple levels of function and dysfunction, and we have so much love and respect for one another that we’re willing to work through the tough stuff. We connect with our humour - it’s so on point and nuanced that at this point I barely think anyone outside of us really finds us funny.

Paint a scene of a typical live performance for the band looks and sounds like! What makes your gigs stand out from other bands? Do you use visual components?

At a typical Kaleidoscope Horse show you’re going to see androgyny, props, potentially performance artists, sometimes live visuals - projections. You’re definitely going to see 5 people pouring their souls out to you - it’s a pretty emotional experience being able to perform the music you love with the people you love, talking about your personal experiences so it’s not always a light and fluffy time. We build our sets around how we’re feeling - what inspires us. We use transitions that we write for the specific set to connect the songs in different orders, and we usually feel a theme or some type of underlying story that we end up basing the show around. We want all the senses covered as much as makes sense. I can only imagine it’s going to get bigger and bolder the more we iron out.

How did you come across Splendid Industries? Why did you decide to join the Peanut Gallery musical community?

[...Real talk don’t show anyone this but I have no idea lmao]

It has been great talking with you, Des! What can we expect from Kaleidoscope Horse in the future?

Piers, you’re a class act. Best questions I’ve ever answered. We’re playing very few shows in the next few months and heading into pre-production to begin our next record due out next year.


Upcoming Performance Dates:

Sept 20-22: Watson's Corners, ON - Hollowfest 2019 Music & Arts Festival


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