Since breaking onto the scene back in 2014 with a coveted triple j Unearthed competition win and stirring electronic anthems like “Arcadia” and “Given The Chance”, Danny Harley – AKA The Kite String Tangle – has quickly cemented himself as a beloved figure of the Australian music landscape.
With appearances at key festivals like Coachella (with Adventure Club), SXSW, Splendour In The Grass, Falls Festival, Groovin The Moo, his own range of sold out headline tours around the nation, and his very own Exist Recordings label all ticked off the bucket list, Harley finally unleashed his highly anticipated debut album for his faithful fanbase in July. Jam-packed with thoughtful transitions, progressive arrangements and world-class melodies, The Kite String Tangle’s first full-length foray into what some would call the golden age in Australian electronic music still manages to stand out as a seriously special record.
We caught up with Danny in the lead-up to his biggest national tour yet to take some snaps and dig into his creative process, who’s inspiring him at the moment, the essential ingredients for a perfect pop song, and how he’s feeling after putting his debut record out into the world.
Best Before: It’s been a couple of months since the release of your debut album. Are you happy with how it’s been received?
Danny: Of course! It’s been really nice to see and hear people’s reactions and thoughts on the music. It took quite a while to get it out, so it’s really refreshing to finally release it.
Was the response to the record here in Australia what you expected or imagined beforehand? Were there nerves on the eve of the release in terms of how it would fare?
Honestly, I try not to think about that stuff. There’s always nerves and expectations, but at a certain point it becomes out of your control, and thinking about it reaches a point of diminishing returns. I think as an artist you have to just create for yourself, and if others enjoy it then that’s awesome too.
You graduated from your bedroom setup into a full studio with live drums and organic instruments for this record. Can you tell me about how your process changed along with that shift in environment? Did you find yourself adapting quickly?
Well it was still written in a bedroom mostly, and I come from a studio background, so I wasn’t too far out of my depth. The change mainly manifested itself in the sonic palette of the record. I think usually I would create dense arrangements with not many organic instruments, but for this record the scales were tipped the other way – albeit still dense. I can’t seem to write stuff that isn’t really dense. Haha!
How would you say the songs on your debut album build on the tracks from ‘Vessel’? How have you developed as a songwriter, producer and performer since 2014?
I’d like to think I have, but it’s subjective of course. I feel like I’ve taken the same style of songwriting that I do and taken it a lot further. I feel like there’s cohesion between the releases, but it definitely feels like a progression to me. I hope it does for others.
“There’s always nerves and expectations, but at a certain point it becomes out of your control, and thinking about it reaches a point of diminishing returns.”
My favourite thing about the album is all the super unique, and often haunting vocal hooks you’ve brought to the table – the loops on “Waiting” are killer, and the vocal hook in “Know By Now” is one of the best on the record. Are a lot of these moments happy accidents? Can you tell me about the process behind those two tracks?
“Waiting” was born from just playing around with vocal manipulation. Well, manipulation of all sorts of audio really. I just wanted to create a really vibey track that kept people guessing as to what sound is what and how it was made. That’s my favourite kind of music to listen to; stuff where I’m not sure how the producer made the sounds. It’s really fascinating to me. As for “Know By Now”, that was written in L.A. with a couple of friends. I went to their house one day and we started laying down the musical components. Then it came time to write the lyrics and melody, and it kind of just poured out over half an hour or so. That never really happens to me, so it felt like a really special song and something I needed to get out. It’s a very vulnerable song for me.
Are there certain artists you see as the benchmark for electronic production? Who is out there right now that is genuinely challenging, inspiring or informing your production and/or songwriting?
I love Tourist, Bonobo, Caribou, Flume and ODESZA for inspiring production. I could listen to only their albums for the rest of my life and be quite happy.
The album is packed with some pretty incredible pop hooks. What did you learn about pop songwriting while putting together this record?
I think I’ve always gravitated towards poppier vocal melodies. I grew up on pop punk and that stuff is riddled with pop hooks. You can take the kid out of pop punk, but you can’t take the pop punk out of the kid!
At this point in your career, what would you consider to be the key ingredients for a perfect electronic pop song?
Personally, I like a vocal-driven song that makes you feel an emotion intensely. Whether that be euphoria, sadness, regret, nostalgia – it doesn’t matter, as long as the sounds and harmony in combination with the lyrics and melody make you feel something. Then it’s well crafted – that’s what makes music so powerful to me.
You had quite a hands-on role in your video for “The Prize”. Can you tell me a little bit about the process behind the clip? I’ve seen you say that collaboration was a key element.
Yeah! It was made up of a lot of different moving cogs all almost independent of each other, but everyone had their job to do, really cared about it, and nobody was ‘in charge’ so to speak. I think operating like that was really cool and yielded some really stunning results. I’ve always wanted to make a video clip that has the sole focus of emphasising and complementing the narrative of the song in an abstract way, and I feel this video clip is the closest I’ve come.
The Kite String Tangle’s debut self-titled album is out now – get it via your platform of choice right here.
If you’re keen to catch his incredible new live set, here’s everything you need to know about The Kite String Tangle’s massive national tour:
THE KITE STRING TANGLE | ALBUM TOUR
Friday, 6th October | Fat Controller, Adelaide
Saturday, 7th October — SOLD OUT | Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Sunday, 8th October | Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Friday, 13th October | The Triffid, Brisbane
Wednesday, 25th October | The Corner, Melbourne
Friday, 27th October — SOLD OUT | The Corner, Melbourne
Saturday, 28th October — SOLD OUT | Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth
Sunday, 29th October | Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth
Photos and words by Jordan Munns.