Karaoke echo: interview with The Walls are Blonde’s David Kleiser

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Last week on a frigid Friday I went down to the Plateau with a hard pack of Marlboro Golds to meet up with musician and visual artist David Kleiser, of The Walls are Blonde— he had orange pekoe and Pall Malls. We opened with conversation about a local hobo performer named Mike who had recently died, and how there was going to be a service held for him the following week. Our musings eventually morphed into a discussion about how communities support one another through the mourning process and how communal tribalism shares a lot of common ground with indigenous folk cultures: essentially we recycle cultural influences.

Kleiser’s band’s current project Kareoke’ eko erak is all about recycling. It’s also a clever palindrome, which is fitting as the B-side of the album is the first side played backwards. All of the songs are covers, remixes, re-hashes of different top 40 hits. Kleiser changes lyrics, keys, speeds up samples— he riffs on the echoic nature of karaoke.

“It’s impossible to be free of influence,” he said.

David Kleiser

I lit another cigarette and asked him about production, the wheres and whens and what-have-you.

“I did the final production and mixing in Naples, Florida – it took me awhile to figure out the name and face of the album,” he said. “I spent lots of time walking and getting to know the album, the arc of it. I finally decided on Kareoke’ eko.”

I remarked on the strength of having such a strong conceptual center and asked if that gave the album some of its power.

“The conceptual center is not what makes this album good,” Kleiser said. “Most people won’t pick up a lot of what’s going on – the ultimate complement would be for people to sit down and figure this shit out on their own.”

I do think that the album draws strength from the brilliant metaphor at its center, and I’m very impressed with how this pastiche of seemingly unrelated tunes hangs together so well. The album was released on tape, and not just any tape but old TDK, Memorex and Hanimex tapes. He overdubbed the album! Takes you right back to ’93.

Even the album art is a photo someone else took that Kleiser printed out in color. He explained how spitting water at printed photo caused the ink to run. Again he creates this cyclic palimpsest of influences; making someone else’s take a facet of his own – it’s this overlay that gives his work depth and resonance. Even if I can’t place the reference I sense it swimming under the surface. Kleiser likes the cuttlefish metaphor, and so do I.

David Kleiser

The album is super catchy and yet remains very tune to psy-folk stylings, there’s no plastic-y break from the underground and I, for one, respect that very much. Kleiser’s one cool guy, his roommate Ryan was super chill too, he made me promise to add that:

“Dave Kleiser manages to keep getting too high despite the amount of weed he smokes!”

Really good day and the brevity of this article doesn’t allow for me to paint you any more of a picture. Check out Kleiser’s band, The Walls are Blonde, and his gritty, often trenchant illustrations.

One.

Karaoke’ eko is now available on tape at Sonorama (260 Bernard o.) and Phonopolis (207 Bernard o.). Photos by Jesse Anger. Featured photo comes from The Walls are Blonde’s video for “Endless Summer”.

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