Interview | Kipper Gillespie and his debut EP

Interviews

I settle down with Kipper Gillespie – birth name Donovan McBrien – for a chat on Zoom. Smoking a cigarette and having a curbside coffee, Gillespie discusses the origins of his stage name. ‘My friend said to me, what’s your pornstar name? He said it was your first pet’s name combined with your mother’s maiden name. So that became Kipper Gillespie. My friend was like “that should be your stage name”, and from then on I guess it was. So call me whatever you’d like. But it’s a bit weird because people are starting to call me Kipper.’ 

I congratulate him on the new EP, K (Be Funny) and ask if he’d like to talk about the process behind it. ‘I’m not gonna lie, I’m gonna be completely honest with you. Most of them are very, like, I sit in the bedroom, and I have a song. And it was it was all recorded in a bedroom. And most of the time I was I was quite drunk throughout the entire thing. So for most of it, it was recorded over a few months. I was in a bedroom doing the guitars and the bass and the vocals. And then I was okay, these are good songs. I’m happy with them. And then I go to the Big Richard [the record label] studio slash shed. And they kind of came along from there.  But yeah, I sat on them for a few months at the time.’ 

I ask what would have been different if the album had been made soberly, ‘Well, it would have been better,’ he laughs. ‘It would have been musically more… Well, it depends what you want to call it better because [K (Be Funny) is very simple. It’s all really just straight to the point. But that’s because it was just easy to do at that time, so I think if I was sober, I would have thought about things a lot more. But I overthink all the time. So, recording it and getting it out there I said to myself, “This is it. This is gonna be me. Don’t overthink it. Just get it done and get out”. Hopefully it’s a snowball.’

I ask him of any musical influences or inspirations that particularly struck the EP. He tells me, ‘No, not really. I have influences and I have artists I really, really love but every time I try and copy off songs, it never really turns out sounding like anything other than a copy, you know?’ In terms of the process involved behind the EP, Kipper begins telling me the story of ‘Feels like 54’, the closing track, which ‘was nearly released under a different name. It’s like two years old. And it was quite a different song in the older versions. Once I wrote the older song, I was like, this is the sort of songwriting I want to do, because the whole EP is quite repetitive. I mean, I think, at the moment and working on an album, that’s going to be more varied with different instruments and stuff.’

We discuss the perils of artistic influence, with me asking whether he feels it can be a hard line to tread, between influence and copying. ‘I think with this… it’s the type of music that I’ve been trying to make for the past two years and I finally landed five songs that I can sit down and listen to them like I’m happy with that so, even though there are songs on there that are just absolute rip-offs… “Steal with pride”, as Steven Spielberg said… He didn’t say that.’ 

I ask him how he’s finding the London scene since he moved here last October. ‘I haven’t seen that much. I’m mainly familiar with South. So, obviously Brixton Windmill, I’m very content with, there’s the Amersham Arms in New Cross, you get all sorts in there. But it’s alright. A lot of the bands at the moment in London are trying to sound like each other, it’s getting a bit repetitive.’ 

I ask about the writing process. ‘They just come. And if they don’t, then they don’t, and then they’ll come back in the end. But most of the time, it just comes from like, Who am I around and what I’m doing at a certain time. If I’m around a certain group of people that made me feel a certain way. Or if I’m in a certain place that I like, and then other times, I’ll just try and link it. And then if I say one line that I think I could link to something else, then keep that going.’ Then, I ask if he has any particular examples on the EP. ‘Well, there’s ‘Bad Habits’ which I hate [the title of].’ I point out that it shares the title of Ed Sheeran’s latest number one and he laughs. ‘I know, I know, yeah. I wanted to change the name of it but [I couldn’t]. So I had to just keep it. I was recording that song and I was having a few drinks and stuff and I was like, I’m drinking way too much at the moment. So that song’s just about me get drinking too much in one night. That’s basically it. That’s not really a story but… ‘Feels Like 54’, I suppose it’s obviously about lockdown and shit. It’s about moving into a house that didn’t have a television, not really having anything to do, boredom I suppose. ‘Three’s a Charm’ is meant to be a love song. But it doesn’t sound anything like a love song. Like, it has hints of a love song, but it’s nice.’

When asked about future plans, he says, ‘It’s another single and then an album. But for the time being, I just want to concentrate on gigging, it’s the most important thing I think.’

I ask where he wants to go. ‘Well, it’s easiest in London. So I’ll be gigging in London, I can possibly get some gigs in Manchester so I’m hoping there’s a lot up there, I love it up there. And Guilford. Yeah.’ I ask if he has final thoughts, and he tells me to ‘criticise the fuck out of the EP. I want to hear it.’ His parting advice is that readers should brush their teeth, and I can’t really criticise him for that. Kipper’s latest EP is out now. His first live performance in London will be on the 5th September at the Amersham Arms. 

K (Be Funny) is as simple as Kipper said. Typical indie chord progressions sound under the vocals, reminding me of Salad Days era Mac Demarco. While such a comparison can often draw (deserving) eyerolls, in this particular instance it works – there’s a reason Salad Days is still considered a classic amongst DeMarco fans. The whole EP has hints of nostalgia, that cyclical summer of 2020 when every day was spent outdoors, unable to do much at all. My personal favourite is the not-love-song lovesong ‘Three’s A Charm’, with its repetitive and punchy strings. It’s not a particularly groundbreaking or experimental EP, to offer Kipper his desired criticism, but it’s easy-going and perfect for the closing days of summer. 

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