Spring Silver talks solo projects, the Baltimore music scene, and their new single “Gold Star”
K Nkanza’s queer rock-focused project Spring Silver makes “the wrong music for the wrong people.” And if you’re a fan of IDM-inspired beats, electrifying guitar riffs, and multi-layered dynamic compositions, then you, too, might be the wrong people.
Spring Silver, whose live band includes Reid Williams on bass and Jian Soriano on drums, have caught the attention of the East Coast indie establishment; they’ve toured with Pom Pom Squad and collaborated with artists like Bartees Strange and Two Inch Astronaut.
K, a multi-disciplinary artist based in Baltimore, has carved out a space in indie music to fit their experimental vision. I spoke to them about the dynamics of heading a solo project, the Baltimore music scene, and the influences that make Spring Silver so sonically dexterous.
How did you get started with the project?
I had a bunch of songs left over from my band Aerial View that dissolved in 2018, I think. So I was like, “why don’t I do a genuine solo project?” I had really liked the idea of having a band where everyone gets input, but there were a hundred reasons why – at the time and still now – it felt more feasible to just do a one-person band thing, more or less, and have various collaborators as they’re interested in being involved.
So you get to make more of the decisions now?
Yeah! I consider it just my musical project and my musical output. For this next album, and on this new song, I did all of the instruments and mixed it and stuff. And part of it is just being curious…what it means to have a musical voice in the context of doing it all yourself. Like, how does that affect the sound of the project, if there aren’t other players and other producers on the studio side of it?
Did you have experience with mixing and producing before this project?
How has working with a band been as a mostly-solo artist?
It’s been incredibly easy. Jian [Soriano] and Reid [Williams] are both very nice people, and they’re also phenomenal musicians, so they’ve been really open to it. They also have their own projects, so they understand the idea of what it is to be a live member and stuff like that, and where collaboration happens and maybe where it doesn’t. I think it’s been really cool. It took us, like, one practice…we just met up, and I had sent them the parts, and we just had it. After one practice, we were able to play it for a live show, and I’m really grateful, honestly.
How much collaboration do you get from them?
When it comes to the songwriting, there really isn’t any. It’s just me in Baltimore, trying to figure it out when I have free time. I think they both have their own inherent voice on their instruments, and as artists, and I think it affects the way they sound live. Reid’s bass part has a different feel, and I think that’s really neat.
Taking on this project as a solo artist, what challenges and limitations have you come up against?
A lot of the main challenges have been similar to albums in the past, which is trying to find time to record and write. I think especially the most challenging thing is drums, because I’m quite confident with my skills in other regards, but I feel like I haven’t really spent as much time in the studio, or live, as a drummer. Especially since, like, a lot of the people who have been involved with Spring Silver on drums – like Jian, and my friend Marco, and Theo Hartlett of Ovlov, and Matthew Gatwood [of Two Inch Astronaut] – all these people are really good! So I am just trying to, I guess, hold my own a little bit and have a distinct voice as a drummer. I feel like that’s how I’m trying to apply all of this stuff – having a distinct voice on these instruments and in this production and as an artist.
How long have you been playing drums for?
I’ve been playing drums since I was twelve, but not nearly as consistently as I play guitar. I play guitar all the time; I play drums when I can, essentially.
Were there any instruments you had to pick up for this project, or were you pretty well learned by then?
Not really! Maybe piano, I’d have to get better at piano. I can only play “Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai.
You mentioned that you’re based in Baltimore, Maryland…is it accurate to assume that your name is related to Silver Spring, Maryland?
Yes! I was born in Tacoma Park, which I think is technically part of Silver Spring. I had this long list of names for bands or songs or whatever, and they won’t all get used, but I came up with Spring Silver. For those in the know, it’s kind of cheeky, but for those who don’t know, it’s just an interesting-sounding phrase.
Honestly, most of the shows that I’ve been playing are still around D.C. I’ve been going to a lot of shows, and we’re going to start playing shows in the area soon. In terms of going to shows, I’ve been getting a lot out of it, but in terms of gigging, everything is upcoming.
I noticed you’ve released animated shorts with your music that you created yourself. Is animation a hobby for you?
Yeah, I really love animation. I went to college for animation, I have a B.F.A. in that. I’ve been trying to find the time to work on animations and use the music as an excuse to expand on my voice as an animator, but it’s so hard. It’s really difficult, and doing it with other people is difficult, but doing it by yourself is just an immense task. So moving forward, if I did it I would hope to have some sort of crew and some sort of budget. It’s a hope.
Animation is such a laborious craft, and it takes so much grit to make something come together; I think creating an album is such a tedious, laborious project, too. Coming from these different disciplines, how do your art practices influence each other?
I think if you have an underlying respect for whatever medium you’re in, that helps to make something that you at least think is good. Having an understanding that it’s a lot of work, a lot of thought, a lot of theorizing about how this thing is going to be built, and how it could potentially turn out and how it has changed from your conception of it. I think the more projects I finish, the more I learn about trying to balance my obsessive detail orientation with trying to have a very clear end result in mind, trying to figure out the best workflow to have.
Your music is full of experimentation; it’s cohesive, but you’re drawing inspiration from everywhere. I imagine it’s hard to find a balance between the cleaner big picture and throwing these smaller elements in there. It’s clear that you’re implementing all these different influences and fusing them together.
I’ve listened to so much music in my life – just a wild amount of different genres – and I think if I’m less concerned with trying to create a specific genre and more concerned with trying to create the sound that’s in my mind, divorced from everything else, that helps to parse it down. So, I’m working in a practical sense, but also based on intuition. My expectations aren’t based around a box that already exists, and more so just around something that I’m creating within myself that hopefully is a little bit new, or a little bit personal to my experience as a music listener throughout my life.
Are there any influences you can name on the new track?
When I was a teenager I was super into, and still am, IDM and Warp Records. And the synth textures are based on that, like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher. This is super obvious for any music nerd, but I do think that Radiohead did a pretty good job of balancing that stuff on Kid A. I’m always super into power pop, but that’s also very kind of heavy and noisy. Bands like Number Girl and Mass of the Fermenting Dregs – who we’re playing with when they come to the US in November, which is gonna be sick – the new Alvvays, Origami Angel…stuff where the hooks are very sticky, but there’s this power behind it, hence power-pop. For the quiet section, I was definitely influenced by Teen Dream-era Beach House.
Spring Silver’s latest single, “Gold Star”, is a marriage of K’s influences, a nearly eight-minute epic emblazoning their range through shapeshifting guitar riffs. “I don’t know what’s beautiful anymore,” they roar, “I only know what’s loud” — and thankfully, Spring Silver knows loud.