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Entertainment & the Arts | December 7, 2012

Blurring the bounds of rock

Q&A

Burgeoning band Kid Architect combines four very different musical styles into an explosive, introspective sound

Kid Architect (Courtesy photo)

The local music scene in Washington D.C. and its surrounding suburbs teems with burgeoning bands, but none has a sound to match experimental rock group Kid Architect. While the musical side of the nation's capital is known for hardcore punk bands, bluegrass groups, and funk-hybrid "Go-Go" artists, the four members of Kid Architect blur the bounds of rock with a combination of very different musical styles.

Lead vocalist and lyricist, Thomas Bridgwood, 25, is responsible for the group's classical roots on the piano - an influence of his classically trained musician father - and wide, stylistic vocal range. Using inspiration from professional guitarists in bands like Radiohead and Incubus, guitarist Mike Douaire, 26, brings a show-stopping alternative rock resonance to every track. Bass guitarist Clint Petty, 26, provides a solid foundation for the variety in the group's sound through mesmerizing, jazz-like basslines. And Tommy Alter, 26, adds detailed percussion on the drums, an instrument he's played since grade-school band and jazz classes.

Together, the four blend progressive rock ballads with symphonic elements familiar to Coldplay fans, creating something reminiscent of the dramatic but clean sound of Explosions in the Sky. Add Bridgwood's vocals and profound lyrics, and Kid Architect screams originality.

The four musicians grew up in the D.C. suburbs and after they spent some time in college ventures and work separately with other local bands, they came together as Kid Architect in 2008. The group released its first EP, PhilosoRaptor, in 2009 and its first full-length album, The Great Pretend, in 2011. They perform regularly up and down the East Coast and plan to finish their second album early next year.

The Great Pretend is a 16-track concept album that steps outside the predictable, rock-album format. The collection of songs and musical interludes flows sonically and thematically, one track into the next, creating a 51-minute melodic journey with deliberate volume shifts and layered melodies. The album as a whole reveals the band's strength as skilled instrumentalists - Bridgwood's heavy piano, Douaire's inspirational guitar and guest musician Daniel Tavani's talent on the cello are particularly noteworthy.

Kid Architect members sat down with WORLD on Campus to talk about their evolution as a band and share a 3-track preview of their coming (and still untitled) album.

What's the story behind the name "Kid Architect?"

CP: The one band we can all very much agree on as our primary influence is Radiohead. Their album "Kid A" was a very formative and eye-opening musical experience for each member of the band. We spent months trying to come up with the right name and we began going through all of our favorite album and song names for inspiration. We came across "Kid A" and out of nowhere, Thom suggests "Kid Architect." Within 5 minutes we had bought the rights to kidarchitect.com and registered it on Facebook and Twitter. It was pretty much an instant agreement after months of terrible ideas.

What makes Kid Architect's music unique within the music industry?

CP: Our music isn't just background music. It requires a certain level of attention, thought, and dedication to understand and fully grasp. And if that attention and focus is there, I think our music affects people on a deeper and more profound level than a lot of the music being put out there today. Not that our music is in any way inaccessible or difficult to listen to, but in order to get the full meaning and passion behind the lyrics and the accompanied music, our fans have to get lost in the sounds they are hearing. This is where we believe we stand apart from other bands. Our ability to make people focus on nothing but the music being played to them is something we've worked hard to achieve. Regardless of where we are playing, people will stop what they are doing and tune in to us. It is our job to cultivate that connection and communication through our musical talents and creations.

Could you tell me briefly how the band began and how it has become what it is now?

CP: The band formed in late 2008 as we all came back to the Northern Virginia from our various adventures in college and we were all starting our adult lives. We had all performed in other bands throughout high school and college and had a decent amount of success in those musical endeavors, but once we all met and began playing music as Kid Architect, there was an undeniable musical connection that we had all been searching for since we began playing music on our own. The dynamic of the band has changed since its inception as well. We began by taking any and every show opportunity from the local dive bar to a respectable venue and everything in between. We made a few poor decisions along the way in terms of how best to move forward, but we feel that we are now entering the prime of our career, with clarity and a purpose that we didn't necessarily have when we first played.

Does a Christian faith influence your music and songwriting process or guide any other aspect of Kid Architect?

TB:Absolutely. I'm pretty sure faith influences all music one way or another. In the same sense that light affects its surroundings, whether the light is bright, or non-existent, it still influences its surroundings. That being said, my upbringing and personal faith have certainly had an impact on all areas in my life, music included. When it comes to songwriting, I tend to lean more towards a style built around suggestion and theme rather than coming out and explicitly saying what my meaning is.

CP:Faith is something that I've personally been struggling with the majority of my adult life. I was born into a Christian household and took my religion for granted without ever questioning my faith or its impact on my life. Once I became an adult, I began asking those questions of why I was a Christian and I came to conclusion that I wasn't on board with the idea of Christianity and the church, and that I wanted to live life by my own rules. After many years on that path, I found I was repeating the same mistakes over and over again, with no real hope for the future. This year (actually only within the past month) I've began the process of re-discovering my faith and finding purpose and direction in something bigger than myself and my own desires. This band has been an incredible influence on my decision to turn back to God. Pretty impeccable timing for this interview if you ask me!

What topics are most prevalent in your songs? Why do you think that is?

TB:The past 5 years have been the most turbulent in my life. Because of this, I've done quite a bit of soul searching. The topic of truth has been touched on a fair amount in our songs. The song "Apostle," introduces each line as an instance where incredible faith is required. The overall lyrical theme of The Great Pretend is rooted in exposing the deception that this life can be lived without faith, that we're alright on our own.

What do you want your audience to take away from your songs/music?

TB:Although sonically many of our songs can be described as somber, a spirit of victory or conquering ones battles is much closer to our intent. Much of the inspiration for our music is born from the experiences and hardships we, or those we love have gone through.

How would you compare The Great Pretend to your upcoming album?

CP: Our first album, The Great Pretend, was created as a concept album that flows seamlessly (musically and thematically) from one song to the next. And we used a lot of musical interludes and short songs to connect these songs together so that the album flows the whole way through. I think lyrically and musically The Great Pretend dealt more with the struggle and pain of finding truth and meaning in our personal lives, and the album has a more somber tone to it as a result. This upcoming album is more uplifting and positive, focusing on getting through that struggle and finding the light at the end of the tunnel. The first lyrics in the first promo video for the chorus are "There is light, leading me on past the grave" and I think that's what we want this next album to be: An inspiration and call for people to not be discouraged by sadness or despair or tragedy, but to look beyond them and be hopeful for the future. Our lyrics can be taken both spiritually and materially, and we leave that up to the listener. While The Great Pretend is definitely best listened to from start to finish so that the musical transitions make sense to the listener, on this next album, each song will be very capable of standing on its own.

Editor's note: The attached video is one of three that show a behind-the-scenes look at the writing, recording and producing of Kid Architect's upcoming album. The background music is from the track "There Is A Light (Mysterium Lunae)" that will be released with the new album.