Kate NV is in Search of the Perfect Loop

Foto: Jenia Filatova © RVNG Intl
At the beginning of March, Kate NV released her fourth solo album »WOW«, which musically shows how the artist perceives the ordinary world. We talked to her about her new album and her musical beginnings.

Kate NV is the solo project of Russian musician, singer and producer Ekaterina Shilonosova. In addition to her solo career, she is a member of the rock band Glintshake, founded in Moscow, and together with Angel Deradoorian forms the duo Deciscive Pink, whose debut »Ticket To Fame« will be released in June on Fire Records. Her solo album »WOW« has just been released on the New York label RVNG Intl. An album whose first idea came about back in 2016 and whose childish, joyful melodies are reminiscent of the early 2000s. In the interview, Shilonosova talks about when she almost gave up her solo career, how video games from her childhood influence her music today and why she could barely see the buttons on her synthesiser at her first concert. The musician talks about which album changed her life, how her architecture studies prepared her for music production and why she is always on the lookout for the perfect loop.

Kate, I read that you are fascinated by cartoonish, playful and goofy melodies. How did that come about? 
When I was a kid, I used to listen to everything that was shown on TV because basically, there was no internet. Once I got older, the internet evolved and my friends and I got really into the Japanese scene. We started to download a lot of Japanese stuff from the early 2000s. Then it led us to listening to the 80s, because we started to dig deeper. What I really appreciate in people in general is the ability to have fun and not think you look stupid. It’s about finding something fun and being curious about life in general and that’s what fascinates me. 

Do you think that the music you listened to as a child or teenager influences your own music today? 
Yeah, for sure. Recently I have been thinking a lot about how music from Sega and all the game consoles influenced me when I was super young. I love the idea that it’s always super looped. The music was very simple but still very entertaining, funny and goofy. When I was a kid, I didn’t think of it too much, but a couple of years ago I started to think that maybe I’m so into loops because it influenced me so much when I was a kid. 

Can you elaborate on this?
Well, I just spent hours and hours listening to one short loop because me and my brother used to play Chip ‘n Dale together. It was our favourite thing to do and so we learned all the melodies by heart. The melodies are short and very repetitive, but you don’t notice that because the music is so joyful and interesting that it’s actually fine to listen to the loop for a few hours. I think this actually subconsciously influenced me a lot because I was always looking for a perfect loop. 

»I release such joyful music because I feel like everything is falling apart and there’s no such thing as »I can do this tomorrow« anymore.«

Kate NV

Now that your album »WOW« has been released: How would you describe it and what does it mean to you? 
I actually think that I managed to describe it with one word. I’ve been looking for a perfect name for the record for a very long time. It has existed since 2019 as a pack of tracks but without a name. I think WOW pretty much describes everything. There should be a disclaimer because it’s not like “wow, you’ve never heard anything like this before”. It’s more like “wow, it’s amusing”, at least to me. I’m the kind of person that says “wow” to almost everything that really fascinates me and I mean, lots of things fascinate me during the day. I know that some people get annoyed by the fact that I say “wow” to very boring, ordinary stuff, but the thing is that to me, it’s not boring. When I say it the second I see something, it’s very sincere. So I get impressed very easily and I actually don’t think that it’s a bad thing. 

Do you have a favourite track on your album? 
It keeps changing all the time. For a long period of time, mi (we) was one of my favourites because the idea that I might have an album all started with this track. I made this song in 2016 and that was the moment when I actually realised that I’m gonna make a separate album. I had all these tracks like nochnoi zvonok (night call) and also razmishlenie (thinking) which were finished at the moment when I finished mi (we). I also like confessions at the dinner table which I created together with Quinn Oulton during Red Bull Music Academy in 2018. It’s the only track on this record that was actually made with someone and Quinn makes completely different music, which I love. It was really fun to record and involves lots of random memories. I assume that as soon as I start performing the album, my favourite track is gonna change again to something else. 

Kate NV is in the middle of a loop (Foto: Jenia Filatova © RVNG Intl)

Once you said you went through a lot of stages thinking about whether it was right to release joyful music in these dark times. So what finally convinced you to release the music after all? 
I think the feeling that everything is collapsing and there is no such thing as “I can do that tomorrow”. We used to take everything for granted and the past three years showed us that we actually shouldn’t do that. People sometimes live their lives as if they have a second life in their pocket somewhere and the realisation that we don’t have that made me feel like I have to release it. Apart from that, I also wanted it energy-wise because it was blocking me a little bit from creating something new. I’ve been waiting for this album to be released for so long and I almost forgot that I have it. 

Regarding the videos for oni (they), early bird and meom chat, they are very fancy. How did the idea for the videos come about? 
The videos are made by my friend Vladimir “Vova” Shlokov and he’s amazing. Sometimes you kind of have a vision, and you feel the vibe, and I actually thought that the vibe of this record was very early 2000s. You can hear a lot of influences from that era and it inspires me a lot. There are lots of artists that are into low poly stuff and making it very simple and naive and sort of funny and stupid. I’m really into that as well. For early bird I remember sending Vova seagulls from Sims because they graphically look always like something between very creepy and very funny, which is a very fine line and I like that. One of the main influences was also Katamari, because it is my favourite game of all time. It’s very cute and the graphics are amazing. So we decided to create something like a small world I guess. 

A small world where all the people can dive into? 
Yeah! It’s an idea to help visualise the music. To me, it’s full of small sounds. It feels like you open a box with lots of pencils and chalks and you get overwhelmed, but it looks amazing. It’s so interesting and you’re curious what you can do with that. So, we wanted to add something weird, but familiar and fun to this feeling. That’s why we chose this kind of style. 

Who else did you draw inspiration from besides the early 2000s? 
It’s hard to say because a lot of tracks were made in different periods of time. For example, when I did razmishlenie (thinking), it was in 2014, and it actually came from the idea of a piece of music for Scratch Orchestra, which I was involved in at the time. That piece was basically influenced by this whole academic scene, like Cornelius Cardew. Different pieces have had different influences over the years. So it’s hard to say but definitely Nobukazu Takemura. 

He is also mentioned in the press release as your personal hero. Why do you think he has an influence on your music? 
He’s amazing. When I listened to his album »10th« for the first time, it literally changed my life. It’s just very amusing, very interesting and full of freedom. I get the feeling that he also likes to explore things. Sometimes his music sounds very childish and full of different sounds, which I like, and at the same time it all comes together into a solid whole. 

Let’s go back in time a little bit. Do you remember when you first started making music? 
I finished music school and I’ve been studying there for like eight years and then additionally went to a few more years to study guitar. I didn’t actually make music while I was a student, because I think I was so overwhelmed with other processes of studying stuff. But once I finished school, I started missing being with music. That was the moment when I started to make something. I used to just play the guitar and make songs on the guitar. But later, when I started studying architecture, I was making music with my friend and he showed me how to use Ableton Live. 

When did you start trying your hand as a solo artist and how did you feel about it? 
In 2013, I moved to Moscow and started making music by myself which was very scary. You have so many doubts and you are so insecure. You’re just afraid to start, because you think that you might ruin something that doesn’t even exist. Which doesn’t make any sense. I used to live with my boyfriend at the moment, who’s also a musician. He kind of forced me a little bit to sit down and make something and really helped me because in the beginning, it was really hard to get excited from the process, because you have to push it a little bit. So I’ve been making tracks for a project and I remember I released my first EP and I didn’t get any kind of feedback. It was really hard for me because there was a moment when I was trying to figure out if I should continue making music or not. 

»You can think of a track as a room you can walk into and look around. There we also have a base, like the floor and the walls. When I make music, it’s just me and the music and no one else.«

Kate NV

Why did you finally decide to continue making music?  
Literally, once I decided not to make music as a solo artist, because I also had a band at the moment already and wanted to switch to the band completely. In 2014 I got an email from Red Bull Music Academy that I got accepted to Tokyo. The academy itself lasted two weeks and there you do workshops and have studio time, for example. I couldn’t believe that it happened to me. So when I got the Email from the Academy it just felt like a sign that I should continue doing stuff. 

What happened next?
I thought that the Academy is just lectures and then it turned out that you actually at some point have to perform. I didn’t know that, so they booked me for a concert in Tokyo on 26 October. That was actually my first ever booked show and they wanted me to perform one hour but I only had three finished tracks at the moment and had like two months before the academy started. It was so scary that I realised if this is going to be my first concert ever, I will just get a heart attack. 

And how did you then prepare for this first performance?
I asked my friends to help me out with setting up my first two gigs. For some reason, I thought that probably the first concert should be amazing, the second one usually is not the best one and the third one is the one where you figure out how to get out of the turbulence and then you kind of plateau. I thought that the Tokyo one should be the third one, otherwise I won’t be able to perform. So I played the first show in Kazan, my home city, just in an art gallery for my friends only. But still, I was so shy that I asked my friend who helped me with organising the gig not to bring any lights at all so I will perform in the complete darkness. It was so fucking dark I couldn’t see the knobs of my synthesizer. I was like “can you please make everything super dark and I also need a lot of fog, because I don’t want people to see me”. So that’s how it all started. 

And then?
The I had a gig in Moscow right after the Kazan gig. It was also very funny because I performed in a fancy mall where there are very expensive brands in the centre of the city. At the moment a friend of my friends worked there and she was inviting other musicians to perform. Then I just asked her if I could perform too. So I literally played a gig between clothes but it was a very nice style to start my music career. 

Since you mentioned that you started studying architecture. Do you think that your studies influenced the way you make music today? 
I think subconsciously it influenced me, because I spent six years doing drafts and drawing constantly. I’m not really into doing drafts, because it was very boring, but I really enjoy putting colourful blocks on the screen when I make music. It’s funny because I started uploading samples to my Octatrack. I have a scheme on my laptop in Ableton and I have to convert it. It’s very hard so I started to make schemes on the paper to understand how to place everything in the machine. They just look like lines so I connected them together and now it literally looks like architecture.Then I was like “Oh this is what I’ve been preparing myself for six years”. I showed the picture to my friend and he said that it looked very complicated but for me it looks completely fine, because I’ve been through this for years and finally I can use this skill. So maybe it influences my music through building. You can think of a track as a room you can walk into and look around. There we also have a base, like the floor and the walls. When I make music, it’s just me and the music and no one else.