Published: March 13, 2013
By: Jordan Calvano
As bass music continues to evolve, it’s become apparent that different countries tend to delve deeper into certain genres. America’s gone bonkers for trap, while most of Europe is still partial to classic dubstep, massive house anthems, and mind-blowing drum ‘n’ bass tunes. That being said, there’s one component that remains steadfast wherever you go: young guns are running this game.
Koven (Max Rowat & Kate Ashton) falls right in line with this trend, with both members still sitting pretty under 21. The Viper Recordings signee has just begun its unstoppable ascension, snagging influence from genres across the board to fine tune an ethereal and thoroughly mesmerizing sound.
Their recent single encapsulates the undeniable talents both musicians have accumulated over the years, flawlessly coalescing to create pure magic. “More Than You” touches down with heartfelt guitar progressions and the angelic vocals of Kate Ashton, before introducing head-turning dub riffs and bewitching drums. The release also contains a floor rattling remix from DC Breaks, injecting the track with their fervor-inducing style of drum ‘n’ bass.
“No Blocks” highlights an entirely new side of Koven’s musical craftsmanship, focusing heavily on the intricately woven instrumentations of Max Rowat. Spellbinding melodies play hopscotch through a field of exploding snares, leaving listener’s spellbound as contrasting soundscapes battle for ultimate supremacy.
Koven’s recent single is pure genius, instantanly unveiling a whole new realm of imagination by simply pressing play. To learn more about the duo and their recent release, check out our exclusive interview with them below.
Congratulations on your new release! Describe the creative process to start things off, and did it differ from your previous work?
Max: Thanks a lot. Our creative process with writing songs is really a simple one. We both bring ideas we’ve worked on away from the studio, then just start jamming them out to see what we come up with. I think this has been our process for writing material since we started working together.
Give us some insight on “More Than You.” What does the song and video mean in your own words?
Kate: When we wrote “More Than You,” we had a strong idea of the kind of feel and vibe we were trying to achieve right from the outset. We wanted something that could easily translate both into music for live performances, and also for people to listen to at home. Lyrically there’s always been an importance on adding drama, whilst also trying to introduce subtlety and obscurity in their meaning. This allows whoever listens to the track (“More Than You,” in this case) to make their own story and translate the lyrics to suit their own experiences. The lyrics portray clarity and, in a way, empowerment. The concept behind the video has much the same intent, in that any number of story lines can be taken from it. We wanted to keep it simple, making sure the video didn't steal any attention away from the music.
When did you two first meet and eventually start working together?
Kate: Max was doing production long before we started working as a team. We were friends years ago, meeting through a mutual friend, so when Max asked me to do some vocals for him I already had a good idea of the kind of stuff he was making. After our first single “Wake You Up” was received so well we then decided to team up and make ourselves a duo! The fact that we were friends before working together has always been an important aspect of the way we make music. It makes it so that there's no awkwardness when one of us has to tell the other that we don't like an idea or new sound etc.
We can’t get enough of “Take It All.” How did your recent collaboration with Modestep come about?
Max: We’d been in contact with Modestep for quite a while before hand, then one morning we got a message from Josh (lead vocalist of Modestep) asking whether we'd like to collab on a tune. It was a great surprise. We’ve always respected what Modestep does and the way they adapt their sound into a live performance. And for our tune “Take it All” to be included on their album Evolution Theory was a great honor. There will hopefully be more collaboration with them in the near future.
What lead each of you to venture into the field of electronic music, and did you grow up playing anything else?
Max: I grew up playing drums in a band, which I absolutely loved. I was hugely influenced by artists such as Radiohead, Crowded House etc, and I think Radiohead was the band that subtly introduced me to electronic music. Their album Kid A amazed me with sounds I had never heard before. This then lead me into listening to artists such as Aphex Twin and Squarepusher.
Kate: I was brought up in a very musical family, with both my parents in bands and access to all kinds of instruments and music. With my dad being a big fan of bands/musicians like the Sex Pistols, The Beatles and Elvis Costello, and my mum a fan of Motown and all the classic soul singers, I had a great and varied exposure to all sorts of music from a very early age. I've dabbled in a lot of instruments; piano, guitar, violin, but guitar is the one that comes into writing a lot of Koven's songs in their early stages the most. My involvement in EDM came when I paired up with Max. I’d been a fan of bass and electronic music beforehand, but never considered it as a genre I would ever be involved with in a creative capacity.
Your video for “Quiet Life” depicts Max performing live on an AlphaSphere. How does that bad boy work, and is this something you utilize during performances?
Max: The AlphaSphere is basically a spherical MIDI controller with pressure sensitive pads, which you can set to change any MIDI data you'd like. It's great for live shows! As I am not really experienced with a piano at all, the AlphaSphere enables me to set any particular pad to play a particular note. So performing a lead line of a song live could simply be pressing the pads next to each other.
You two are living the dream right now, and haven’t even hit the age of 21 yet. Tell us about your lives outside of Koven.
Max: Well, I wouldn't call it living the dream, but we feel very fortunate and excited to be able to do what we love, which is traveling and meeting some great new people. But we're still the stereotypical skint student. I don't really do anything out of the ordinary outside of Koven, just hanging out with friends, going out clubbing and dabbling in a bit of poker. I also sometimes produce and record solo artists on the side.
Kate: Up until very recently I studied sculpture alongside working with Koven. It's nice now to be able give all my time and energy to Koven, writing new songs and thinking of new ideas etc. I also think it’s really important to keep up to date with what people are saying about our music online and on blogs etc, that's where all the really useful critiques are. Music is such a big part of my life that it can't just be something I switch on and off. I'm always listening to other artist work for inspiration, going out to gigs and watching how they perform. I also dabble in a little bit of poker on the side, and there's always a mini tournament going on whenever I'm at Max's house with our friends!
What artists have influenced you throughout your musical journey, whether inside or outside the realm of bass culture?
Kate: Our influences are about as varied as they get! We both draw ideas and methods from all sorts of genres, for both writing the lyrics and making the overall sound. Radiohead has always been a favorite of both of ours. Bonobo, Listener, Aphex Twin and Justin Vernon also all play a big part in giving us a well-rounded approach to our own songwriting.
You’ve worked on massive official remixes for artists like Borgore, The Prototypes, Teknian, and most recently Hadouken!. How does your dynamic change when working on a remix compared to an original track? Is there still some form of collaboration?
Max: I primarily deal with the remixes, but I do seek Kate's feedback during the production. Especially when you are given so many stems and you are spoilt for choice of what to do with it all, it's always nice to have that second opinion to help you decide what path to go down.
Now on the other end of the spectrum. You’ve had some incredibly talented producers put their own spin on your work, including Roughmath, Asa, Vibizem, and DC Breaks. If you could have any producer remix one of your songs, who would it be?
Kate: I would have to say someone such as Four Tet or The Field, who’d put a completely different spin on a track
Max: Mine would be the two that Kate listed, or Bonobo.
Thanks for the interview! What can we except from Koven in the near future?
Max: The “More Than You” single was just released at the beginning of March, and we’ll follow it up with another single and an EP. We’ll also be hopefully doing a load of live shows!