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SXSW Preview: Kadavar

Berlin hard rock trio isn’t striving for perfection

By Michael Toland, 12:01PM, Wed. Mar. 12

SXSW Preview: Kadavar

German trio Kadavar rippled the hard rock underground with its eponymous 2012 debut, but it was second LP Abra Kadavar that stormed the international castle of psychedelic power rock. The Berlin-based threesome returns to Austin twice this year, first at South by Southwest, then in May for Austin Psych Fest – with a U.S. tour in between.

We spoke with drummer Christoph “Tiger” Bartelt about Kadavar’s progress and the American road.

Austin Chronicle: As good as the self-titled record is, Abra Kadavar is a big leap forward. Did the development come from touring or a conscious decision to leap forward?

Cristoph Bartelt: Both! Touring made us the band we are now. We always said to ourselves we would try to play everywhere in the world and tour continuously to make people aware of our music. It also made us better musicians. The response we got from our live performances was also useful for writing new songs. It’s hard to explain how, but I feel you can sharpen your senses for what works well when you play a show.

Also, just looking at the production, there was a constant discussion about what could be improved and on what we’d have to focus for the next record. Decisions were made naturally and the songs were written spontaneously. We didn’t plan to be more melodic, for example. It just happened.

AC: Kadavar music definitely takes a lot of inspiration from late-Sixties psychedelia and early-Seventies hard rock. What was it about that music that drew you to it?

CB: That contemporary music isn’t alive anymore. To me, it means a lot how a band plays the song together, and that’s something you shouldn’t destroy by aligning the beat to the grid and all the instruments to that beat and the vocals to the perfect pitch. That’s all musical information that will make your record unique. It used to be normal to strive for perfection, but then leave it like that when you weren’t able to deliver better. I play drums the way I do and it’s good like that. What exactly does it improve if I know I am 100 percent on a digital metronome? And this is as new as it is retro.

AC: Do you feel as if you’re carrying on a tradition and moving it forward, rather than reinventing it?

CB: Authentic to me means that you’re doing it the way you feel and don’t try to be anybody else. That’s why I love rock music, because I can express myself. And yes, in your words, that’s a tradition I want to carry on. Even if it’s hard to do something entirely new, there’s still a lot of space to be unique.

AC: How has your reception been in America versus your home country?

CB: We’ve toured Europe six times and it’s our home. It’s more familiar to us. We will play our second tour in America and Canada soon and from the experience we made last time, I can say it was fantastic and I’m really looking forward to it. Touring in America is not as easy and of course we don’t have the same status compared to Europe, but it’s been a huge motivation seeing so many people who like our music. And we will try our best to make people happy every evening so they will bring their friends the next time!

AC: Do you enjoy playing South by Southwest?

CB: South by Southwest is stressful, mainly, especially last time. We didn’t know how stressful it was until we saw it. But I enjoyed it as well, as there’s only a tiny chance you will get such a big input of music and people in only one week. I’m looking forward to doing it again. We have some great showcases coming, among that the Nuclear Blast and Roadhouse Management night with our friends from Orchid, [Austin’s] Scorpion Child, and Mothership. Apart from our own shows, this time I will just throw away the schedule and look for surprises, see what happens.

AC: What’s coming next for Kadavar?

CB: After South by Southwest, we’ll stay in Austin to work on our new record and prepare for the big North American tour. We’ll be on both coasts and in between. I’m especially psyched to be part of great festivals like Austin Psych Fest and Psycho de Mayo. By the end of May, we’ll head back to Europe for the festival season and continue working on new material. Sooner or later, we will go to the studio to do the third full-length!

Official SXSW showcase

Wednesday, March 12, Red 7, 12mid

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