Earlier this week, Indigo Music interviewed Durham student Kuba Lewandowski about his new single, ‘Not About That’. Kuba is a fourth-year engineering student at Van Mildert College who has been busy releasing new original music throughout lockdown under the name ‘The Kuba Rose’. Kuba is well known in Durham’s music scene as a member of modern rock student band Meagre Demeanour.
Martha: How long have you been performing?
Kuba: I’d performed in brass and big bands from my early teens, but it is only since coming to university that I engaged into modern music and started treating it a lot more seriously. I did a few gigs with various jazz ensembles, and then around this time last year helped form a modern rock band, Meagre Demeanour, with whom I had an incredible gig in The Library Bar on lockdown eve.
M: What style of music would you say you write?
K: In terms of the music I write myself, I don’t have any specific type in mind. ‘Not About That’ and ‘Beyond Faith’ fall under a similar tree, but the releases I have planned after that are completely different. At this stage I’m just taking each song as it comes, with a focus on experimenting as much as I can with different methods of production.
M: So, onto the new tune, what was the inspiration behind ‘Not About That’? How did you find the process of writing / producing it?
K: I’d been listening to a lot of artists like SBTRKT and Little Dragon when revising for my exams this year, and marvelling at how “clean” and modern their music sounded, which inspired me to make something in that vein. I remember one night simply dimming the lights in my home studio and putting some things together, with the core of the song coming together over about 3 hours. At the time I’d also been spammed by adverts from Splice, a subscription based sample bank, and with a month’s free trial found this vocal which simply fit perfectly with what I had made. After that, however, I estimate I’ve spent at least 200 hours changing things and mixing it. The biggest challenge was probably not over-arranging and over-producing it, but I confess this slightly happened and it moved away from the original sound. Lockdown meant I had more time on my hands, which was great, but you do start going a bit insane after listening into the minute details of a song for the 100th time without many social breaks or changes of scenery.
M: Have you collaborated with anyone on this track?
K: Other than singing the sample, I did everything myself on this track, but it’s always important to get feedback, specifically about the mix, from both experienced and inexperienced people, and that helped me make some design choices.
M: How does this song compare to your previous music? Do you think there’s a change in genre at all, or will you be experimenting further with new tunes?
K: I have one other song out which I recently did a remaster of, which was more of a Chromatics-inspired song I wrote for Egor The Magician’s show. ‘Not About That’ is a bit different, a bit more modern sounding. But I’m definitely not wedded to any genre, and in fact after this I’m moving in a completely different direction – looking for something more organic.
M: What do you think of Durham’s music scene and has it benefitted you as a performer?
K: I think Durham has a really talented live music scene, and when I first came in I remember being very shocked by how much higher the standard was than anything I’d really experienced before, but it gave me a great chance to learn from the other musicians here. And of course, I’m privileged to be in a band with some of them. Durham Uni is great and unique in terms of the sheer number of (paid) gigs available for balls and such, but what I lament a bit is how focused the music scene is on the university; in larger cities, which have access to dedicated performance venues and studios (and the uni adds to the music scene, rather than being all of it) the balance lies towards original rather than function music, the reverse of which is true in Durham. Over the last year or two, however, I feel this has started to change, and I’d be very excited for this trend to continue. The pandemic, while crushing for live gigs, does present an opportunity for artists to focus more on studio recordings, and I’m looking forward to hearing what people create.
M: Do you have any gigs coming up next term? Or would you consider doing socially distanced gigs during freshers?
K: We might have something lined up with Meagre Demeanour, but at this point it’s very hard to tell what that situation will be like. We had gigs planned in Leeds and Newcastle where we were going to showcase original music, but this will be temporarily put on hold. Instead, what we want to focus on is releasing a body of work – this week we’re staying an isolated house in the Scottish Highlands with the purpose of song-writing and recording, and needless to say it should be an amazing trip. I’m really happy with the recording set-up we’ve got, fully taking advantage of the technology available to us.
M: Do you have any other plans or future projects on the go that we can look forward to?
K: In a week or two I’m going to release something very different, along the lines of lo-fi mixed with social commentary from the 50s, but with surprising relevance to today’s presidential elections. And I’m currently working on a collab with this amazing singer, which I’m hugely excited for, as it will represent my most modern sounding voyage yet.
The song title “Not About That” is a quote in this song from the sampled vocalist – I confess I don’t even know all her lyrics – but I find now that the title fits in a lot of ways – It’s Not About Th[is] song, or the previous one, as it’s not like I expect them to do extraordinarily well; maybe it’s being my own harshest critic but listening to the same song hundreds of times while producing leads to a “funny” relationship with it. It’s about what comes after, with each piece being better than the one before. Truly, there’s a lot of artists way better at their instruments than me, and I would relish the artistic and technical challenge involved with immortalising their ideas in the studio. I can’t wait to produce for Meagre Demeanour, and turn our ideas into something you can stream.