There is a unique enthusiasm found at music festivals. Upon passing through security, patrons pass into a tiny kingdom where devotion to music is the main criterion for citizenship. The love fans effuse for their favourite artists can be felt in the air, tasted in the snaking lines for overpriced tacos and seen in packed crowds in front of the various stages at the venue.
Although a smaller festival, Field Trip is no exception to this environment. On June 4 and 5, hundreds of fans streamed into Fort York in downtown Toronto to see a variety of musicians from both Canada and around the world.
Top acts included The National, Robyn, Jazz Cartier and July Talk, to name a few.
However, on June 4, before The National rendered fans (or at least me) a sobbing mess, before Santigold invited audience members to dance with her, before the trees at Fort York were illuminated by strings of white lights, Kilmanjaro took the stage.
Originally from Ottawa, Ont., Luke Graves, Kaan Gunesberk, Ian Culley and Ryan Macdonald have a friendship that predates their musical collaboration.
While they had played together prior to their individual moves to Toronto, they formed Kilmanjaro, a dream/electronic group a little over four years ago.
“We started at this kind of eight-piece, funk and soul band that was playing a lot in Toronto but aside from that I was writing a lot of music of my own, trying to find the sound that I was into. And over a Christmas break I kinda put together two demos for some songs and for some reason, I just chose to show them. I don’t know, these are just my closest friends,” Gunesberk said.
Graves added that when Gunesberk shared his demos with him, Culley and Macdonald, “we were instantly pretty smitten.” They then insisted they form a group.
The quartet has spent the better part of the last three years working on an album that will be released later this summer.
“[Kaan]’s a bit of a perfectionist,” Culley joked. He added that the band is looking forward to the album’s release because it will mark the beginning of a new chapter. “We’re going to start being more collaborative. I’ve started writing songs as well but we’re also going to write together.”
While Field Trip marked the band’s first festival performance, it is not their first time at the festival.
“There’s a funny story,” Graves chuckled. “We were here two years ago to see BADBADNOTGOOD, and Ryan said, ‘The next time we come, I’m not coming as general admission. We’ve gotta play it’. So it’s serendipity.”
While the larger, more open space made for a slightly less intimate performance, the band relished the opportunity to make use of a high quality sound system.
“When we imagine [our] songs, we want it to be clear and we want people to feel the whole sonic spectrum. Especially with electronic music, you need a sound system to represent your sound,” Graves explained.
While the band can feel a change in the energy from the crowd depending on the venue, the pre-show nerves remain the same, at least for Gunesberk.
“It seems to go away at a certain point. Once we start … it’s kind of nice to just be able to share the experience with your best friends,” he said. “We’re family at this point, so once we start, and there’s good sound, we’re just so happy … I just lose myself.”
“Once we stop worrying … we get into a meditative state,” Culley added.
Kilmanjaro’s members are clearly in sync with one another, both on a musical and personal level. However, they each bring their unique taste in music to their own act.
While a few of the members studied jazz in college and university, most of their inspiration for Kilmanjaro is more electronic. For Gunesberk, that’s Ariel Pink and The Magnetic Fields; for Graves and Culley, it’s BADBADNOTGOOD and Ty Segall.
As the release date of their debut LP approaches, Kilmanjaro looks towards the future, especially since it has taken so long for the project to reach its completion.
“I think … it’s going to be a weight off everyone’s shoulders,” Graves said.
Future goals include more albums and a re-imagining of their live performances.
“We’ve been continuously writing the whole time, while trying to finish this album,” Gunesberk said, adding that the band has a stockpile of about 150 songs to sort through.
“We kind of play like drum machines. But we’re going to try to channel a more interactive and organic kind of thing,” Graves added, explaining how they plan to change their live shows.
“We’re just going to keep doing this. We’re not ever going to stop,” Gunesberk said.
“It’s our resolution to play more festivals,” Culley added. “More of this,” he said, gesturing to the surrounding vendors and stages.
Kilmanjaro are about to experience their first peak of musical accomplishment. But with a band loosely named after one of the tallest mountains in the world, they have certainly set their sights high.