Electronic artist extraordinaire Danny Harley, aka The Kite String Tangle, one of Australia’s favourite electronic producers; a 2017 ARIA nominee and a regular on massive festival line ups both in Australia and overseas. Most recently, has released a sophomore record that’s a bit different from his usual programming. His new album ‘The Kite String Tangle Presents: In A Desperate Moment’, released on April 13, showcases an acoustic, sensitive side to Harley’s music that is a clear departure from the sound we have come to know and love from The Kite String Tangle. A collaboration with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in late April was the perfect launch for this instrumental mini-album, with 2 sold out shows showcasing the incredible versatility and talent of The Kite String Tangle.
Backyard Opera spoke with Danny Harley after his shows to debrief on how they went, what went into the making of the special new album and what’s next for the multi-talented producer.
BYO: You’ve had a big weekend playing with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, how did that go?
DANNY: It was wild. I’ve never done that sort of thing before, it was a totally new experience. It was really special. It’s something not many people get to do; I was on cloud nine afterwards.
BYO: What made you want to do a show with the orchestra?
DANNY: It was a bit serendipitous actually because they approached me at the end of last year, and I had been writing all this music with strings and horns; much more stripped back. I wanted to get it out somehow, and this kind of came at the exact right time! So we got to release this new music that I had been working on in conjunction with this show, and it all fit together nicely.
It was really fortuitous, and it was also a life goal as well; everyone wants to play with a big strings section or orchestra at some point, I think. Most artists would, anyway.
BYO: What type of performance was it? How did it pan out?
DANNY: We had a big string intro. The orchestra was mostly strings but it also had horns, and some woodwinds, like oboes, flutes and bassoons, and things like that. It was mostly a string section. We had this big arrangement at the start, and then it grew throughout the set. It started with really stripped back stuff. There was a grand piano there, so I was playing that for the first half of the set with the orchestra, and then there was some more electronic stuff; big epic sections with the horns. We kind of just gradually built throughout the whole set. It was really fun.
BYO: You went at the Queensland Conservatorium, what did you study there?
DANNY: I did a little bit of jazz when I was at the con, but I mostly went there for audio production, more so than instrumental music. I was into jazz guitar for a bit though.
I wouldn’t say I’m classically trained for sure, that wasn’t something I was ever actually interested in. I was more interested in the songwriting aspect of music; creating something, rather than playing something that was already created.
BYO: What made you start creating electronic music?
DANNY: I studied audio production because I was into rock music, and guitars, and drums; I was in a few bands, and I wanted to record them so I went for that reason. And as I was recording I realised that, once you have the audio in the computer, how much you can do with it, and how crazy you can get with it. So that was the segue into electronic music. Which is basically once all the audio is in the computer, you can do whatever you want with it, and create whatever you want, which is really exciting to me. So that’s how it happened.
BYO: What type of bands were you playing in before?
DANNY: Rock bands, sort of all over the shop really. I was in a pop-punk band for ages, a hard rock band, jazz bands. One in high school, and then after high school I sort of floated around doing various things until I found my way. I was in electro-pop bands as well which was really fun, but I hit my stride when I did the solo thing.
BYO: You’ve created a mini album to go along with these symphony shows; how is it different to the albums you’ve released in the past?
DANNY: It was linked up timing wise really well. This album I’ve been writing for ages. It’s a bunch of songs that I had that never really fit. They were a bit too slow, or a bit too sombre, or a bit too stripped back to go on any other release. But I had so much of them, and I do enjoy writing songs like that, so I’d been wanting to get them out for ages, and I had enough to make an album and then the show came about; it was all really perfect. So that’s why I wanted to do it, as an outlet purely because I was writing it and was never going to stop writing it. Thought, may as well get them out there; the other option is not do it.
BYO: What goes into making a ‘Kite String Tangle’ album? Do you work alone or collaboratively?
DANNY: It’s pretty much solo, just on my own. Towards the end, I’ll hire a studio and get other musicians to come in like strings players. I have certain engineers and studios I like to use. It’s mostly a solo mission and a bit of a lonely process, but then towards the end it comes together and gets a bit more widespread with who’s involved.
BYO: What makes you write music? Any key motivators?
DANNY: That’s always changing. A few things that are always front of my mind is the passion and love for music itself. I think with so many great artists and new music coming through all the time you always find yourself getting into a new artist or album and becoming really inspired to make something. Whether to make something like what they’ve made or they’ve inspired you to do something you’ve always wanted to do. The excitement of music itself is a big motivator for me. I don’t really know what else id be doing if I wasn’t doing music. I have a sort of one-track mind in that respect. So yeah, I guess purely because I get excited by music and I like creating.
BYO: Do you explicitly explore any themes or just write for the sake of creating music?
DANNY: I draw from my own experiences and experiences of people around me, but I’m trying to start branching out lyrically. I was never a lyricist, it wasn’t my favourite thing to do, it was more about production and writing the actual music which is what pulled me in. But in the past year or two I’ve started to enjoy writing lyrics so I’m just at the start of my lyric writing journey really. Up until now, it’s been based on my own experiences. But I’m keen to branch out and explore further.
BYO: You’ve also got a tour coming up in Europe! What’s it like playing overseas?
DANNY: It’s fairly different because people find out about your music in different ways. I’ve had a lot of people discover me on radio or through other similar acts here in Australia, whereas in the states it’s a bit of a different story. Fans hear you on a TV show or from related artists on Spotify. It seems to be a bit broader. It’s kind of a different crowd. But I’m not huge over there yet, so you have to prove yourself a bit more there still, which is fine. It’s exciting.
BYO: What prompted you to begin writing under the name ‘The Kite String Tangle’?
DANNY: It paints a picture before you even start listening to it. It’s a bit more intriguing. If it’s just your name it doesn’t really say anything about you or the project, which is cool as well, but this is just the way I’ve chosen to go. It also means that you can perform however you want. I found it a bit more ambiguous.
BYO: You can separate yourself from the music?
DANNY: Yeah totally.
BYO: Who are some influences on your music?
DANNY: It’s always changing obviously. I listen to a lot more current music. I’m not influenced by like Prince or older sort of acts like a lot of people are. I’m always listening to what’s around, what’s going on. For this record I just released, it’s a bit more sombre, so there’s a lot of influence from London Grammar, Bon Iver, James Blake, that kind of thing. But in the more electronic stuff, I love Flume and ODESZA and Jai Wolf; Bonobo. There is a kind of meeting point between all those, it’s kind of a whole a spectrum.
BYO: Do you have anything in the works currently?
DANNY: I’m working on my next album essentially, from now on. There’s a new song that just got finished, it's fully mixed and mastered. That will hopefully be released next month. That’s back to regular programming; back to the electronic sort of stuff.
BYO: Which do you prefer, electronic or instrumental?
DANNY: I like them both, which is kind of why I can’t commit to one. By the time I’m finished one I’m ready to do the other one. I think I’m going to keep doing both.
The Kite String Tangle’s new album, ‘The Kite String Tangle Presents: In A Desperate Moment’, is available to stream and buy now. To check it out, head to http://www.thekitestringtangle.com/