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Q & A with Josh Kolenik of Small Black

Limits of Desire, Small Black, Small Black interview, Josh Kolenik interview, Josh Kolenik, Agnes Thor

Photo by Agnes Thor

Brooklyn-based Small Black released its sophomore album, Limits of Desire, in May through Jagjaguwar. The foursome is currently on tour across North America and makes its way through Phoenix at Last Exit Live on Saturday, June 15. Purchase tickets to the show here.

The Spec interviewed lead singer Josh Kolenik,  read below to learn how art and film has influenced the band’s sound and music videos...

The Spec: How do you feel your newest album Limits of Desire is being received? Were you expecting a specific reaction or did you just put it into the void and welcome whatever happened?
Josh Kolenik: I don’t read reviews, so not sure how it’s been received in a critical sense, but the folks at our shows are quite enthusiastic about the new material. So it seems to be going well. I don’t have expectations about how folks might take our recordings. We just make the songs and let ’em go, start thinking about the next ones that feel fresh/inspiring.

TS: You’ve done quite a lot to incorporate other forms of art in your presentation of the songs off of this album, like hosting your own art show and utilizing influence from film to inspire your newest music video for “Free At Dawn”. How do you feel that combining/almost communicating via various methods of art has impacted you as artists? Has it had any effect on the music itself and perhaps your live performances?
JK: All of us come from a film background originally, doing various aspects of production, so we’ve always been very hands on with the videos. I was a big fan of Hollis Frampton’s work, so when our director Yoohna Park approached us about adapting Zorns Lemma for a video, I was immediately on board.

We also helped to co-curate an art exhibition to celebrate the release of the record at the 7 Dunham Gallery in Brooklyn, which was a great opportunity to showcase and collaborate again with so many of the artists who have helped us over the years like Morgan Blair & Park. Part of the show was a live performance we did as well that was structured around a light installation by the NY artist Dan Baker. We’re working to incorporate some of the elements into our live show all the time.

Limits of Desire, Small Black, Small Black interview, Josh Kolenik interview, Josh KolenikTS: Who had the idea for the album art? Do you feel that it reflects the content in the music from the album?
JK: We actually found the album art through the artist Scarlett Hooft Graafland over a year ago. Finding the image actually helped to lock the album title down as we were working with a few different options at the time. So I’d say some of music on the record reflects the image and not vice-versa.

TS: What inspired the lyrical content most from your new album?
JK: Each song is drawn from lots of different places, but I think in the end, the lyrics deal with relationships. There’s a loose narrative running through the album that is shaped by the hope of a new relationship and ending with the failure of one. I was reading a lot last year too. Some of my favorites would be Raymond Chandler, Ryszard Kapuczsinki and Raymond Carver.

TS: What would your ideal live stage set-up be and why?
JK: We’re starting to get there with the current setup which has a fully integrated light show that links in with each individual song. In the future, we’d love to get some projections involved and be able to bring someone along on tour that could handle the day-to-day visuals. Would love to design some custom lights too that are built around custom algorithms.

TS: Is there anything you’d like your fans in Phoenix to know in preparation for your show? Or perhaps just some simple words of wisdom?
JK: Just come ready to dance! It’s Saturday night and we hope everybody lets go!

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