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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Interview: Jesse Kivel of Princeton

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With their gorgeous dark harmonies and oddly perky melodies, LA's own Princeton, are making waves where ever they go. Unafraid to venture where many pop bands fear to tread, these rockers add all and every instruments they've got handy to their pop songs. The result is a lush interesting pop sound that makes you want to grab a tambourine and join in. The band is comprised of the Kivel twins, Jesse and Matt, and their buddy Ben Ulsen. The LAist caught up with Jesse Kivel yesterday. He was kind enough to speak to us.

How did you guys get together?

Jesse: In 2005 Matt, Ben, and I were all studying abroad in London. We had been making music together for awhile but this was the first time we had all lived in the same city in a long time. We used the opportunity to write new songs and play out at a variety of questionable London pubs, pizza parlor's and warehouses. The shows were sometimes fun, and sometimes scary!

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What band would you dread being compared to?

Jesse: Hmm, I guess that's a tricky question. Band's I would really dread being compared to would be like Nickelback, Staind, Puddle of Mudd, Limp Bizkit, these bands are just in a league of their own and if you get grouped in with that, well I am afraid I would have to stop making music immediately. Although I must admit, I did have that chocolate starfish CD in high school. Fred Durst won my heart.

What do you love most about LA?

Jesse: My favorite thing about LA would have to be the desserts that are spread throughout all of LA. The cookies, cupcakes and pastries are everywhere and because LA is so big, there is a lot to go around. Especially delicious are Auntie Em's red velvet cupcakes as well as their chocolate chip cookies

: : Listen While You Read - "The Waves"

What is the weirdest thing you ever saw at a show?

Jesse: I think the weirdest thing I have seen at a show happened to us this past weekend. We were in London playing a bunch of shows, one being this massive Diesel 30th anniversary thing. I don't know if this would classify as weird but I saw our manager dancing and taking photos with Kate Nash while listening to a Mark Ronson DJ set. It was quite surreal.

If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be?

Jesse: I would definitely make it more profitable. It's almost impossible to make a living out of it the way it is right now. Bands should be paid more for the shows they play. I also think if there was more money to be made, Labels would start taking more chances on the artists they really want to put out, allowing smaller bands larger audience.

Your new EP is called Bloomsbury. What is the significance of this title?

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Jesse: It is in reference to the early 20th century British collective of writers, artists, economists etc. who lived in London in the Bloomsbury sector at that time. Each song on the EP is based on a person in the collective.

Would you rather be burned alive or frozen to death?

Jesse: Frozen to death. That's a no brainer.

Where did you get your name?

Jesse: It was the street Matt and I grew up on in Santa Monica

What is the worst thing about touring?

Jesse: The worst thing about touring is the driving. It's brutal and really boring.

What is the best?

Jesse: The best thing is meeting new bands and getting to bond with them at shows. Oh and venues where you get free drinks!

Is there a product that you would never ever let your music be in a commercial for?

Jesse: I am sure there would be, but honestly, if a commercial is willing to give us some money to put a song behind it, I would at least hear them out. I think right now the way the industry is, artists don't have the luxury to pick and choose the way they get paid for their art. Commercials and TV are really the only outlet paying well right now so it would be foolish not to consider it. But I would really have a tough time putting a song behind an Arby's commercial. Something about that seems depressing.

What's your favorite venue to play in LA?

Jesse: I think Pehrspace is our favorite. Pauline who books the nights is so cool (and plays violin with us on occasion) and it is a very warm and nice environment to play a show. Also it is byob.

Do you have any strange promoter stories?

Jesse: Yes, when we went through Eugene, Oregon a few months back we played a show to like 3 people, all locals at the bar. The promoter seemed not phased. He went on to give us all of the money from the door, which was like $30, free snickers, and other candy bars and a pipe with some illegal substance inside. That was the most interesting payment we have ever gotten.

What made you pick up instruments?

Jesse: We were young. Maybe five or seven? Our parents made us pretty much but I think we all enjoyed it to some extent. I played flute, Matt played saxophone, and Ben has always played piano.

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What album can you not live without?

Jesse: I personally cannot live without Kings of Convenience, Riot on an Empty Street. I find myself putting that record on more than any other and it just makes me happy every time I hear it.

If you weren't musicians what would you do?

Jesse: I would probably go back to school, get a phd in philosophy or maybe become a psychologist. I think I would like to do something academic with my time because I enjoyed school so much

Which do you prefer playing live or recording?

Jesse: Personally, I have always been more into recording and that is still number one for me. But lately we have been getting the opportunity to play some really great shows and they have been really fun. Being in London last week and then New York City next week we are feeling really good about both.

When is the full album coming out?

Jesse: Not sure when its coming out, were working on it right now and then when we finish it we have to find an appropriate label for it, if i had to guess it will come out in fall of next year, probably prefaced by an EP.

Do you have a favorite local LA band at the moment?

Jesse: Le Switch and The Parson Red Heads. Nice people and good music, except for Aaron Kyle. He's a dick.

Is your band a democracy or a dictatorship?

Jesse:The band used to be a total dictatorship, but now I feel it is a democracy with roles. Meaning that everyone makes decisions, but some people have more say depending on which aspect of the band we are addressing

What is your writing process like?

Jesse:Usually Matt and I write songs on our own and then bring them to the band, but just a week ago we wrote a song all together, which I thought was a good step for us. But mostly we come to the band with a song and then we make it better.

Does your band fight at all? Any sibling rivalry?

Jesse:Matt and I argue all the time. I think it makes our new drummer David nervous. Ben does not even notice it any more

Do twins have secret telepathic powers?

Jesse: Definitely not, I have no idea what my brother is thinking. I ask myself every day "What the hell is Matt thinking right now?"

Princeton is playing at the Echo tonight at 8 with Say Hi. Go see them!

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