As many of you are probably aware, Kuroma has existed – in some shape or form – since the mid-2000s. A music project creatively spearheaded by Hank Sullivant, the band – also comprised of Simon O’Connor, James Richardson, and Will Berman – has played in and with MGMT and The Whigs, and allotted true Kuroma time on tours with greats like Tame Impala, The Walkmen, Jarvis Cocker, and more. (If that doesn’t prove to you that they have great taste, then I’m not sure we’re all on the same page here.) Their fourth full-length album – The Dark Horse Rides Again – has been announced to release on October 14th. While we can’t say our patience isn’t wearing thin waiting, we can say we’ve got the premiere of their latest track “Tennessee Walker” to hold everyone over.
The song holds the same vintage Kuroma feel that we’ve grown so fond of over the years, with an upbeat, danceable melody. Strangely enough, we’re big fans of the fact that the lyrics start in immediately with the instrumentals. It gives the track more of a hurried feel, which makes it seem more important. (Or, at least, that’s how we feel about it. Makes sense. Right?)
In honor of the upcoming release of The Dark Horse Rides Again, we threw some questions at the charming Hank Sullivant. Here’s what he had to say.
I heard your new album – The Dark Horse Rides Again – was inspired by a spiritual epiphany. Tell me about that.
I wrote this album after I was confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church; it was a conversion, and more like a gradual metanoia than an instant epiphany. But epiphanies were part of the conversion; a lot of things dawned on me, with difficulty, and it did affect my thinking about music. I put a bigger emphasis on deep beauty and musical richness for this album. Transcendent beauty was the goal, inside the simplicity of pop. Part of the joy of the conversion was that it felt like I’d suddenly discovered a rich 2,000 year old treasure trove of art and writing. The music was a natural outpouring of all the treasures coming into me.
This is an intensely personal record for you. Care to discuss?
It’s a personal album because the conversion was life-altering, and this naturally seeped into the album. Everything becomes imbued with purpose when you believe in God, and this is not a sentimental notion. Much of it is steeped in darkness and distance. Read Psalm 88 or look at a crucifix if you don’t believe me. The conversion experience wasn’t convenient. It wasn’t something I could have ever seamlessly added to my lifestyle, like an accessory. It upended me, and pretty unexpectedly. The album gets at this difficulty, in a Kuroma kind of way, but it also I think conveys the treasures that were suddenly given to me, deeper beauties, lasting love, very real joy, in the midst of the struggle.
What was the process like creating this album?
The process was like a slow mental cook on the harmony and melody side of things. Some songs came a bit faster than others.“Tennessee Walker” took the longest. “A Day With No Disaster” came quickly and in the midst of a dry spell. Most of the music was getting worked out in my head for a couple of years until I demoed a few of them with Billy Bennett in Nashville. Around then I bought some recording gear and was able to stylize a lot of the songs in a pretty complete way. A good bit of the music and vocal takes from these demo sessions went to the final versions. I wrote most of the lyrics right before I sang them, which was how I did it for the first Kuroma album Paris. We recorded as a band for a week at Al Carlson’s studio in Brooklyn, which was a great session. Then I did a bulk of vocals at the Magic Shop in Manhattan with Eric Gorman engineering, where we got to play with an Eventide 3000 and other classic units, and I sang into an original U47. We scrapped an initial mixing session before going back to Al Carlson to finish the mix.
Which track was your favorite to create on the album and why?
I think my favorite track to create was “I’m The Kind” – because the main musical gist of the song came to me in the shower, and it’d honestly been years since I’d had a good song idea come to me in the shower. I was in the shower thinking about Maurice Ravel’s piano piece “Le Gibet” and how good it is, and then I must have had the pretty genius idea of “what if you sampled it and put a beat under it”. And that set in motion the attempt to make an intense pop song with a dark progression that orbits the note of E, and with a constant forward motion.
Is there anything else you think everyone should know about The Dark Horse Rides Again?
The whole story of the album sounds so “me, me, me.” I thank my bandmates for encouraging and supporting this, or tolerating it. It does encapsulate a major moment in my life. I got married while writing the album, we had a baby while I was writing the album. Now my wife is pregnant again as we’re about to release it. I’m not concerned with how it will do. I’m just glad it’s there at all for people to hear, or stumble upon. I also look forward to seeing it on the year-end lists, and I’m getting more and more stoked for the Grammys.
What’s your favorite TV show and why?
We haven’t had a TV in a couple of years, but when we did it was pretty much Chopped and Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. That might help explain why we don’t have the TV any more. My favorite TV show ever is probably The Mighty Boosh, or maybe Downton Abbey.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I really don’t know. But right now I’m mixing an Athens band called Blue Blood, and I’m really excited about it. I hope to mix a lot more in the future. I love it. I’m happy to be living in Athens. I want to work with more bands in town.
01. A Day With No Disaster
The Dark Horse Rides Again is out October 14th.