Introducing…Kuinka!March 15, 2017
Kuinka, a local Seattle folk-pop band, is evolving. Formerly known as Rabbit Wilde, and often mistaken as strictly bluegrass, their name change coincides with a reinvention of sound and image. Made up of Miranda Wilde, Jillian Walker and brothers Zach and Nathan Hamer, Kuinka is revving up with more electronics, a brand new EP and multiple tour dates in the future. They’re playing Nectar Lounge on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17 with California band, ALO. We sat down with vocalist/instrumentalist Miranda to learn more about the group.
Nectar Lounge: I’m going to start with the obvious, but up until a little over a week ago you were known as the band Rabbit Wilde. Why the name change to Kuinka? What were your inspirations for choosing this new name, and have people responded well to it?
Miranda Wilde: We’ve been dealing with a trademark dispute for a little over two years now. We got to a point where we realized we’ve spent a lot of money on this, we’ve spent a lot of time, and it makes sense to leave it on the table and walk away. We don’t want to spend the rest of our careers fighting.
We spent a lot of hours going over different names and different ideas. We decided the most pragmatic thing was to pick something we couldn’t find anywhere else on the Internet. We started going through Scandinavian words because they’re mutually intelligible with English, and they are a lot of fun, especially Finnish words. One of my close friends is Finnish and we had an inside joke with her a long time ago that we were talking about.
We ended up landing on Kuinka! It’s really fun to say, that was the biggest selling point. It looks nice, we like the double ‘k’ and it’s not going to be too confusing to pronounce. We mulled it over for a couple of days but we had a deadline to meet, especially with the new music we were sitting on, so we wanted to get the ball rolling. The response has been really good so far. There’s been a lot of support luckily, we were a little nervous about it.
NL: You mentioned it’s a Finnish word, what does it mean?
MW: It means “how.” I mentioned this connection with my Finnish friend. She and I went to Finland together and I learned a little Finnish. We had a lot of fun playing around with Finnish iterations and it was one of the words that we used as sort of a throwaway. Like, ‘uh…well…kuinka! What are we gonna do, how are we gonna figure out this situation?’ Which actually fit quite well.
We hadn’t really considered the meaning before we chose it so it’s more just something that nobody else had. We’re really happy with it the longer we spend with it. It feels right, and the new music we’re coming out with, the new photos we did and the videos are all really fitting that brand. We look at this new stuff, and can’t even imagine it being Rabbit Wilde. This is Kuinka! This is who we are.
NL: Speaking of new music, your name change came at the same time as an announcement for the EP, Stay Up Late. Can we expect a “rebranding” from the style of Rabbit Wilde’s music to Kuinka’s?
MW: That was sort of already happening! Like I said, we had been branching out in the music we had been making. We got a synthesizer that I’ve been having so much fun playing around with. The music is still our songwriting, it all comes from the same place. But it leans a lot more toward pop than our other stuff does. But the music we’ve been writing, the songs we’ve written have all been pop songs, just with folk instrumentation. We have so many different influences that have nothing to do with folk music, that was just what we fell into. Now we’re branching out and exploring these new territories.
When this name change came about we were like…’ok this is horrible, because we’ve done this three times now, but it’s also quite timely because we’re going in this different direction anyway.’ We have a chance to revamp what we present immediately before anyone even hears our music. Everything has fallen into place since then.
NL: You mentioned influences that aren’t always folk…what are some of those?
MW: My biggest musical influence is Michael Jackson, which has absolutely nothing to do with folk music. Jillian (cello) is very into Celtic music. I also love riot grrrl 90s punk and the boys are into all kinds of things. Nathan (ukulele, mandolin) is super into electronica, which doesn’t get reflected at all in the music he writes, but if he’s controlling the stereo it’s there. And Zach (guitar/percussion) used to only listen to recordings from before 1980. Now he’s branched out a lot and is really excited about new sounds and what’s on the radio. It’s really fun and different but it all feels the same. We don’t feel like we’re actively changing anything, it’s natural. The music is taking its natural course.
NL: I’ve been lucky enough to hear some new tracks, and can hear the synthesizer and a drum machine in there. You’re definitely moving toward more electronic elements. Who’s idea was that?
MW: I had always been interested in that genre. Passion Pit is one of my favorite artists. Jillian and I were already excited about that direction when we were making The Heartland in the studio, and our producer was very encouraging of that. He was like, ‘let’s pull out the synthesizer, let’s pull out the drum machine!’
The guys interestingly were nervous about it. They didn’t want to double vocals. I don’t think they even knew why they felt that way, they just didn’t feel inclined toward electronics yet. But that all changed pretty quickly after we left the studio. Everyone got onboard.
If you listen to The Heartland, on tracks like ‘Howl’ and ‘Wolf and Whiskey,’ they have interesting synthesizer tones which were added in by our producer. Then I was getting more into playing the piano and playing with electronic and pop sort of stuff. We got a synthesizer and that was the catalyst for all this new music. We got together for a rehearsal and we wrote an EP in like four hours. It was very natural and very organic and it just glued all of the songs we had been playing around with together. And it’s been really fun to play onstage!
Another thing, there’s saxophone and clarinet on these news songs which is quite a departure from The Heartland. It adds a whole new layer that we didn’t have before.
NL: You mentioned your live shows, which are known for their incredible energy, encouraging the audience to clap along and stomp their feet. Can people still expect that as you move toward more electronic sounds?
MW: Oh my gosh, I think even more so. Definitely. One of the other things was, it’s interesting. It’s more dance-y and more energetic if that’s possible. I don’t want to bring the expectations of energy levels too high, but yeah. We play most of the same songs, they’re thicker and more percussive than before.
NL: Speaking of live shows, you’re finishing up a tour with California band, ALO, and you’re about to head out to the Midwest shortly after! How has that experience been? Any memorable/funny tour stories?
MW: I need to come up with a good funny story! We have some, but none that I think are worthy.
Touring is really fun, it’s pretty intense to be in a minivan all together, but really fun to get to see the country and experience different ways people respond to music. When we get time to actually go do fun things that’s a plus too!
NL: I bet long hours in a minivan can be intense, but I’m sure you’re super close with all your bandmates. I read that you all grew up super close to each other, but didn’t meet until later when you moved to New York. How did you find each other? What inspired you to start a band?
MW: We all grew up in Mount Vernon, a really small town between here (Seattle) and Bellingham. Jillian and I actually grew up two blocks away from each other. We went to elementary school together but then lost touch for years. I graduated and moved to New York and both Zach and Nathan did the same thing at different times. We had a lot of mutual friends.
So we were all out in New York at different times for different reasons and then the day before I was moving back to the Northwest after three years in Brooklyn, we met in a diner. It was the dead of winter, I was having a really hard time, so I latched onto them and made them my friends!
I came home and Zach came home shortly after. Then Nathan graduated from Pace University and followed suit and we started jamming together. Two years later we were playing a show in Bellingham and Jillian ended up there and I asked her to play cello on our album. Then we asked how she felt about touring, so she quit her job and quit school and we’ve all been full time touring basically since then.
NL: I personally saw you perform for the first time back in 2015 in Bellingham. You’ve certainly grown in sound and popularity in such a short time. Did you expect that? What’s that experience been like?
MW: You never expect anything from music. When you start making music I think all you can do is just take it as it comes because there are no guarantees. Even now we realize anything can happen at any point. We’re just going to enjoy it while it lasts.
It’s pretty astounding thinking about the first show we played together until now. We’ve known so many bands along the way that have ended up breaking up. All the time we hit plateaus and obstacles and we check in, because it’s really hard sometimes. But we all decide there’s nothing else we’d rather be doing.
People tell us way too often how much the music means to them, and how much our shows mean to them. That’s too much to give up. When somebody tells us something like…’we’ve played your songs as the first dance at our wedding, your music is the only thing that gets me through the day, my kid won’t stop crying unless I put on your CD.’ I can’t even believe we have that effect on anyone. We’re making the music we love to make and I feel so lucky that we have the opportunity to create positivity for anyone, especially if they’re going through something hard.
NL: We’re thrilled to have you play two nights at Nectar Lounge, and we’re expecting sell out shows, similar to your one back in December. How does it feel playing to such a large crowd in your own city?
MW: It’s so fun. Nectar’s our favorite place to play. People have such good vibes here. For a while, our biggest and best shows were in Bellingham. It was unbeatable. Slowly but surely Seattle caught up. It’s so fun playing in both cities, it’s always so much energy and people are singing along. It feels narcissistic to say, but there’s no feeling in the world like a crowd of people singing lyrics you wrote with you. It feels so good.
The shows at Nectar are like nothing else. And it’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend so there’s a lot to compete with. ALO is so fun, we always have a blast dancing to their stuff after we’re done playing. They’re so tight and such cool people. They’ve been doing this for such a long time that they get each other. They’re going to be really fun shows, both of them.
NL: Final question: For someone who doesn’t know Nectar, doesn’t know Kuinka…why should people come out to the show on Thursday or Friday? What can they expect?
MW: Oh boy. I think there’s a real sense of camaraderie at our shows. There’s a definite community around our music, and around ALO’s. There are big groups of people with their arms around each other, singing and stomping and dancing who just met that night. It’s something really special when you go to a show and find your kind.