Text & Interview: Alec Coiro
Photo: Christian Something
Kenneka Cook is a singer who began creating music without accompaniment. Or, to be more accurate, she used her singing to do double duty as the accompaniment, through the use of loops and beatboxing. Her background is in the school and church choir, but she sites influences as diverse as Rugrats (and, obviously, Vampire Weekend made an impression). Plus, on top of this medley of styles, there’s the fascination with the moon and outer space. The result is an album the is album that is completely unique.
She explains how her songs she wrote were taken into producer Scott Lane’s 100-year-old house and recorded. The resulting magic can be heard and witnessed in her rendition of Vampire Weekend’s “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” that she’s sharing with us.
Cook ends the interview reminding us to be on the lookout for her tour dates, but Richmond area readers can catch her at Hardywood this very Friday.
There seems to be an outer space theme in both the album and the album title. Is that intentional?
I wouldn’t say it was intentional. I write about what I can I relate to, and somehow reach out to the the listener.
Listening to the album, you appear to include a lot of improvisational moments in your singing? How much of what you sing is written and how much comes to you in the moment? How important is improvisation to you as an artist?
Much of what I sing is written, but it usually builds up to what I like over time. Still, I think improvisation is an important factor. A lot of the songs were written with my loop pedal. I don’t know how to play a traditional instrument like a guitar or piano, so I use my voice to harmonize and beat box.
“Don’t Ask Me” sounds like it has a number of different styles blended together. Were you going for a kind of fusion on the album? How desperate are the influences that you drew from when making the album?
I have a eclectic taste in music. Jazz is my heart, there’s definitely more musically elements that were put into this album. Some songs have a bit of a cinematic orchestra feel to them, while others have a Mark Mothersbaugh/ Rugrats vibe.
I don’t know how to play a traditional instrument like a guitar or piano, so I use my voice to harmonize and beat box.
Can you tell us about the producing the album? It sounds so polished, but I understand it wasn’t done in a traditional studio.
The album was produced by Scott Lane of American Paradox Records. He took what I wrote and made it better than I could have imagined. It was all recorded in his living room in this cool house that’s over 100 years old.
What about live performance. Can you tell us about your live show and if you have a tour lined up to support the album?
The past few years, I’ve performed all of my shows with just me, my effects and looper pedal, tambourine and shaker. Recently I’ve branched out and put together a full band, drums, keys, bass and me. It’s exciting hearing talented artists take what I’ve worked on and put their own little spin on it. A tour is in the works so be on the lookout!