Itâ€™s 2009 and March 31st symbolizes a new day forward for Kevin Brereton, better known as the Canadian recording artist K-OS. Like many, he has been affected by the hope that President Obama epitomizes with his presidency. His new album, released on Nettwerk/Universal, appropriately titled Yes!, comes proper with the usual relevant topics to ponder, but with a prequel twist, giving everyone a youthful glimpse of the man he used to be. Format magazine chopped it up with K-OS about the album.
“Iâ€™ve sacrificed so much, from friendships, to relationships with women, to you know things that I would want out of life, to get musical, because Iâ€™m just obsessed with it, and here I am now at the point where Iâ€™m super-excited about doing it.”
Format: What is the meaning behind the album title?
K-OS: People ask this question and itâ€™s a difficult one because itâ€™s hard to remember the minute that [I thought], â€œAh, Iâ€™m going to name it this.â€ But I really think it does come from experimenting with that word and seeing the life change that had happened. Using that word at my house, being called that, has brought such a different energy because really, being West Indian, my family was a â€œNoâ€ family. In fact, if I asked my mom to do something, she would say â€œNoâ€ first; sheâ€™d say, â€œYou have to convince me of the â€˜Yes.â€™â€ I think that always rubbed off on me where, working in the industry for years, â€œDo you want to do this interview?â€ â€œNo.â€ Iâ€™d always start it [with], â€œNo.â€ Now, Iâ€™m kind of starting it, â€œYes,â€ kind of being open to things, and in that realizing a lot of the times I was turning things down out of fear.
Itâ€™s one thing to say â€œNoâ€ because thatâ€™s not [what] you want to do, but itâ€™s another thing to avoid things because youâ€™re scared to be outside of your comfort zone and thatâ€™s what Yes! represents. It means being in a comfort zone and being okay with trying new things because Iâ€™m secure about what Iâ€™ve done and where Iâ€™m going and letâ€™s just never be afraid to try new things. Thatâ€™s where Iâ€™m at right now.
Format: I was reading in the press release the main theme of the album is the battle of the sexes. What prompted you to explore that?
K-OS: Battling with the sexes [laughs]. I have two younger brothers, Andrew and Josh, theyâ€™re both married, they both have daughters, so I go to their homes of these mirrors of myself, my two younger brothers, and theyâ€™re surrounded by three, four women all the time. So what I start to [ask myself is], â€œWell, how do I fit? I mean, am I going to get married? Iâ€™m a pretty swinging, single bachelor right now. What kind of woman would I marry?â€
That made me look at my life differently and it made me look at my reaction to my celebrity in the last two years of my relationship with women differently. Some of it surmounts to the most joyous, pleasurable experiences, and others [make up] some really bad stuff, so I wanted to document that. But not in a heartbreak or a pimp kind of way â€“ thatâ€™s not me. I [had to] investigate this intelligently and subversively, without too much detail, but just enough detail. That was the challenge. And so you go back to the whole idea of people like Madonna and Prince, where you always ask, are they sexual or are they spiritual?
You go back to the idea of Jesus Christ in the Bible describing his love for the congregation like a woman. Then you see these lines between sexuality and spirituality are more blurred than anything; I think theyâ€™re all one and the same. Love is love, as they say. So thatâ€™s where that was coming from.
Format: And you worked with Emily Haines and Murray Lightburn on that Uptown Girl trackâ€¦
K-OS: Well, these are people that I respect and love. I love so much Emily, Iâ€™m a huge fan. Sheâ€™s a friend; sheâ€™s a confidante. Weâ€™ve been friends over the years, and Iâ€™m a huge fan of her band as well. She was actually on the last record. I left a message on her machine about a piece of music. She called me back and when she saw me next she said, â€œOh, I really like that, we should do it.â€
So weâ€™ve always been trying to put that in our atmosphere, me and her, because we share a lot of mentalities. We [feel] similarly about trying to stay true to our roots while having pop success. Also Murray, who I always call my older brother, who I consider to be a genius, is a composer more than anything else. And we have also been trying to find time to work together, so this track was one of the late additions on the record. I basically contacted Murray through email, and he fell in love with [the record], sent back his stuff. Then I contacted Emily and she jumped on it.
It was weird, because Murray was like, â€œI always wanted to work with Emily but I never thought it would happen this way.â€ It was very much three kindred spirits that all had mutual respect being brought together, and in this way technologyâ€™s a great thing. But also we hang out, we drink together, weâ€™re close. Thatâ€™s one of the tracks I listen to that sometimes I just canâ€™t believe that it happened. That weâ€™re all on the track together, itâ€™s probably one of my favorite songs on the record.
“Iâ€™m a pretty swinging, single bachelor right now.”
Format: Describe the shooting for the video 4,3,2,1…
K-OS: Funnest video yet, funnest video yet, what can I say? The fast speed is called stop-motion animation, which means you get twenty-four movements per frame. So every time you see me moving in that cartoon way, I had to do it frame by frame by frame. It was tedious, but it was so fun to see the end results. I loved it. I thought, â€œThis definitely reminds me of the Crabbuckit video.â€ Not in sense, but in spirit.
Itâ€™s a guy having fun and Iâ€™m happy to see that guy when I watch that video again. Someone whoâ€™s just loving it and having fun and smiling and not too concerned about what everyone else says. Heâ€™s in his own world, doing his own thing, as an artist should be.
Format: Was there any particular reason for shooting at Dufferin Mall?
K-OS: We wanted something that was very common. We were looking for something that was everyday and it just happened that way. There were two or three other malls that we could have used. We wanted something like a Winners or a Wal-Mart; they were open to it and they also had a clock store, for the first scene in the video is me as this kind of magical clock guy. That was important for the video, so when we found this wicked clock store and the Wal-Mart. A lot of the time the location is based on how well the script fits the location.
“No matter how clichÃ© it sounds, itâ€™s great to exist on planet Earth right now.”
Format: What do you want to the fans to get most out of your album?
K-OS: That everyoneâ€™s a work-in-progress, man. That everyoneâ€™s a work-in-progress and that you watch your album from one [point-of-view] and this is where you are in your life. And where Iâ€™m at in my life is I think the cover of my album, being me, painting myself into a corner with a guitar. Then again, music has been so much of my life. Iâ€™ve sacrificed so much, from friendships, to relationships with women, to you know things that I would want out of life, to get musical, because Iâ€™m just obsessed with it, and here I am now at the point where Iâ€™m super-excited about doing it. The album is like a chapter of your life and hopefully people take this chapter, soak it in, and get ready for the next chapter because theyâ€™re never written in stone.
Format: Thanks for taking the time to chat. Anything you want to let the readers know before we go?
K-OS: No man, itâ€™s just great. No matter how clichÃ© it sounds, itâ€™s great to exist on planet Earth right now. A lot of positivity with Obama, not to drag it out, but I feel positive vibes from the time right now and Iâ€™m so happy to be youthful and making music where we are right now and hopefully it spreads.