Kelaro’s debut album Signal Through Clouds is an obscure gem. The band’s sound weaves between 80s goth, jazz-influenced shoe-gaze to electronic ambient. We sat down with the duo’s multi-instrumentalist Chris Todaro to discuss the band’s creative thinking.
What brought you two together?
We met a long time ago while working in the Advertising dept. for CompUSA. Similar interests in books and music spurred many great, often hilarious discussions and a good friendship. We always talked about each other’s music but never quite found the right opportunity to collaborate until many years later.
You were a Denton Fry Street Fair guy. What was that like?
The Fair was great fun. Everyone just being a little out of it all day but at the same time totally into it with other like minded friends, if you will.
What do you think of the current Denton music scene?
To be fair, I haven’t seen or heard much of the current Denton scene. Too much work and family life to get out and experience like I used to! Someday soon I’ll get out and go see what’s hitting out there.
Signals is adventurous, a little jazz, a little rock. Was this the initial goal?
I think really the initial goal for the project was to make music that we both liked, no matter the genre or feel. It just kind of grew organically and we let it take us where it wanted to go.
There are elements of Kelaro that are very David Gilmour-ish. Would you consider Pink Floyd to be an inspiration?
Floyd was one of those musical common grounds for the both of us. We can disagree about different bands or sounds but we always agreed on Floyd. As the album starting getting its blood flowing, its orbit established, it was probably natural that common inspiration would manifest itself in some way.
Tell us a bit about how the album was recorded.
We recorded in bits and pieces, sharing files online from ideas we had or created. All the stuff I demo’d was recorded on my Mac at home. I’d get parts from Damon and he’d either say, “gimme a guitar part over this” or “put some bass on this one”, or mostly “just put on whatever you feel like.” I would mess around in my home studio, usually late at night after the wife and kids and gone to bed, and start getting a tune out. Some days I’d just record myself just goofing around, messing with any sound that popped in my head, not really thinking it was for this project. I dropped one file in our folder and said, “well there’s this one if you want to mess with it.” He took it and thought it was great and then just incredibly opened up the song with layers of synth and piano. I redid my parts and smoothed out the drum track some then redid some overdubs at his place. That’s how Return of the Blight happened. It was a great process, very enjoyable to create these songs with no pressure or expectation. For me it was wonderful to just jump into new sounds without thinking I had to play a certain way or be contained within a certain genre. Mixing the electric, the computerized with the organic. Being open to different ideas.
You played live with Gentoo at the DAMN show last year. What was that experience like?
Playing live with Gentoo was soooo cool, man! I hadn’t been on stage in many years, and it felt great to be back in that environment. Completely different live music world from the last time I had played live, but with the visual artists providing that atmosphere, and the spirit of adventure, that DAMN show just sparked the genesis for Kelaro to happen. Rehearsals for the show were great too. I’d love to go back to that studio for an extended time and let some new tunes come to life.
You played guitar, bass, keys and trombone on Signals. Do you write primarily using guitar?
Guitar is usually the starting point for writing, but it can come from any instrument or object I have near me to make some sonic art. Several bass parts were written by my singing them in my car on my daily commutes to and from work. Occasionally I’ll try to get some progressions down from the keyboard, but I’m not as confident as I’d like to be on the keys. Once I get in the zone, anything can get the writing moving along. I recorded some playground bells on my phone when I was with my sons at a park — that prompted some great manipulations from Damon that got tacked onto the end of a track.
What inspired you to use the trombone?
Just being in the moment, loving creating and writing sounds for the project, and being open to trying anything. I wanted to just get a recording of a few sounds of the trombone to sample, maybe manipulate. I got my oldest son to hold the mic while I recorded the part. I then dropped it on top of the demo I was working on and it sounded so cool I had to keep it. Luckily Damon agreed and it added that extra flavor to Plus Returns.
Will there be more Kelaro projects in the future?
We started preliminary work on album #2 a while back, but with no real timeline, just letting it happen. I’ve hit somewhat of a block though — day job responsibilities, and my kids like to interrupt me a lot when I’m in my studio! So hopefully soon I’m gonna carve out more time to get this thing going again. I’ve really enjoyed working in this collaboration and I hope there will always be Kelaro projects. Being able to make music and create art with your close friends is a great feeling.