In Conversation
Kate Simko & Tevo Howard Discuss The Making Of PolyRhythmic

Bolstered by a classical education and her Chicago upbringing, Kate Simko’s long brought a notably intelligent edge to the table when composing her brand of four four. And it was through this approach she hooked up with fellow Chi Town associate, Tevo Howard. With a mutual respect for each other’s output and capabilities their connection inspired each other to create and their PolyRhythmic project explores the dynamic of that relationship. With an album just out on Sasha’s Last Night On Earth imprint and a live debut here in Room One this Saturday night we caught up with the pair to discuss how their meeting came about and how their individual experiences and educations help them to work together.

Can you tell us how you guys met? Did you start making music together in Chicago?

Kate Simko: We basically met through records a few years back. Tevo had just released 'Passion Sound' on Beautiful Granville and I couldn’t believe I’d been in the dark about his music and we hadn’t crossed paths. Tevo had his email address printed on the vinyl so I emailed him and we arranged a record swap at Gramaphone Records. Then from there we had a coffee and had some good conversations about music and got into the studio together.

Tevo Howard: Yes that’s right, although I do remember going to well-known bars in Chicago and seeing Kate DJ for hyped crowds well before our first actual introduction. When we first met-up the palette of working together was one of the first things discussed and an easy decision.

The name PolyRhythmic sounds like it could have several meanings, what does it mean to you?

KS: The first couple times we met-up in Chicago we discussed the concept and name for the project. Polyrhythmic is the quality that all 'sophisticated' or 'intelligent’, ‘educated’ music has. In classical formal, music theory has two qualities: the music must be polytonal and polyrhythmic idealistically. So, in other words simpler non sophisticated music - according to classical music theory - does not have two or more rhythms nor two or more tones: weather simultaneous or congruent.

The theme and name PolyRythmic was about a concept that we discussed during one of our first meeting before actually ever sitting in a studio. Being that poly as a quantifying prefix means at least two or more and while rhythm in the word 'polyrhythmic' is the base word and refers to a pattern of noises as a basic definition; the name of the project therefore is to point out this exact concept of music theory and its application to the dance genre by making a statement of how multiple rhythms can be few in number, but can allow complex rhythmic statements when considering a song or composition as one entity.

Keep note that the dance genre is widely considered 'non sophisticated' music according to music theoretical rules, in that it is generally not polytonal nor polyrythmic. PolyPhonica would then mean multiple phonics in the world and beyond stereophonics.

"The Chicago soundscape was a major influence for sure, we both grew up on Chicago house and the underground culture around it really shaped who we are as people, and also our taste in music." – Kate Simko

What prompted the idea for the album? Were you already working on new music at the time or did the album bring you together?

KS: The album came about really naturally, after a few studio sessions we could see a common thread between our tracks that flowed so we thought might as well keep going and tie it together into a full-length album. We released our first EP together in 2009 on Tevo Howard Recordings and then after that working towards the album gave us a chance to find our sound together as we went along.

How did you draw inspiration from the Chicago soundscape? Do you feel you may have your own interpretation of it now that you live in London and Berlin?

KS: The Chicago soundscape was a major influence for sure, we both grew up on Chicago house and the underground culture around it really shaped who we are as people. And also our taste in music. once we started travelling more and living abroad definitely opened us up to the international sound. Chicago is a purist city and very house-centric, so stepping away definitely exposed us to a lot of new sounds.

The album cover artwork is a great snapshot of Chicago. What are the different locations and why did you decide to include them?

KS: Cool thanks, we’re happy with how the LP art turned out. We worked closely with a London-based designer, Luke Spicer, to decide on which elements to include. Because the album was very Chicago-inspired we wanted the cover art to show that influence. Both of us lived on the same block by the El station (Chicago’s elevated train system) so seeing the tracks and trains go by was a part of our daily lives. So yeah including the El was definite, and then we chose a cool section of the skyline that starts with the Adventures in Babysitting building on the left and then we included one of Tevo’s favorite’s Chicago architecture, Merchandise Mart, on the bottom left.

You’ve had a lead-in single and EP, and now the LP on Sasha’s Last Night on Earth imprint. Was that a target label for the album project?

KS: We were looking for a label that has an open-minded music policy, rather than just one sound. Sasha is a genuine legend, someone who has built his own sound and done things his own way so being able to release alongside diverse and creative artists on LNOE was a no brainer.

How did you choose the guest vocalists for the album?

TH: Kate brought in Jem Cooke, who she has collaborated with in the past on Leftroom, Get Physical, No. 19, and most recently with Jamie Jones on Emerald City. So it just felt natural to get her signature voice on our album project. And then I was in touch with Baz from Pirupa, who made stunning vocals for ‘No Regrets’. That track has the feeling of Prescription Records (the Chicago label run by Ron Trent and Chez Damier). And then we wanted one more vocalist to be featured, and were recommended Amunet Shah in New York. Kate was in New York and recorded the vocals for ‘Bring It’ with her in the studio there.

We hear Amunet will be joining you in Room one for the live set. What can we expect with the live vocals?

TH: Yes, we’re happy she can join us! It’s her first time in London so it’s very cool she’s able to fly in for this show. You can expect a live version of ‘Bring It’ and then a couple of surprises too.

What do you have planned next?

TH: Next, I have a ton of writing in mind, including a film called Vanity. I've already written the soundtrack and am looking forward to putting the basic concept outline on paper and creating the idea through to actual fruition. The soundtrack went under the artist name Sequence Report, and the album and film will be called Vanity. The soundtrack is currently available on digital through my personal label: Tevo Howard Recordings.

KS: Right now I’m finishing a new solo EP and getting ready to record the final two tracks for the first LEO album, which is out next Spring. Also Jamie Jones and I making a new track featuring Katy B, so I’m excited about that one too!


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