Last December I had the chance to sit down for a (lovely) chat with Kenneth Soares about his new EP titled 'Is Smoking Cool Again?". Released earlier in January 2023, it carries a whole new sound compared to Kenneth's last release in 2019. "Is Smoking Cool Again?" embodies a wild spectrum of emotions in the form of five songs that not only make the listener feel for themselves, but also give them a little piece of the artist himself. Read on to see what I'm talking about!
Before we begin, I have a very important question to ask you…
How are you doing?
I’m doing alright. I mean, in the general present, I’m doing pretty well, but in the present-present, I’m a mess! This clean white background (behind me) is a lie, if I turn my computer around, you’ll see the mess I’m living in right now. But yeah, things are good, and of course they could always be better. You know, I wish I could just make my music and let it… go. I wish I didn’t really care about people listening to my music and just let it be. Now, i’m making reels and… oh my god. Dude, it’s quite traumatic, you know, because I don’t know what the perception of ‘me’ is. My perception to me is that I don’t try making fake content, and I am not the type of person to make reels and stuff, but now I do! I wish marketing felt less like pandering, and I mean, I mean, I'm not ever really pandering, but I also understand when I see other artists really going at it. I understand that too, you gotta do what you gotta do. I just feel that there’s this voice that keeps saying “spend some money or nobody’s gonna see your shit”. And now I see myself getting older with the idea of spending money on projects, and you know, that’s not really a renewable resource! But yeah, that’s just how I’ve been.
Nice shirt, by the way!
Oh yeah, Soares Atelier represent. My sister picks out all my clothes, and it’s brilliant because while making music and music videos, I got relatively fitter, and the shirts look really good on me.
You last released music in 2019, and I vividly remember sitting down at a Starbucks in Bombay talking about Table for Two! What was the process of coming up with making the new EP?
During the 3 years in the middle, I still worked on making music and getting my sound out there. I feel like this set of 5 songs in the EP, they weren’t really written close to when I started working on them. I think, outside of Easy, I wrote everything pre-pandemic or at best, early pandemic. At the beginning, there was a set of 5 songs that did not include easy, but instead a song called Lucid Dreams, which was really this pretentious song about, you know, trippin’. I mean, it’s cute, but it’s one of the songs just like how you know, some songs are not Lyrical, but just filled with random sentences. Of course, While making it, I thought it was very meaningful, but in the end, Lucid Dreams just wasn't cutting it for me. After we took it off the set, I was just like “Hey Apoorv (my producer), what do you think of this one?”, “and this one?”, “What about this one then?” and he was always like “yeah this one’s okay” and “this one’s okay too”. It was then that I realized, you know what, I have to write this song. So I wrote the hook first, and for the rest of it, I thought “Let’s see what really makes me laugh”. I think it was the line “This isn’t the time or place for me to lose my mind” and all I thought was how petty that sounds. So in a pursuit of something that sounds ever pettier, I wrote “Timing’s overrated, so I’m fine”.
In these three years, you’d have expected me to come out with a couple singles in the middle at least. I never stopped writing, but I was trying to figure the best way to do it and it came to a point where I just can’t wait to figure out what the best way to do it and just make it and put it out.
I think somewhere in 2021, I remember we were talking about ‘trial and error’, and you mentioned a thought you always had was to use that as the title of your next album. So where was that jump between Trial and Error and Is Smoking Cool Again?
To be honest, when I said I’ll name the EP Trial and Error, I had no idea what I was going to make. But for now, I’m just going to keep it in the bag for another time.
Speaking of music you’ve released in the past, your debut EP, Table for Two had a very different sound compared to your new music. Where and how did this shift in sound happen?
It’s the difference between an 18-year-old versus a 23-year-old making music. That’s all it is, and I feel like in this project I’ve also had more control and that I’ve been able to voice myself in a more constructive way. The last time I was making music for example, I knew I had ideas but I was also way too excited, because it was my first time and I was, what, 18 at the time! I didn’t have the maturity required to properly voice something like that back then. Weirdly, since then, I’ve grown into having a much clearer vision of what I wanted. I have a list on my phone called “EP influence”, which lists out the five songs from the EP, and under those, names of all the artists I have borrowed from consciously. Even if I explain why some of these are on the list, they’re not going to make sense to you because I think it’s a lot to do with how each part makes a person feel differently.
For example, Easy, ends with violins playing. That part was inspired by two performances - Friday by Goldspot, and Mr. Brightside by The Killers (AKA the best song ever).
You talked about the sound that comes into this set of songs, and how with it, you’re trying to navigate through feelings of not being good enough. Now that the songs are out and complete, and you have put that message into these songs, are you feeling like it pushed you towards feeling good enough?
I honestly don’t know. I don’t think it’ll ever go away. There’s always something that’ll continue to make me feel like I’m not enough. Even if right now, I had ten times the amount of people listening to my songs, I’d still feel like things would be better if I were charting. But you know, even in times where you want things to be better and bigger, you have to appreciate the person that spends an entire year making it. To me, that’s my past self and I have to be patient about it. This is a lot of work, and a lot of people have spent themselves on this EP, and on a larger level, you just have to love that about it. So I don’t really bother about it being good enough, because its about “who cares what’s enough”. Not “who cares, I’m gonna live my life and be happy”, but “who cares, I’m gonna do what I want and if being sad is what I want then I will be sad”.
This is why I called the EP “Is Smoking Cool Again?”, because as a smoker, while I’m smoking, I always feel like I’m better than this but at the same time, do I really care about being better than this?
While describing the EP yourself, you mentioned it having notes of “desire and despair”, what is the relationship between the two? And how does it, in the end, connect to the set of songs in the EP?
I wish I could put it in a more profound sense but the “falling in love” part is the desire, and the feeling it goes by is the despair, and they’re just happening. It’s the inevitability of going like “[waves] gonna do this again?”. Honestly, while writing the brief to you, I wanted to put a word to every song in the EP. Here goes: Despair was “Cigarettes”, desire was “IDWFIL”, optimism is “If we had a house” consolation or remorse is “Time”, and I don’t remember what it was for “Easy”.