A YEAR AS KINDNESS: Adam Bainbridge revisits his rocky 2012.


On 5 March 2012, having heard his pristine re-imagination of New York City’s early ’80s disco sound, we photographed and interviewed Adam Bainbridge – aka Kindness – for the cover feature of Loud And Quiet 36. We loved ‘World, You Need a Change of Mind’ – Bainbridge’s slick, vintage RnB debut, hi-fi against the grain and produced by Grammy decorated Frenchman Philippe Zdar – and we thought everyone else would too. We were wrong. Plenty of people did and do get off on the record’s funk-imbued city heat like Larry Levan in The Paradise Garage, but not everyone. It split the crowd like Bainbridge knew a record so shiny would, stating in March that “[hi-fi] leaves you nowhere to hide. If you just present what’s there, you’re offering people a choice to say it’s good or bad. With the album, people might hate it, but at least it’s been presented to them honestly.”

In eight years of Loud And Quiet, we’ve rarely interviewed an artist twice, and never in the same year around the same release. But there’s something about Bainbridge. Namely a candour that often follows quiet contemplation once you’ve asked him a question. When I ask if he’s had a good year he remains silent for 12 seconds, which feels like forever when you actually sit down and count it out. He finally concedes a simple “yes”.

“But it’s not been resoundingly positive?” I say.

“On reflection it’s a big yes, but it hasn’t been easy.”

He’s keen to point out 2012’s personal highlights (“Meeting and playing shows with great people; pushing ourselves as performers; hearing a lot of inspiring music giving us hope to make even better music the next time around.”), but Bainbridge largely found the whole business of his debut album to be “more terrifying the longer it’s been out”. He’s happy to discuss the cons, and, one feels, quick to bypass the record’s class with modest pace – after all, ‘World, You Need a Change of Mind’ is not without its admirers. Its brazen employment of high production values is a triumph in itself.

“I had a foolhardy, unwavering confidence,” says Bainbridge. “I love the album that I made with Philippe, and despite my lack of verbal communication and presence I assumed the love and joy and passion that percolated into it would reach the consciousness of the people that listened to it, but it’s not that straight forward.”

By “lack of verbal communication”, Bainbridge means no Twitter, no Facebook, no website. When we meet, he brings with him his current reading material, Nicholas Carr book The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing The Way We Think – a blow by blow account of the human mind being battered into mulch by the web. Bainbridge himself is not bowled over by our new ADHD digital existence, and his refusal to tweet, blog and so forth has led him to spend the year giving more interviews than he’d have otherwise liked to. “I’ve read some really badly written interviews with myself that are just horrible,” he says, “the way they’ve been edited, or what I’m saying, or the overall structure – they’re just pointless. Why am I part of this noise pollution? I would rather have given three succinct interviews all year. But because I don’t have Twitter or Facebook or a website there wasn’t a real channel of communication and I wanted to make some effort to show that I take it seriously.”

When I ask if there is a way around social media marketing in modern pop culture, he describes a new website idea he’s working on – a simple page of continual text, without photos, date stamps, hyperlinks or any other bloggy distractions. It will be a test of commitment, he says, not unlike Kindness’s debut record.

“I feel like the album was misread a lot,” he says, “and looking back, I can see that there was something naïve and hippish on my assuming that people understand the context of everything, and it extends to friends and musicians whose opinions I really trust.

“I mean, Erol [Alkan] said something, and I don’t think it was meant to be anything other than constructive, but he said that musically it might be too all over the map for people to see it as cohesive. It was assuming that a lot of people have the same musical background as myself. I suppose I always knew that there was a large, musically intelligent audience that would appreciate the record, but when you’re also aiming for the whole pop audience that’s not necessarily what they’re coming to the table with.

“I’m disappointed that it could be true that the core audience for a record like this is smaller than I originally thought.”

Kindness faired much better in 2012’s live arenas, uniting audiences with the ultimate disco pop show, dropping the penny for those still puzzled by his album. Chased by spotlights and free-styling into Anita Baker, Kindness the performer was something everyone could agree on, a little too adamantly.

“Let’s put it this way,” says Bainbridge. “I did a Russian interview and the girl said to me, ‘Oh, we can’t wait for you to come to Moscow because we saw your show at Primavera and it’s so much better than the record, because I really don’t like the record’. I had to pull her up on that and say I know that seems like an innocent comment to make, but the record does come first for me in many ways and is a very personal journey for me.

“I do love the live shows when they go well, but I’m aware of how absurd it is. To me, it’s like going on Gladiators and throwing yourself down a giant foam pyramid in front of thousands of people…”

Being chased by a man called Wolf.

“Yeah. Wolf is like a psychological wolf chasing you around the stage. The good thing is that the audience being in front of you gives you no option but to commit. I wish there were other art forms that were that straightforward.

“I feel like I should have warned you that talking about this year wasn’t going to be an easy thing,” he says as our coffees are cleared. “The small criticisms sit with you so much more heavily than lots of incredibly meaningful praise.”

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