Thomas Krane reveals the advantages of deffering emotions to a fictional character, what musicians can learn from Iceland and why Perfume Genius is on their playlist
Following the release of their second album, Bone Tower, we got to chat to Thomas Krane, the latest band out of Durban. Except they’re not actually a band. Or Thomas Krane isn’t. Fronted by the band’s only permanent member, Dan Hampton, Thomas Krane is a fictional character solo act, produced by a transitory list of band members.
Armed with this knowledge and that of Bone Tower‘s dense themes of religiosity, love lost and found, and rites of passage, we picked Hampton’s brain for insights on where he’s at. We found that he’s fixed on a casual plan to retire as a touring artist. Our kind of guy.
A ton of music is coming out of Durban lately. Why do you think this is?
I watched a doccie about the birth of the Icelandic music scene we know today. One of the guys interviewed suggested that because no one expected to sell more than a few records, ’cause it was such an isolated dead end spot, this meant they were free just make whatever music they felt like making – there was nothing to gain so there was nothing to lose. I think Durban’s got a bit of this vibe going for it.
How does the band go about handling the transitioning of band members?
It happens as it happens. I hold down the skeleton of the music and whoever is contributing at the time adds some meat. I’ve never been too particular about sound or style or anything. I don’t really have what they call ‘an ear’, so I’m generally happy for them to do what they feel and I focus on delivering the vocal as best I can.
Is this transitional nature the reason for an independent brand in the form of Thomas Krane?
Yeah that’s part of it – it’s got the feel of a solo project, but it’s had so many contributors over the years. It would be highly narcissistic to call it the ‘Dan Hampton band’. It’s definitely not all mine.
Thomas Krane is the fictional amalgam solo artist of the band. If you had to style someone in Thomas’ clothes what would this person look like?
Thomas has a pretty standard corporate desk job – he’s probably in the finance department of medium sized company. Pretty soft spoken. It takes effort to get to know him properly. I mostly picture him in chinos and a light-coloured formal shirt.
The debut self-titled album was about Thomas’ upbringing. Is it fair to say that he has matured on Bone Tower and is grappling with an existential crisis; is he Everyman?
He’s definitely growing – but then so am I as a songwriter – as his character and experience is rounding out, I think I’m getting better at expressing it – and that’s making it easier for people to relate to it generally.
Do you find it easier expressing how you feel through a character?
Yeah, I think detaching from strong feelings very definitely makes it easier to express them. A character also allows you to express strong feelings completely outside of your experience. Writing lyrics is hard – having a large pool of emotional content to draw from makes it a lot easier.
Predestination is quite a dense topic to start an album with. What informs and inspires your music’s subject matter?
An upbringing in the world of evangelical Christianity is something Thomas and I share – something that definitely seeps into a lot of the lyrical content (among a world of other influences). Predestination (in the Calvinist sense) is a great example of the beautifully profound contradictions that make up so much of the world view – you can have absolutely nothing to do with your own salvation, nor that of anyone else because the power to save is exclusively God’s; you are selected, or not selected. But in the same breath, you are personally responsible for not only sealing your own salvation by accepting Christ, but also for encouraging others to do so, with no way of determining whether they are on the list or not. A predicament!
Anyway. The concept becomes a bittersweet foundation for a love song from one of the fortunate elect, tragically fallen for one of the less fortunate rejected.
“Small Things” is heavy-laiden with Biblical allusions. Does Thomas feel an inescapable burden with respect to religion?
For sure – his Christian background still defines him in many complicated ways. Even in the love songs there’s always a third character.
Another thing he can’t seem to escape is love and a broken heart. How would his ideal romance play out? Does he believe in love?
I think the album deals with one love interest in particular although it might be a mix of a few – and there’s bit of a narrative flow – early obsession, lots of rejection, glorious actualisation, and then a steady decline to disappointment in the reality of the actual relationship. I think that’s where the album leaves him – and I think it means his next love story is likely to be more balanced – a greater chance of success. Whether he can see that now or not is anyone’s guess. Maybe we’ll find out in the next album.
Long intros scream courage. What inspired the one on “Ode to Divorce”?
I thought pretty hard about cutting the intro out but Dirk (who produced the album) convinced me to leave it in. Part of the decision is just banal – I struggle to get songs to ‘pop song’ length. When the lyrical idea’s done, I feel like the song’s done. But the song would have just been too damn short without the intro. I do like it now though, I’m glad we kept it.
Something tells me Perfume Genius would love this record. Which artists are on your iTunes Top 25 Most Played playlist?
Perfume Genius comes in at number 10. Well spotted!
Some of the rest of the list surprises me a little. But here goes. For the rest of the top ten: Beach House, The Concretes, Frank Ocean, Ben Folds, Japandroids, Julian Redpath, The Magnetic fields, Phosphorescent, The Smiths.
Have you thought as far as the next record? Is there a trajectory?
My musical life plan is to casually release a decent album every 5 or so years and then have built up enough of a following by the time I’m ready for early retirement to pack up my job and tour the world for my twilight years. I am working on some ideas for album three already, but don’t hold your breath.
Stream Bone Tower below and purchase it for $5.