The new Kisses album, Kids In L.A., is being promoted as "a loose narrative which follows teenage protagonists and [their] friends in Bel Air, exploring the overblown emotions and distinct chasmic boredom of privileged high schoolers." But, seriously, don't let that put you off - it's really not that bad. In fact, it's pretty spectacular.

Jesse Kivel's listen-worthy debut, The Heart of The Nightlife, was the product of his solo work but for its follow-up he has joined forces with girlfriend, Zinzi Edmundson, and together the pair worked on the 9 songs primed for Kids In L.A. for some months before exploring the option of having them twiddled with by external producers.

Subsequently recruiting Saint Etienne's Pete Wiggs and fellow co-producer, Tim Larcombe (whose production CV includes songs with Lana Del Rey and Girls Aloud), Kivel and Edmundson now deliver a set of compositions that is (predominantly) an up-tempo symphony of the subdued, cushioned by grabbing melodies and eager choruses. In anticipation of the release of Kids In L.A. this month, we sneaked a telephonic catchup with Kivel and heard more about the album, the couple's planned tour of Europe this summer and what it's like mixing romantic and musical entanglements.


Congratulations on the new album, Jesse. You've managed to bring together a very cohesive group of pop songs.

Ah, thanks, man. It was very important for us to make something cohesive, I think. As you get older, as a musician - at least for me - that becomes more and more important. When you're starting out, I think you're just putting songs together and then what you have, say - 10 songs - is, like, an album. But, for me, now it's really important that the entire record makes sense as a whole.

Do you think that this, perhaps, has something to do with the fact that you've only worked with two producers on the record?

I do think Pete and Tim did a great job in honouring the songs and not turning them into things that they were not. I mean, they definitely didn't get in the way of keeping it cohesive but I think, more than that, it was the fact that the tracks - the majority of the songs - were all written in a similar time period. Only one or two stand out temporally. Sometimes you get into these zones when you're writing and you fall into a style and I think I did a good job of keeping the songs that were written during this one several-month period, instead of choosing songs that were all over the map in terms of the song-writing.

How did your work with Pete Wiggs come about?

Well, our former manager had met him about three years ago and asked him to do a remix for us and so he did a remix on the first record. He was always really friendly about it. So then when it came to making this record our manager was, like - we should really think about Pete producing. Zinzi and I were worried that it was going to be really expensive and, for us, it was expensive - we didn't think we were going to be able to afford to work with Pete. But then, early on, I had a tentative version of the record and we passed it back and forth. I mean, I had produced it as far as I could but we thought it needed another level of production, not in terms of the song-writing but just in the way that things were sounding. So, we sent the track, 'Huddle', to about four or five producers with these notes that we had for the song, to see what they would do with it. Pete's was, by far, the best realisation of that track. And we were, like, damn - we really have to hire him. But the other reason we originally didn't work with Pete was that we knew it would be time-consuming because Pete is a very busy guy and the work coincided with the Saint Etienne record.

Did that delay things?

Well, you know, it took a year of going back and forth between Pete and Tim to finally finish the record. But it was worth it in the end. It's funny because we went back and forth with them online and by the time we were done we had never actually met Pete in person. I mean, we talked a lot and sent tracks and, in a sense, worked together but we were never in Brighton for the recording. It was just not financially feasible for us to go out there. But when we finished, Pete was coming through L.A. with Saint Etienne so we did a DJ slot at their show and got to hang out. We still haven't met Tim, who is another wonderful guy, and was obviously as big a part of this record as Pete.

Are you a Saint Etienne fan?

Oh absolutely! I've always listened to them and played them in DJ sets and so it was definitely an exciting thing for us. At the same time, I wasn't sure that they were sonically the exact sound I was going for with this record and when you listen to it, it's not really a Saint Etienne sounding record. Pete and Tim did a really good job of very much producing the record that we wanted to make and that's why they were the best choices for producing it. We didn't hire Pete so that he would make our record sound like a Saint Etienne record. They both understood us and adapted accordingly. The only track where I specifically said to Pete: "maybe you can do that thing that you do with Saint Etienne" was the song 'Adjust Glasses', that Zinzi sings. We wanted a break-beat on the track and Pete really took the lead on that production. The reference point for that one was Saint Etienne.

Did a particular Saint Etienne song grab you as inspiration for 'Adjust Glasses'?

I'm trying to remember what I sent to him. I sent him two videos of the reference tracks I had in mind. I'm pretty sure 'Spring' was one of them and 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart'. Just classic Saint Etienne stuff. We were looking for a little bit more 90s-era rhythm to that track.

Speaking of 'Adjust Glasses', that's the only track on the album where Zinzi does the lead vocal. What was the thinking behind this decision?

Basically, I just wrote that song for her. It was a kind of tongue-in-cheek track and I think the album is generally heavier than that song. 'Adjust Glasses' is the most naive, light-hearted song on the record and it was written so as to allow her to sing it one octave up. Although I didn't initially know how it was going to fit on the record, I knew that I liked it and that the album needed that lighter moment. And it also opens the way for, maybe on the third album, Zinzi singing more. And maybe the next record will be lighter.

Why, do you consider Kids In L.A. to be a heavy album?

For me it's a dark record. I mean, 'dark' is a relative concept. I may think that this record is really dark but other people might be, like, what are you talking about? In my mind, these songs are definitely darker and more brooding than the last album and, you know, that reflected a certain headspace I was in. But the third album, which I am already writing, is definitely not as brooding. So 'Adjust Glasses' is definitely opening the door to that. Not that the next record will necessarily sound anything like 'Adjust Glasses' but it may well be more positive and naive.

The new album was more than two years in the making. And you're now already writing the next one. Will it be another couple of years before we get to hear your new material?

You know, as I've gotten a little bit older I am a lot more patient! The patience that it took for us to complete this album is why we have a proper release. So we have labels in the U.S and in the UK, Europe and Japan and we've re-set our team, we have new booking agents in the UK and over here and to do all that took a long time. This album was a long process in the making and I think that sometimes that is just the way that a second album goes, for whatever reason, whether it's because it takes a long time to write or a long time to produce. So, yeah, it took a long while to put all the pieces together but you do need to be patient if you want to give your album the chance it deserves out in the world. I love the team we have right now so I hope it'll be quicker to get the next record out because we shouldn't spend the next year and a half finding a label that we love and the right people to work with. I'm not interested in signing a big record deal - I'm really just interested in working with the same people so I don't have to go through the whole song and dance again. That's what can make the music not fun, selling yourself for months, talking to labels and trying to convince them that you have a product that can make them money and that is usually what takes the longest. Like, I'm totally cool spending a year or a year and a half working on this next record but what I am not ok with is then spending another year trying to find a way to put it out.

How do you and Zinzi split the song-writing duties between you?

Well, the song-writing is pretty much my own. With the first album, I wrote it entirely by myself and then we added Zinzi to the project. I had her doing backing vocals on one of the tracks on the first album and then we started working together more. She's not really a song-writer but she has creative ideas, aesthetically and musically, in terms of feel and style. I write the songs but then we put them down to record based on what we both sign off on. And she sings backing vocals on the majority of the tracks. On the next record there's already a track where we're singing together - it's not so much a cheesy duet but more of a back-and-forth between me and her and we are interested in collaborating more and more.

You must get bored of being asked this but does being a couple predominantly enhance or interfere with your working relationship?

You know, I think it probably…. well, most people will say that it enhances but if I had to be honest, I think it's a challenge. I think that when you're living with somebody and working on music together it's so personal and close to home and obviously you care a lot about the other person's opinion… so it's taken me a while to get tougher skin and get the balance right. If I come up with a song that I think is really good and Zinzi disagrees I think the fact that we are going out almost makes it more personal and you take it more to heart but on the other hand from the perspective of when I was in another band and I would be away on tour for months and Zinzi would be at home - that was difficult. So the fact that we can be together and collaborate is a really good thing and it sort of balances things out. But yeah, creatively it can certainly be a challenge at times because you have nowhere to hide.

Your first UK show was almost three years ago at Manchester's In The City. You've not done much touring here since. Do you have plans to gig in the UK with this record?

Yeah, we're coming across in August and we'll have three weeks in Europe. We're just routing it right now and we need to make sense of the budget because we don't like touring when it loses us money. So if the guarantees are strong enough, we'd love to tour as much as possible. We need to make sure that we at least break even. The routing that the booker has initially shown us is fairly extensive, though.

Finally, do you have a favourite track from the record?

'Huddle' is my favourite track.