If you happen to begin your artistic endeavours inspired by the early hours of Rage before studying Jazz with Honours in West African music, you’re bound to end up with something special. Kyle Muir’s art-folk collective, Wybie is nothing short of that. With intricately crafted compositions blending evocative minimalist arrangements and moments of more opulent orchestration, Wybie’s poignant, subconscious lyrical sincerity makes listening an actively fulfilling, creative experience. We sat down with Muir at Whiteheart Bar to discuss their debut LP, ‘We Are The Kids’.
(take a listen to the album 'We Are The Kids' above!)
Ever the early riser, Muir would stand to gain more than he expected from carefully curated audio-visual mixtapes. “The first thing I ever remember of music was watching Rage. I was probably four or five and got up at four in the morning, much to my parent’s dismay. I remember seeing Gwen Stefani and maybe having a slight sexual awakening like, ‘Woah who is this on the bed in their bikini kicking their feet’”. Games like SSX as well as skateboarding clips threw Muir further into the rabbit hole of seminal rock and hip hop tracks that shaped his musical mind before grabbing a guitar; “In primary school, a mate’s brother that we skated with had a guitar. We’d sneak into his room and grab it when he wasn't there. My other mate had an electric and that was my first experience seeing one”.
Eventually undertaking lessons at school, Muir went on to study Jazz at VCA “because it seemed like what I needed to do to get better and immerse myself in music”. It was here he found a rich and diverse community of musicians who pulled Muir in multiple directions; “There’s obviously the folk and jazz stuff but I ended up playing with Amadou Kalissa from Guinea in West Africa who plays the Kora”. Pairing with Hannah McKittrick in the indie outfit Hoi Polloi, however, would serve as an early creative foundation from which Muir would later draw; “It really sparked my love of songcraft. We would co-write all the songs, Hannah would bring in simple arrangements and we’d refine and experiment within the songs which was so fun. When that band ended it left a big hole that I really missed and so I felt I might as well start my own version of that, facilitate that for other people”.
An irony given the guitarist’s history with the subject at University, Muir’s fascination with recording would serve as a key catalyst in Wybie’s conception; “The only subject I failed at Uni was a recording subject. I’d been falling asleep in most of the classes and I learnt pretty much zero”. Soon enough, the DIY recording project for Muir’s experiments evolved into a hive-mind of musical mates; “I didn’t know it would become a band. I was interested in sampling earlier on and eventually got into Ableton to record the first EP but we ended up having 5 in the band at our first gig. I found a studio space in Coburg and having a dedicated space was completely transformative”.
Noting a key difference when crafting a full LP, Muir sought to blend his rigorous understanding of jazz theory with more pop-structured form enforced earlier in life; “Just realising most songs are made up of 2 or 3 parts really helped me because I would just be searching a lot. It can be really cool in jazz to make ‘through-composed’ pieces that don’t repeat at all, sound like shit basically because there’s no repetition. Now I’m trying to write 3 or 4 songs because it's just so much easier to show to a band of awesome musicians who can bring something of their own to it”.
Noting a key difference when crafting a full LP, Muir sought to blend his rigorous understanding of jazz theory with more pop-structured form enforced earlier in life; “Just realising most songs are made up of 2 or 3 parts really helped me because I would just be searching a lot. It can be really cool in jazz to make ‘through-composed’ pieces that don’t repeat at all, sound like shit basically because there’s no repetition. Now I’m trying to write 3 or 4 chord songs because it's just so much easier to show to a band of awesome musicians who can bring something of their own to it”.
Harnessing a revolving line-up of musical mates, We Are The Kids succeeds in conveying complexity in an accessible way with a human touch. The hypnotic opener, ‘Fly Big Balloon’ is one such example where an overarching extreme of levity is accomplished with intricate underlying polyrhythms offered up by drummer Huw Charles-Walsh; “The initial demo had a pretty straight, shitty drum beat that I’d bashed out. Me and Huw were experimenting and he just came up with this beat that felt really weird at first and then really good because I could sit in different pockets of it”. Similarly, ‘Transcribe’ captures the unshackling of Muir and co. from the form in favour of expression across its 6 minutes; “I think that track was a lot more open in terms of tempo and form. Some of the best moments on the album came about in between practising songs where I’d go to the toilet and come back and they had this awesome thing going. I’m like ‘let’s just have a freak-out at the end’”.
Likewise, the recording process adopted a more spontaneous manner this time around. Worthy of a spot on a YouTube lo-fi study mixtape, the affective interlude, ‘Long Way From The Ocean’ embraces auditory eccentricities; “That was recorded to a big reel-to-reel tape machine I had recently got but it was one of the shittest you could get. It was an instance of being inspired by a new piece of gear and I ended up doing the least amount of processing on it”. Stylistically, Wybie upholds their folk foundations on songs like ‘Big Fish On The Line’ but moments of shoegaze (‘Crumble) and even complete avant-garde (‘Lemons’) reflect Muir’s sweeping sonic footprint; “I don’t ever think of it as a genre-based thing which is a real problem when I have to put my music on Spotify. I think I’ve been interested in so many types of music and I’m always trying to challenge myself with what I listen to. I’ve found that my musical life is richer from learning all these different types of music”.
Thematically, there are few stronger songs than the record’s title track. Dubbing the record, and project more widely, as a twisted Neil Gaimon-esque children’s book by Muir, ‘We Are The Kids’ is an unanticipated anthem for those soft-spoken; “It’s kinda about courting a community; the kids being a metaphor for artists and people that are, not struggling to make a living but just common people using art and music and community as a tool to say ‘fuck you’ to capitalists. I feel like I’m being cringey talking about capitalism but there’s power for people who are wealthy or high-up in a company, the typical definition of power, and then there’s power in friendship and art and numbers”.
Having given himself to Wybie, other projects, study and cultivating a community, Muir also plies his trade as a music teacher. Recently, he received one of the highest praises possible when a student aspired to learn one of his songs; “That’s Oscar. He’s in grade four and I’m blown away with how much he knows about music. Seeing the passion of those kids is very enriching”. Appreciating the moment for it reflecting his input toward artistic endeavours and community cultivation, Muir’s sense of purpose with Wybie appears stronger than ever; “I know the feeling of going to my old guitar teacher’s shows. He plays in The Putbacks and so seeing him play with that band I know the feeling I get from that, which is, this why I do this. To give that back to other people is awesome”.
Listen to 'We Are The Kids' Below!