K.i.D. Take a Ride of Despair Through Mississauga
We went home with the Toronto-area duo to dispel siblings myths, discuss label meetings, and how to produce pop songs with balls.
All photos via author
Bobby and Kara from K.i.D. (Kids in Despair) sat cramped in a black painted room with me at Loft 18+ — an adult film cinema in downtown Toronto — early in the afternoon on a Tuesday. We inspected the selection of films we could watch for the 15ish minutes that the $6 each of us spent to get in allowed for. We shifted from hetero to gay back to hetero with a literal sea of dicks awash on the five screens in front of us — one big, main television and four smaller ones playing other selections. There was one black leather — appropriate if a couple came through— loveseat in the room that we all sat on; I took the armrest and looked into the black garbage can that only solemnly held Bobby’s empty Gatorade bottle.
Rather than hearing moans and dirty talk emit from our screen, we simply heard Justin Bieber’s newest banger “What Do You Mean” drift from another room to ours. When our time was up, the lights came on and a man waited outside, presumably to examine our room to see if we left anything else but the Gatorade bottle behind.
“Do you think that we’re so dark that we brought you here?” Bobby asks me with a smirk as we walk down the boringly grey painted and lazily LED lit walls of Loft18+, back into the oppressive and scorching heat of the day. Kara, the band’s sinisterly bubbly front-woman, laughs and asks if we can find a place to get Purell.
K.i.D’s unpredictability comes from growing up in a predictable, boring setting. They began in the basement of their alcoholic mom’s house in Mississauga. The dark garage pop duo jokingly referred to themselves as brother and sister as part of their origin story in their first interview as K.i.D. This mythology, as it were, isn’t entirely true: Bobby and Kara, both 23, are not biological brother and sister. However, Bobby tells me, this seems somehow a purer attempt to frame their relationship. They met in high school (Cawthra Park Secondary School in Mississauga, which they eventually drove me past) and Bobby solicited Kara and her powerful singing voice to front his new band after he heard her sing in drama class. Soon after, Bobby moved in with Kara and her mother.
The ability to craft their own history to more appropriately discuss their relationship is important to both Bobby and Kara. They function in a similar way best friends ultimately do but it’s slightly deeper in emotional scope, absolutely like that of siblings, which makes for their collaboration in K.i.D especially exciting to listen to. Those moments of tangentially talking about an anecdote while walking down the street or quietly calling each other “babe” or laughing at esoteric jokes are transferable in depth and feeling to their music and what they can create together.
“Did you know Bobby is the worst driver ever? He is literally the worst driver ever,” Kara chirps.
We head to their loaned SUV that proudly boasts a K.i.D sticker in its interior and drive west to Mississauga. It’s unbearably hot, one of the hottest days of the summer, so conveniently to have fallen on a day in September. Bobby rolls the windows down as we slowly plod along the Gardiner Expressway, headed toward old haunts that lent inspiration, for better or worse, for their yet-to-be recorded debut.
K.i.D say they have earned their band’s moniker. Under project prior to K.I.D., Bobby and Kara have been in and out of record company offices over the years with labels having signed them and dropped them. “We’ve been through the fucking ringer,” says Bobby. “We’ve been signed and dropped so many times I have lost count. Yet we’re still inspired.
“We’ve been in every fucking office. We were sure we were going to sign to Scooter Braun at one point.”
Kara speaks up: “We also didn’t know what we were at that point either.”
Bobby nods his head earnestly, agreeing. “At first we were young and far too impressionable and thought that to be cool you had to, like, write about the life that no one leads. Like, write about partying all night and falling madly in love on a fucking rooftop in Brooklyn,” he says with a half-laugh. “But that clearly wasn’t our lives and isn’t our lives. People started paying attention when we did the fuck what we wanted to do and not what we thought we had to do to: compete with Katy Perry.”
For kids in literal despair a lot of the time over their career and where it might lead, they have had a fair amount of success so far to be proud of. They are signed to a major label in Canada now (Universal Music Canada), had a mini-tour in the United Kingdom in May, played Jimmy Fallon in March, released their self-titled EP in April, and will be touring with The Beaches this fall on a mini-tour of Ontario, called The TV Dinner Tour, before retreating to complete their debut.
They’ll record the album, which is mostly done, in an L.A. studio, sequestered away with British producer Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, Wolf Alice, etc.) beginning in early November. The band says it will be a departure from the EP—something slightly more accessible. They have put in almost two plus years worth of work and are ready to refine it and make it really something in its production with Crossey, their dream producer.
“He produces amazing pop songs but he also recognizes that just because something’s a pop song, doesn’t mean you have to produce it…” Bobby pauses, half-giggling. “I’m trying to find a non-offensive way of saying it.”
“He’ll produce a pop song with balls. Make it fucking loud, heavy if it needs to be. Not everything needs to sound good on the radio.”
“What is the radio anymore?” Kara says passively, looking out the window.
They play some demos in the car that are a stark disparity from their EP. One song could be for the radio: something you sing-a-long to, blasting out of the open window, which is what Bobby and Kara do. Their love of their own work is apparent and necessary. It isn’t automated for them or anyone; they create because they want to, not because they have to.
Pop songs— honest-to-goodness powerful, wonderful mainstream pop—do not always have to be written in a room with ten writers and producers, then put in a metaphorical (or perhaps literal digital) vault for a pop star to one day sing. Sometimes it can come from two people sitting in a basement simply fucking around with their music.
When we get to Mississauga, the dreariness of this particular neighborhood (Port Credit) is especially striking to me. Kara’s low but commanding voice singing lyrics about school buses, love, getting high, getting broken up with, and more over moody synth and dramatic drums somehow perfectly captures a lot of the despondency that comes with living in the suburbs.
“It is the most relatable,” she tells me of their music. “If you can’t relate to having an alcoholic parent, you can relate to the, like, boredom and searching for something else and feeling trapped, lost.”
It’s gritty and honest, something Kara said earlier as we walked down Yonge St.
“I don’t think we were old enough to understand, like, what made us unique and what we wanted to say. And then [the song “Stoned on the School Bus”], when we wrote it, it was kind of like we kick started everything for us. It just, like, was so autobiographical and we knew what our voice was and what we wanted to say.”
Cawthra Park Secondary School, where Bobby and Kara met, is an ominous building, much like every other public school building erected in the 1960s and onwards in an Ontario suburb. It’s repressive and harsh — architectural speaking — for a reason.
We get to J.H. Convenience Store in a little rundown plaza on Lakeshore Rd. E. Bobby buys cigarettes and Kara gets an $8 green camo shirt. It’s where they used to buy cigarettes, they tell me, where Bobby still does every day, and is a little slice of their lives as teens, as adults, as kids in despair.
“It has the gnarliest people in there,” Bobby says.
We walk down Lakeshore Rd. E to our last stop: Dairy Cream.
It looks David Lynchian, almost; a misplaced country bumpkin road stop that somehow ended up in the suburbs. They even have a website.
It’s tiny and icy inside and we all coo over what kind treat we’ll get. Outside there are rattling radiators, dripping in the heat; an ATM with too intense protection for a Dairy Cream; and rickety picnic tables out front to complete a sort of family friendly aesthetic. The kids beside talk about hustling drugs for the weekend.
“There is no music scene here,” Bobby says of Mississauga. “There are a lot of bands who play in bars on this strip and it’s kind of funny. They never get out.”
They recently played Celebration Square, opening for July Talk, but that’s really their only hometown show.
“There aren’t any venues for us to play here,” Kara says. “It wouldn’t be beneficial for us to play in the local bars because these are not the type of people who are going to understand us. Most of the kids in Mississauga who like our music are like us and we used to runaway and go downtown and, like, escape it.”
Bobby and I share a banana split, which turns out to be a confusing mix of bananas, cream and nuts (that we enthusiastically yelped over inside the Dairy Cream), ice cream, and pineapple.
“We started out as dark perverts [today] but we can be family friendly,” Bobby says.
“You got the most phallic menu item, babe,” Kara says. We dig in.
Sarah Macdonald is a writer living in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter.