Music is My Life: Episode 053

This is the Kit: Kate Stables on ‘Off Off On,’ Wordplay, and Lizzo

This is the Kit first appeared in the indie consciousness with an appearance on a 2006 compilation called Folk Off, which also featured acts like Animal Collective, Blitzen Trapper, Vashti Bunyan, and so many more. The idea of the compilation was to pit contemporary British folk acts against American contemporary folk acts, in a literal folk off, f-bomb pun notwithstanding. Centered around the intimate vocals and intricate picking of Kate Stables, This is the Kit has come a long way in the past 15 years, outlasting many of the esteemed acts on that double album.

In this comprehensive interview, Kate Stables discusses the history of This is the Kit, from the humble open-mic origins into a full-band project, with five albums to the This is the Kit name: Krulle Bol (2008), Wriggle Out the Restless (2010), Bashed Out (2015), Moonshine Freeze (2017), and this year’s Off Off On. And no matter how many instruments Stables and company add to the mix—twin saxophones, bass, drums, guitar—the arrangement always come down to her voice.

Kate Stables also talks about the evolution of the This is the Kit sound, working with a wide range of producers over the years such as John Parish, Josh Kaufman, and Aaron Dessner of the National. She also contributed vocals to the National’s I Am Easy to Find and toured with the National to promote that album, but not as an opening act—as a featured vocalist. It was during the downtime on this tour that she wrote much of the material on Off Off On, the title of which she says is partially related to the way our moods change, although circumstances in the real world may stay the same, and she also likes this title because she likes people to say those words together.

“It’s funny to get people to say, ‘This is a song off Off Off On’” she says.

Or, to get other people to craft a headline that says “on Off Off On.

Incidentally, Kate Stables applies a similar logic to the This is the Kit moniker; she likes how the phrase feels like “a physical experience in your mouth.”