Local Columbia band King Vulture, formed by husband and wife duo Kate and Jared Pyritz, have just released their first full length album. The band, made up of Kate on vocals and ukulele, Jared on guitar, Evan Simmons on bass, Patrick Funk on guitar, Steve Sancho on drums, and Thomas Hammond on saxophone, comes together to create an eclectic, melodious, and infectious sound. The album takes you on a spirited journey that meanders from the reflective waves of “Reprieve” to the sometimes frenetic and joyful chaos of songs like “Henry” and “Right”, all the while Kate’s smooth earthy vocals guide the way. Although Kate and Jared are plenty busy right now with the new album and with their son who was born just last year, I got the chance to talk with Kate about the new album, the band’s creative process, and what it means to her to be able to play music.
Where are you from?
I’m local, grew up upstate, but have been in Columbia since college. I studied English at the University of South Carolina. I’m a teacher now; I teach English.
What was your introduction to music?
I grew up with music. Just normal stuff, playing the piano and singing in choirs. And then a little guitar here and there. I got a guitar for Christmas from my parents in high school, I took some lessons for a little while and then brought it to college. I didn’t really start doing anything until the band started just a couple years ago. My husband Jared was in a band for a long time called the Magnetic Flowers, so he and I played music around the house. Eventually he convinced me that we should record the songs, and so we started doing little home recordings. We had enough friends that were in various bands around Columbia, so we all did random home recordings with our friends who would come over and play music with us, and then we made an official band out of it. So yeah, that’s kind of how it all started.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
Music was always going in my house, it was always turned up. Music just feels like home. My dad loved Frank Sinatra, Tracy Chapman, James Taylor, Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones, my mom was a big Carly Simon fan.
So how long has the band been together?
It feels like it took a long time to get to this point. There were a lot of starts and stops along the way. It was 2 or 3 years ago that we first started as a band and we’ve been playing shows together for the past couple years.
What kind of music does the band play?
It’s pop music but it also has some electronic influences.
Tell me about the songwriting process. Are you the main songwriter?
I just write what I feel. It usually starts small with a few chords or a melody in mind, and then, once it gets to the whole band, it kind of gets a bigger sound, and we figure out what it’s gonna be. So, I start with the basics and the band helps then arrange it and organize it and give it more form.
So, as the songwriter/lyricist, what is the process of writing like?
I’ve always kept random notebooks and lyrics, and it’s transferred now as I’ve gotten older onto phones and notes, but just little fragments of things. Sometimes it happens really quickly, or I’ll have something I haven’t looked at for a year and then I’ll turn a song into it. It can be a fragmented process, it can happen really quickly, or I’ll start with something small, and I’ll bring it to the band and they kind of make it a bit bigger, and I’ll go back and write more lyrics.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
I’m a big fan of Fiona Apple, I always have been. I love St. Vincent. I really like Thao Nguyen, and her band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. Cat Power. Those are some of my, I guess, obsessions.
Do you have any favorite local musicians?
We love Can’t Kids, Those Lavender Whales, The Lovely Few, Stagbriar, and Dear Blanca.
What are your thoughts on the Columbia music scene?
I think it’s great. I think there is a lot of talent here. I like to see people’s talents and sit back and enjoy it. I really like that part of forming the band, and realizing that all these people you know are so smart and so good at what they do and about music . . . how they can shape things and play things and are multi-talented. I enjoy learning about people through their talents.
You just released a new album?
Yes! We did the digital release of our new album on the 17th of November and we are doing a vinyl release in March. We are going to play a show at New Brookland Tavern on March 3rd for the vinyl release and then we’ll also do a more couple shows in March. One in Asheville on March 4th at the Odditorium with Brett Kent’s new band Survival Crimes and one in Charleston, but we’re not sure of the date yet.
We have some shows coming up in Columbia too, but all of the dates aren’t confirmed yet. We are definitely playing at New Brookland Tavern in February.
Do you get nervous playing shows?
Yes definitely! I’ve never really been one who liked attention, so it’s funny that I chose to do this, but once I get over those initial nerves, it’s always fun.
Tell me about the album.
It took us a couple years to make the album. We started with home recordings and then once we decided to record in the studio and got the ball rolling, we finished pretty quick. We took some time off when our son was born, so we actually finished the album about a year ago but we waited till this November to actually release it. It’s been fun to pick back up with shows and get the album out there finally!
Do you have a favorite song on the record?
I’m really happy with how some of them turned out. “Reprieve” has ended up being one of my favorites from the album, both how it sounds and lyrically. “Hymn” also felt lyrically very satisfying.
What are you most excited for with the new record?
It’s just fun to play music with my friends! Right now, we are just gearing up to make the album release show the best we can make it. We’re adding a couple new songs. We are gonna try to get our performance to mimic the album as much as we can on stage. But we are also starting to write new songs so that we can hopefully record a follow up sooner rather than later. Since this one took so long we are hoping to put the next one out a little quicker.
What are your goals or aspirations for the band?
I think we’re just having fun. We really like that people seem to be enjoying it. In terms of big aspirations, I don’t really have any, except to just keep doing it as long as it stays fun.
What’s it like balancing being a mom and being a musician?
It’s been fun! It’s been somewhat harder to schedule shows because of our son. Although actually we’ve been really blessed because Jared’s and my parents have been really great and help take care of him when we have practice or shows. It’s been fun that we’ve been able to keep the band for ourselves and do that together.
What’s it like being in a band with your husband Jared?
It’s been a nice creative thing to do together. It’s been a good other part of our partnership. It hasn’t been difficult, it’s been pretty seamless. He’s a pretty talented musician so it’s been nice to learn from him.
Do you want your son to grow up to be a musician?
He has already taken a liking to music for sure. It’s actually kind of a neat thing cause we recorded most of the album while he was pregnant. So for a while when he was first born, if he cried, we would put on the record and from the first note of it, he would shut up. He loves getting into our music and instruments. That being said, he’ll definitely be around it, whether he naturally gravitates towards it or not, I don’t know.
Why do you make music?
I enjoy being creative and I enjoy being able to talk about things without having to explicitly talk about them. I feel like as I get older, it’s more and more important to me to have a creative outlet. It feels satisfying. As an English major, as someone who has always gravitated to words and literature, it feels like an extension of that. So it’s just maintaining that interest. It’s about finding time to be creative and have those thoughts, and keep that part of myself and my interest up and not letting it fade away.
It’s just nice have an outlet and have group of people that I love, contribute to that. So the fact that we get to play shows and make an album that people seem to like is kind of just icing.
Do you think of yourself as an artist?
I guess by the nature of making it, you are. But I don’t know what that means to think of yourself as an artist. I think that if you create something that requires interpretation or deeper thought, then yeah, I think that gets thrown into the category of artistry. I guess I’m a little bit too much of a practical person to consider myself an artist. And my brother is an honest to god artist so when I think of that, I think of him.
Art gives the opportunity to say things I want to say. Art doesn’t feel like a necessity for me, but it does feel like a luxury. It’s a luxury to be able to take the time to put some words down on paper and make music and dedicate the time, yeah I think that’s a little bit of a luxury.
However, I don’t want any misinterpretations, I definitely think art is a necessity for the world. I definitely don’t think art is a luxury for the world that should be diminished or thought less than something else, I by no means think that, in fact I think the exact opposite. I think art is built into our DNA as a culture and as a species. We definitely are expressive human beings. I think just personally for me… and maybe there’s a little insecurity built in there for me, but I just don’t think: “I’m an artist.”
What advice do you have for people who want to make music?
Just do it! Do it if you enjoy it, if you’re good at it. For a long time, I was content just to write bits and pieces for myself but it’s become a real gratifying part of my life to let it get bigger.
There’s a Gillian Welch song where she says something about just sitting at home and playing songs for herself. The line in the song is “Everyday I wake up humming a song, but I don’t need to run around, I can just stay at home. Sing a little love song, my lover myself. If there’s something that you wanna hear, you can sing it yourself”.
For some reason your question made me think of that. It’s like, if you like music, if you wanna play music, do it in whatever way you wanna do it as long as it makes you happy.
I’m just excited for people to hear the album and enjoy it. I wanna have a few more shows, and I’m just looking forward to keeping it going.
Listen to their album here https://10footwoody.bandcamp.com/album/king-vulture.