Albuquerque Americana Quintet The Kipsies Discuss New Album ‘Breathe In Deep’ & More

Highlighting ideations of triumphs, hardships, and perseverance, The Kipsies have officially dropped their new album, Breathe in Deep, which hit streaming services September 30th. The album has had four preceding singles, including “In Time“, “Quiet“, “Growth“, and “Be Still.”

The quintet has been close friends for over 12 years, and have spent that time making meaningful music together. Based in New Mexico, the indie folk band takes inspiration from sounds from all over the world, including their use of the cajon from Peru and harmonium from India. Aside from their cultural influences, the band also takes inspiration from rock groups like Opeth, which helps shape their unique sound.

The Kipsies are composed of Cassie Rogers, Randy Martin, Tim Engelmann, Shawn Berkompas, and Isaac Sanderville. The group has honed their chops playing festivals like Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the Albuquerque Folk Festival among others over the years. When writing, they pride themselves on balancing technical skill with exploratory passion, which is why they incorporate traditional instruments on their more modern songs.

In describing the themes of Breathe in Deep, the group said, “Our world has faced many trials over the past few years. Between pandemics, wars, and invasions, there is a lot to reflect upon.”

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We got to chat with the band to learn more about their roots, the new album, and much more.

How has the year treated you all so far?

We have had an awesome year so far. Not only have we been busy preparing for the release of the album, but we just finished a set of 8 performances for a PBS Television Series called “Bands of Enchantment”. The series will air in January, 2023!

Can you give us a rundown of the origins of The Kipsies and how y’all got together? And how about the band name itself?

Sure! We all come from a wide variety of musical backgrounds, playing in different groups before coming together as The Kipsies. I (Randy/Banjo) used to play in a hard rock group called Mourning to Mercy. We would regularly perform with other groups from around the state, including a rock band called One Chance.

Cassie (Vocals/Guitar/Harmonium) was the singer for One Chance at that time. Shawn (Bass) played for another rock group that we came across at that time as well. We met Isaac (Drums and Percussion) through some mutual friends, and Tim (Violin/Vocals) was found while performing virtuosically at a local church. Most of us got together to begin to play acoustic music under the band name “Breaking Blue” with a different singer and a flutist.

After some lineup changes, we started writing some darker and more introspective music, and reformed as The Kipsies in 2016. As far as the band name, it is kinda meaningless – just a cool word that Isaac came up with, though we later discovered that there is an Australian slang word called “Kipsy”, which means “empty house,” “shelter,” or even “soulless body”!

How has your sound and songwriting evolved since your humble beginnings?

I think we are still in our “humble beginnings”! Ha! We have, however, evolved quite a bit since we started out as Breaking Blue.

Breaking Blue was a much more up-tempo, light-hearted band than we are today. With the bright vocals of Crystal Anderson and the flute playing of Stephanie Liu, we sounded a lot brighter, and performed many traditional old-time tunes. We have all gone through a lot of personal trauma and growth since the time of Breaking Blue. The pandemic, the loss of children, adoptions, weddings, funerals, etc. – Each of these have had an effect on us, and have informed our music, both lyrically and sonically.

Our sound now is more introspective, but it is not all dark. We have also experienced many little miracles, and have hope for a better future. These hopes and miracles have made their way into the music.

You’ve got your new album, Breathe in Deep, out now . Are there any overarching themes or motifs behind this collection of songs?

For sure. Much of the aforementioned themes of trauma and loss make appearances, but so do the themes of hope and growth. In fact, we even have a song called “Growth” all about it! 

Who were some of your musical influences when it came to writing this album?

Our influences were all over the map! With many of us starting out in rock groups, we definitely rock out a bit on this album. Isaac uses a full drum kit, and we even brought out the electric guitar on a couple of songs! We also brought in some dark and heavy piano tunes, like “Crimson” – all about the tragedy of adoption and loss. 

Who produced it and where was it recorded?

We invested in my (Randy) home studio (Aspen Attic Studio) so that we could release quality music at our own pace with unlimited time. Recording the album independently allowed us to have full control over its production, with Tim and I doing most of the mixing. Independently recording the album also allowed us to save enough money to have it mastered in Nashville. 

How was working on this record different from other recording experiences?

Having total control over the album allowed us to really go all out with whatever we wanted on this record. We were able to layer in multiple instruments and soundscapes to sonically and emotionally fill out each song. We added piano, acoustic and electric guitar, clawhammer and bluegrass-style banjo, and up to 11 violin tracks on some songs!

How important is the order of songs on an album like this to you, and what made you choose “Be Still” and “Sunrise” as bookends?

“Be Still” sets the tone for the album. A lot of the songs are about journeying through difficult things. Sometimes you just have to be still and know God is in control. “Sunrise” was a very unique sound compared to a lot of the other songs so we wanted it to kind of stand alone at the end. 

What song or two might you be most excited for people to hear and why? How about songs you’re most excited to play live?

“In Time” and “Be Still” are certainly our favorites, both live and on the album. They have a great combination of energy, dynamics, and musicality that make them fun to listen to and to play. They are also among our most emotive songs with the most profound backstories. Other favorites include “Growth” and “Quiet”. These songs use some different instrumentation (including baritone and cello banjos), and have among the most dynamic shifts and instrumental layering. 

What else might the fall have in store for The Kipsies?

We are excited to play a series of album release concerts that will be visually and environmentally related to the album itself – with the laid back and intimate feeling of being in our living room, having a conversation about the songs, as well as performing them. We have some other fun shows coming up, including at some outdoor fall festivals too!

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