Courtney Kaiser + Benjamin Cartel = KaiserCartel. This Brooklyn based duo have been tooling around the US in their Toyota Prious since 2004, accompanied by “The Crayons“, who are, from what I can tell, soft toys that have unusual pet peeves and food habits. In fact, The Crayons seem to be just as much a feature of the band as their infectious acoustic folky rock/rocky folk, with a bonus pack of crayons included with every purchase of their latest EP Double Standard.
A browse around their excellent website illuminates the eccentricity of KaiserCartel, a band that clearly don’t take themselves too seriously. Their bio includes statements such as Courtney gets her inspiration from having no biological roots and her psychic ability to predict her breakups and Benjamin gets his inspiration from crowded subway stations, local watering holes, and New York Femme Fatales. He has played with The Heartdrops, Zombie Squad, and Benjamin Cartel. This is the kind of stuff that makes me interested in a band before I even hear their sound.
Luckily, in the case of KaiserCartel, their down to earth attitude is not the only thing they’ve got going for them. Their simple instrumentation and harmonies result in music that is both catchy and soothing at the same time. ‘Nobody Home’ is understated and seemingly effortless, showcasing Courtney’s caramel vocals that range from soft to strong in a matter of minutes. ‘Okay’ features a fantastic call and response section, with both singers combining to create a mood of heartbreak and longing in the space of five or six lines.
Though they’ve been touring fairly consistently in the last few years, including a recent stint at SXSW, they only have two dates booked in the next couple of months in New York. If you get the chance check them out – by all accounts their live gigs are both intimate and uplifting. If you’re lucky enough to get to see them, let me know how they go!