Kibi James is a very new, Atlanta-based band consisting of four female musicians – Ariana Abebe (drums), Miranda Corless (bass, vocals), Maria Gonzalez (guitar, vocals), and Yvette Gonzalez (guitar, vocals). They just recently released Azúcar, their debut EP, after creating a name for themselves in Atlanta’s underground music scene. The four women have diverse backgrounds that each uniquely affect the sound and stylings of their music. Their EP is very promising of a bright future for the young band, who plan to spend a lot of their time really working on their craft and perfecting songs. Listen to “Hi, How Are You?,” the opening track off Azúcar, below.
How did you guys all meet each other and start making music together?
Miranda: We were already friends. We all kind of knew each other through mutual friends – we all went to Georgia State at the time. We knew each other for a while and none of us had made music with other people. Yvette and Maria had some level of knowledge of guitar, but me and Ariana didn’t and we had never collaborated with anyone. So I started picking up the bass randomly and I started realizing that I wouldn’t be able to learn on my own – just because that’s not really how I learn things. So, I hit up Yvette and I said we should start a band, and she said yes. So we met up once…and nothing happened [laughs]. We were like, “well at least we’re committed!” We didn’t really make any music or anything but the idea for a band was there. Then [Maria and Ariana] kind of just hopped on randomly because they heard we were doing it. It just worked out really naturally, and Ariana was picking up drums at the same time – so we had all of the pieces in place.
So this is very fresh – how long has it been since you guys formed?
Miranda: It’s been about a year and a half
Ariana: Yeah, it was like last summer – of 2018.
Did you all graduate from school?
Yvette: I graduated last summer, like the same time we started the band. And everyone else is still in school.
How do your diverse roots influence your music and how you collaborate with one another?
Ariana: We all listen to each other’s cultural music as well as our own. I just feel like when someone comes with a song structure, the way we like add stuff on top is – we just kind of jam it out so it comes pretty naturally. We all have an ear for certain elements.
Yvette: We all grew up listening to a lot of music from our cultures, so that’s definitely seeped it’s way in without much effort. It’s mostly just who we are. We’re all really different and have these different backgrounds, so we just work with what we know.
You just released your first single “Slow Motion,” and it’s the only recorded song you’ve released online. Now that you’ve released this first offering, how does it feel to share your music with a whole new audience?
Maria: It’s pretty scary!
Yvette: Yeah it’s not good or bad for me personally I would say it’s just really strange, because we’ve been sitting on these songs – like the EP that comes out at midnight tonight is composed of songs that we’ve had since we started the band. So it’s interesting because we’ve heard them for so long and so every five seconds of the project we know so well. But like, no one else knows them.
Maria: By the time it’s ready to come out, we already have this whole new set of things that we like want to show off.
Miranda: Yeah, it feels like we’re almost a different band at this point [laughs].
Maria: It’s like every single thing we make is so much more progressed than the last thing. Because it’s been such a big creative curve over the past year.
Yvette: Yeah, people are getting an idea of who we were last year, not really where we are presently.
Are you guys nervous about putting this music out into the world? Excited?
Miranda: Both, for sure. It’s like – I’m happy that something’s finally out there and other people can see what we’ve been doing. And also the recordings that we have are so professional and sound so clean. It’s really exciting to experience recording things professionally and you realize like “damn, that’s how you make a song” [laughs]. It takes a lot of time.
Yvette: Yeah Sugar Candy Mountain, Will and Ash, helped us produce, record, and mix everything. And we’re releasing it independently. So it’s really nice to have something that we can say is completely ours. Because, in the future, we don’t know what roads we’ll take, but it’s nice to have that.
How did you meet Sugar Candy Mountain?
Maria: I was just tweaking one day, sending emails to lots of people. We’d just get in these coffee-fueled moods like relentlessly texting each other like “I’m gonna do this for us, and I’m gonna reach out to all these people!” [laughs]. But I was emailing people trying to play some local festivals. And Ash and Will have thrown this festival, Hickey Fest, which I heard of through friends who went, and the people that produce their vinyl – Kindercore – are located in Athens [Georgia], and so I knew some of the people from there too. They recommended that I reach out to Hickey Fest, so I did. They replied and said they listened to our demos and said they really liked them and asked us to play the festival and asked us to come earlier so they could record us.
Yvette: The festival ended up getting cancelled, due to some new city council members that didn’t approve the permit, but it was a great experience that allowed us to meet them.
Miranda: And it was cool because it was their home studio, so we definietely got a sense of who they were. And we stayed with them the whole week so it was really immersive. I think it would’ve been very daunting for us to walk into a “real studio,” so it was nice, it made us feel at home.
Yvette: They were very patient with us. They would let us cut lettuce from their garden for our sandwiches, it was so good.
So, I saw that you guys released a calendar full of local artists’ work, which was really cool. What inspired you to put this calendar together and release it as one of your first merch items?
Ariana: It was my idea, we’re friends with really cool artists and I just love collaborating. Kibi James is a collaborative thing, and like even though we’re not adding more friends to our band, we can still support and incorporate them as much as possible. We even through something called Peachfuzz Fest which was our own festival night. It was really cool and featured artists, our friends who painted, and also some musicians.
Yvette: Yeah and even if they don’t make music like you said, they’re so talented in like multimedia – paintings, murals, all that stuff. They’re just like all our friends and they’re all so good at it.
I saw you guys made art for it too, do you make visual art often?
Yvette: I used to paint a lot, but when I got into the band I kind of stopped. I was moving into more mixed media stuff – like repurposing the bags that oranges come in, like mixing that with paint on canvas. It was really fun, I would sew into the canvases.
Ariana: I paint too, but same thing with Yvette, our create energy is just diverted in another way right now. I feel like we’re also just taking a lot of experiences in that will translate into at later.
How do you balance making music, going to school, and working? Is it hard?
Ariana: It’s a bit hard, we’re trying to get the hang of it now, giving ourselves periods of breaks. We’re trying to stay more strict with it. But we’ve just been getting crazy opportunities.
Yvette: We really wait until an opportunity feels right and we’re all on board. We don’t really try to play too many shows too often because it’s just draining for us.
Miranda: If I think about it too much, I definitely get stressed out. So I just try not to think about it too much – just keep going and forget about it [laughs].
Maria: We definitely don’t practice as much as we could because of it, so our shows are fun [laughs]. They’re like our practices!
Yvette: And once we all graduate we’ll find more time.
What can listeners expect from your debut EP?
Maria: I think each song is really different in it’s own way, so it shows we’re not trying to mold into one genre. We’re not trying to…not do that [laughs]. It’s just what happened.
Yvette: It’s also cool because the EP songs kind of go in order of when we wrote them and worked on them, so I think it shows that type of growth throughout. People will ask what our genre is and I’m like ‘I don’t know!’
Miranda: It also feels like a cohesive project, I think all the songs fit nicely together. It’s very reminiscent of our time in Crockett, where we recorded it – it was so pure and uninterrupted.
What’s next for Kibi James after this release?
Miranda: We have a plan! But plans are often interrupted by new opportunities and other plans. But…we kind of just want to take a step back from playing shows for a bit and just work on songwriting and working on new music and keep working on our live set. We also want to keep learning about our instruments, because we still feel new to it. We just really want to focus on the music.
Yvette: Yeah, just being able to really focus and pick apart songs.