Who is KESMAR?
It’s a question that’s reared its head around the Internet for the past few weeks and answered only in cryptic snippets on social media – but now, KESMAR has revealed his identity in full, alongside a project that’s sure to have dancefloors moving with vigour.
KESMAR is a new chapter for Sydney musician Nathan Hawes. Having first picked up a guitar in 2006, Hawes spent over a decade serenading audiences with his folk tunes with great success. Considering his musical background, Hawes’ latest evolution into KESMAR comes as an eyebrow-raising surprise. He’s traded his acoustic guitar for swirling synths, introducing a more disco-oriented chapter of his career. The KESMAR project began when he participated in some new writing sessions in 2016, where he “basically fell in love with learning production and vintage synthesisers.”
“Coming from writing folk music, the simplicity was everything but felt I was limited… After I used to write a song in a night and only when I was feeling creative, I took on a whole new writing method of starting a session with someone I’d never met and finishing a track in seven hours,” KESMAR says. From there, he threw himself headfirst into his latest musical adventure, purchasing recording software and a 1982 Juno-60 synth. KESMAR began co-writing with indie and electronic mainstays like Lanks, Panama, Tim Ayre (Tim & Jean) and George Nicholas (Seekae) to hone his craft, while also living off a healthy soundtrack of like-minded European artists like Metronomy, Roosevelt and L’imperatrice.
As a result, KESMAR is very much a project of collaboration and experimentation, and his latest sounds ooze with the brave ambition of an artist who’s treading through uncharted sonic waters. The world will get its first lengthy taste of KESMAR with the Up To You EP, a six-track effort filled with dance, disco and blissful moments of indie-pop. Driven by slick basslines and throwback synths, the project revives the old soul of disco in a contemporary setting, tugging on influences from the past and present. There’s everything from the glitchy, off-kilter appeal of ‘Mistakes’ to the mesmerisingly slow burn of ‘Coasting,’ with KESMAR treading confidently through his latest surroundings.
And while KESMAR lies worlds apart from the folk leanings of his previous incarnations, old fans will be pleased to know that he’s retained the captivating vocals and earnest songwriting that’s fueled his career. While much of the EP is enveloped by lyrics about self-doubt in this time of great change for
KESMAR, it’s the topic of love that always creeps back into his songwriting. That’s evident from the project’s title track and single ‘Up To You’ recorded in Melbourne and co-written with Tim Ayre and TIJ. “The lyrical theme came from a relationship I was in at the time, feeling uncertain seeing it roll towards a downward spiral but feeling helpless and letting her decide where it goes – as the hook goes, ‘It’s all Up To You’,” he says. The silky number plays between down-tempo verses and irresistible sing-a-long refrains, with touches of cow bell littered throughout.
Fellow single ‘Feel It Again’ also explores the darker side of romance, inspired by KESMAR’s recent break-up at the time. “After a relationship ends, I think a lot of us question ourselves in heartbreak, asking: Will I feel it again? Will I feel the same way I felt when we together? I turned the last line of the chorus to ‘but it won’t be with you,’ bluntly meaning that if I ever feel it again, it will not be with you,” he says. The track was written alongside Lanks in his living room in Sydney, and co-produced with Tobias Priddle in Melbourne, with obscure percussion samples accompanied by live drums and live bass to give the project an organic flavour.
With the Up To You EP making KESMAR one of the most exciting musical evolutions in the country, it’s clear that this highly danceable project is one that needs to be experienced live onstage – and KESMAR has some grand plans. “When I started writing for this project I was always envisioning a high energy live
show, long intro, outros, instrumental tracks, red boiler suits and upbeat music for people to sing along and groove to. So now that the EP is finished and ready for the world to hear it, I’m even more keen to take it to the live show,” he says.
Keep KESMAR on your radar, because he’s set to deliver the sounds of summer.