“One of the beautiful things about playing music is the gentle reminder of your own mortality that comes with creating something out of nothing, and knowing that the moment you stop playing, it will cease to exist,” says Kevin Kendrick, front man and founder of Brooklyn’s A Big Yes and a small no. “A record is so-called because it is, literally, a record of that moment; so it doesn’t cease to exist.” Mise En Abyme, (literally “placed into abyss”), A Big Yes and a small no’s third album due April 20th on Royal Potato Family records is, not surprisingly, VERY existential.
Existentialism seems natural for a songwriter whose destiny in a symphony orchestra (he studied at the famed Interlochen Arts Academy and won a full scholarship to college as a classical percussionist) seemed given until he was kidnapped in Colombia in 1997. Terrifying though it was, it gave him clarity and hastened a move to touring as a hip-hop DJ and a vibraphonist with freak-jazz band Fat Mama. Someone who has survived 7 muggings (one of which required facial reconstruction surgery) and only picked up the pen in his late ‘20s after finally winning a protracted “war” (he says, “battle sounds too easy”) with heroin WHILE studying composition at the prestigious University of Bristol in the U.K. has thought a lot about existence.
“When I first got back from Colombia, after being tied up in the jungle by a psycho named Jesus, everything was just roses. But honeymoons always end. The same thing happened after I finally beat heroin. I was in New York, clean, starting a band, and having the time of my life. You can hear that on the early Big Yes records. They’re so manic! This is the album where I learn that there’s actually so much to appreciate about being alive beyond just appreciating being alive.”
And all of that and more is on Mise En Abyme. One of the album’s standout tracks, “I’m Gonna Die One Time,” is a haunting confessional about a heroin relapse he had after he moved to NYC in 2005 and the hit he took spiritually as a result of it: “I just need someone to atone with / These thoughts here are a lot to be alone with / It’s a short ride, to a fast either/or…then I’ll die one time and I ain’t gonna die no more.”