Kavin Sandu’s music might be all volleys and daggers, booze and swagger, but take him out of his native England and station him in Los Angeles for a year, and he’s more than a little bit wonder-struck.
“It really does inspire me on a day-to-day basis,” the singer-guitarist and architect of the rock band KAV says of the time he’s spent here recording his forthcoming debut album “Rise of the Clowns.” “I suppose I’m a sponge at the end of the day … You find inspiration in anything you experience in life.”
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And that’s been plenty so far. The native of Leicester was a electro-rocker and the DJ behind London’s genre-mashing Get Loaded club nights (which birthed the Get Loaded in the Park festival) when, at age 24, he set aside his band, Sonic Audio, and joined the third incarnation of the legendary Manchester band Happy Mondays, co-writing the album “Unkle Dysfunktional.” The relationship began when Sandu asked the Mondays to play Get Loaded and frontman Shaun Ryder told him, “‘I need you to play guitar,’” Sandhu says. “He didn’t even pose it as a question.”
Who was he to say no? “I was 24. I’d done all right — I mean, I’d been in bands. But this was different,” Sandhu says. “Shaun always said to me, ‘This is your apprenticeship.’ I had this impression of the Mondays as this crazy ball of energy that bounces all over the place and somehow ends up in the goal. This was a really good opportunity to see how a band works … the legal side, how records are put out, negotiating with labels and tour promoters … It’s not just about picking up a guitar and playing.”
Sandhu can do that too. During his tenure with the Mondays — which included the band’s performance at Coachella 2007 (“Afterwards, I knew I’d be back in Los Angeles at some point,” Sandhu says) — he’d occasionally write his own material, the first of which emerged as the “Blaggers n’ Liars” EP in 2008. KAV’s psych-blues cocktail of Primal Scream roar-meets-Stonesy riff was stirred, in part, with the help of his boyhood friend, drummer James Portas.
“I’m not sure it fits with the current British scene, which is very electro,” Sandhu says. “Even when we had Sonic Audio a few years, it had a very rock ’n’ roll edge to it.”
The next of KAV’s new material, the “Mr. Nice” EP, was originally scheduled for a 2009 release, but Sandhu has pushed it back to fine-tune the mixes. The title track is an homage to Howard Marks, aka Mr. Nice, the drug advocate, convicted drug smuggler and author who ran for political office in the U.K. in the late ’90s. Marks had been one of the DJs at Get Loaded.
“I was in the studio in Leicester and I got some inspiration,” Sandhu says. “I sent him the track and didn’t hear anything for quite a while. Finally, I called him and he said, ‘It’s bloody brilliant.’” The pair ended up sampling some of Marks’ spoken-word over the top. Perhaps not coincidentally, the EP will be released next year about the time the biopic “Mr. Nice” (featuring Rhys Ifans and Chloë Sevigny) comes out.
For now, KAV continues to work on the album — Sandu is collaborating with producer Josh Ostrander (the frontman of the L.A. trio Eastern Conference Champions who has also played in KAV’s live band). “He’s the first producer I’ve worked with who really gets what I’m about,” Sandhu says.
Photo by Andrew Herrold