Tag Archives: Matt Kivel

The Essential Alt-Pop of Cascine

Cascine

In the winter of 2010, Jeff Bratton took a sabbatical from his corporate job in Los Angeles and flew to Sweden. There, he met the owners of his favorite record label—a small indie named Service, whose roster included Jens Lekman, The Embassy and The Tough Alliance—and asked if he could help out. “I didn’t have any experience, and there wasn’t a whole lot of money to go around, but I just wanted to be involved,” Bratton says. A month later, he returned to Los Angeles with his own personal Service email address. But more importantly, he’d lit the fuse for a career in the music business. 

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Matt Kivel’s Fighting Spirit

Matt Kivel. Photo by Olivia Hemeratantorn.

Matt Kivel. Photo by Olivia Hemeratantorn.

Matt Kivel’s been fighting his whole life. His pugilism first surfaced while he was growing up in Los Angeles, when he and his twin brother Jesse decided it might be fun to clobber the shit out of each other.  “We would find, like, snow mitts, or anything that we had before boxing gloves, that were like boxing gloves,” the 31-year-old recalls over the phone one fall afternoon. “We’d fight pretty brutally until some parent would stop us, or until somebody got hurt.” The twins never stopped tussling, and early in their high school years, Kivel remembers, “somebody got hurt pretty bad.” That’s when the brothers began sparring at a boxing gym in Santa Monica, tucked inside the basement of a complex that housed a synagogue and a coffee shop. The man who paid the rent to keep this training ground up and running? Bob Dylan—a particularly resonant coincidence for two young men who would go on to create literary pop careers of their very own.

By their early 20s, the brothers Kivel had put down their gloves, picked up instruments, and started a guitar pop band called Princeton (named for the street upon which they grew up, not the Ivy League university) with childhood friend Ben Usen (and two years later, drummer David Kitz). Modest success followed for the next half-decade-or-so, as the band released two LPs on Kanine Records. And then they faded off into oblivion—partially because of the project’s adolescent associations, partially because they were burned out, and (let’s be real here) partially because they didn’t want any drama. In other words: Princeton aren’t “inactive”, they’re just plain done. “We didn’t want to make any sort of announcement about it, because we felt like that was even more depressing than ending the band,” he says. Well aware of his cynicism, he elaborates:  “We’re not gonna do this like, celebration show, that doesn’t go anywhere—it’s like, hey, our band is not popular, and nobody gives a fuck about us, let’s celebrate that and the end of that. Give me a break. We have too much pride.”

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