Tindersticks, one of the most underrated bands of the past 20 years, have got a new Irish recruit in their ranks. The new boy in class is not so unfamiliar, it's none other than our own David Kitt.
Of course, Kitt is a highly accomplished artist in his own right. John Meagher of this parish deemed him to be the Irish act of the decade on these very pages, while also picking The Big Romance as the finest Irish album of the Noughties. In what will go down as a vintage year for Irish alternative music, his sixth studio opus, The Nightsaver, was runner-up in John's selections for the Day & Night Irish album of 2009.
It's an intriguing meeting of musical minds. Since 1991, the Nottingham collective have recorded eight studio albums of remarkable consistency, seemingly incapable of delivering a poor record. They've perfected a singular blend of emotive orchestral pop, lounge lizard jazz and swoonsome modern soul.
From Kitt's perspective, this is a real-life story of a musician's wildest fantasy coming true. "Years ago, I went to watch them in the Olympia on my own with a naggin of Jameson and 10 fags," David remembers fondly. "This really is a strange one, because thinking about my 19-year-old self, that guy would be completely freaked out about the idea of actually being in Tindersticks! I've known the guys now for nearly 10 years so it feels like a natural progression, but it's still a massive thrill and a huge honour for me to be in this band."
The Kittser-Tindersticks association goes back to the release of Kitt's debut album Small Moments in 2000. Stuart Staples and company invited him out on tour, which in itself blew Kitt's mind. Little did he know that less than a decade later he'd become an official member of the band.
In the intervening years, they've remained in close contact. "In October 2008, I was in New York and at a point where I was doing absolutely everything by myself," Kittser recalls. "I'd no real support in terms of a label. It was a very timely intervention for them to ask me out on the road again, because at the time I wasn't getting anything beyond bloody Wexford Street! All of a sudden they had me out playing to 2,000 people again, which was a real lift."
Kitt can't exactly pinpoint when the actual approach to join Tindersticks was made. After being invited to contribute to sessions, his involvement grew organically.
"We picked up were we left off in terms of the general enthusiasm we share for similar music and ideas," he says. "I suppose a lot of it also comes out of a fondness for nocturnal activities and staying up late. Initially, I suspected that Stuart only asked me to be in the band because he likes drinking with me, and he's jokingly said as much. It was never a formal thing because our relationship has developed as friends. When music comes along with that, things tends to happen in a much more natural way. It's hard to pin down, there wasn't any big eureka moment."
Tindersticks offered Kitt the chance to work with a full band in the studio, as opposed to the self-imposed exile of his solo work. "It was a radically different experience," he reveals. "I've done a lot of work on my own, so I'd have a lot of weird quirks and idiosyncrasies. Then you find yourself walking into someone else's world where everyone is speaking their own funny language. It took me a while to get used to this different dialect and means of communication."
Kitt revelled in his newly found position as a band member as opposed to a solo artist. "I really enjoyed having a different role," he enthuses. "It suited me to sit in the background and chip in ideas, and not having to worry about carrying the whole thing. You get really sick of your own thing and it can get really boring working by yourself. I learnt a lot from being in a fresh environment with really talented people."
The bulk of Falling Down a Mountain was recorded in Stuart Staples' rural home studio in west central France near Limoges. "For the title track, Stuart played me a demo and 15 minutes later I was doing it," Kitt recalls. "There were no second takes and that's exactly what ended up on the record. I really wanted to do my singing again because I'd come from this world of working on my own where I'd be perfecting and redoing things all the time. I think things used to be a lot more precise on previous Tindersticks albums, but they've adopted a looser approach on this record, which really works when you listen back to it."
As yet, Kitt is unsure how his involvement with Tindersticks will impact on his solo work. "To be honest, it's ran out of steam a little bit," he says. "I had a 12-month plan for The Nightsaver, which would have taken me up to March or April of this year. Judging by the amount of press and the positive response, I thought the momentum would build towards something, but it amounted to nothing and I ended up making a massive loss on that record. Things that can look like a success story from the outside certainly aren't in the inside. I had a team of people handpicked to work on it in the UK and release it out over there, but I just didn't have the money."
Consequently, Tindersticks' timing was impeccable. "Apart from a massive creative opportunity, it's also a job and the lads appreciate the position I'm in," Kitt says. "On all fronts, it's a real lifesaver. If this didn't come along, it was a case of getting a job in a bar or something."
Kitt fans needn't fret too much as he has no intention of completely turning his back on his solo career path just yet. "Creatively, it's going great," he enthuses. "I'm writing loads of material and I've loads of big ideas. The Spilly Walker record (pop electronica project with his brother Robbie) is 90 per cent done, but I've no manager and no label and you can only do so much. This is an opportunity to do stuff with one of my favourite bands and actually get paid for it, which is as good as it gets. Ultimately, I had high hopes for The Nightsaver. I really love that record. Out of all my records, it still feels like the youngest kid that I want to give all the opportunities to that the other ones didn't get, but it hasn't worked out that way yet."
Tindersticks will follow today's release of Falling Down a Mountain with an extensive tour kicking off in Portugal at the beginning of February. Expect there to be a homecoming soiree for Kittser announced in the coming weeks, as he braces himself for a busy year on Tindersticks duties.
"Tindersticks have definitely given me a greater sense of purpose," he concludes. "It makes me feel a lot better about the year ahead."
Tinderstick's new album Falling Down a Mountain is out today, see review page 15