A Letter From Kisses: The Inspiration Behind 'Rest In Paradise'

It was our great pleasure Friday to release Kisses' new album, Rest in Paradise. As the Los Angeles duo's third LP, we feel it's their strongest work to date, crafted around great songs and moving grooves, performed live to record with New York's mighty disco band Midnight Magic

We are always eager to know and tell a deeper story — below is a letter from Kisses' Jesse Kivel and Zinzi Edmundson have penned explaining their work, influences and creative processes in the context of their ever evolving life together.

In the past, Kisses records have always been conceptual or intentionally cohesive; we assemble a bunch of songs, unified by space and time or an overarching idea or feeling. With Rest In Paradise, we did away with this approach, focusing on what we considered to be the best songs Jesse had written over the past three years. Emphasizing a more shared experience, we were also finally able to produce a record with full live instrumentation — a strange rarity these days! Since The Heart of the Nightlife, our first record, we’d always envisioned Kisses performances backed by a large (absurdly large was the dream) and joyous disco group. Three records in, we felt it was finally time to breathe new life into the project with a team of talented musicians — Andrew Raposo and members of his band, Midnight Magic — who could bring these songs into a live and honest context, instead of overly stylized and synthetic. 

As always, Kisses is a balance between Jesse’s low- to mid-tempo inclinations and Zinzi’s frenzied dance sensibilities. Jesse had been listening to a lot of Robin Hannibal productions, as well as some more downtempo Wings tracks, which came through in our first recording session. Zinzi managed to sneak in some guitar licks inspired by Rick James and Evelyn “Champagne” King and percussion ideas from Talking HeadsRemain In Light. It wasn’t until listening back to the first round of tracks — to “A Groove” in particular — that we decided injecting more of that disco energy would make a more balanced and exciting record. Around the same time, Jesse started DJing out Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” quite a bit. Tom Dowd’s production on that track became a fixation and inspiration, in addition to Paul McCartney tunes “Goodnight Tonight” and “Silly Love Songs.” Those obligatory dance tracks put out by classic rock songwriters at the height of the disco era are mutually inspiring — dance music that isn’t just for the beat and groove, but also structurally and lyrically complex; songwriters who move into the dance realm and do a good job of striking this balance.

Yet, in all of our efforts to eschew a “concept record,” here we are with Rest In Paradise, which is deeply indicative of the time and place we are in our lives. Since we released our last record, Kids in LA, we’ve gotten married and just had a baby. Rest In Paradise addresses the uncertainty of our future — how things pass on and are reborn in all sorts of different, strange and beautiful ways. Jesse stumbled across the phrase on a memorial ebsite for a childhood friend and was really taken with it — it sounds so hopeful and optimistic, hile “Rest In Peace” can sound so helpless and empty. 

As we evolve as a band and as people, as we close one chapter in our lives and start a new one, we can’t be sure what the future will be like for us. Rest In Paradise is the best possible world for us and for the listener as we wait for our lives to move and change in the most unexpected ways.

All the best,

Zinzi Edmundson & Jesse Kivel, Kisses