An omnivorous spectacle. CHASE JARVIS

Head Like a Kite have been around since 2006. They've released three albums, toured in Japan, appeared on MTV2, licensed tracks to television shows like Mercy, played the Capitol Hill Block Party and Bumbershoot, and collaborated with artists like Boom Bip and Swervedriver's Adam Franklin. But all of that pales in comparison to the Seattle group's latest achievement: Head Like a Kite have their own coffee brand. Can BeanOne say the same thing? No, he cannot.


Local roaster/coffee shop Caffe Vita has launched Head Like a Kite Reserve, a handpicked organic coffee from the mountain jungles of Aceh, Sumatra. Vita will also release a limited-edition latte-colored-vinyl version of HLAK's fine, eclectic new album, Dreams Suspend Night, on May 21.

At our interview in Vita's cavernous storehouse, HLAK's wiry leader, Dave Einmo, is understandably buzzed about this arrangement. Over the years, Vita's Michael Hebb and Mike McConnell have pegged HLAK to play several of the company's sponsored events, so this decision made sense. Now the band—which includes Stranger freelancer Trent Moorman on drums and a rotating cast of contributors—is in the rare position to be able to consume its own java for inspiration to produce more HLAK songs.

The band's compositions come from the feverish imagination of Einmo, who played guitar and keyboards in the brilliantly quirky Sushirobo (currently on hiatus). Though he's HLAK's self-­proclaimed dictator, Einmo relishes bouncing ideas off a varied pool of talented conspirators. Dreams Suspend Night features vocal and lyrical input from Franklin, Her Space Holiday's Marc Bianchi, Asya Smoosh, Graig Markel, Terri Moeller, Barbara Trentalange, and the Saturday Knights' funny, freestyling MC Tilson (the latter animates two of the album's best tracks, "We're Always on the Wrong Side of Sunrise" and "Director's Cut"). A touring encounter led to Kendra Osterhout and Andrew Vernon lending violin and theremin, respectively, to album standout "Robot Makes Love with the Swingset, 1976." And heavy hitters like Boom Bip, Nabil Ayers, Dave Weeks, and Barry Shaw augmented several songs with beats and percussion.

Einmo's experience in Sushirobo spurred him to rethink the whole band dynamic. "It taught me that I wanted to set up a band that was more like a producer approach," he says. "With a band—the same four guys—eventually you just can't break out of that, unless you change members. I didn't want to do that. Instead, I approached [HLAK] more like a producer/DJ who writes songs and collaborates with a lot of different people."

Despite being mainly a guitarist, Einmo begins with drums when composing songs; he has become adept at layering beats from different drummers in different studios to create thick, funky rhythm matrices, over which he arrays instantly catchy melodies and pleasantly adenoidal vocals, like a less whimsical, Northwestern Beck. Einmo also maintains a strict "no cymbals" rule, as they create a frequency that "collides with guitars, vocals, and the sampled sounds."

Moorman is fine with this guideline. He's HLAK's touring drummer, but he also works with many other Seattle musicians, which he claims enhances and diversifies his timekeeping in HLAK. "I try to be a chameleon, to be as versatile and tight as possible," he states. "I have a hybrid kit with an acoustic kick, snare, hi-hat, and Roland SPD-S pads attached to an electric kick pedal, so I can go total 808 if need be. If it's a James Brown beat that needs to be crushed acoustically, then I go there. Or if Dave has looped a section of a song and needs me to get electric, trigger MIDI samples, and shuffle a Madlib breakbeat on the 808s, it's all right there. I like having the human play the electronic beat."

Einmo expertly balances the organic and the electronic, as well as the pop with the experimental, in HLAK's skewed yet danceable songs. These seemingly conflicting impulses sometimes make it hard for listeners "to figure out what is Head Like a Kite," Einmo says. "They'll hear a song like 'We Hang Our Hearts from the Willows,' which is a total KEXP indie-rock song. Then they'll hear 'My First Ransom Note,' which is almost industrial in its gothic-disco-ness. You wonder, how did two songs like that end up on the same album? But that's what I've always tried to do—create a cool college-radio playlist."

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Onstage, Head Like a Kite present a spectacle backed by unusual visuals, including footage of Barbie and Ken dolls in suggestive situations. Shoegazers they are not.

"I've been to so many shows where the bands are looking at their feet and are not really engaged with the crowd," Einmo observes. "I want to create a circus environment onstage, really amp it up. So we do film projections, furry animals, different guests, confetti bombs, Styrofoam heads flying around, boas, balloons, costumes. We try to do a show where you feel like it's New Year's Eve." recommended

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