"The best album by Kindred yet! Easily one of my Top 5 albums of 2008!" David Nathan, Soul Music.com
"Kindred are members of that small, highly coveted club (think Womack & Womack and Ashford & Simpson) of gifted husband and wife duos that not only make sweet music together but for the world to share. Soulmusic.com catches up with Fatin Dantzler and Aja Gordon as their third album, “The Arrival” hits the shelves...
Soul music in it’s purest, distilled form speaks from the soul to the soul. In an era and industry where wealth and superficiality were often flaunted, husband and wife duo, Kindred emerged from the Philadelphia musical underground in the early part of the decade with a refreshingly honest sound, style and mantra that celebrated the very essence of their genre. Their debut album, “Surrender To Love” (2003 contained the anthem, “Far Away”. The follow up “In This Life Together” (2005) gave us “Where Would I Be (The Question)” while their newest collection, “The Arrival”, preceded with the beautifully melodic single “House Of Love”, is another striking soundtrack to the grainy reality of real life. Not an MTV Cribs or mindless celebrity (un)reality TV show but the nuts and bolts reality of raising a family, paying bills and spreading a little love in a depressed economy.
Fatin Dantzler & Aja Gordon first met when Dantzler, a noted local songwriter was working with fellow Philadelphians and former high school pals, The Roots in their rented NY work space. Aja was hired as a session singer. Three albums and five children later, you could say they hit it off!
To be a husband and wife duo in the music business is a rarity. In short, they’re not easy to market which is why musically Kindred have had to be a few notches above the norm. The very nature of their music. it’s subject matter and their own lives demands the kind of attention that may go straight over the younger generation’s heads. However, it also means that throughout their tenure they have built up a loyal, appreciative fan base. Theirs’ isn’t the kind of candy floss, throw away music that saturates so much of urban radio, that tastes good for split second but has no nutritional value. Too much and you’ll get tooth decay and a stomach ache! Instead, Kindred create, wholesome, timeless platters that you need to sit down, take your time and relax to enjoy. It’s filled with all the key ingredients to sustain, mind body and soul. Great musicianship, heartfelt subject matter and some awesome soulful singing. Thus, “The Arrival” has been on regular rotation in my car with cuts such as the introspective “Can’t Help It”, gritty “Pressure”, breezy, fluid “Just The Way You Are”, emotive, uplifting “Rightfully So” and joyous “Love We Share” instant standouts.
Fitting, then that I caught up with Kindred at a restaurant in mid town Manhattan on a chilly evening in late Autumn. Good food and good conversation were must orders from the menu.
Jeff Lorez: As usual always it seems like you put your heart and soul into these songs. They seem very personal.
Kindred(Fatin): “House Of Love” is very personal. Looking back on our lives. That’s totally about us.Very autobiographical.
(Aja) “The Pressure” is another personal song. We call it our arguing song. A lot of people like to think we’re always running through the poppies! Perhaps it’s an image that’s attached to us as a group.
JL: But I think through songs like “Far Away” you’re also known lyrically for writing about the tough realties of life, too. I think that’s what makes your stuff stand out from a lot of other R&B out there.
Kindred (Fatin): In the US people tend not to get so deeply into the music. They’re just dancing. Whereas in Europe and London people really listen to the lyrics and connect.
JL: I think the fact that in Europe things like nationalized healthcare, decent public schools etc make living a little less stressful so people can get deeper into the arts. In the US, that safety net doesn’t exist, so the pressure to earn money is greater. I know that’s been my experience having lived in both places.
Kindred (Aja): There is a certain stress level that gets even worse when you get into urban and poorer parts of America. Young kids are stressed out dealing with issues they shouldn’t have to deal with. You go into impoverished neighborhood and kids are under so much pressure at 15 years old. You can go into any city where one child has to come home early to look after the another children in the family because both parents are out of the house working. By the time they get to 15-16 years old all they want to do is be free. They get into crime or this that and the other. They start to rebel. KIds in the inner city have to grow up way to fast.
JL: How do your children react to their parents’ profession?
Kindred: It can be weird sometimes but we haven’t achieved the kind of success where it’s really weird for them. It’s not like people are taking pictures of us when we go to drop them at school. We live a very regular life and that grounds the children. We do our shows during the weekends. Now we’re promoting the album, so we’re out during the week. As they become older, it will get a little easier for them because they’ve seen us do this from an early age so it’ll feel natural.
JL: I’ve got 2 kids and my life is chaotic. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have 5! Especially trying to be creative on top of it all.
Kindred (Aja):You let a lot of stuff go. You can’t be anal about everything. Spending time with them is the most important. We’re lucky to have really good extended family. I never talk down to my kids, I always talk to them.
JL: I saw you live a couple of years back in New York and when you sang “Far Away” the crowd reaction was incredible. Anthemic is the word that comes to mind. That’s got to be quite an experience for your kids to see crowds going crazy for their parents.
Kindred (Fatin): They don’t get to see that so much. It’s sporadic. Because we’re such homebodies. We’re blessed because we get to go in the phone booth and become Superman and come back out and be Clark Kent again. We’re part time entertainers.
JL: Do you strategize how you’ll take your career from cult status to mainstream success?
Kindred (Aja): There can be any number of ways that an artist goes from being underground to having a mainstream acceptance. You just have to keep grinding because something is going to connect. You never know what that’s going to be. Stevie Wonder is a genius and has been famous since he was a teenager but you ask the mainstream public to name a Stevie Wonder song and they will probably mention, “I Just Called To Say I Love You”. I use that as an example because you never know what’s going to put you over the top.
JL: You mentioned that the song “Pressure” is about the arguments you have. What type of things do you argue about?
Kindred (Aja): The most difficult issues we face is that he’s a pessimist and I’m an optimist. It’s our ying and yang. That’s what we butt heads with the most.
JL: What are the most poignant memories you have when you were trying to get this group off the ground?
Kindred (Aja):The image of us getting on the 10 Trolley in West Philly and not having any money and going all the way down town to perform at a showcase, trying to get back in 2 hours, to get back to nurse my son before he could miss me. We really wanted it, we were really hungry and we knew we were really good.
JL: When did you know you were on the cusp of making it?
Kindred: Performing at a small smokey club every Tuesday night when the word starting to get around that we existed. We never really had a demo tape. It was just on word of mouth that people like Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu and Puff Daddy came to see us. Then Steve McKeever who signed us and Jill Scott. Those were some really pivotal movements for us.
JL: How do you keep the romance amidst the pressure of a career and a family?
Kindred (Fatin):We’re rarely alone, really alone - because we have so many kids. But when we are, it’s nice to connect and remember how it used to be when we had time to spend together. We revel in those moments. We make love a lot! That’s how we stay connected. One of the only ways to stay connected!
JL: Most married men I know complain that once they slip the ring on the finger, they get put on rations!
Kindred (Fatin): She’s always trying to remind me!
Kindred (Aja): One thing I’ve learned is that all men complain no matter how much they get it! I tell him you can never complain! Go ask your friends. I think you should marry someone you’re really attracted to. That person has to really do it for you. Obviously it’s not the be all and end all but it is important.
JL: Is writing songs for other artists something you aspire to do?
Kindred (Fatin): In today’s market if you have hit after hit people will come after you so hopefully if Kindred is successful people will approach us for our sound but the idea of shopping songs doesn’t really appeal. It’s funny but while we were making this album, a couple of our producers, Dre & Vidal asked me to go to Atlanta with them to work on Usher’s album. I saw fifty million songwriters all trying to get this one song on his album. That’s not the place I like to be in with my creative space. Writing for hire doesn’t interest me too much.
JL: How do you think having Barack Obama as President will affect black America?
Kindred (Fatin): I don’t know if it will have an effect on racism. Society is evolving naturally. There are more successful black people on TV, more black kids go to school that were previously predominantly white. But he has invigorated a generation of people to believe you really can be anything - any minority - not just black people know that there is no glass ceiling.
Aja: The only thing I hope doesn’t happen is that people don’t dilute the struggle of black America because of this. It’s not like “now we have a black president” let’s forget everything that went before. One thing I admire about the Jewish community is that they don’t allow people to forget the horrors and struggles that have gone before. I’d love to see that with black America. What has happened with Barack is something that seemed impossible not that long ago. Fifty years ago people were getting chased down the street with dogs and hoses.
We just went to 15 St Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama which was bombed and where those girls were killed in the basement of the church. It was the birth place of the Civil Rights Movement. People talk about terrorism today but they don’t realize that that was terrorism that those people were being terrorized. That’s what brought some of our greatest music came from- that angst, that frustration. That music continues to inspire us today.
About the Writer
Jeff Lorez has enjoyed a long and varied career in the music business. As a journalist he has written for a slew of publications and web sites including, Blues & Soul, Billboard, Yahoo.com and the Daily Telegraph and as a music publisher he has been involved in recent chart topping hits by Alexis Jordan and Cher Lloyd.