3rd July 2024 7:30 pm - 10:30 pm Ramsgate Music Hall - CT11 8NJ

Kiiōtō is the new project from Mercury-nominated, founder member of Lamb vocalist Lou Rhodes and multiplatinum songwriter Rohan Heath. We welcome the duo for a deeply special show on July 3rd!

Their debut record ‘As Dust We Rise’ channels earthy jazz with beautiful textures, dark spacious gems experimental folk with modern blues and dark pop. It’s both richly instinctive and inquisitive, infused with a transporting spirit of ongoing exploration and discovery…

Lou and Rohan share roots in Manchester’s early nineties music scene, but until a few years ago had only met only twice. “She was a bit aloof to be honest,” Rohan says of their second interaction backstage with mutual friends. Fast forward to 2021, and the tail-end of lockdown. The same mutual friends asked Rohan to collaborate on a track they were working on and he contacted Lou about writing some lyrics to it. “There was something about the way he communicated, even in emails, that interested me,” Lou says, “I was just beginning an MA in Poetry and had pretty much stepped away from music and Rohan was writing a novel, but we decided to meet for a coffee anyway.”

A relationship grew from here, and the pair became inseparable. The track in question fell by the wayside, each seemingly too engrossed in their literary projects to make time for music. But the piano in Lou’s kitchen had other ideas, drawing them back into a world they thought they’d left behind. “I just started to play,” Rohan says, “Lou would be cooking while I improvised, and then she’d start to sing melodies over what I was playing. We kept saying we shouldn’t work together but the project just wouldn’t let us go.

“Before we knew it,” he adds, “the songs began to come. The musical synergy that followed was fuelled by the fact that both of us wanted to create something that had no boundaries or restrictions, and certainly not something that was defined by the expectations of the music industry.”

As Lou adds, “It was the way Rohan played – these kinda jazz-tinged, open voicings – that drew me in. I’d spent a period of time alone, especially through lockdown, gone inwards, channelled my creativity into poetry and felt my time of making music was over. Through this time though, I’d probably immersed myself in listening to music more deeply. So when Ro started to play, the songs came out in an almost involuntary way. Kiiōtō is the music we’ve always wanted to make.”

So emerged the nascent seeds of ‘As Dust We Rise’, but it was on a trip to Louisiana that the songs began to take more solid form. Through a recent DNA test Rohan had traced strands of his bloodline back to the deep south, and the couple decided to combine a holiday out there with exploring this side of his heritage. Unfurling over a steadily building rhythm with hypnotic poise, the first single, ‘Josephine Street’, was recorded as a voice memo on Lou’s phone, its lyric telling stories of the local New Orleans neighbourhood.

The harmonica-led ‘Spanish Moss’ issued from the eerie resonance of trees hung heavy with the plant’s sinuous tresses on the Louisiana bayou. ‘Quilt’ tells the story of a dead husband’s work clothes stitched into a cover by his wife so she could hold his memory close at night – a “deeply moving and visceral” story, say Lou and Rohan, of “loss and rebirth”. From here the subject matter branched into wider issues. Future single ‘Painkiller’ alludes to the opioid crisis under the disguise of a deep, soulful love song. And two songs devoted to “remarkable pioneers”, say Lou and Rohan, extend the record’s enquiring spirit. The gorgeous ‘Song for Bill’ pays homage to the late jazz pianist Bill Evans, while back home in the UK, the artfully arranged ‘Ammonite’ shares a glimpse of the story of Mary Anning, the much-overlooked and misunderstood Victorian fossil hunter.

Written and partially recorded in Lou and Rohan’s home studios in London and Wiltshire, the songs were then taken to producer Simon Byrt’s studio. Contributors included Valerie Etienne of acid-jazz outfit Galliano, who added backing vocals to ‘Painkiller’ and ‘Here Comes the Flood’. Elsewhere, Byrt’s advocacy of analogue recording and vintage equipment proved instrumental to the record’s warm air and organic sound, nurtured lovingly into being with the help of guest musicians on live drums, strings, bass, guitar and horns: collaborative processes, say Lou and Rohan, that they intend to develop on their next album.

In the meantime, Kiiōtō’s debut stands as an intuitive meld of shared histories, united in the desire to explore fresh stories and places. “These are the songs we’ve always needed to write,” says Rohan, “Every melody, lyric and chord we’d ever sang or played to this point was part of the journey to Kiiōtō, to this album: As Dust We Rise.”