Kingfisher, the Long-Distance Band You’ll Love


Kingfisher is a 10-piece band dispersed across the Midwest. They may meet as a whole ensemble infrequently, but when they do, it is to create audio magic. With ambient guitar, warm brass, sparkling saxophone, and raw poeticism, the band is the perfect experiment. 

Kingfisher’s Sam Uribe-Botero smiles as his bandmates/good friends/housemates, Sam DuBose and Kaysen Chown, join the video conference room. These three are currently living in Michigan, the state that brought Kingfisher together through university.

Sam Uribe-Botero (SU): There’s the folks…

The three introduce themselves with their band roles.

Kaysen Chown (KC): I’m Kaysen, and I play violin and guitars — [chuckles] various guitars. 

Sam DuBose (SD): I’m Sam — I’m Sam Dubose.  I write the lyrics and play some guitar. And yeah, that’s basically my role. 

KC: And he also sings! 

SD: And I sing, and I sing.

SU: I’m also Sam… I’m the saxophone player and the production person, so I do most of the recording and stuff.

PM: So, what are your inspirations as a band outside of music? Many people ask, “What are the bands you look up to?” but, what inspires you… that’s not music? 

KC: We have a visual team of our friends who are really, really talented artists. So, I would say our music definitely lends itself to the visuals as well. Their work really inspires us, and I feel like it’s a cohesive project — it works really well: the music, as well as the visuals. We actually just went up North in Michigan, and got a bunch of amazing footage, pictures, and potential album cover photos of the beautiful Northern Michigan natural landscape. I would say that plays a role in the music as well — the beauty of Michigan.

[To Sam DuBose] And you reference Chicago, a lot.

SD: That’s true, I do — I’m from Chicago so that makes more sense [chuckles].

PM: That’s so neat that you guys have a visual arts team as part of your band — that’s kind of unconventional. 

SD: Yeah… there’s always an idea to do visuals along with the show, and… all of us were music majors and all of our friends were art or design majors. So it’s pretty easy to just make that step to also doing visual stuff with the shows. Yeah, it’s nice to have a pretty solid 10 or so people working on the same project.

KC: Yeah, we’ve gotten confused for being an 11-piece fan before.

PM: Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of different numbers about you guys. 

SU: Having worked with the visual team and the album cover… and thinking about how visuals relate to how people listen to albums and things now, I think we’ve been looking at different photographers and different album covers as inspirations for what direction we want to go. Actually, I can’t remember his name: Sam, who’s that photographer that we looked at a lot who has the pictures that are super pre-planned?

SU: Gregory? Gregory Crewdson. Yeah, definitely in terms of inspiration for album cover/visuals…

SD: Yeah…. His work is very pre-planned — very large-scale things, and I think our band tends to be very maximalist in what we do.

SU: I think that is definitely something that can be correlated in some way. 

PM: Yeah, I looked at the photos, and it feels almost like a stage set for a film. So neat. 

SU: Exactly. 

PM: Can you guys tell me more about the shoot you guys were doing up north — what that experience was like, and how that has impacted what you’re working on as a group lately?

KC: I’ll take the lead on this one just because we went up to my family’s property. My aunts and uncles co-own this cute little cabin in the woods, and on that cabin property, there’s a really gorgeous field. 

At the end of the field, just by the treeline is this four-story white tower, […] but the only thing that’s inside it is a spiraling staircase to the top floor that overlooks the lake… It’s just a very strange, random structure in the middle of the woods. So we thought that that’s perfect for getting some sort of album cover. So, our visual team came and they brought — I don’t know if this is okay to spoil potential album covers…

Description redacted to preserve the element of surprise — stay tuned. 

Our main idea was to get an album cover image out of it, and then also full band promotional stuff. It was a lot of fun.

PM: I read in an interview that every time you guys do a show, you try to change the set, so it’s never the same. Is that still something that you feel is important to your identity as a band? Because that’s… that’s hard to do. 

SU: I think that was a little bit more in the beginning, [others laugh], when we were still figuring out exactly what our sound was. Recently, we’ve been trying to dial in — we’ve gone completely opposite, I think out of the fact that we have less rehearsal time and less time together. […] We’ve been dialing in one or two sets that have some contrast, so we can kind of say: “Okay, we’re going to do this set for this day or this set for this day.” I wish we had more rehearsal time.

KC: I’ll also add that because there’s seven of us, it’s really hard to get the whole band together. We’ve had conversations about, you know, if our basses can’t be there, or if a trumpet player can’t be there, then trying to tailor a set to accommodate potentially a smaller ensemble… We haven’t actually had to do that yet, but we see that being a possibility in the future, to do a stripped-down set, so that would require some rethinking, as well.

SD: And I will also add that in terms of playing shows in college, we had a pretty solid foundation of 20-ish to 30 songs — I might be making that number up — but it feels kind of like that. 

 Now, we’re in a situation where we’re recording this album that’s taken almost a year and a half, maybe a little bit over that. And we’re trying to play shows while also finishing this behemoth task. So, I think we’re playing very similar sets, but we’re using our live shows as an excuse to either figure out how we want to record the new songs or what makes sense for them. 

Some of these songs on this new album were the first songs we ever started playing as a band… Trying to figure out how to keep it fresh… how to hack these old songs live so that we can add stuff or take away stuff in a recording. We’re just trying to kill as many birds with one stone as possible, and I think that goes along with the live shows.

PM: Yeah, that makes sense… Did you guys mention that you were trying to organize an East Coast tour in the near future?

ALL: Yeah.


PM: Okay, so… you obviously work really hard to be together — to continue to stay in touch as a band. So with that challenge, what do you feel in the past year or shorter is your proudest moment as a band? Is it something you’ve created, is there one moment, or is it maintaining this connection in general? 

KC: I feel like it’s also person-to-person.

PM: Yes, I’d love different answers. 

KC: Personally, there was this one recording session over last summer… Sam Uribe lived at this church. Sam, you were kind of a caretaker of the place, right? Something like that. 

PM: That’s crazy.

SU: I’ll explain.

KC: There was one night where we were dividing up work on different sections of the album, depending on the part. The horn section — I’m an honorary horn player, I play violin — recorded one section of a song on the new album in the church, in the sanctuary. We recorded until 3 AM that night, and then we got ice cream. It really was a blast to really capture that space. You can actually see it in one of our Kingfisher recording vlogs on YouTube

SU: I think I need to explain a little [all laughing] because it makes it sound like I lived under the church. 

So basically, it’s student housing, but you just have to do chores for the church. It was pretty nice — they would give me access to the space so I could go into this church area, play piano, practice, and use it for recording stuff. So it was a lot of fun. Yeah, that night was pretty great.

That particular part that Kaysen is talking about is a really cool part of the album. Once it’s out, you might hear it and be like: “Oh, this is definitely that.” I think it’s pretty clear.

PM: The two Sams, do you have other specific moments you’re proud of in creating this new album, or in general?

SD: I’m personally most proud of two things. One is that we’ve somehow maintained the fact that we are a band. It’s been nice to still think about my next few years based around the same thing I was planning on in my senior year, which is just this band, basically…

In terms of recording, just that I haven’t gone insane yet because it’s been such an arduous process. Recording is always really fun, it’s just we’re doing something that is loosely ambitious, especially in regard to the last album and in terms of scheduling and doing ourselves justice with how seriously we take it. 

There have definitely been nights where it’s hard to keep going or, you’re like: “this is actual ass.” But it’s not the whole thing. This one night, for example, Sam and I were trying to record, and we just didn’t. We sat on a couch for three hours and then came back home. Yeah, it was hell, but it’s cool… I’m proud that we’ve kept going through it. 

SU: One thing I’m actually pretty proud of is the fact that we keep it all in-house — it is just us. I mean, not to say that when the time comes, we won’t find the right person to help us with recording, production, and everything; that will definitely happen in the future. But just right now, we’re still very much DIY, and we’re able to create some pretty cool stuff. That means a lot of headaches and maybe a lot of overthinking on our part, but —

SD: It definitely feels like we’re still in college recording [laughs]… We’ve recorded in five different studios through back-door deals. There’s a ton we have to make work to record because we’re such a big band and a lot of what we’re trying to do is acoustic. 

PM: Can be a pain in the ass?

SD: Pain in the ass, dude.

PM: Are there any parting words — something you want to promote? Anything else you want to say about Kingfisher and about what you’re working on?

SU: Check out that vinyl!!!

KC & SU: Also, our tour coming up in June. We’ll do official dates and locations soon.

SD: And at some point, we’ll really hit this album. Sometime in the next seven, eight months.

SU: Before…

SD: Either way, once that new album is released… can’t wait.

KC: I’m going to take a bath, finally take a shower.

PM: Finally sleep for the first time in a year… Anyway, I’m so excited to see what you guys put out.

Check out Kingfisher’s last album, Grip Your Fist I’m Heaven Bound (2022).

Image courtesy of Kingfisher.