For a guy who performs under the name Kindness, Adam Bainbridge is awfully angry about how people perceive him. “I’m not a skinny white guy,” the British musician says. “And I don’t belong in an indie band, thank you very much.” What’s got him pissed off is the Internet. Specifically commenters on YouTube taking him to task for sampling Trouble Funk on his track “That’s Alright.” “It’s not an ironic take on anyone’s music culture,” he says of album World, You Need a Change of Mind, which features a wide range of influences, samples and covers. “It’s a heartfelt taste of everything I love.” Learning about Bainbridge’s background, it’s no surprise that his musical taste runs the gamut from funk to punk — this is the guy who first got noticed for his covers of the Replacements‘ “Swingin’ Time” and the theme to the British TV series EastEnders. Bainbridge’s father was a DJ, while his mother was what he calls a “jazz nerd,” with an eclectic background, an Indian woman from South Africa with a taste for the blues. “My dad was a guy from the north of England who liked Isaac Hayes as much as he liked the Beatles and would play all of this at what I assume was druggie discotheque in northern Spain,” Bainbridge says of his parents’ musical background. “Then they moved back to England and became more normal, but he never lost that passion for a variety of music.” As a teenager, Bainbridge played in a band, but he didn’t find the experience fulfilling. “I was the bass player because the other guys had already taken the guitars and I didn’t sing,” he recalls. “It was a way of having an outlet, it wasn’t the rich pallet of musical creativity I had wished for; I tried to bring a drum machine in to rehearsal once and they looked at me like I was crazy.” Still, the experience came in handy a few years later, in 2007, when Bainbridge found himself in Philadelphia on a month-long artist’s residency. “That grounding in bass and guitar and a bit of keyboard came in useful because as much as I don’t play those things well, I play them enough that I can start putting together an idea for a song,” he says. And that’s exactly what he did. During that month, he recorded a dozen songs that, despite their distance from the music he’s making now, were the first he considers to be the output of Kindness. The experience left Bainbridge “energized.” From Philadelphia, he moved to Berlin and continued writing songs. After failed attempts to find a singer and turn Kindness into something more collaborative, Bainbridge decided to go it alone. It was a good decision. “I started singing myself and then somebody heard it and then the first single came out and that was the fairly mundane ramp up into what you know now as Kindness,” he says, making it sound perfectly easy to be discovered. “My middle names are lucky and break,” he says. “At the same time the lucky break was to release a single. But it’s a bedroom record, a laptop production, and my ambition was to make a full-fledged studio record with great musicians and equipment and fantastic producers and collaborators.” He eventually teamed up with Philippe Zdar of Cassius, a producer who’d worked on the Phoenix records that Bainbridge loved. Zdar understood that Kindness music was not an homage to its influences, but a reprocessing of their work, an output from a brain formed by the music it had heard. His resulting debut album is a charming and, yes, eclectic collection of songs that Bainbridge, finally outfitted with a live band, is ready to take on the road. If naysayers and YouTube commenters want to put down his proud display of his influences, so be it. They need only keep in mind why he named his band Kindness. “When I started recording in Philadelphia, the people there were really open and generous and it was a quality I liked most about who I was meeting,” he says. “The name was trying to kick back against that ‘it’s cool to be cruel’ attitude. I was like, ‘Fuck that, it’s even better to be open-minded and real and not give a shit if it’s unfashionable.”
Kindness’ World, You Need a Change of Mind is out now via Polydore.