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Interview with Curt Kiser of Carriers

To understand the story of Carriers and how the Heartland inspired synth rock group came to be, there were a few factors that played a key role in its conception. First is lead singer and founder Curt Kiser’s faith, that inspired the direction of the album conceptually and it is also deeply rooted in his lyrics. Second is the love of his home Cincinnati and the role it had in creating their debut album “Now Is The Time For Loving Me, Yourself & Everyone Else.” And finally, a few chance meetings at Whole Foods and the Cincinnati Zoo. 

Kiser spoke with CincyMusic at Le’s Pho and Sandwiches a few weeks before the band hit the road in support of their debut album. Over some Pho, Kiser not only discussed the bands creation but his future endeavors with Carriers. 

Carriers began just simply as a name for Kiser and a songwriting partner at the time to go by, instead of having to use their own names. In 2013, the band would play its first show with a core of the same members that perform live with Carriers today. Shortly after, Kiser would begin laying the foundation for what their sound would become. But, it would be a series of chance run ins with Afghan Whigs bassist and local producer John Curley that would really get the wheels in motion. 

Kiser had met Curley prior to Carriers, having worked with Curley’s wife at the Cincinnati Zoo. Curley had also produced some of Kiser’s earlier projects at Ultrasuede Studios in Camp Washington. It wouldn’t be until 2015 when the two would meet again, as Kiser, who was working at Whole Foods in Rookwood Plaza, would be carrying Curley’s wife’s groceries out to their car. After reconnecting, Curley suggested that the two should “jam sometime.” 

“I texted him the next day and just said, “Let’s make a record,”’ Kiser said. Curley replied, “Let’s do it.” 

At the same time, Kiser had begun a friendship with The National drummer Bryan Devendorf after meeting once again, at the Cincinnati Zoo. Kiser told Devendorf he was a big fan and asked him to write his friend and bandmate at the time a get-well letter after a horrific accident he had suffered. Devendorf did write the letter and then invited Kiser over to his Cincinnati home for a barbeque. 

The two would meet once again at, where else? But Whole Foods. Over a year’s time Devendorf and Kiser would become friends. 

“I asked him one day if he would want to play drums on one of my tracks.” Kiser said. “He (Devendorf) was like, “I’d be honored to play, how many tracks do you want me to play on?” I said however many you want.” 

The two began playing with each other in Devendorf’s basement and at practice studios. At the same time Kiser and Curley would be working on bass parts at Ultrasuede. 

“Once I felt like drums were at a point and bass was at a point, I was like, “cool” and the three of us got together at Ultrasuede,” Kiser said. “And it was cool to see them meet for the first time.” 

Over the next two years the three and other members of Carriers would build what became the band’s 2019 debut. But even with all the help that came along with the album, Carriers has always been Kiser’s creation.

Kiser was raised in the church and his father’s taste in classic rock music inspired him.  Kiser’s father appears playing guitar on the last track “Now Is The Time.” Artists like Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen were on heavy rotation in Kiser’s youth, and as he’s gotten older he’s begun to translate those inspirations into his own sound and writings. 

Kiser’s songwriting in many ways was a form of catharsis. After the ending of Pomegranates, who Kiser had played with until 2013, Kiser took a break from music for some time. He would only come back to playing music when he began playing in his church. 

“So I did that for a bit and Carriers began during that time,” Kiser says. “So we would practice once we were done with Church, they would give us the key and then we’d have Carriers practices there.”

“It was really special to have the place and the soundboard and the setup, but for me, I would really relate to singing on stage at Church to singing at MOTR,” Kiser said. “I look at it and say “I’m doing the same thing” and I want to carry people into an atmosphere where they know they are valuable and they know they are loved and important. No matter what is going on in that moment I believe something supernatural can happen or can affect someone… You know replacing the thoughts that aren’t true with thoughts that are true. So really I’m kind of like praying for people.” 

Praying and love have been at the center of Kiser’s writing and what he wants his audience to hear when he’s onstage. That positivity has been at the root of Carriers as well.  Before he even wrote one song for the album, Kiser knew that he was going title it “Now Is The Time For Loving Me, Yourself & Everyone Else”. 

“That was at the time when I was on tour with Poms (Pomegranates), Carriers wasn’t a thing and a song by The Free Design came on, called “Now is The Time (For Love)”’ Kiser explains. “And I kept praying and I thought God was saying “Now Is The Time For Loving Me, Yourself & Everyone Else” and I was like “whenever I make an album, I’m gonna call it that.” 

Kiser makes it clear he’s not pushing his beliefs on anyone, on the contrary, these are solely his beliefs and he is simply sharing them through his work. Kiser is one of those people who has a very personal relationship with his religion that only he can truly understand. That has helped create a writing style that manages to not just lean into what is easy but to try and confront difficulties with a positive outlook on life. 

Cincinnati has played a huge role in what makes Carriers unique, it also can be related back to so much of what this album has to say. When asked why he wanted to make the album here in Cincinnati and why it was important to him, Kiser explained that it’s not only his home but is also deeply ingrained in the music.

“It’s easy to be envious and just to want more, you know I think we can lose sight of what we do have and the resources we do have,” Kiser said. “I wrote the songs here, I live here, I’m content and I like Cincinnati.”

Since the album has come out, artists like Sharon Van Etten and David Hartley of the War on Drugs have reached out and commended Kiser for his new album. Kiser has said he has already begun working on Carriers follow up to their debut, which will center more around love he says. 

Carriers are beginning their West Coast tour November 7th, and will make their way back through cities like Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and more. You can find “Now Is The Time For Loving Me, Yourself & Everyone Else” on where ever you get your music. 

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