By Sam Faulkner
Kainalu’s most popular single to date, the wistful lounge jam “Finding Peace of Mind,” closes with the crooned lines “fold to the silence in your brain / and thoughts you’ve yet to gain / you’re still finding peace of mind.” With those words echoing between my ears, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise when Trent Prall, the maestro behind Kainalu, kicks off our conversation by informing me that he’s an introvert at heart. From the solitude of his home recording space, Trent writes, records, and handles the lion’s share of instrumentation for every Kainalu song. Drums, he says, are the occasional exception; for his more complicated tracks, only a visit from your friendly neighborhood session drummer will suffice.
Trent’s family moved from place to place before settling in Verona. First and foremost a pianist and bassist, Trent first played in punk bands starting at age thirteen. He grew up around the sound of Motown classics, and it is here, he says, that he grew his love for what he reverently calls “the Groove.” The Groove, to hear Trent describe it, is musical lifeblood. It doesn’t belong to any single genre or reside in any one instrument (although, according to Trent, the bass guitar makes for its best conductor). Trent tells me that he’s recently become obsessed with bossa nova as a genre that approaches dance rhythms from unexpected directions. This, too, is the Groove at work. This potent guiding principle may shape Kainalu’s sound, but Trent makes it clear that he has no interest in astroturfing a bossa nova cadence, nor a “cheesy” Motown feel, onto his own music for the sake of novelty. Rather, these influences are considered departure points from whence Kainalu can flourish, like soil for a seed.
Trent also avows that the inner artist, that part of himself in communication to the Groove, is only half of the equation. To his way of thinking, Madison’s musical community deserves at least as much credit. “Everyone wants to be Kevin Parker,” he explains, referring to the infamously reclusive frontman of Tame Impala. While that method might make for a good story, Trent doesn’t believe most musicians should rely on it to produce good art. Instead, he swears by the ethos of open creative dialogue that propels Madison’s close-knit music scene. He says it’s vital how bands talk to other bands here; they share equipment, ideas, basements, and encouragement. This cycle of creativity couldn’t sustain itself if people turned their backs on each other and only tended to their own plots. As mentioned earlier, Kainalu tracks sometimes require the outside expertise of a local drummer. Members of Kainalu’s live contingent were high school classmates out in Verona, but never interacted much until music brought them together years later.
Kainalu has inspired connection beyond Wisconsin’s borders as well. Rivkah Hannah, A San Francisco-based video artist, came across “Finding Peace of Mind” and promptly designed a kaleidoscopic video to complement it. After Trent discovered the video in turn, the two struck up a correspondence, and now, according to Trent, more Kainalu song art from Rivkah is now in production.
With a bevy of Madison-area shows already scheduled into the summer, Trent aims to get Kainalu on the road next: first, to nearby Midwest hotbeds like Chicago and Milwaukee over weekends, and (he hopes) as far as the West Coast later in the year. An EP is due in May or June. And the Groove plays on.