Interview – Kat Keo & Kim Coffel of Hoaxed

Emerging from the Northwest region of the USA, Hoaxed is a relatively new band with a promising future. A duo, formed in 2020 by Kat Keo and Kim Coffel, the two ladies have a deep history together in prior projects that did not pan out. Now more seasoned and possessing a richer maturity of what kind of music they would like to create, Hoaxed is a Metal act that unifies mesmerizing guitar riffs and strong drumming with atmospheric vocals that put them on the same plain as classic bands of yesteryear.

Unique to other acts out there today, Hoaxed wear various influences on their sleeve and boldly dare to be themselves outside the cookie cutter modern scene. Signed onto Relapse Records, and recently put out their debut album Two Shadows on October 28th, the duo recently took the time to reflect on their creative history together, the formation of Hoaxed, being ladies in Metal, plus a bunch more.

Cryptic Rock – Hoaxed is a relatively new project. Tell us how the band came about?

Kat Keo – Kim and I have known each other for over a decade and worked on other musical projects together. We were in a project in 2018-19 that people parted ways and they got ‘real jobs.’ Kim and I wanted to keep making music together, so we started jamming in her basement, and the songs we wrote there eventually became Hoaxed. Of course, going into lockdown over COVID really helped bake the project.

Cryptic Rock – That is great to hear that you found new inspiration to create this band. There is obviously a history between you two with music, so it came together naturally. When you are a musician, you try different things, you make mistakes, etc. Do you feel like everything has come to a head with Hoaxed where you can say… this is exactly what we want to do?

Kim Coffel – Yea, I think you described it perfectly. Since we have been in previous projects together, we are already used to jamming together and used to each other’s styles. It was really easy to break it down to just the two of us and was a really good line of communication where we said, “I really like how that or this sounds,” or if we start a song we say, “You know, it’s just kind of not cutting it.” It’s easier to be on the same page with things.

Cryptic Rock – That experience together helps with writing songs. Hoaxed is probably something new to a lot of people. You have a very classic style to you, but still sound quite fresh. You clearly are influenced by older Rock and Metal. Would that be an accurate assessment?

Kim Coffel – Yea, it’s hard to break it down to specific influences, because a lot of times I think we are influenced by a lot of stuff we don’t recognize we’re being influenced by. I think we’ve always had a weird tendency to write stuff that sounds nostalgic; I don’t know why that is. (Laughs)

When we first started out writing these songs, we had an idea in our heads of what we wanted it to sound like. That was helpful starting out, but then as we started writing songs it ended up morphing into something completely different. We weren’t upset about it, we were completely psyched, because it sounded cool!

Kat Keo – Both Kim and I definitely have older influences in the music that we listen to, so that makes sense that’s coming through. Like Kim said, this was our time to say, “What music do we really want to write and what do we actually love?” That is what we try to do with Hoaxed, but it never ends up exactly where you think it will.

I love that you can hear older influences, that makes me really happy. There are a lot of idols and icons that we look up to, and if you can hear that in the music, that makes me really happy. 

Cryptic Rock – It certainly does bleed through. Another aspect that stands out about Hoaxed is the recording quality and song structure. It seems in modern recording techniques things are overdone. You keep Hoaxed’s music simple; guitars, drums, bass, vocals. The melodies are catchy, the vocals are catchy, and the drumming sounds great. It sounds crispy and not cluttered. Was there a clear intent to let the music breathe?

Kim Coffel – Yea I think so. Sometimes you will listen to a Metal song where you say, “Ok, sweet we have a riff, that’s gone on for thirty seconds… then, oh my god another riff!” (Laughs) There is something to be said for brevity in music and there is a lot of heaviness in keeping it simple too. It is about getting to the point, getting to what you really think shines about the songs, and not beating people over the head with a thousand different sounds.

Kat Keo – We also record all our music in layers, because there are only two of us. Everything you hear on Two Shadows we wrote, produced, and recorded. Because of that we have a really long period of drums where we can sit with the songs where we are layering it on. When we add each layer, it gives a lot of time to figure out if we think the bass is really overpowering and decide if we want to pull it back.

By the time we get to something like synth, which is definitely a lot of extras, we’ve already been sitting with these songs for so long and really have had a chance to fall in love with them. We will pile on the synth and pull it back. We really like the songs at their core for what they are; the iPhone recordings that we have are still some of my favorite recordings from the practice phase. We fell in love with the songs in their most simple form and trying to overproduce them isn’t really something we’re into in the end.

Hoaxed EP Art / Independent Release

Cryptic Rock – It works and it will attract a lot of music fans disfranchised with how songs are written and recorded nowadays. In Metal, it seems like many new recordings sound like fast Techno music.

Kim Coffel – (Laughs) What’s funny is when you talk about our influences we thought, “Let’s do Metallica meets The Prodigy.” We thought we’d have this really cool mash-up, but it definitely morphed away from that. I definitely thought I wanted to have some of these elements to it, but I didn’t want it to be completely overpowering and I wanted it to be tasteful. I wanted to have something that is adding a little backside to whatever is going on.

It is interesting because we do get a lot of people asking if my drums are real because of the way that they are mixed; thinking they sound kind of digital. It is actually just the way it’s mixed, but I think the way that it’s mixed just makes it sound heavy.

Kat Keo – All the drum kicks Kim laid down first, then we pile everything on top of it. We finally got the drum sound we wanted for Kim, so we are really stoked with the drum sound. Some people will ask, “Is that a machine?” We will tell them, “No, it’s actually Kim, that’s the way she plays. It’s not a trigger.” (Laughs)  

Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Yes, and we all know there are plenty of triggered drums in Metal. You have released quite a few music videos even prior to the release of your debut album Two Shadows. Each video gives a compelling visual and entices more listeners. What led you to create music videos for these particular songs?

Kat Keo – I think when we wrote “The Call” we thought it was definitely a leading song; that is why we put it at the beginning of the album and we wrote an introduction for it. It just felt bigger than other songs on the album for us, so we knew right away that one would have a video.

We are both formerly film majors; these videos we made and edited ourselves. We love making music videos, we love being in the band, and with that, we really enjoy the music video aspect of it. With “Guilty Ones” we thought it would be visually cool to do a music video for.

Kim Coffel – We both love the process of making music videos. We like the idea of brainstorming how we are going to do it, and then the day of being on set, figuring out how we’re going to get our actress to crawl out of the ground. (Laughs) Then the editing process is really cool too. I think it is extra rewarding nowadays with all the different social media platforms; because we get to try out different ways of sharing those videos. It is not like you are one and done where you put it in one place and you hope people go there and watch it. You can slice up a video, put it in a bunch of different places, and then draw people in that way. It is cool that a certain platform will only allow you to do a certain number of seconds so you have to decide what you are going to choose for people to see.

Cryptic Rock – The videos definitely add something to the music. As film majors, have you ever considered working in film?

Kat Keo – We have actually both worked in advertising in the past. I currently still do, and Kim was an editor for years. We have done that before, but no matter what careers we do, we always come back to music. We are hoping one day we can quit all these other jobs and just do music full-time. (Laughs)

Kim Coffel – I will say that doing video editing for ads was not soulfully fulfilling. (Laughs) I didn’t like doing that, so whenever I think about doing an entire movie, I think, oh my god that is really a long time to put in your effort towards one project.

When you’re writing music you have so much more control. When you are an editor you just get what you get. It is the difference between creating something and putting together a puzzle piece. What I think is really cool about editing is, you have an idea of what you want, you think, what do I do to put the puzzle pieces together… so there is some sort of creation. However, with editing it more of you work with what you have instead of taking whatever you want in the world and putting it together. Music videos are a great compromised medium between those two passions.

Kat Keo – Along those lines that is also how we write our music. We use the same mindset for music as we use for editing, so it all goes together.

Cryptic Rock – Very interesting to hear. Two Shadows is your debut album which was released on October 28th through Relapse Records. Some interesting bands have been a part of Relapse through the years, including Amorphis and Zombi. Traditionally Relapse Records has a good amount of more brutal Metal bands though. So, how did you become a part of Relapse?

Kim Coffel – Once we finished our EP, we wanted to shop it out so we started sending it out through emails, showing people – this is what we are doing and just tried to get on people’s radar. We ended up getting into the ear of someone who could get into the ear of someone at Relapse. They told us, “I think they would really enjoy it and you should send it to them.” We instantly got an email back saying, “I listened to it, it’s great!” It was unexpected and we were completely shocked for the same reason.

I think also at the same time Relapse is really fearless about their tastes. If they think something is good, they think it’s good and they don’t really take any time to explain themselves; that was really cool and refreshing. It’s been really awesome ever since then and they have been really good to us.

Kat Keo – They have been really supportive. They had zero influence on the album. They just said, “Go write an album and we will put it out for you.” We went away, came back with this album, and they had no notes, they just said, “Ok cool, thank you.” They put it out as is.

We had no idea what the experience would be like, but they have just let us do whatever. All the music videos have been the same way, where we would tell them what we wanted to do and they say, “Whatever, that’s great, do it.” We would make them, bring it back to them, and they put them out. It’s not at all what we thought it would be like. We have an awesome partner and they support us. It’s been great.

Cryptic Rock – That is good to hear. Relapse Records has diversified through the years and it is great they took on Hoaxed.

Kat Keo – Yes, we have definitely learned that Relapse fans are very protective of the type of music Relapse typically puts out. Some people are not very pleased that Relapse is expanding; there are a lot of comments about that on social media. As Kim said though, Relapse is fearless.

Kim Coffel – We also were expecting there to be a lot more hate. There are a lot of positive comments out there which are nice and surprising. There are a lot of people though who have very specific taste in music and are appreciative that Relapse caters to that… and they might get a little upset when they branch out.

Kat Keo – There are also people whose reaction is – I just heard your music for the first time, and I really liked it. That’s great to me, I love those kinds of comments all day long. It means that we connect with someone through what we are doing as opposed to people who are pre-programmed to have already liked it.

Cryptic Rock – Absolutely. You mentioned your apprehension about the negative reaction. There is a term called ‘gatekeeping’ in Metal music which refers to the fact that a certain portion of fans do not like anything that is non-typical to the genre. As odd as that sounds to some, this is a thing apparently.

Kat Keo – We are extremely familiar with the term gatekeeping; we’ve learned about it a lot with this experience. (Laughs) I would say overall our experience has been extremely positive. Metal fans tend to be outcasts in general, so we all come together under this umbrella of loving this kind of music.

Right off the bat the space is always really accepting, but there definitely is a portion that is extremely vocal about exactly what they like, and if you don’t match it to a T, they are not 100% onboard. I will say, especially in live performances, we’ve had a fantastic reception. All the trolls come out online, so that is where the negative stuff happens.

Kim Coffel – It’s mostly people on the internet doing internet trolling, that is where we get negative feedback. We get overwhelmingly positive feedback, even online, which is crazy to me. When we were first announced on Relapse, we got a bunch of comments saying “they are just handing them a contract because they are women.” It’s so funny to me too because I don’t understand that argument. There are so many other bands out there; no one would ever take a risk on a band that sucks just because they are women. You are still going to fail even if you have boobs if the music doesn’t back it up. (Laughs)

Kat Keo – There is already that portion of the fandom that says, “I don’t want to listen to this because it’s women.” Then if we sucked on top of it, that’s just a double-edged sword, so why would you do that?

We get a lot of trolls comparing us to other women in Pop and Rock music; they think it’s always insults… but it’s always a compliment. (Laughs) It’s been funny to see the negative comments, and what they think is an insult, but I internalize it as a good thing. It’s just people’s opinions.

Hoaxed – Two Shadows Album Art/ Relapse Records

Cryptic Rock – Right. It’s interesting that some people will think you were just signed because you are women. We are going through a cultural shift that is undeniable. That said, some people might feel there is an influx of female bands being signed as pandering to a trend. However, you cannot get caught up in that thinking, because there truly are a ton of talented artists who are getting a chance that perhaps would not have prior. The bottom line is you cannot always be so cynical and lost in that thinking because you might be shortsighted and miss out on something great.

Kat Keo – For sure. We get compared to Evanescence a lot because they are one of the most famous Metal bands. To me that speaks on a really weird level, because Evanescence debuted over twenty years ago. The fact that people still keep coming back to that and we haven’t had a female band since then that has been that culturally relevant. People keep going back to Evanescence… how hasn’t there been a band we keep going back to and there hasn’t been a bigger band since than with a woman in it?

Cryptic Rock – That is a compelling point. Evanescence is a band which broke through into the mainstream in a big way. There have been a ton of female Metal bands before and after then, but you are right, Evanescence did find their way to higher success in the mainstream beyond others.

Here is another obscure, and insulting term, Female-fronted Metal band. It feels like it is boxing an artist into a corner. How do you feel about that?

Kim Coffel – Yes, I think it also creates a false genre… where people think it’s that type of music. No, it’s just something that happens to be true about that band. It’s just some weird factoid. It affects the sound, but it’s not the type of genre of music.

I think a lot of times what we used to get back in one of our previous projects was, “I usually don’t like girl Rock, but I really like your band.” I am glad they liked it, but that’s really kind of a shitty thing to say to a person. (Laughs)

Kat Keo – I will say we have not had that type of comment in Hoaxed though. People just see the music as it is. There are other Metal labels people put on top of Hoaxed. As much as we are talking about gatekeeping, etc… we’ve had an extremely positive response. Especially being women in Rock, in Hoaxed, it’s not what we experienced in other bands; people love it for what it is. The fact that we’re women is a secondary fact, and that is super refreshing. It’s great and we love it.

Cryptic Rock – That is the way it should be. Here is a big question, what are some of your musical influences?

Kim Coffel – I will go through waves. I think a lot of my drumming style comes from when I was in high school where I was listening to a lot of Green Day and The Hives. There is a lot of ’90s Punk and early 2000s Punk such as The Hives. I was also learning how to play Led Zeppelin and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. As I went into college, I started listening to a lot more Metal; I started listening to Iron Maiden and more Thrash such as Warbringer. In high school I listened to Rammstein and My Chemical Romance. I was a huge emo kid. 

There is just a huge blend of stuff coming through. Now when I am thinking of keys, I’m thinking of Rammstein, but I’m also thinking of Ghost and ABBA. When I was in middle school I was listening to Techno, Disco, and Jimmy Buffett; I was not cool. (Laughs)

Kat Keo – None of us are, that’s why we’re in Metal, right? (Laughs)

Kim Coffel – (Laughs) Yes, it’s just this weird blend that comes out the other side. You think you know what your influences are, but then you will start listening to this Nicki Minaj song that you heard at a party and you were super into for the next month. You’re influenced by all this stuff around you all this time. Boston is another big band for me, I love Boston! 

Kat Keo – My mom was super into Metal when I was growing up. I grew up on Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Def Leppard, etc. I grew up with a lot of that and I think that really influenced my guitar playing quite a bit.

Like Kim, I loved the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in high school too. In college I listen to some really sad music. I have a very eclectic taste. I also love Skeletonwitch and the really intense Metal, but also really Pop stuff. We are still consuming music, so there are a lot of influences in there.

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