I hold a high level of respect for artists that let the art do the talking. Artists that don’t have to boast of their talents or backstories, but simply set their art free and let the rest fall into place. It says a lot about the person, but it also serves as a testament of the art’s ability to stand on its own. Kevin D’Abramo is one of those artists.
I had seen him play a few times around town as a one man act, looping bass grooves over spoken word poetry. The presentation is well executed, with each song locked in a crisp rhythm. It’s uniquely minimal, yet contagiously accessible. And at each performance, where the average performer goes up and sings a cover or two with an acoustic guitar, I’ve specifically noticed audience members catch on and perk up to what D’Abramo is doing.
Performing at Corona’s Open Mic (Photo courtesy of Tae-Sang Park)
Originally from Montreal, he first started playing bass at 13 through some bass lessons at his school. The music program would be cut a year later, but D’Abramo would keep these skills in his back pocket until he attended the University of Montreal to study literature, with a focus on creative writing and poetry. Throughout the rest of his twenties he would gig with various bands in Montreal, while working odd jobs and writing his own stories and poetry. Eventually, he went back to grad school in his thirties and obtained a Phd. His final thesis concerned proletarian literature.
When I ask him about his influences, he tells me his interests lie with modernists such as Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf for literature and with master story tellers such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen for music, but his own distinct style carries itself. Part of this comes from his tendency to comfortably embrace a sparse creative palette. “Different songs emerge in different ways. I’m always keeping track of ideas, so there’s a lot to draw on.”
His current music project first started roughly two to three years ago when he started playing at the monthly open mics at the now defunct Salt Gallery here in Gwangju. Since then, he has continued to deliberately compose a collection of material and gain a reputation as a solo act. He plans to release a seven or eight song EP sometime over the next month under the working title, Present Tense. “There are themes of travel in one or two songs, labor and work, busking… It all links to personal experience, but not in a 100% autobiographical way.” You can catch some of these tracks already uploaded to his soundcloud here
As a writer, D’Abramo mainly focuses on short stories. He showcases a strong ability to move a story along, without having to rely on overly dramatic characterization or explosive action. They’re interesting stories, full of subtle layering, and direct, robust prose. “The most important unit is the scene. I prefer to bring the scale down to the individual level to focus on the structure of the conflict, the motivations of the characters… I try to keep it tight and dramatic.” His two featured stories on the writing website, Wattpad, feature one story of a working class origin
, and another set at a wedding reception
. I’d love to tell you more about my thoughts on them here, but I am aiming for a 100% spoiler free post. As I’ve said before, D’Abramo’s art stands for itself, so give his stories a read and keep an ear to the ground for his upcoming EP next month.