Kain White and Psamathes Interview: Creating Pillow Covers
With over 20 collaborations together, it’s no surprise that Kain White and Psamathes have developed a friendship that extends beyond their music. In this candid interview, I posed the questions, but these two artists asked the questions and provided the answers. What follows is an illuminating look at a unique relationship in the VGM community.
Kain, what was your impression of Psamathes before you started collaborating?
Kain: Mainly, just, that you seemed busy and seemed like an amazing vocalist.
Psamathes, what was your impression of Kain before you started collaborating?
Psamathes: I was just starting out in the VGM community, and I was like “Oh my God, he’s playing all these instruments, doing all this complicated guitar stuff, and he’s asking me for collaboration?”
I was new to everything so everyone that I saw was like this super amazing musician. I was definitely grateful and a little surprised when you asked me to work together.
Do you have similar philosophies when it comes to making music?
Kain: I think we do at this point. But now, we’ve got everything down well, so we can streamline it quite efficiently.
Psamathes: Yeah, I think even if we have different tastes or ideas, those things come together, and then they become something new. So yeah, I would say we do have similar philosophies in the sense we like to take whatever the other person is proposing, accept it, and pull it all together. I would say that’s our philosophy.
Kain: Yeah. Or even, like, adding to that.
With over 20 collaborations together, clearly you two enjoy working together. Describe how that process has evolved over time?
Kain: Well, we’ve definitely gotten much better at scheduling these things. For the first year and a bit, we’d just come up with an idea for a cover halfway through the month and then struggle to get it done. Now, we actually schedule and plan ahead for releases, sometimes six months in advance, so that we’re not rushing to get it done.
Psamathes: I think that also has changed once we started to license songs because we had to organize around the time needed to distribute the song. Also, we had to make time for anything that might come up with the distribution.
Furthermore, we understand each other better musically. We have much more fun doing these covers and experimenting with different instruments. If you look at the evolution throughout our series of covers, we’ve been using different instruments in very unexpected ways or adding lyrics to instrumental songs. We’ve been more daring in our approach to the arrangements.
Kain: Yeah, at some point, it escalated quite a lot from the first few videos where it was mainly just acoustic guitars. Now, it will be whatever weird things—on one occasion I used my door and some cutlery in the video. It’s just finding out what will work by winging it and hoping it does.
Psamathes: Definitely. And it did work so far, so we’re keeping up this way.
Have you ever had a significant musical disagreement?
Kain: Nothing major. There was only one time, when we were doing the Lost in Thoughts All Alone cover, we were just struggling to come up with a decent arrangement, and we almost cancelled it. But, then we sort of pushed through, and between the two of us, we managed to get something out.
Psamathes: Yeah, I think that was probably the toughest month we had in terms of arranging. So I would say when there’s room for disagreement, instead of actually disagreeing, we come even more together trying to make things as good as we can. We passed the test in a way.
Kain: Yeah, it came together nicely in the end. Other than that, we don’t really have any serious disagreements.
Psamathes: Yeah, there really isn’t anything to disagree with.
What's your favorite part of collaborating together?
Psamathes: For me, it’s not just making music, but also how that bleeds into the friendship aspect of it and the day-to-day interactions we have. Maybe, one day I’m sending the vocals for a project or you’re sending me a mix to go over, and then we’re just chatting about other random things, making silly jokes, or discussing something that happened in the news.
Kain: Or making awful puns. Which happens semi-frequently.
Psamathes: That makes it way more fun than just making the music. It’s a really good thing that we’re able to combine these two things together (friendship and music). I guess that’s what makes it go so well. If we were just coldly sending over parts, we would have gotten tired of it at some point.
Kain: Yeah, it’s not like we’re running a business. We’ll be chatting, sending each other weird news articles like about how millenials hate mayonnaise.
Psamathes: Sometimes, from stuff like that, comes the inspiration for music so two birds, one stone.
Who typically comes up with the arrangements?
Kain: I think it works between the two of us, because once we’ve decided what song we want to do next, we’ll talk about it. Then, I’ll go away, work on instrumental arrangement, send that to you, then we’ll talk more about it.
Psamathes: The instrumental side is mostly handled by you, but there’s usually lots of back and forth. If there’s something like when we did the Xenoblade cover where there was lots of choir parts, I was handling more of the arrangement. Sometimes, when we add original lyrics, maybe I’ll write a draft and send it to you to see how it works.
There might be one origin point for the arrangement, but then it’s always a shared effort between the two of us.
Kain: Then, once the actual song is done, you handle all of the video.
Psamathes: Yeah, I think we try to split the entire process so the workload is fairly distributed so maybe Kain is handling the arrangement or the mixing, and I’m doing the video editing and the graphics. Even though we have one video a month going on a different channel, we are still doing the same amount of work.
Will we ever see a Pillow Covers album?
Psamathes: Hopefully. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been starting to license our songs as singles, because that makes more sense for the way the series works. At some point, we’re definitely going to assemble them into a compilation album when we have enough songs to do it.
Kain: But with it being released one a month, obviously that will take a bit of time to do.
Psamathes: Yeah, it takes some time. Then again, if we were doing an album from scratch, it wouldn’t necessarily take less time. It will come eventually. It’s in the works.
But we do have the Pillow Covers playlist on Spotify, if you want to hear all the songs in one place.
If you had to do your collaborations all over again, is there anything you would change?
Kain: Well, we actually are starting to do that. Over the past two years, we’ve gotten slightly better and know a bit more about what we’re actually doing. Sometimes, we’ll go back and look at old arrangements, and think “uh, yeah we can definitely do this a lot better now”. It’s something we’ll be doing next month—the spooky month.
Psamathes: It’s part of a wider tradition that we’re adopting for October. Last year, we did two songs for Halloween instead of one. We had fun doing that, so we decided to bring it back this year. Since it’s still a lot of work to do two songs, we decided to do one new song and for the second song, we decided to choose something from our archives. It’s going to be an interesting way to see how things have changed for us.
It’s kind of scary to look back at your old stuff, but I think it’s always nice to have a way to prove to yourself that you’re doing better.
Kain: It’s not just scary because it’s Halloween-themed.
Kain: We can do a lot more of older stuff now that we know a lot more, and I’ve accrued more instruments so those would be nice to include as well.
Psamathes: Yeah, and our production skills have improved.
Kain, what's your favorite thing about Psamathes.
Kain: Probably just that it’s now so easy to work with you and talk to you. Just overall, everything is so much easier. With some collaborations, it can be difficult to get a point across, but it’s so easy to explain this stuff to you.
And also, the actual friendship aspect.
Psamathes, what's your favorite thing about Kain.
Psamathes: You mentioned the friendship aspect, so I’m going to send that right back to you. Also, you help build this positive environment for collaboration. In general, when we talk about anything, I know I can trust you when talking friend-to-friend or when we’re talking about arrangements. It makes it all much more worth doing.
Can you talk about any upcoming projects?
Psamathes: Of course, we’re currently working on this month’s song, and Kain has given away a bit of a teaser on his social media. It’s going to be themed for the Link’s Awakening release. I’m not sure if we should spoil the song title, but it’s definitely a classic, and we’re very happy with how it’s coming along.
Then, as we mentioned, we’re going to work on Halloween month and do some spooky covers. Actually, while I’m looking at our list of projects, and we have some things planned as far as January of next year. So, definitely a lot to look forward to.
Kain: It’s nice to have things themed or planned for an upcoming game’s release. It will give us an idea for something to do that month.
Psamathes: I mean we do have some songs that we keep for emergencies. Song ideas that we keep if we really don’t know what to do, we just go to that list and find what would be fun to do. But, it’s definitely good to have things planned and maybe work a little in advance if we can. It’s incredible how organized we are right now compared to six months ago even.
Kain: Yeah, this year we decided “hey, let’s actually plan things”.
Psamathes: It’s like a Queer Eye makeover basically. It’s like our life has changed.
Kain: Do you think we can get them to work on our series with us?
Psamathes: It would be nice.