Carnival of Lost Souls – KDC Guild Confronts Hype Culture on ‘Cise Pavilion’ Concept Album

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KDC Guild’s David Brescia-Weiler and Kristopher Charles “KC” Malone spent two years bringing their “Cise Pavilion” album to life. Photo – Kenneth Walker

Two years ago, Kristopher Charles “KC” Malone experienced a transformative dream.

The Washington, D.C. producer entered a spooky carnival pavilion filled with existential challenges and lessons. After waking up, he shared the lucid dream with longtime friend and collaborator David Brescia-Weiler.

“It was a crazy, trippy dream. I was in this carnival, and people didn’t recognize me. I wanted to express what it was like, so I called David, and said ‘Hey man, would you want to make an album?’” Malone said. “I had never done anything like that and neither had David. It was a broad ambition that came from COVID and being inside … this was super lockdown time.”

Despite being in lockdown, Malone and Brescia-Weiler turned that life-changing dream into a vivid, musical reality. The duo formed a new creative collaboration called KDC Guild and embarked on an ambitious journey to develop and executive produce Cise Pavilion, a hip-hop, audio-narrative concept album filled with a global cast of 60-plus artists, musicians, audio engineers, actors and comedians.

“We weren’t necessarily trying to start a company; we just wanted to work on a project together. We were like, ‘We need to do this,’ because everybody was jumping on board and getting excited,” said Brescia-Weiler, who’s also based in D.C.

“We couldn’t have predicted people from Vegas, Berlin and LA would have suddenly said, ‘Yeah, I’ll go. Send me the contract, and I’ll do it.’ We grew with the process as well.”

KDC Guild’s Cise Pavilion vision quickly grew into a classic hero’s journey brimming with 11 valuable lessons (or tracks) along the way. The insightful album thoughtfully explores the concept of “cise,” a D.C.-based term for “hype,” through protagonist Malone’s personal experiences and interactions with others in a carnival-themed world.

Compelling “cise” metaphors for jealousy, greed, peer pressure, hyperbole and vanity sprout from the digital sphere and overflow into everyday life. With Cise Pavilion, KDC Guild advocates abandoning these toxic behaviors and creating a harmonious environment that promotes acceptance and authenticity.

“Part of the point of Cise Pavilion as a project and something we all grapple with is … that temptation (of ‘cise’) is always there. As much as I’d like to say I don’t need other people’s validations, I might get excited when I get a lot of Instagram likes versus more than I normally do,” said Brescia-Weiler.

“I think that’s an internal struggle that we all have, and it’s been a fun exploration, not just for KC and me, but we get to have an ongoing discussion with each person that’s part of the project. It’s given us a lot of time to think about it … because we’re in a social media age where do you have to puff out your chest and hype yourself up a little bit or try to get on the latest TikTok trend to be seen.”

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Identity Crisis – Gaucho Major Uncovers Past Selves on New ‘Blue Ribbon’ Single

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Gaucho Major’s “Blue Ribbon” challenges people to reveal their true identities.

Gaucho Major keenly uncovers the duplicitous side of human nature.

The Los Angeles pop-rock duo of Max Espinosa (vocals, guitar) and Mike Pappas (songwriting, production) shines a jazzy, truthful light on “Blue Ribbon,” an eye-opening, witty new single that instantly challenges people to reveal their true identities.

“It’s basically a song about the American lie in privilege. There’s a lot that goes into that, and there’s a lyric in there, ‘Be happy that you’ve left where you’ve come from.’ While growing up in LA, I saw people come here from all walks of life,” said Espinosa.

“I noticed a difference with someone coming from Detroit, St. Louis or Cleveland; they just wanna erase where they came from. They’re happy to shed it. But when I go to New York, people are like, ‘I’m from Pittsburgh, or I’m from Ann Arbor,’ and they’re just proud about it. They’re past lives aren’t thrown away.”

Throughout “Blue Ribbon,” Gaucho Major elegantly retrieves those discarded past selves as thoughtful piano, soulful sax, mystical electric guitars, sauntering bass and cozy drums unearth the importance of living authentically.

Espinosa playfully sings, “Be happy to leave where you came from/There’s everything here under the sun/The crowd back there/They ain’t got much to go on/Careful where you step, son/We just did the lawn/It’s good to be on the board/Even if you’re a pawn.”

“The verses are very much like a parody and a caricature’s story. When I get to the chorus, I actually sing and do my normal voice. It’s a wink, a smile and a nod to what people expect in life, especially with the rise in social media, and people filtering out 90 percent of their real life to give you a 10 percent glimpse of the good times,” Espinosa said.

Espinosa and Pappas started delving into “Blue Ribbon’s” refreshing theme of uncovering inauthentic selves last summer. The duo received a songwriting prompt for the track from the KDC Guild’s Kristopher Malone, who will include “Blue Ribbon” on his upcoming multimedia concept album, Welcome to the Cise Pavilion.

“We basically brainstormed this certain segment of the story, and it was this long scene of what an ideal life would look like. It’s the notion of a trophy family and how you’re supposed to live in America, and I thought it was perfect for me to write about it. That was enough for me to get going on creating the soundscape and everything for the song,” said Espinosa, who’s influenced by Steely Dan.

To solidify the track’s first-rate, jazz-inspired sound, Gaucho Major invited a talented roster of musicians, including Kevin Hannah (drums), Kateri Lirio (piano) and Kapil Raman (sax), to collaborate remotely for “Blue Ribbon” over a six-month period.

“We started in July with the skeleton build to get the bones of the track, and that’s just the thematic elements of the song and not even the lyrics or anything. When it came to recording the parts, we did a rough demo in August to send out to our drummer,” Espinosa said.

“We picked Kevin because he’s got amazing gospel chops; he’s got groove. When we got the drums back, we decided to build everything on top of it. We ended up getting those back in late September and recorded everything else in October. And then we sent it off to get mixed in November.”

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