Just like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Kevin Henthorn’s solo project came to life just as his previous band was dwindling out and breaking up.
Inspired by a well-known surfing spot in Africa known for its consistent back-to-back waves called Cape St. Francis, he named his endeavor Cape Francis because that is what he wanted out of his music — consistency and tranquility.
“I really liked that idea,” Henthorn said. “To get to a place of consistency you can get to, it felt more like a mental state of mind than a name.”
The consistency is not overstated either, as Henthorn has already put out three albums, Falling into Pieces, Deep Water and Plateaus between 2017 and 2020, with his latest having released during the pandemic.
Henthorn said he believes his previous band to be a great learning ground for him where he got to learn key skills like working in a studio. Being in a space where he was surrounded by audio engineers gave him those initial skills which he has since worked on, he said.
Transitioning from a band to a solo act has been a cathartic experience for Henthorn. Whereas there were five different voices in the band working together to create music, with Cape Francis he gets to focus on just his voice more — something he said he really needed to do.
“I didn’t realize how much I needed to do it until the band broke up,” Henthorn said. “It was like, ‘Oh, wow, I need I need to write my own stuff, that’s like, specifically just mine.’”
Although he has put together a band that plays with Cape Francis, Henthorn said it’s much less intense when compared to his previous band. This gives him the ability and freedom to strip back his music whenever and however he pleases, something which would not have been possible earlier.
The main consistency over the years for Henthorn has been his producer, Ariel Loh, he said. The process for putting out music is largely Henthorn writing usually over the span of a year and then sitting down with Loh in the studio and finishing up the songs.
Henthorn picked up the guitar at the very young age of just 9 years old. Growing up, he came across a lot of obstacles like bullying and body-image issues that had an adverse effect on his mental health. His guitar and music in general are what got him through those times and since then the guitar has been his way to cope with whatever issues he faces.
“I feel like it was an outlet to like, kind of process that stuff. And I think since then guitar has just always been that for me, this outlet to process things that I’m going through,” Henthorn said. “It’s always been a pretty therapeutic thing.”
Mental health seems to have a much larger influence on his music than he initially realized, something which gained center stage with the release of Plateaus. Henthorn’s 20s, much like a lot of other people’s, were riddled with issues like depression and anxiety — things he needed to work through not just musically but in a therapy setting. A large factor in Plateaus being more influenced by such issues was the album coinciding with him finally beginning therapy.
“I think I started to realize a thread in all the albums was mental health,” Henthorn said. “And that’s pretty much like, all three of the albums have that at the core.”
“I think sometimes my vocal lines do get pretty wordy and get in the way of some of the other instrumentation that either Ariel or I have done,” Henthorn said. “Sometimes it’s really nice to just shut up.”
Putting out an album during the pandemic was a strenuous but rewarding experience, Henthorn said. All of his parts were finished by November 2019 and by December The Westerlies had recorded all of their instrumentals over the tracks. The mastering of the album was underway when the pandemic starting picking up speed in March, which led to a conversation of maybe shelving the project for a bit until things quietened down.
However, knowing the content of the album, Henthorn believed that his music would be helpful to the people during a time of duress. And that was exactly how it played out.
“I do feel like the overwhelming response has been like, ‘Oh, this really helped during this time,’ and that’s kind of my aim for music in general at this point,” he said. “So if I can get that response, then that means we’ve done it right. I feel pretty good about doing that.”
The pandemic has given Henthorn a lot of clarity about what he wants to do with his music and the direction he wants to take it in. He said he has come to terms with the fact that he enjoys the process of writing and producing songs with Loh and working with the other band members to craft them — more than he likes the actual performance aspect of the art.
“I like performing sometimes, but again, it’s not my favorite time as a musician, it’s stressful. I’m not an amazing performer as far as like charisma goes, I’ve just never really quite had that ease on stage,” Henthorn said. “I kind of want to just like play when I want to play and, and keep putting out albums every year because that’s what I’m more interested in.”
With Plateaus, Henthorn believes he has found his voice and sound as an artist. With Falling into Pieces, he was still trying to figure out who he was as an artist and a few of the band members recorded along with him to set the vibe. Deep Water was a larger undertaking with more band members being involved, so it felt bigger and more of an indie-rock experience, he said.
With his latest album, however, it came back to a smaller sound and production, involving fewer people, something Henthorn said he feels the need to do more of.
Due to the pandemic, Henthorn has had a lot more time to work on different techniques and explore different sounds, something which he said he has always enjoyed doing. He writes almost every day, and the lockdowns have kind of given him more time to do that and that too at his own pace.
As for the future, Henthorn said the next album depends mostly on time and money. Ideally, he said he would like to record around spring or summer and have it out by the end of the year.
Henthorn’s goal with Cape Francis is the constant output of albums. He looks up to artists like Bill Callahan who have carved out careers spanning over 30 years just putting out album after album. He realizes that he enjoys the writing process more than the performance aspect and that is what he wants to focus on, regardless of the outcome.
“That’s kind of all I want in music is to keep writing albums,” Henthorn said. “I don’t really care how successful they get, it doesn’t really matter, because I’m just gonna keep putting out albums and if people like them, it’s great.”
To listen to all of Cape Francis’ releases, click here.