Interview: Kayo Dot’s Toby Driver on Nostalgic, New Record, ‘Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike’

Kayo Dot’s latest offering, the self-cleansing Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike, owes a certain gratitude to the past, but it’s a recording whose freewill-laden scorches seems bent on defying those narrow avenues. It’s very high in the clouds in regards to style. It sounds like an opportunity.   

“The pandemic forced a hard left turn,” band founder Toby Driver explains. “I was suddenly isolated and living in Connecticut away from all my colleagues. The album took the direction that it did because during this isolation I had time to listen to a lot of albums, and I spent some time revisiting European goth metal records that I loved in high school, being that I was in Connecticut again, where I grew up.” 

The record’s echoing plasticity (check out “Get Out of the Tower” and “Void in Virgo”) hits the regions where memory is reshaped towards positivity (even if it’s through negativity). In other words, it’s nostalgic, though not for the reasons of pure nostalgia. As Driver explains, it’s a reaction to something not quite pure anymore, but rather, over-pure, in the grandest sense.  

“I was having a weird experience of wanting to connect with those albums again, but really not being able to, because here I was now listening to them with mature ears and seeing all their flaws a little too apparently. But I know that the aesthetic has so much potential, and when it’s done well, it hits so hard.” 

And Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike does so definitely, an album with sections of grandeur, intricacy, and straight classics. Even more so that the typical Kayo Dot fare, which obviously is never typical, Moss goes further, it feels truer in an honest way. There are reasons for that.  

“I didn’t expect any sort of live concert situation happening for this music, so I really just went hog wild with self-indulgence,” Driver laughs. “We’ve had a great response for the singles so far, and to be honest, I’ve noticed over my career that I always get the best responses when I make something that is fully self-indulgent with zero compromise.” 

When “Spectrum of One Colour” reaches its zenith, that’s where you can hear those notions Driver speaks of. There is heritage to the music, as there is freedom. It feels huge, almost completely familiar, the seeds of Drivers’ initial inspiration.  

“At risk of sounding very old, the musical influences primarily consisted of ’90s European gothic metal, like Tiamat, My Dying Bride, King Diamond, and some American gothgaze, namely Lycia; and also other European non-metal depressive bands like Piano Magic, Tim Hecker, and Prurient in some of the production too.” 

The truth is, it’s a walk down memory lane. And Driver succeeds as making this a real impression even for a complete stranger to the experience. But then again, people who write about this music, people who listen to this music, there is something universal there. Driver nails it beyond his own personal sphere. He speaks to absolution. And he’s direct about it.  

“This one is just gothic metal, and a little bit prog,” he says. “In contrast to Kayo Dot’s entire body of work, which always has had some kind of forward-thinking musical statement to make, this one does not. It’s really just me being back in Connecticut and remembering what I liked in high school. And therefore, working on this record with my high school friends from my high school band!” 

Yeah, the ’80s, the ’90s, they were better. Listen to this record and drift back in time.  

Watch the video for “Void in Virgo (The Nature of Sacrifice)” here:

For more from Kayo Dot, find them on Bandcamp, Facebook, and Instagram.

Photo courtesy of Kayo Dot and Toby Driver

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