Kindred the Family Soul, the modern soul band headed by husband-and-wife duo Aja Graydon and Fatin Dantzler, just quietly released its third album, The Arrival. A superlative set of songs about commitment to love, family and art, the new CD is more focused than the previous two. The lush soul-jazz overtones of Kindred's acclaimed 2003 debut, Surrender to Love, have given way to smoother, leaner arrangements. The songwriting is tighter, and the melodies burrow deeper. To support the album, Kindred is on a national tour, which stops at Washington's 9:30 Club on Sunday.
While overseeing the couple's five children (ages 9, 6, 4 and 9-month-old twins) at their Philadelphia home, Graydon discusses the new album.
I understand that during the making of the new album, you and Fatin found out you were pregnant with twin girls?
I was about 8 1/2 months pregnant. I went in for an appointment. My stomach was really big, but I didn't think they were about to tell me there were two babies in there. And there were two babies! There was silence in the room, and my husband and I looked at each other. ... We couldn't imagine. It was surreal. How was that even possible? Twins don't run in our families.
I assume the album title is connected to the pregnancy, right?
Yeah, my husband came up with the name of the album. When you're making a record, it's like a baby in its own way. Then we were expecting the babies. We were inundated with waiting for the arrival of the record and the arrival of the babies.
With five young ones running around, how do you and Fatin find time to write songs?
I don't know. Finding time to be creative is so hard for me and my husband. You don't want to multitask everything. Some things you want to be sacred. ... But our kids are awesome. I always tell them that normal is our normal. They know Mom has this interview to do. They're so patient, incredibly so.
A lot of times when we go into the studio, we have to be specific about our time. A hundred percent is put into it. It's not a lot of hanging out and waiting for the inspiration to hit. The studio is not a social place for us anymore.
The songs on all three Kindred albums seem to pull directly from the marriage, the ups and downs. From the start, it seemed you and Fatin were all about communicating grown-up situations in the music.
There's a certain realness in our music, but there's some escapism. People need to have artists to reflect them more. Now black music is about fantasies: over-the-top examples of interactions between men and women. ... But what we write about and sing about is really happening in our household.
With such a busy household, is it easy to just dive right into the music once you're in the studio? Was that the case with the new album?
Yeah, pretty much. There's a bigger focus on more complete songs. We wanted something cohesive. We used to just jam, because we came from the clubs. Now we just want to make complete songs. People tell us, "We feel the album tells a story. It's inspiring." We're just trying to give and give the best we can.