One May 2020 morning, CEO Kristopher “KC” Malone called his friend – and now partner — David Brescia-Weiler to pitch an album concept based on a dream he’d had the night before. Though neither had any experience making an album, KC knew that if anyone could help bring his idea to life, it was David. The two met as teens in Woodrow Wilson High School’s theater program. David, 29, stayed in the spotlight post-graduation.
“Pre-pandemic I performed every week at the Washington Improv Theater for seven years. During Covid I was feeling an empty space where I used to be able to express myself creatively. To just do weird experiments, create with other people, collaborate. So of course, I was excited to have a creative project to work on.”
The dream placed KC at a carnival. As he moved through the rides and games, he saw people he knew, but none of them recognized him. When he awoke, he didn’t know what it meant just yet, but he knew it had the makings of a cinematic project. He tapped David as the creative director to help him parse out the narrative, and together they peeled back layers of the dream to arrive at a concept they named Cise Pavilion.
If you’re a DMV native old enough to rent a car, you already know the meaning of “cise” (also written as “sice”). But for the transplants and the kids: “cise” is a slang term meaning to hype something up, usually to the point of taking it too far. Here, KC and David invoke the term as a regionally specific form of clout. The album explores clout as a hell of a drug, following a protagonist through a trippy carnival that takes place in the Cise Pavilion.
“We wanted to show this carnival as a metaphor for life and for all the clout chasing that’s going on in the world. When it’s in your favor, you can be cised up to the point where you feel on top of the world and when you’re not, you can feel meaningless. It’s almost like fool’s gold. You’ll do anything for it, but it can also tear you apart as well.”
The rollercoaster pursuit of acclaim has been explored in countless albums. Kanye West took us on an operatic saga of fame with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. On DAMN, Kendrick Lamar offered a more philosophical approach, exploring the duality of sin & virtue in the face of temptation. But Cise Pavilion adds a new layer to the conversation as a compilation project featuring multiple artists. In both theme and form, Cise illuminates the shared experience of a generation in paradox – somehow more visible & connected than ever and yet still deeply isolated.
David wrote a loose script creating plot points that covered different emotional notes like jealousy, greed, elation, and pressure. KC then stepped into the role of EP, scouting talent to create nuanced tracks for each note. Each artist was asked to interpret the A theme through the lens of their individual experiences and perspectives as creatives.
“We empowered them to go create music that they felt strongly about. We didn’t want it to feel like an assignment, like homework. We wanted them to make a song that they’re really proud of. And that speaks their story, not our story. But that still connects to the larger story of Cise Pavilion. And we’re really proud of the way all the artists were able to bring that to life.”
KC has been developing an ear for music since childhood. His earliest musical memories involve his parents’ classic records, the Stevies, the Michaels. In middle school, he took those records and learned to spin vinyl under the name DJ Roadrunner. His gigs continued through high school and now at age 28 his sensibility has expanded beyond genre. He leaned into that sonic variety for Cise, partnering with artists across the spectrum — from Argentinian brass collective Creative Horn Recordings to dreamy Cali-soul singer Elizabeth Woolf to Philly rapper Grande Marshall.
Some of the acts, like go-go band TOB, are local music fixtures. Others are first time recording artists better known for their primary work like multidisciplinary visual creator Maps Glover and Chick Henderson, Emmy award winning sportscaster and longtime anchor at NBC Sports Washington. David & KC presented Cise as an opportunity to try new mediums for both of them – Maps as a writer and vocalist on “Big Top” and Chick as a comedic voice actor on an interlude. As a narrative-led project, David worked closely with Chick to sharpen the skit.
“He was super open to our feedback. To listening, to workshopping stuff, to trying stuff. And that’s something that’s exciting about the Guild because all these artists are just working on one song or one piece or one project for us. It allows them to really flex their creative muscles in a different way. To try something new, to take risks.”
Beyond just the music, David & KC partnered with over 50 international creatives to create materials for the album. Realizing the value and potential of this supercharged community, last August they formally established KDC Guild, a creative firm led by and for artists.
“The big thing we’ve learned is that we’ve connected so many people — whether its directors, graphic designers, dancers, animators, visual artists, painters, comedians, singers — we’re excited to see what else we can create. Not just music. Maybe live experiences, comedy, visuals. And we hope that as we go, we can keep focusing on bringing in more people into our Guild and figure out how we can leverage this community that we’ve built to give a better and bigger platform for all of us.”
Cise Pavilion debuts on March 4th and until then you check out the prologue Admit One, a four-track EP streaming now on all platforms.