“Any perspective on what we should sound like has been thrown out the window.”
Kingswood’s new album After Hours, Close to Dawn was named as one of Rolling Stones Australia’s 50 most anticipated albums of 2017 for good reason. The record – which is their second – puts the band in a whole new category of Australian music-makers.
While still recognisable as the songs of Kingswood, the record is like a best-of album of tracks you haven’t heard yet. There’s a mix of R’n’B grooves, soaring rock, garage soul and spage-age experimentation. It is anything BUT a predictable follow-up to their debut album Micro Wars.
Songwriter and guitarist Alex Laska spoke to me from his Melbourne home about the album.
“This is us deciding to be incredibly bold and dangerous musically,” Alex said.
While the first single off the album – Creepin’ – is not a major departure from what the band has done in the past, the eleven tracks on the new album show distinct personalities which cross genres and capture a mix of emotions.
“We just wanted it to be incredibly creative and diverse,” Alex said. “We played it to our record label and they thought we were playing a practical joke on them. They were like ‘good stuff, good music, really cool, but where’s the real album?’”
I don’t even know what kind of music it is or where it’s from, Alex said, with more than just a tinge of pride.
I know it’s from some internal, creative dialogue, but it’s so weird… it’s super hard to define and I think that might be what is charming about it.
Alex says he’s blessed to have been educated in all manner of musical realms – he learned piano and clarinet, he had classical training from the age of seven, he studied jazz. Diversity has always been part of his musical upbringing.
“My grounding in music is so vast as far as composition and genres, who I was exposed to and who I fell in love with,” he said. “So all of that stuff, combined with the modern greats have morphed into this conglomerate of sounds I need to explore.”
“I love to be able to do interesting things with sound, it’s a form of musical ADHD,” Alex said.
All that aside, the thing I like the most about After Hours, Close to Dawn is that it hasn’t had the edges polished off it. Which isn’t to say it’s not a polished product – more that it hasn’t been made to fit a certain aural mould.
“I constantly want to be able to make any kind of music I want,” Alex said. “So I’ll forcefully put that into a song of my own. I’ll rebel against my own foundation in a way.”
That unique approach to making music looks like it will continue for the band into the future. Alex says Kingswood is already working on the next album and it too will be an investigation into modern sounds with traditional roots – Alex says “modern hip-hop and EDM sounds while referencing old blues and mashing it all together.”
And that’s not the only thing they’re doing differently with that album, although Alex is vague about what that might be.
“As far as I can tell you at the moment, it’s going to be the same process we used for this current album, but when we finish it, welllllll that’s just step one.”
When I press for more information he says he’ll just have to leave it with me. “Let’s just say we’ll see where our imagination is lifting off from that.”
The band has been honing their live performance too and they’re bringing some extra sensory goodies on tour with them.
“Similarly to challenging ourselves with the creative quest on the album, we’re doing the same thing with the show,” he said. “We’re developing a whole lighting experience that aids all the new music and we’re developing it for the old catalogue as well. It’s coded and engineered to assist in the live presentation of this album to a very specific and creative level.”
“There’s also lots of additional guests and instruments and voices. It’s a whole thing of its own… its own little monster.
“We’re really excited about it,” Alex said.
So are we, Alex.
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Kingswood’s new album After Hours, Closer to Dawn is out now via Dew Process and you can catch them at Miami Marketta on 6 April and The Triffid in Brisbane on 7 April.
Image (c) Ian Laidlaw