Kingswood Reimagined On 'Reveries'
Melbourne favourites Kingswood have just released their Reveries album and TCI caught up with frontman Fergus Linacre to chat about their evolution as a band, and their thoughts on the music industry.
With an enviable career full of critically acclaimed albums, national and international touring, and iconic festival sets Kingswood have little left to prove, but never ones to rest on their laurels, they’ve conquered 2020 releasing not one but two stellar albums. Reveries sees Kingswood reimagine their Juveniles album, released earlier this year, taking each song back to its core and breathing another life into each track. Listen to Reveries here on Spotify.
The Creative Issue: The album is out tomorrow. How are you feeling on the eve of its release?
Fergus Linacre: I think it’s a unique experience. We’ve never really put an album out like this. It’s got a different tone to any other time. Usually we put an album out, and it’s a big rock and roll record, and we’ve got tours planned, and we’d have a big launch party, and all of that kind of thing. This one is a much quieter affair but it’s been a project that we’re really proud of. I love listening to it. I actually listen to it more than I’ve listened to our other albums after they’ve come out in the past. I think people are going to get a different taste of the band, and I’m excited for that.
TCI: Reveries is something quite different for Kingswood. How would you describe the album in one word?
FL: I would say…emotional. I think it’s a very authentic album. I think you can hear the air in the room. Everything has got a lot of space to it and minimal instrumentation. We wanted to let the vocal shine. I don’t know how to sum it up in a word…cinematic, let’s go with that. When I’m listening to it walking down the street it makes me feel like I’m in a movie or something and it’s the score.
TCI: This album yet again adds another string to the Kingswood bow. It’s a really cool concept. It’s a bit like looking into a mirror that reflects a different scene than you were expecting. Where did the idea for the concept come from?
FL: Well I suppose it’s one of the silver linings of Covid because it might not have ever happened otherwise. When we write songs they don’t come out as rock and roll songs. They just come out as songs and then we sort of wrap them up in whatever we want the album to sound like. Juveniles was designed to be a live rock and roll record, with a full band and playing to big crowds and that kind of thing. When that all went away we had these songs that we loved, but they no longer fit the mood and the landscape of what everyone was going through. So we thought that the songs deserved to have their own space again. We kind of went back to the inception of each song. This is kind of how the songs sounded when we were writing them, before we took them off into different directions.
TCI: After listening to Reveries and then listening to Juveniles again it really does demonstrate the depth of songwriting in these songs, they work so well in both contexts. What were some of the difficulties with reimagining the album in this way? Were there parts of Juveniles that were harder to shake, or was it easy to go back to that first form?
FL: I think it was pretty easy to imagine the space in which each song would live. I think the difficulty initially was that some of the songs felt like they needed to be piano ballads with strings, and some of them felt like they needed to be more blues and roots. And we thought “Are those two worlds too separate to put on an album?”, you know, “Do we need to make them all piano ballads?”. But we thought that would just be exhausting to listen to. We did have a concept when we were doing the track listing of putting all of the orchestral songs on one side and all of the blues and roots songs on the other side. But if you go from ‘Infinite Tenderness’ into ‘Remember’, after a few of them you get so worn out. They’ve got that big piano and emotional vocal and it can be a bit like “This is too full on.” So the initial problem was “Is this going to work as an album?” but then I think the way it spreads out actually compliments each song quite well.
TCI: There are, as you mentioned, orchestral elements within the album. I understand you worked with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for those sections. How was that experience and how did that collaboration come about?
FL: It was amazing. It was through Guus Hoevenaars (Woodes, Scissor Sisters) who recorded the album in Newmarket. His wife is in the MSO and we were very lucky to get a cellist and violinist in to record all the strings for the record. I was away at that stage. I was up in Queensland, for a two week family visit that turned into a five month stay due to Covid, so I missed string day. But they came in and smashed it so that was just incredible. We had a number of guests come in. We had Shane Reilly who brought his lap-steel guitar in. It was the first experience I’d had first hand with a lap-steel. Shane set it and then we sat around and had a whiskey. He started playing and we went to track one, which was ‘Heart Carousel’ and we said “well we’ll just play it and you muck around and see what you can do.” and he just played along and we pressed record. He played along to the song, without ever having heard it before, he could sense the changes, and the chord progressions and everything, and that was the only take he did on that song. It was his warm up take essentially. We just finished and said “that’s it. Let’s move on to the next one.”. He was a genius. He was amazing. Then we also had a fiddle player, Esther Henderson, come in and do essentially what the guitar solos needed to do on Juveniles. We had a double bass player, Steve Hornby, and Al’s sister, Irene Laska, played flute as well, it’s actually her birthday today. Haha. So we were lucky to have a lot of different guests come on and fill the album out.
TCI: You released your first album, well mini-album, back in 2013. How do you feel your songwriting has evolved from that to Juveniles and now Reveries? You mentioned just before that each song has an initial form and then is built into what it needs to be for a particular album. Has that always been the way Kingswood has written?
FL: I think we’re an interesting one. Everyone has different ways of writing. Everyone has their own unique way of doing it. For the first album, primarily Al wrote it with an electric guitar plugged in with pedals, and so it was born from riffs, which is why that album is so heavy. With the second record, he’d broken his finger and couldn’t play guitar when we were writing. So the album became something where we’d write on piano or in Al’s head essentially. So that album is less “riffy”. I think he learnt, and we learnt, that if you constrain yourself with a sound, if you start a song by putting down a drum beat, it’s a constraint. If you go “we can’t have a horn section in this song because we’re a rock and roll band and we don’t do horns.” then you limit yourself. So I think from that record on we’ve written with an unplugged electric guitar. It’s very quiet and it just gives you some tonal reference. It gives the minimal amount of influence from any instrument. You know, a piano is far too much like a piano, and an acoustic sounds like an acoustic song so your mind already goes there. But if we have an unplugged electric then we can write a song and a melody that lets the melody and the lyric shine. Then once we’ve got that down, once we can basically sing a song to one another a cappella, with nothing there, when the song sounds good like that, that’s when we go “ok how do we want this song to live? In what world?”. You know, if Paul McCartney walks in and sings ‘Yesterday’ with no guitar or anything you’d start singing ‘Yesterday’. You’re hooked. It’s a perfect song. So that’s our goal, to have songs that work when you just sing them just as they are.
TCI: In some ways you are one of the lucky few. You have achieved so much and become legends in the scene. How do you feel the music industry has changed during the life of Kingswood? Does it feel different now, or is it more or less the same playground?
FL: Firstly, you’re very kind but I wouldn’t say that we’re legends. I do agree with you that we’ve been one of the lucky ones that have found some success. You know, it’s funny, when you have the mentality that you just want your success to get bigger and bigger and better it’s a bit of a fallacy. No matter how successful you are you’ll always want to be a little more successful. I think it’s very important, and we learnt early on, to really enjoy little successes. Like, if you’re on a festival bill you don’t complain about your time slot. You think how lucky you are to be playing that festival, because that doesn’t go on forever. Every time we are able to put a record out, and keep doing what we are doing, we are very grateful that we can. I do think it’s a very hard industry to be successful in. As much as hard work is definitely a catalyst for success, it’s not “the catalyst”. You can be the most talented hardworking person and it might not turn into a viable success story. We all know that in the music industry. I mean there are artists that we love, that we think should be playing all around the world, and should be playing in stadiums, but they’re not, and you don’t know why. It’s a tricky industry. I think what’s happened recently has made it even more difficult. It will probably end up discouraging a lot of new musicians who would normally have an opportunity to play some shows and tour around, and do it fairly inexpensively, and might get picked up for festival slots and things like that. I think the opportunities are quite minimal now, and probably will be for some time. I think we’re going to see a lot of people stop being musicians, and a lot of people who were potentially going to be great musicians not going down this path because of how difficult it will be to survive in. We certainly need the “powers that be” to realise that and focus on, and invest in, the future of music. It’s a hard one to put a dollar figure on, or put a budget towards a specific thing, and I don’t envy the people that are in those jobs, but you need to make opportunities enticing for people.
TCI: I think you’re dead right. I think it will have an affect for years to come. It’s not the kind of problem that exists right now but gets resolved the minute things go back to normal. If you’ve had a whole group of people walk away from pursuing a career in music then that effect will be seen for years to come.
FL: Absolutely, and it goes for all the arts. You know, it’s the same for filmmakers, and painters and performers and whatever it might be. It’s just going to be far more difficult to invest in being an artist for a while and that is something that the government needs to nurture.
TCI: Continuing thinking about Covid, you mentioned that you spent a bit of time up in Queensland, which was probably a nice thing as opposed to being stuck in lockdown. Kingswood released an album at the beginning of the year, and now you’ve got Reveries as well, and as you said, if Covid hadn’t happened things likely wouldn’t have gone this way. How have you tried to navigate this year and adapt to what the music is right now?
FL: I think there are still a lot of unknowns. As soon as we can tour we will tour in whatever capacity we can, that’s sort of our philosophy for that. Internationally it’s going to be a more difficult one for a while. Our goal has been to write as much as we can. We’ll probably put out more albums than we normally would because we won’t be touring for half the year, then only working on an album for three months, and putting it out and doing it all over again. We have a few other projects that we’re working on. I think you do have to use the time to your advantage. We’re writing as much as we can and we’re recording locally or in our home studio. We have a little studio in Windsor that we record out of. It might not be albums that are made in incredible studios in Nashville or anything, but I think we will be able to put out more content. You know, the King Gizzard method of pumping out albums.
TCI: You mentioned that you want to tour as soon as it is possible to do so. In the absence of that can you recall a favourite Kingswood show so far?
FL: Yes! I can give you a couple. There are different shows. The last time we played Splendour was incredible. Playing that amphitheatre, and we’ve been lucky enough to do it three times, but I think the last time we really soaked it up. As far as a big festival show goes that was just incredible. The Forum, in Melbourne, is my favourite venue in the country. I just think it’s the most beautiful venue and I love going to see bands there. I’m constantly there, in a normal world. Haha. I think the last time we played there…or actually maybe the first time we played there, when we really felt like we didn’t belong in this room that we’d grown up seeing bands in our whole lives. That was a huge milestone for us. But also there are club gigs that you play to two or three hundred people, you know, those little underground sweat-box shows can sometimes be the best shows as well. I don’t know. We just really miss playing that’s for sure.
TCI: Would you be keen to tour the arrangements from Reveries?
FL: Definitely. Yeah I think so. Our goal is that when we can do fifty seater shows we’ll play in this format, before we can play in a big room and do the whole “rock and roll show” thing again. So I think you will certainly see us playing Reveries style live shows.