13th September 2022
Interview: Amy Bell
Fusing genres and musical sub-cultures to create a sound that is wholly their own, King Kuda embrace the paradoxical nature of today’s musical landscape in their songs. “In a day like today, where there's such a mix of genres, no one's really into just one thing”, they say, “We're trying to bottle that by bringing raving culture, indie, and hippie culture together”. The four-piece, which is formed of Ollie (vocals/guitar/production), Perry (bass/keys/guitar), Chris (guitar/keys/electronics) and Charlie (drums/production), have been bandmates and housemates for seven years now. As you can imagine, the two relationships existing in tandem have led to some pretty incredible stories. From throwing ragers at their university house to creating music symbiotically in their Brighton digs, King Kuda emulate the kind of organic harmony you only find in a group of friends who really, truly know each other. The four-piece, which is formed of Ollie (vocals/guitar/production), Perry (bass/keys/guitar), Chris (guitar/keys/electronics) and Charlie (drums/production), have been bandmates and housemates for seven years now. As you can imagine, the two relationships existing in tandem have led to some pretty incredible stories. From throwing ragers at their university house to creating music symbiotically in their Brighton digs, King Kuda emulate the kind of organic harmony you only find in a group of friends who really, truly know each other.
Thanks so much for talking to us, what have your journeys been in terms of music?
We'd all had a very different experience with music before we met each other. Ollie had been playing guitar for about 10 years solo but had never played in a band before, he was more interested in production and song writing than performing. Chris has always played guitar in bands, playing more rocky/bluesy/indie stuff, but he was the only one putting in any real effort, so it didn’t really click for him. Perry played in an acoustic trio, but always had his sights set on playing in a full band. And Charlie had a lot of session experience. He played for Seafret for a little while, even got to play Glastonbury with them before they “changed artistic direction” and let him go (thank God they did). The similarity between us though is that we all saw music as more than just a fun hobby, and it’s putting all that drive together and focusing it on one project that’s got us to this point. That, and our love of house music and the whole culture around it. It's always been such a massive influence on our lives alongside the more "analogue" stuff, and it's definitely being expressed in what we're making now.
How did you form a band and what vision did you see that would make the best band members?
We all met at university, ACM (Academy of Contemporary Music) in Guildford. It’s a small uni, they didn’t have student halls or anything, so we had to rent a house from the get-go. Ollie found a literal pot of gold with a massive 9 bedroom, newly refurbished student house. This place had en-suites in every room, super thick soundproofed walls, dishwasher, 2 gas stoves, everything, all for pretty cheap. The catch was he needed to find people to fill the other 8 rooms himself, so a few posts on the Freshers’ Facebook page later and he had a group to live with, 3 of them being Chris, Charlie and Perry. All the ingredients were there, it was only a matter of time before Charlie said “Here, boys, why haven’t we started a band yet?” and we were off. At first we didn’t have much of a vision, we would just set up in our front room and jam. But the more songs we wrote together, the more we started to uncover what would be the basis of our sound, and it’s been growing and developing organically like that ever since.
You have which came out on the 9th September, ‘Velvet Sun’, which is about inner struggle, is this coming from a personal experience you have had?
The song comes from more of an observation than one experience in particular. People are always fighting with themselves over something or other, however small or big. “Should I go out tonight?”, “Should I have another ciggy?”, “Should I text that person again?”. And when you’re in that place, there’s always this sensation that you’ve already decided, and no amount of rational thought is going to overcome your desires. Not only have you got yourself to worry about, but other people can be very persuasive, and for many it doesn’t take much peer pressure for FOMO to kick in. No one really wants to be the odd one out. Everyone has that side of themselves that doesn’t care for anything, and so is completely free to enjoy life without worrying about repercussions. So really, the song is about whether you let that voice make decisions, and if people even have that kind of self-control in the first place.
You amassed half a million streams, how did this make you feel, and how do you feel this motivated you?
This was one of those songs that almost wrote itself. Perry, who plays bass usually, came up with the guitar part, and from there everything just seemed to slot into place. Sometimes all it takes is one nice chord sequence and everyone just knows what to do intuitively. Recording it was a little more challenging. The producer, Al Groves, was easily the most experienced we’d ever worked with, and had his own vision for the track. We were quite proud of the demo we brought into the studio, so when he started ripping the floorboards up off it, we really resisted, even though he had good reasons that we just couldn’t see at the time. In the end, we all made a few sacrifices and settled on something that all of us are proud of. And we’re glad we did. Al is really good at what he does. In this industry it's pretty rare to come across someone with that level of expertise, especially one that wants to work with you. We recorded 8 songs with him in total, and a project like that is a big ego check for everyone involved. Everyone thinks their idea is best, and everyone wants to leave their mark. But there's always a middle ground and once you land on it, things really come together.
What was the recording/writing process like for ‘Velvet Sun’?
The difference with this tune was that we built it up one part at a time from our home studio, rather than jamming it out in a rehearsal room, so it had this electronic, dancey feel, but made from mostly human elements. That’s something we’ve tried to carry forward into a lot of our writing. Before, it was usually a case of: sit down all together, one person play an idea, and we try to vibe it out, which still works great. But, this other way opened a whole new avenue for us to get creative. We all love dance music, and we’d been trying to find ways of incorporating it into what we we’re doing for a while. It felt like we got the formula just right with this one, not only with the finished product, but the process of getting there. Suddenly, the rules changed. We weren’t limited to playing pure “indie” music. We didn’t have to stick to our own individual instruments. We could do anything we wanted. And as the songs evolved, so did the live show. No way we could create this kind of vibe in a room with just guitars and drums, so we started adding elements that we hadn’t considered before. When we look at our sound now compared to what it was at the start, this song was a bit of a turning point.
How do you think this song has changed in terms of your previous songs?
It’s a funny feeling when you go to sleep with 1000 plays on your song and wake up with 20,000. It’s even funnier watching that number keep going up and up. The main thing we kept asking is “how have we got so lucky?”. Obviously, you have to back yourself and have faith in what you’re making, but when things actually start taking off there’s always this air of disbelief. That said, it’s definitely a big motivation. The danger is to think that you’ve already made it. We’d put so much work into the band before that, and it’s all too easy to see that kind of response and ease off the gas. You’ve got to remind yourself that getting half a million streams is only a good start. A good omen of things to come. A milestone on the way to a much bigger achievement. Still plenty of graft to be done.
What is next for you?
Lots more music. It’s kind of ironic, because at the start of 2020 we weren’t entirely happy with how the band was doing, and said we would stop playing gigs for a little while in order to work on new music and a new live setup. We only intended to stop for a few months maximum, but then March rolled around and everyone had to stop doing everything for the next year. So, by the time we were allowed out again, we were a completely different outfit. We’ve not wasted our time indoors. We’ve got that new music and new live show we wanted, and by the end of the year, the tunes will all be out in the wild, and we’ll be out with them having a mint one.
You can download 'Velvet Sun' by King Kuda here.