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Double Up and Come Back #2: Tommy Wright of Young Kato Interview Rewind

 
By on Tuesday, 16th September 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Yes, it’s September, and summer festival season is over. But that doesn’t mean that Young Kato are taking any breaks. The Cheltenham group released their latest EP this week, titled ‘Sunshine’. (You can read my In the Post analysis of the track here.)

I had the opportunity to chat with their rather well-coiffed Young Kato frontman Tommy Wright at Liverpool Sound City back in May. It was a particularly busy weekend that saw the group from Cheltenham play a show at Live at Leeds that Saturday afternoon before travelling west for their appearance at the Zanzibar in Scouseland. “Everywhere we go, we’re still quite a small band, up and coming, we expect to play to no-one, so when we walk in to something like Live at Leeds, where there are so many bands to choose from and you have a full room, what a great atmosphere. It’s a great experience.”

As strongly supported by the comments of Henry Binns in Carrie’s recent Skype interview with the producer/musician of Zero 7, song syncing in television is now an important source of revenue for bands. But what seems more important in the case of Young Kato is the visibility leading to fame. There is no denying that the size of the throngs that now seem to follow the six-piece around the country are at least in part a direct benefit from their music being played on and their gig associations with E4 reality drama Made in Chelsea, which has clearly made the band much more well known in the country. When I asked him about how it happened, Wright said he wasn’t sure how MiC’s music producer Andrea found their music, but “she played us a few times in the background, they put us on a Spotify playlist, and the script was written with the idea that there would be a band on the show, playing live. Fortunately, she pushed for us and so that’s how it came about. And it’s been amazing for us, obviously.”

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPGnG9KX7xc[/youtube]

He also told me an amusing anecdote about how he’d still been working in a shop around the time when the episode with their live appearance aired and the next morning, “someone walked into the shop and stared at me for a long, long time and asked, ‘were you on tv last night?’ ‘Uh, yeah…” Still, he said at the time the guys don’t expect to be recognised when they’re out and about but when they are, it’s really nice to be noticed. I think it’s safe to say that they should be getting comfortable with the notion of this now, having graduated to a contract with major label BMG, “a force to be reckoned with”.

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to touch base with Tommy again to see how their summer had been. “Our summer was great, thank you! We’ve been kept busy playing festies and writing more and more music. Highlights have to be playing BST Hyde Park, [our] London headline show at the Islington and writing/recording the upcoming EP.” I prodded him for more about the ‘Sunshine’ EP and how it fits in the ongoing Young Kato story. “I believe ‘Sunshine’ is a perfect representation to where we are as a band at this very moment. We’re in very good place, hence the joyous and carefree vibe. Not everyone’s the same, but it’s completely natural to me for my writing to be dictated by how I’m feeling at the time.”

It sounds like the new EP is a good next progression for the band such that they’re not staying in the same place, while also not saying goodbye to what has made them already fast fan favourites all over the UK. “The songs on the EP certainly keep with the Young Kato sound and feel. I’d say ‘Sunshine’ leans more towards [former single] ‘Drink, Dance, Play’ due to its natural energy, chants and all. I’m most proud of track two, ‘Ultraviolet’, as it is heavily inspired by big ‘80s tunes. [Bandmate and guitarist Joe] Green and I have even included breathing loops throughout, inspired by a Kraftwerk song we stumbled upon around the time we were writing it. This EP is fun, a celebration of where we’re at right now.” I also asked that given that we’re closing in on astrological autumn, if he or the band had any reservations on the release date in September for an album clearly made in a sunnier, warmer environment. His reply was brilliant: “I guess it is slightly weird, but that’s the beauty of music. Music has the ability to brighten up even the darkest, coldest days.” That’s very true, isn’t it?

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiB7PPEc13o[/youtube]

The promo video for ‘Sunshine’ released in early August doesn’t star the band – I’m sure many fans are mourning over this – but instead features a young girl listening to music on her headphones, dancing in her own dream world although she’s actually in a council estate. Tommy explains the premise: “The ‘Sunshine’ video for me needed to be simplistic and sunny. This would allow our song with a joyous chorus, big chants and hooks to be the centre point. Given that, we always take care in the aesthetics of a video, hand picking directors we like who cinematically are [at the] top of their game.” This attention to detail is, to me, yet another indicator of Young Kato’s great pride in being in a band and making music for the masses.

Going back to the song, I had to ask Tommy what the deal was with the saxophone. “We had the hook nailed in the song for a long time, then we set off to investigate sounds that would be best suited for the role. When researching back to some great ‘90s dance tunes and even some more current songs around at the moment, Harry [Steele, their keyboardist] thought the use of a saxophone would be ideal. There’s only one tune with the sax unfortunately, and that’s ‘Sunshine’! It’s something we’d definitely think about using again though.”

Finally, before I could leave the young Mr Wright alone, I had to ask how progress was coming along with their debut album release. In Liverpool in May, he’d said that they were the ultimate in perfectionists, going back into the studio to faff around with already worked on tune again. This time when I asked though, it sounds like things are set in stone, or are at least closer to being that way: “The album is on its way and we can guarantee that an album will be out, [we’re] looking at early next year! We’ve been adding some finishing touches to it, but it will be everything we’ve promised and more. Keep your eyes peeled.” And that we shall.

Many thanks to Tommy for being so kind to answer my questions yet again (we’re either headed towards becoming best buds or he already thinks I’m super annoying, ha!) and Paul for his assistance with this. You can listen to ‘Light It Up’ from the EP below, and for more TGTF writing on Young Kato, head this way.

 

Double Up and Come Back #1: Paul Noonan of Bell X1 Interview Rewind

 
By on Friday, 12th September 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

Last week, Irish art rockers Bell X1 began part 2 of the touring cycle for ‘Chop Chop’, their fifth studio album that was released back in July 2013. When I caught up with frontman Paul Noonan via e-mail a few days ago, he was surprisingly frank about the album’s reception thus far. “To be honest we hoped it would have gotten to more ears by now. When we made the record we had such fire for it, and were aching to get it out there. We love playing so we’re glad to be out again, but we had hoped we’d get to visit a lot more places in the US this second time around.”

In my interview with him from last spring, Noonan talked about the “mentality shift” that went into the making of ‘Chop Chop’, particularly with regard to technical skill and playing the songs live. “We really wanted to do it quickly and mine a little more instinct and intuition and become better musicians.” He emphasised the live aspect of the band’s music as not just the end result, but an important part of the songwriting process. “Initially, actually, we wanted to make two short albums, and call one ‘Chop’ and the other ‘Chop’ and then have some kind of a way of connecting them that they would become ‘Chop Chop’. The time from making a record to it actually getting out is often frustratingly long, and often you spend 6 months or so sitting on a record you’ve made and are burning to get out and play and to bring to people. And so we wanted to make a record and put it out very quickly and then tour that, and then (repeat the cycle)”.

While events didn’t work out exactly according to that plan, circumstances did conspire to highlight a few other dualities surrounding Bell X1 relative to ‘Chop Chop’. The band spent the remainder of last year on the first part of the album’s tour cycle, including the October 2013 live date reviewed here. They then took a brief hiatus, which saw two of the band members working on side projects. Noonan introduced his treble-oriented duet project Printer Clips, which realised the idea of combining two component parts into a single unit. Meanwhile, multi-instrumentalist David Geraghty continued his understated solo work under the new title Join Me in the Pines. Noonan puts the side projects into perspective, saying that they fit comfortably into Bell X1’s current touring schedule. “Musicians and writers have a lot of time to make stuff, or to avoid making it, or to dream up new ideas for one day making stuff. And sometimes the stuff gets made. I suppose the band has become a hub from which lots of other projects have sprung over the years, and long may it continue. Sometimes there’s a clearing of the head required alright, when it comes time to work on new material as a band.”

After a busy start to 2014 with activity from both side projects, this summer saw Bell X1 reunite for a handful of festival dates in Ireland before they embarked on their first-ever tour of Australia in July. Of the antipodean experience, Noonan says, “It’s a hell of a long way down. We’ve been wanting to go for a while, so it was great to finally get there, and for people to show up to the gigs phew! It was a mad, spacey dash around the country in a week.”

Bell X1 began the North American leg of their autumn tour this past Tuesday in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Noonan hints that the set lists for these shows might be less focused on the recent ‘Chop Chop’. “We’ve added a few songs from other records to the pack this time out, it’s been good to get them together. We’ve been juggling various ideas for the set, trying something new every night so far.” Their opening act for the tour is Los Angeles singer/songwriter Gabriel Kahane. If Bell X1’s past support acts, which have included Lyla Foy and Duke Special, are any indication, Kahane should prove to be another undiscovered musical treasure. A full list of North American tour dates can be found on Bell X1’s official Web site.

Looking beyond the completion of their North American dates, Noonan says, “There’s some moonlighting to be done when we get home with the solo/side projects, some shows in Ireland. We’ve been offered some shows in the Middle East in December, so I’m hoping that will happen.” He is also cryptically optimistic about the potential new Bell X1 music in the near future. “We’ve been working on new songs over the summer. It’s been great to feel that thrill of jumping on that train again, glimpses of where the songs might go and what rags they may wear.”

Thanks to Paul Noonan for taking time to answer my questions, and to Foye for facilitating the e-mail exchange.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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