Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
To Kill A KingPrevious Next
author HES date 02/04/15
I discovered To Kill A King at a Bastille show, and while this probably does not go for the teenagers on the front row, for me personally the band stole the thunder. Since releasing a self-titled album this month, the band has been touring busily and are moving towards the end of a European run. But when we meet keyboardist Ben Jackson and composer/lead vocalist Ralph Pelleymounter in the backstage area of Lille Vega they may seem worn, but with eyes still lively and gleaming.
Ben: Not to my knowledge, but I may have kicked a few people. They deserved it.
Ralph: Yeah sometimes we invite people we don’t like, put them on the guest list and then send Ben out to kick them in the head. (laughs)
Ben Jackson on keyboard, Ralph Pelleymounter just visible in the back
(Live photos in the article courtesy of philipbh.com
I think the way they interact with their audience is just fantastic and they’re so energetic on stage – so I think those are the things [I would take away]. But if we tried to do that we would look silly. I love seeing bands like Fleet Foxes, as he [Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold] did a show in the Roundhouse, which is a big venue and the control he has over his audience is just amazing.
RF.net: So you are taking pointers, but you are also very much doing your own thing? And you’ve been touring a lot recently?
Ralph: Yeah we just did England quite a bit and now we’re doing Europe – so it’s coming to the end of this tour.
Ben: Yeah, but we don’t have much more. Only two more shows. I think as you get towards the end of something, you grow really tired of it. If the tour was another month long I wouldn’t be as tired. But it’s just like when it’s the end of school, you know the end of a term and you’re like “fuck this”.
RF.net: So it’s actually not the length of it that makes you tired, it’s just knowing that you’re almost done?
Ralph: Yeah. But I do think we would still be quite tired. You know you just mentally prepare yourself for how long it’s going to be.
I think the thing we try to do to combat that, was to flip old demos into new productions, which then gives it this sense of scope. So it’ll be just one mic in the room and a rough recording like on “Grace of the Party” where slam! - you’re into this very heavy drum set! I think that makes it more personal as well.
Ben: I think with the first album we did find, especially when we’d done a lot of touring, that people were often surprised after hearing our records, in contrast to how energetic [we are] when we’re on the stage. And I guess we have taken that to the next level.
RF.net: But has it been working live then?
Ralph: Yeah I think our set now is much better than it has been. But I guess you’ll see at the show later. But yeah the ones on this tour, especially in Germany have been amazing.
To Kill A King – Funeral (Live)
Also listening to a lot - some of the albums like the Pixies that I used to listen to when I was younger: I think I sort of got into - listening to a lot of those bands when I was writing this album. Like Green Day as well and Foo Fighters - It’s slightly heavier guitar music.
Ralph: I find it really hard to pick. I am really, really, really proud of this album. I like the way it sort of changes halfway through. But I think my favorite playing live is “Friends” at the moment. I feel like we’ve achieved something as a band with it - it’s pretty tight - I hope we’re not going to fuck it up tonight now! It’s got stops and it’s just a feeling of “it’s good that we got those down”. If we fuck those up then it’s really going to mess up that song.
Ben: There’s a song called “Musicians Like Gamblers Like Drunks Like Me" which is the other way around. I really like it for the lyrics - and I am allowed to say that as I didn’t write them. But I sometimes wonder, because it’s written from the perspective of a musician: If I wasn’t a musician whether I would still like it. But I do relate to it.
RF.net: I was actually wondering: This is generally applicable to bands I find, that when they write their first album they draw from a huge amount of ideas that they have had in their lives, as being something other than musicians. Do you find that it’s different to come up with inspiration for songwriting, since you're now actually full time touring musicians?
Ralph: It has actually been a lot easier with this one - just because we didn’t really know necessarily what we were doing with the first one. So that was definitely trial by error. We had lots of songs at that point too, and it was kind of tough to will them down. This time we knew what we wanted the album to be like. So we could write the songs around that. I never find myself particularly stuck finding material to work with. There is generally more that I’m writing than gets used. I am also writing for other people now, too. So I think with this one [the album], it kind of flipped into being more personal album. That might be what you were talking about - because with the first album it was definitely more about writing other people’s stories. You reflect more on yourself, because you’re not really spending that much time working with other people.
Ben’s favourite song, The Chancer
So he marries her, but he returns to the whorehouses so she divorces him and in the end he is in the madhouse, about to be lobotomized. It’s this series of paintings and “Good Times” is mostly trying to do that story, as this guy not really knowing where he is going. But it’s also a big party, so you can definitely dance to it. If you ever get a chance you should see them in London - it’s like eight huge paintings that tells the story quite clearly.
William Hogarth. The Tavern Scene. (A Rake's Progress)
But as of yet, I don’t really know what that’s going to be. And I don’t want it to be really forced like “Let’s do a synth album!” I think it happened quite natural this one, but I think if we just started writing as of right now, our heads would be very much in this album and this sound. So yeah. We’ll see…
RF.net: It sounds like you’re trying to kind of reinvent yourself? Like you want to do something new instead of using the same old formula?
Ralph: I think sometimes fans say that they want the same album again, but I really don’t think it’s what they want - they want something new. I mean the reviews have been kind of mixed, but I rather like that. Some people are loving it and some people are really disappointed. But those people are disappointed mostly because they were all into how the old album sounds - but I think that’s just what happens. You can’t please everyone. I know personally that if there’s a band I love and they did do the exact same album the next time you’d be like “but why?” and it gets a bit boring.
Ben: …If we were ever working on a song in the rehearsal room and we end up simplifying something, it’s not because we feel like the audience won’t get it, then it’s just because we feel like there is too much going on. But we try not to second guess what the audience is going to be looking for.
Ralph: I could imagine it would be a very worrisome situation, if you were trying to guess what people are going to like or not like. I would be quite terrified.
RF.net:Well that is good to hear because you do hear about these constellations where people end up not writing for themselves.
Ralph: With me it’s quite nice that I have this constellation where I write for other people actually. So that’s not for myself. But that has a strange satisfaction as well because you don’t have to express something that is actually your own truthful outlook on something. So you’re helping them write their own - which is quite relaxing in some ways. We do try to not write too much about love, although this album is very much about it. But not necessarily the straightforward kind of love song, that you have been thinking about. But then you write it for somebody and you can throw in those lines and you think “I wouldn’t do that. No wait. It’s okay. You can do that”. If they’re happy to do so of course!
The band's recent single “Love Is Not Control”
Ben: (Joking) because it’s too complex…
Ralph: No but it just takes a little bit longer to listen to. Also there are just barely any bands played on the radio compared to like “dance music”. Every year they do the print outs of artists that are on the top 50 and every year there are like 3 guitar music artists. But they’re not even you know… bands. They were things like Ed Sheeran or Ben Howard - who are very good, but they’re not quite the same as a band. They’re more like singer/songwriters.
RF.net: I am actually surprised to hear this because I feel like in Denmark a lot of bands complain that it’s so hard to get on Danish P3 which I guess is sort of like your BBC1. And bands we know are worried if they sound mainstream enough, or how will they ever get through this bottleneck and get airplay. But I see bands like you guys and some of the younger bands like Mallory Knox getting into BBC1, and ok they’re kind of a commercial band, but you would never hear it here! [/iview-q]