Seizing the throne: The rise of Kingswood

Claire Varley

I witnessed Kingswood’s electrifying performance back in May 2014 at the Hi-Fi in Melbourne.

When I tell frontman, Fergus Linacre, to my surprise he immediately responds “The pizza gig!” recalling that during the performance, he had brought a pizza out from backstage, claiming they had too much, and thrown the box into the audience to be shared.

The fact he remembers this small detail from that one gig in such clarity is impressive. I get the feeling he has just as much fun at shows, and makes just as many memories, as the cheering audience.

The pizza was just one of many memorable moments that made up the impressive gig. Their vibrant rock energy filled the room, firmly establishing themselves as one of Australia’s foremost, upcoming rock bands.

Hailing from Melbourne, the four-piece rock outfit, made up of Fergus Linacre, Alex Laska, Jeremy “Mango” Hunter and Justin Debrincrat, has been on a steady rise to fame since forming in 2009.

In August 2014, they released their wildly successful Aria nominated debut album, Microscopic Wars, and have since been touring and playing sold out shows across the country. I spoke to Linacre about their busy past year, current tour, and what’s next for Kingswood.

How is your tour going?

Excellent, we’ve just done a bunch of shows in Queensland so Byron Bay, Sunshine Coast, and stuff like that, it’s excellent, and we have a week off this week and then on the road again soon.

Microscopic Wars was produced by Vance Powell, who has notably worked with Jack White and the Arctic Monkeys, did you actively seek to work with him?

We actually put the feelers out before we really targeted anyone. Someone gave him our EP and he said that he was interested in working with us, so we had a few Skype chats and talked about how we wanted to record, and one of the things that attracted us to him was he records to tape, so you can’t just go over and over again to fix things, you have to get it right once you’re in the studio. So we liked that, and we really loved Blunderbuss, Jack White’s solo record that was recorded all on 8-track, which is just crazy, and it sounded so good. So we really wanted to work with Vance, and when he said yes, we knew we had to go to America. 

Did you find you worked differently being in a new environment?

Definitely, it was completely new experience. I mean we’ve recorded before, but never like that, never to tape and never with so much freedom. That’s what encouraged us to be more daring than we thought we should be. We’d write a song and think, that’s all okay, that’s all good, but a million songs have been done like that, let’s try and make it different. I think the result of that is a really diverse record that we’re really proud of, and I think a big part of that is from allowing and encouraging us to be as weird as we possibly could be.

Microscopic Wars was nominated for an Aria award, it didn’t win, but you were a part of the winning album via your collaboration with Dan Sultan on his Aria winning album, Blackbird. How did that come about?

I was sitting on the phone outside Blackbird Studio in Nashville, and he’d just recorded his record, his Aria winning record, in the same studio we were in at that time, and he was in another section of the studio doing some overdubs, and he came up and was like “Hey man, I need some backing vocals, can you guys sing?” So not only did we get to sing on Dan’s record, which is wonderful, but we got to work with Jacquire King, who was Dan’s producer, who’s done a lot of the Kings of Leon records, and stuff like that. So it was pretty crazy being in there, being in the little Nashville world, where there are people who recorded with Lennon who would just pop in to see Vance; it was great.

What would be your dream collaboration?

Wow, that’s a good question. We’d love to work with Jack White. Vance records almost all of Jack’s stuff, so we heard all the stories and learnt about his process, which was great. I love his process; it’s really honest. His band is so good that they record straight to tape. We did overdubs, he doesn’t do overdubs, its just 12 people playing in a room and eight mics recording them, and what they play in that room is what you hear on the record. So I’d love to work with him and do something crazy like that.

You’ve said in a few interviews that anything can affect song writing, not just other musicians, so what’s been an influence on your process that we may not expect?

Definitely your environment can influence you. We all moved into our Kew house, which is where we got together and wrote the album, and created these shells of songs, which we left open to be moulded once we got to Nashville. We set up this house and we had drinks and parties in there, where we would jam all through the night cause we had no noise restrictions. That whole environment, I can’t say how directly, I can’t put it into a specific song, but that environment definitely shaped how we all recorded and played together.

You have a classic rock and roll stage presence, is that something that’s come naturally or have you had to work to really hone your craft?

I would say the latter; I think it just comes with time. You can’t psyche yourself up and say, “I’m going to go on stage tonight and be Steve Tyler,” it doesn’t work like that. If I look back at how I used to be, I don’t think I’m some kind of crazy frontman or anything, but I was a lot more nervous, and I didn’t have confidence and stuff like that. But rather than faking it, I think as you keep going, and as you play more shows, you don’t get nervous anymore and you enjoy it more. We don’t just say, “lets go out there and just go crazy.” I think our presence has just come from the fact that we just love playing and we’ve been doing it for a long time, and we enjoy being out there.

What’s your favourite song to play live?

Mine is I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me (ICFTYDLM), I love it. Alex sings lead on that, so I just get to sit back and play tambourine, and look around the audience. I like to look around and take it in, I mean I still get to do that when I sing, but I guess I’m focusing a bit more on my role. Whereas in that song, I sit back and do harmonies, and take in the room or the festival or wherever we are.

 

Despite your songs being on a grand scale and having a big sound, there is definitely a raw, emotional vulnerability to a lot of your lyrics. Do you find it cathartic to play these songs?

You do think about it when you’re singing, and if it’s a song I’ve written, I think it’s easier to feel that emotion when you’re singing it. But I will always embrace that; I’ll never hide away from it. The more you’re in touch with the song on stage, the better. With songs that Al’s written – or anyone else, but Al writes most of our stuff – whatever he was going through at the time that made him write those lyrics, I was there next to him and talking about it. Because we’ve been with each other forever as a band, all of us, all those things in our songs, we were all around each other when it happened, so [I] do feel like I understand it. It’s not like I’m singing random lyrics, I know how he felt, I was there, so it’s easy to get in touch with those emotions, definitely.

Your cover of Wolf by First Aid Kit is one of my favourite covers of all time. What is the process of putting together a killer cover like that?

We wanted to do Alt-J, but then we found out someone who did Like A Version before us had done Alt-J, so we couldn’t do that. So we really loved that song Wolf, and I don’t know if we thought we could do a good cover, but we thought we’d just do a song we really liked. I think we did it in a night, and made it our own as much as we could, and drew from different aspects of their song, and took different backing vocals and made them more prominent. It was very fun, I’d like to do it again actually.

You’ve had a huge 2014, and 2015 is already filling up fast with tours, what can we expect from Kingswood next?

We haven’t got together and started writing as a group yet, but I’m sure everyone is making terrible recordings into their phones, it’s always funny looking back at voice recordings, they’re always terrible, but we’re definitely going to think about recording another album. We’re going to try to do that this year, but I guess our main thing is we’re going to go over to America and tour the album, and then Europe as well. So if all goes well, and we’re busy doing that, then we’ll do the album next year, but if no one wants to see us play, then we’ll record another album.

If my experience is anything to go by, I can’t help but think it will be a while before we hear another Kingswood album.

Claire Varley is a journalism student of La Trobe University. Find her on twitter @missclaireh

kingswood union

Kingswood will be performing at La Trobe University alongside Bad News Toilet and James Moloney and the Mad Dog Harrisons at 8pm Thursday March 19, La Trobe University’s Eagle Bar. For more information visit La Trobe Activities.

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