Gems are hidden behind the mainstream musicians that soak up the limelight out there in the dog eat dog music industry. Four friends hailing from Warrington and Manchester, England were brought together back in 2006 but have since stayed relatively quiet under the careful guidance of James Stelfox, bassist of Starsailor fame, as they record new, kick ass demos. Add to that, they’ve been recording at Doghouse Studios – the star studded destination for Starsailor, Kate Nash, Amy Winehouse and Babyshambles.
I had the opportunity to listen to one of the rough and early tracks that they have been working on since their single, “Lights Never Faded to Black” was dropped back in 2009. Their new material stays true to its Britpop origins, with an experimental twist of diverse and heavier instrumentals that contend with Wez’s raw sprechgesang vocals. It’s an addicting and powerful union of voice verses instrument that grows on you but doesn’t grow old.
Musebox recently had the pleasure of chatting with the indie band The Kingsway, made up of Wez Dolphin (vocals), Tom Cummings (guitars and backing vocals), Dan Markie (bass) and Joe Cummings (drums and percussion) about getting together to form their band and name, making music and working with James Stelfox and Starsailor. It’s only a matter of time before the quartet is picked up by a music label, and embodies the rock star status that all musicians dream of. Musebox gives you one of the first looks into an up and comer, The Kingsway.
Who are the members in your band? How did you meet your band members?
Dan: Me and Tom met at college when we were in-between bands. Good vibes straight away. Both liked the same music, both liked a good riff and a good session out in town so the foundations were in place. When Tom brought Joe into the fold the chemistry was there straight away – all in sync with each others’ style of playing. We all knew Wez from school and our circle of friends and after a few pints one weekend and a bit of bravado we thought we’d test him out. Wez has got a lot of presence about him and you never struggle to hear him chatting so what better than to test him in front of a mic – don’t think you can question the power he brings to the band and recordings.
Where does your band name The Kingsway come from?
Wez: The name was a long time coming – we were racking our brains for ages. At the end of the day a name sticks so it needs to say something about you and roll off the tongue nicely. No one’s going to watch you if your name doesn’t speak to them! The Kingsway is a road me and Dan live off and we all use it to get to our practice studio so it’s played a big part in the bands life. We also like to see it as something to aim towards – The Way of the Kings. We want to be up there with the bands that captures people’s attention and the name helps spur us on to that.
What is your musical background and why did you find that your life’s calling was in music? What or who inspired you?
Joe: We come from a place where every house has an instrument, every party had someone playing something, the stereo was always on, family parties turned into family gigs so it’s always been there. We’ve all been supported and encouraged to play. When you love music and you surround yourself with it, at some point you want to make your own.
Do you or your band mates hold any day jobs?
Wez: We all work – there’s no getting away from it. We all have places to pay for, a rehearsal room to keep rented, equipment to buy, studio time to pay for; it never stops. The one thing we share when we are working is that we are always thinking about the band – writing lyrics, melodies and hooks. 24/7 man – it can drive you mad when all you want to do is trade your current job for this full-time.
What type of instruments do you play?
Tom: Myself and Dan use a mix of Epiphone and Fender guitars depending on the track. Epiphone to get a fatter, rockier sound with more bottom end or Fender, which gives a nice cut-through and twang on certain strings.
Joe: I play a Pearl Export kit with a mix of Sabian or Zildjian symbals and we tend to use SM58 mics in the rehearsal studio.
Are you signed? Or what type of coverage have you guys gotten?
Tom: We’re not signed yet but the new mixes we’re getting back soon will definitely open doors – we totally believe that. The early mixes are sounding great – big stompers with a lot of attitude and with the producers we’re working with we’re getting a great band sound now. We’ve done a bit of PR work but we wanted to wait until we had something right, something we all felt ‘that’s us’, ‘that’s what we’re about’ before properly getting out there. There’s no point shouting your mouth off to whoever will listen if you aren’t totally in-synch with your recordings. We’ve got that now and we know a lot of people will see where we’re coming from.
What has it been like to be supported by a mentor like James Stelfox. How important has a mentorship for your band’s career been? What are some accomplishments that have resulted from the mentorship?
Wez: It’s been a great privilege. He has given a lot of time and input so we have worked hard to repay the faith. He’s an amazing and committed musician and if we can achieve a small percentage of the success he has had with Starsailor I think we’d all be buzzing. Not many unsigned bands can say they’ve worked with someone who has sold records worldwide and played some of the biggest gigs out there like Glastonbury. One of the highlights for me was recording our latest mixes at Doghouse Studios where the likes of Starsailor, Kate Nash, Amy Winehouse and Babyshambles have all recorded – That place was proper rock n roll. We worked with Starsailor’s engineer and had Stel and Mark Collins from The Charlatans helping to produce. But you know what, the tunes deserved and needed a place and team like that to help come to life so it was the best place for us to be.
MB: Is there any mantra you live by with your music career?
Dan: First of all we make music for ourselves. We all need this band to help get things out of our system plus we’re all creative. I’d much prefer to be in that rehearsal space with these lads instead of sitting on my ass watching TV! We’re proud of what we’ve put in and what we’ve achieved so far.
Tom: I can’t think of anything else that would make me buzz more – looking out at a gig and seeing someone sing your lyrics with heart and see that they’re thinking ‘Yes mate, I’m right there with you. I know what you’re saying.’ – so I’m extroverted in that sense.
What’s the process of making music like for your band?
Joe: It can be a long and frustrating process or sometimes the tune can come just like that. But what’s different with us is that everyone has an equal input. There’s no dictatorship, we all steer the direction it’s going in and I thinks that important for pushing the performances as we are all at peace with where the sound is. Ideas can come from all of us but usually Tom has a riff or Wez has a melody that kicks things off.
Wez: Usually the sounds the lads are creating give me or Tom a vibe about what to write about. We’ve always needed to feel where the jams are going before fitting words or melodies around them. We’ve never been ones to write lyrics first and then find the tune we all just respond better to sounds.
What are some of the bands that you’ve collaborated with or toured with/played with?
Tom: I’m not big on talking this up. Support slots feel like a big deal but they don’t mean much unless you’re playing with some of the big boys to big audiences. We’ve played with quite a few recognizable names from the UK scene but the gigs are never that meaningful, just another name to add to your website so it’s about us now. We’re producing top tunes and we want our headline slot now – no matter how big or small.
How did your band manage to grab the support slot for Starsailor?
Wez: Channel 4 in the UK was filming documentaries on a number of high profile bands and looking back at their roots. We were working closely with Stel at the time and I think he knew that we, and the tunes, could stand up to an audience like that so opened the door for us to get some more experience. It was an immense gig and the Starsailor forums were talking about us for a good few weeks after.
When making music, do you focus more on the melody or the lyrics?
Wez: I think melodies are really important. If you haven’t got a catchy melody then no one is going to give a shit about what you’re harping on about because they won’t feel it. You can be preaching about the most important thing in the world but a boring melody will just squash the power of them.
Tom: Melody and lyrics are all well and good but you also need strong hooks to put them round. You have to get the listener to latch onto the vibe of the song, merge with it, feel it – the hooks achieve that just as much as a good melody or set of lyrics.
Your Myspace page states that your influence is L.I.F.E. Can you elaborate? What social media sites do you use and how often are you on? What site are you on or using most often?
Joe: There’s no point listing the bands that have influenced us like everyone else – you’ll hear that in our music. Of course we’ll have our favorites but we prefer to think that our tunes are influenced by where the band is at and what happens in our days. We use a mixture of Myspace, Facebook and Twitter but aren’t that great with them. We’d rather be jamming but it’s good to know that people are tracking you. We’ve done well by word of mouth so it shows it’s not all about social media.
Do you have new material? If so, what should your fans be looking forward to?
Dan: We’ve just put the finishing touches on our latest mixes. Expect big stompers, a rawness and edgy feel with great melodies to sing along to. They’re pumping, do you know what I mean, they’re full of adrenaline.
Do you have any last minute advice for the aspiring musicians out there?
Wez: Believe in your band and what you’re creating.