Along with the release of Kingswood’s new record After Hours, Close To Dawn on Friday came a drastically different sound than what fans are used to. Saying goodnight to their previously celebrated rock n roll ferocity, the boys have opened their minds, blurred the lines, and taken a courageous, experimental leap.
We chatted with frontman Alex Laska to find out what inspired the new sound, the inner workings of the album, the artists who influenced the change, how fans can expect to see “the best musical experience of all that anyone has ever experienced in the history of music” on their upcoming tour, and why scaling the sides of hotel buildings is probably not a grand idea.
Just how differently have Kingswood played their hand on After Hours, Close To Dawn? We dissect the new sound with Alex Laska.
HAPPY: On Friday Kingswood released After hours, Close To Dawn, and with this LP you’ve taken a noticeably different approach to rock n roll. More “Steely Dan than AC/DC” as it was said… Who and what inspired that change? Talk me through it?
ALEX: I guess everyone’s life situations and musical imperatives continuously change, because we continually change as people, so it only makes sense that all the new influences infiltrate the musical side of our life.
HAPPY: So, musically who was inspiring you at the time of recording the album?
ALEX: We were listening to everything from D’Angelo’s Black Messiah album to old Jay-Z , through to Beyoncé’s Lemonade, through to Al Green through to Queen and the BeeGee’s, as well as old Chilli Peppers. That’s a small range of what we were listening to. Father John Misty, The Beatles! A lot of The Beatles, we always listen to The Beatles. How can you not listen to The Beatles?!
HAPPY: How do you feel people will react to this new and improved sound?
ALEX: Surely there are going to be some that are diametrically opposed to it. There’s going to be some resistance I’m assuming, those with more open minds will probably relish in it, and there will be potentially be a huge new selection of people who previously wouldn’t have listened to us at all. I think I’ve covered every single scenario of what could happen there.
HAPPY: Where did you record the album and with whom were you working?
ALEX: We did a majority of it in a studio in Nashville called Sound Emporium, a beautiful establishment that used to belong to Johnny Cash’s producer and has recorded the likes of Robert Plant, Cyndi Lauper, Pharrell, the list is endless. We did it with a guy called Ed Spear who was the assistant engineer on our first album that we also did in Nashville in a different studio. It progressed naturally without discussion that he was going to be making the album because of the bond that we made during the first one.
HAPPY: Which track on the LP means the most to you and why? Talk me through the writing process of the album.
ALEX: I can’t honestly say one over the other because they’ve all factored in different dimensions of my emotional state, so to pinpoint one and say that encapsulates everything I was feeling is kind of impossible. If I had to say one that I’m most proud of, I’d have to say Golden, as far as my writing is concerned, and that’s only because I feel like it’s a progression for me but that doesn’t necessarily answer your question – it’s a side answer!
HAPPY: What was the inspiration behind Golden? How did you go about writing it?
ALEX: I looked within to a particular feeling I had about a particular, wonderful young lady who has moved to another country. The song sort of wrote itself and unfolded very, very quickly, the lyrics kind of wrote themselves. I was trying to explain this to someone the other day, I feel like I just get lucky in the sense that I’m in the right place at the right time, and I don’t really have to think too much about it and they’re the songs that I’m probably most proud of. They’re the ones that feel are kind of magical in a way because they just come out of nowhere and there’s almost no thought that goes into it, everything just flows. That’s not to say that the ones we work at are any worse or any better, it’s just a different way that it transpires. It feels like you’re cheating in a way when you get the ones that are presenting themselves to you.
HAPPY: You’re about to embark on a tour for the album, what can fans expect to see in the live show? What’s your favourite aspect of being on the road?
ALEX: Fans can expect to see the best musical experience of all that anyone has ever experienced in the history of music and the best part of being on the road is being able to commit to that idea.
HAPPY: So do you guys have any wacky on-tour stories or rituals?
ALEX: Justin will always shave the upper portion of his quad right before he does every show because he likes the skin to be very smooth just in that region. It’s a very, very interesting ritual. Hmm, in regards to the crazy on-tour stories there’s nothing I can really divulge without causing some sort of backlash, however we are banned from a hotel in Darwin for a member of the touring party scaling the building from the outside and getting to the roof, and then asking us to get the staff to open the roof access door so he could get down only to find out that there was no roof access, so they called the police. Also to get back into the room he swung into a stranger’s room thinking it was our room, and that caused some havoc. Then the next day another touring member flooded three rooms worth of space with water, and I can’t tell you how that happened, but it happened!
HAPPY: Damn! Messing up hotel rooms, and scaling buildings – that’s very Joe Walsh!
ALEX: (laughs) There’s a lot of Joe Walsh about this character!
HAPPY: You guys are doing a few record store signings and performances which is something that doesn’t happen too often these days but used to. What inspired that?
ALEX: Ahh, like you said it doesn’t really happen anymore and it gives you a chance to put the songs on trial in a really, really intimate way, there are no bells and whistles and we can’t show you all the tricks that we’ve contoured so it’s more about here are the songs and do they stand on their own in a very, very intimate setting with a guitar, or some keys, and some voices? Also just to get insight into the people who are supporting us and thank them.
ALEX: I sure am. I’d say it’s a reasonably extensive collection, I wouldn’t say it’s big but I’d say it’s very appropriate. I seek things that I really want, so everything is very specific, I don’t just go ‘oh, I’m going to buy three albums that have just come out today on vinyl’ it’s a very specific thing. My most prized vinyl, that’s a tricky one! I’ve got a limited edition coloured Abbey Road that I’m pretty fond of, and just having a e, I’m pretty into that! I’ve got an original Simon and Garfunkel from my parent’s collection that’s pretty worn out, but that’s probably my most played vinyl. Believe it or not, I just love it.
HAPPY: No judgement here! I think Simon and Garfunkel were phenomenal. Now, I have one last question, what makes you happy?
ALEX: That’s a very open philosophical question but what makes me happy is being inspired and being contented in life, those are the two things that make me extremely happy. And seeing other people happy is genuinely something that I think makes myself, and many other people happy even just for a split second.
Kingswood are touring After Hours, Close To Dawn from the end of March through April. Catch the dates on the tour poster below, and head here to grab tickets.