As soon as I heard MORE KICKS debut full length, recently released by WANDA Records, I was totally sold. This album is a blast! 12 perfectly crafted slices of amazing Powerpop with a touch of Punk thrown in for good measure! Big guitars and hooky melodies are going to please your ears for days. This is a real rock'n'roll masterpiece displaying one catchy tune after another and it'll keep you humming the songs for hours in a row.
MORE KICKS, baby!
So it was time for your truly to have an interesting chat with James SULLIVAN, mastermind behind MORE KICKS.
My name is James Sullivan but most people call me Sulli. My parents call me James so if you want to use that then it's fine by me. I'm the singer and guitar player in More Kicks. I also play in a band called Suspect Parts where I share singing and guitar duties with a beautiful American man called Justin. My first gigs were when I was 14/15 with a band called Ripchord where I played guitar and sang harmonies. Ripchord did some fun things in quite a mainstream, major label world. When that band imploded I was about 21 and I jumped into the world of DIY (although I hate that term) bands, tours and recording. Driving yourselves around Europe playing weird vegan venues and sleeping on promoters' floors. Somehow I am still doing that, but this time I demand at least a sofa.
More Kicks has been a band for about two years, formed when Kris Hood (drums) wrote to me out of the blue to say we should play songs together. He was one of the two people in London who cared about Suspect Parts so he thought it would be a good fit. He was right. I love him deeply and he is the perfect drummer – excitable, slightly eccentric (e.g. baths and decaf coffee) and a total powerhouse on drums.
On the album Marco Busato is on bass. He was our bass player for approximately 18 months and it was a privilege to play with him – fantastic musician, great company. He left the band shortly after recording because I kept asking him to grow his moustache back. So now we are joined by north London guru, Paolo Mantovani. He has the voice of an angel, the devil's left hand and is a calming presence on both me and Kris. Most importantly, he's adopted some of our tour rituals like a true pro – honey, gin and tonic, hypochondria.
2) About the self titled debut full length album, what can you tell about the recording process? Was this a "live" in the studio recording or a track by track recording with lots of overdubs?
We recorded live on to 2" tape in a studio in East London in February. Then it was mixed down on to 1/4" tape and mastered by our friend Daniel. We didn't see a computer the entire time. We recorded everything in two days and then mixed it in 1.5 days. We actually got a refund of 0.5 days because we'd paid for four days.
We did it on tape because it sounds better, we're good enough to make it work, it's more fun, and all our favourite records were done on tape. There's no question in my mind it makes for a better record and a better recording experience.
There is one guitar overdub on some of the songs, maybe a tambourine, an acoustic guitar on a couple. I did some monkey-playing-piano keyboards on a few songs. Then I did one or two takes of the vocals. I prefer doing the vocals in one take all the way through, so you don't have the chance to overthink things. You get a natural performance and you move on. I think I overdubbed a 'WOOO!' at one point.
But otherwise it was a live recording – three people in a small room. There are a few moments on the album where I actually feel anxious that the train is coming off the rails. The speed of recording was partly through necessity – we didn't have money to spend weeks in a studio. But also because it's a debut album – it's supposed to be live, unfiltered, raw, bursting with energy. Then we can get fat, drunk and coked up for the second record. It's a tale as old as time, people.
3) Do you use the nowadays digital recording technology or do you only work with analog machines in analog studios?
Oh I think I answered this already!
4) How would you describe the music you are playing? If I were to call it powerpop, would you agree with this label? Are you proud of it or do you consider there is way more than that?
It's so boring when bands complain about the names of genres because it's totally a fair question. But honestly I don't know what the hell to say. If you think it sounds powerpop then that's cool for me! I think maybe I get sensitive about the word because it is EASY to make crappy powerpop. It can be a very lazy genre – too clean, too wet, too weak, too fake. Bad powerpop is worse than the shittiest X Factor pop group because it's more fraudulent. But then I fucking love The Plimsouls, Cheap Trick, Gentleman Jesse, Big Star and people call those bands powerpop, right? I think in the end, my instincts are pop, Kris' instincts are powerpop, and Paolo's are punk. Too much of any of those three elements would be tedious.
5) What is your favorite topic/topic that comes easily when you write a new song?
For me, the lyrics usually come last. So by that point I'm excited about the cool little melody that I created and desperate to start making a little demo. Which means I write lyrics very quickly. It's the classic "I'll think of something proper later and just sing this for the moment" – and then never change them. I usually write backwards too – write the chorus first and then lead up to it with the verse.
I would say that my favourite More Kicks songs lyrically are the ones that work as a little narrative that shifts slightly throughout the song. 'Ain't That Just the Way' is maybe my favourite. 'Blame It On the Satellite' too. There is usually a hint of something broken in there. You can't trust the narrator of More Kicks songs – and that narrator is not necessarily me. There's frustration, romance, arrogance, ego, bitterness. Writing quickly enables a stream of consciousness so you don't get stuck with over-thought or insincere sentiment. There is absolutely nothing insincere or dishonest about these songs. I fucking mean every word, even the ones that don't mean anything.
6) Do you have a new video on youtube featuring a track from the newly released LP??
Yes we do! I find making videos to be one of the more painful elements of being in a band (along with general admin and carrying things) but we made a cool video for our song Blame It On The Satellite. Our friend Rizzo filmed us in north London, including at Rockaway Studios where we practice. The idea was that unreliable narrator thing – what you believe is real, what you choose to blame on an invisible force instead of taking responsibility on your own shoulders. The video cost about £20 because we went out for Turkish food afterwards and paid for Rizzo's meal and beer. It was quite literally the least we could do.
7) What can concert goers expect at a More Kicks gig? Are you playin' any famous cover songs during the concert?
When we're on tour we try to play a song from the country we're in – it's a cynical marketing technique to try and win favour from the audience. We did a Jacques Dutronc song in France, for example. Oh actually on our Spanish tour in November 2018 we were playing Moscas y Arañas by Los Negativos every night and LOVING IT. Then we played in Barcelona and two guys were kindly buying one of our records after the gig. They asked us to sign it and said 'Oh by the way, we are in Los Negativos'! I couldn't speak for a couple of minutes. We had no idea! They were there?! Bizarre and so cool. Honestly, the gigs are great. I was going to try and make a joke about what our gigs are like, but actually we're a really good live band, haha. We all play pretty well and we can sing – but the good news is we're more than capable of fucking things up too. So you get the best of both worlds.
8) To what kind of music did you listen to as a teenager? What were your favorite bands as a teenager? Name 3 bands that you consider still have an influence on your own work today in MORE KICKS.
As a teenager I was pretty much an indie kid. Supergrass, the Smiths, Jeff Buckley, Elliott Smith, Beatles, Kinks. I probably became more raw and messy the older I got.
So in terms of bands that influenced More Kicks – and these would be completely different answers if you spoke to Kris or Paolo, of course. But I think the key is pop melodies where there's something corrupting it from the inside. That could be a weirdly discordant guitar, or a strangely cynical lyric. Velvet Underground were the kings of that. Graham Coxon from Blur is fantastic at deliberately sabotaging pop songs too and I will love him forever for that. He was the first guitar player I liked as a kid and is still a reference point for me for what to do when there's only one guitar in the band. So let's say Blur and piss off Kris and Paolo, haha.
I'm deeply obsessed with the Star Spangles too. A song like I Don't Wanna Be Crazy Anymore from the first album Bazooka is an incredibly simple thing – there's almost nothing happening. But the amount of heart and regret in that song and those performances makes me want to punch the air and scream. In terms of heart, they are the band I aspire to.
People mention Buzzcocks quite a lot when they talk about More Kicks. That is a huge compliment as far as I'm concerned. Lyrically, Pete Shelley was on a different planet. Totally fearless. Not afraid to change his mind during a song, to doubt himself, to intellectualise, to be stupid. I'm completely in awe of him.
9) What are the plans for the rest of 2019 and for 2020 as far as More Kicks are concerned?
Well the album is now out so we're planning stuff in early 2020 to support it. We'll be touring in Europe in February, then again in April. Plus we have a launch party in February in London (we're announcing that soon). We want to play to as many people as possible. If you want to book us for your town then email us! We're very polite on email! firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have some other touring plans that are at a much earlier stage of organizing too. But apart from gigs, we'll start to think about when to record album #2 soon. We have some new songs that sound fantastic and are taking us in an interesting direction.
10) Anything you wanna add?
Nope, I wrote too much already probably. I'm going to go and have some soup. Thanks for fighting the good fight!
Purchase it without any delay!
PURCHASE A DIGITAL COPY HERE: https://morekicks.bandcamp.com/album/more-kicks-debut-album
PURCHASE A PHYSICAL COPY HERE: https://mailorder.wandarecords.de/
Thank you for this interview! More Kicks is the best album I have heard in years. I love the way the songs are sequenced on the album, with the more straight ahead rocknroll numbers up front, withe second half getting more raw and loud with concise but mind blowing guitar solos. I only hope the word gets out, and I appreciate you doing that!
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