By John Armstrong, Rock At Night Manchester
Q&A with Robby Allen of The Kite Collectors
RAN – What is the background of The Kite Collectors?
TKC – Three-piece based in Wiltshire. Pete Summerfield on drums, Al Reynish on bass and me on guitar and vocals. The Kite Collectors as a live band have been in existence for four years.
RAN – Where did the name Kite Collectors come from?
TKC – Originally I liked the idea of a band like John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers where the musicians changed regularly over time depending on the song or album. That’s why the first album is mostly me and Steve Duffield (MMJs, Beta Band, Steve Mason Band) with Pete on the last song. That does still happen to some extent because we have guests on the album but for the last two years we have a set core of the band – the three of us. It is kite collecting because of picking up ideas and letting them fly. Some stay up longer than others.
RAN – What are the dynamics of The Kite Collectors creative process?
TKC – I write the songs, usually on an acoustic guitar – if it sounds good on that it’s usually an indication that’s it’s going to sound ace as a band. I generally then record a demo at Paisley Cabin, which is our own little set up. Pete and Al then do their thing, improving it with their own style and additions. They’re both such great musicians, they learn the songs so quickly and with each flourish or part they add the song grows. I remember playing ‘That Damned Wheel’ to them in rehearsal and we spent the night working it up into what’s on the album. I put the 12 string on it against their hypnotic bass and drum in the chorus and it came to life.
RAN – Is Shockerwick different to your previous albums?
TKC – It’s more progressive musically. We’ve had strings and horns in songs before but this album has more clarity in the intentions. I had a habit of flooding tracks with different things…I held back a lot more this time. It worked really well, created more space for instruments to punch through, like the string quartet on ‘To Be Here’ and the horns on ‘Vinyl Soul’. We’ve been told it’s an honest sound. Probably because we recorded together using the equipment we use live; no emulators. For example I used a Vox AC30 and changed the sound with different guitars and positioning microphones to get fuller dynamics. It went through an analogue desk too and I guess that is where that bigger feel came from.
RAN – What’s with the train theme?
TKC – I told a friend (the DJ Derek Rookley) that we were going to call the album ‘Shockerwick 135’; named after the studio in which we rehearsed and recorded the songs and because 135 was the beats per minute we used to work the songs out. He said it sounded like a train and sent me an image of a steam train coming out of tunnel. Al liked the idea because he felt that he and Pete were like the engine of the band. So, my wife Ann (who photographs under the name Chips) and I went to Didcot steam railway station to take some shots and she later took some shots of the band at Bristol Steam railway. It was closed to the public really and I was nervous that we’d get busted by for being there- but it was ok.
RAN – You said this is a journey of influences – why?
TKC – Because I think it is – my writing can’t hide my love of the Small faces, the Beatles, the Who, late Yardbirds, early psychedelia, and the Smithereens. Pete is a versatile drummer who can play all styles and he mixes it up and Al is manic fingers and sometimes weird combinations. It just all works. My music hero was Steve Marriott and I supported him a number of times back in the day. I was very young…maybe 18 or 19. I remember being sat on the edge of the stage before doors opened and he was behind me playing blues riffs on an organ. Just thought it couldn’t get any better than this. One time he came into the room carrying his guitar, nodded and said “alright Rob!” I know it’s silly but it was like, “wow! God knows my name!”
RAN – Is it harder for bands now?
TKC – There are fewer places to play and the money is often poor. I hear people say the music scene isn’t as good…I don’t believe that. There are some brilliant bands out there, people need to go and find them. Go out, watch them, buy their albums and T Shirts. Talk about them. Find the joy you got the first time you heard the old bands you love. We decided years ago that it is for the art of the thing for us. It might sound twee but we mean it. We don’t want to hear bollocks about giving us exposure etc., we’ve been around too long, and we can smell BS. If we want to do it and it’s worth it for the art and joy of the thing we do it. If not – we don’t. It’s as simple as that.
RAN – Last word on the new album?
TKC – Buy it, it’s fucking brilliant!
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