I learnt a valuable lesson while conducting this interview. Never, ever draw up your questions while you are suffering from a hangover induced by consuming too many Old Fashioneds. You’ll misread place names, ask stupid questions, and generally make a flaming tit of yourself. Luckily, King of Cats, nom de musique of one Max Levy, is an understanding chap and forgave me my abhorrent misdemeanors. He’s from Brighton, not Bristol.
Just last month, Levy released his second album under the King of Cats moniker in the last sixth months alone, and is already prepping a third album of left field lo-fi indie. He was gracious enough to take the time to talk about his newest album Microwave Oven, the DIY scene, and his relationship with Welsh noise pop heroes Joanna Gruesome.
Overblown: You’re based in Bristol, right? Does coming from such an artistic community inform your music?
Max: Coming from Bristol informs me in many ways. The community is not only artistically ripe, but also architecturally fascinating. Few have ever scaled the cleavedon suspension tower since its construction in 1200. Bristol’s prominence as a space port really means that the creation of art is not only informed by like-minded humans, but by powerful brain-warping extra-terrestrial bacteria.
I am actually from Brighton. (Well, that’s embarrassing. – ed)
O: You released your first album, Working Out, on Art Reeks (a collaboration between DIY labels Art is Hard and Reeks of Effort). Does the DIY ethos of those types of labels influence you?
M: I think doing things yourself is crucial if you want to be reasonably ambitious without sinking into a hole. Sometimes I think I should try and do things less myself, and figure that DIY is a sham. The truth is that DIY sometimes doesn’t really mean anything at all, but doing things yourself is really important if you want to avoid how utterly disgusting and vapid and pointless the whole ‘escalator to nowhere’ model of popular music selling is.
O: Your debut album Working Out was only released last November. Why the impetus to release a new one so soon?
M: I get quite sick of the songs I write pretty quickly. Working Out just no longer tickles me. Third album coming soon guys!
O: How does your new record, Microwave Oven, differ from your debut record?
M: I think Microwave Oven knows itself as an album of songs a little bit more. l started to realise that I wrote better songs when I wasn’t pretending that a song was pure emotion. Rather, it is a manipulation. It can be fun to manipulate. That isn’t to say that my experiences and emotions have nothing to do with the album ,but I did take a little bit of a step back. I didn’t want to pretend that I was sadder or happier or more insightful that anybody else. This time I just wanted to record the songs that I had written.
O: You seem to be quite friendly with the extremely awesome Welsh noisepop group Joanna Gruesome. How do you know them?
M: Me and Owen (Williams – guitarist/singer with Joanna Gruesome) met whilst studying and formed a short lived goth-croon band that nobody will ever hear. A golden summer followed.
O: Your vocals are quite unique. They are at times so vulnerable as to be unnerving (‘Brasso’ can be a tough listen). Do you find they can be polarising for potential fans?
M: I never thought they were that odd until people started writing about it! Apparently lots of people are turned off by it, and I used to get heckled quite a lot because of it. I am genuinely still unsure why though.
O: Your music is extremely earnest and heartfelt. Does that it difficult to play those songs live?
M: Sometimes it is earnest and heartfelt, sometimes it is deliberately not earnest and not heartfelt. I find it quite difficult to play any song regardless!
O: When you tour, your touring band includes members of Joanna Gruesome, Playlounge, and Trust Fund among others. Is this indicative of how tight the DIY punk/indie pop community is in the UK?
M: It is a pretty tight community, but it is only a small corner of what it should be. I think it is more functional as a big group of good friends as opposed to being a ‘scene’. That being said, it is pretty great.
O: What is next for King of Cats?
M: I am writing a third album, and driving a small train. My train driving contract ends in September though, so I really want to go on a big tour or build a go kart or maybe a microlite so I can embarrassingly crash it two minutes into the first flight.
O: What bands from Bristol should our readers be checking out?
Two White Cranes!
Anything on stitch stitch records.