Kingdom of Crows Interview: “I wrote ‘The Drip’ while doing chemotherapy”

kingdom of crows

New album Despondency out summer 2017.

Dublin alternative duo Kingdom of Crows craft a singular sound. Combining metal influenced acoustic guitar passages, flourishes of synth, and the haunting vocals of vocalist Lucy Earley, they have devised an approach that somehow manages to balance ambiance and atmosphere with a directness and focus that is engrossing.

In their songs, every aspect is treated as an instrument to serve the track. If that calls for less vocals, then there’s less vocals. If that calls for less guitar, then there’s less guitar. This lack of ego and self sacrifice ensures that the songs maintain a fascinating and invigorating ability to compel and surprise.

We spoke to Lucy and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Kelly about how their varied influences meld together, how hospital visits influenced new track ‘The Drip’, and how they want their new album to be more naked and raw.

Overblown: Stephen has an interest in the heavier side of things such as Gojira and The Prodigy while Lucy is into more reflective music such as Leonard Cohen and Fever Ray. How do these influences come together in Kingdom of Crows?

Lucy: They don’t really – not in a purposeful way. When I get a track from Stephen I go into the backroom ‘studio’ and upload it, clear my mind of everything and just sing over it. I then listen back to hear what my subconscious has cooked up. That sounds really pretentious but it seems to work. I don’t believe in the conscious writing of music; it’s better to just let stuff ‘come out’.

Stephen: Yeah, on paper the influences are worlds apart, but in the context of writing music they end up blending in ways I would never have imagined. We might not be as heavy as Gojira or Metallica but with the way we have built both our albums I think we could easily get away with writing a really heavy song or an equally quiet song; in the end it will come out sounding like Kingdom Of Crows nonetheless. Being a band that can be capable of great depth both emotionally and sonically interests me more that being a pigeon-holed band, and I don’t think that is ever going to be us.

O: New single ‘The Drip’ is a real slow burner and quite dramatic. What inspired the song?

S: I actually wrote the music for ‘The Drip’ while doing chemotherapy for a rare disease and the music was me trying to capture the bleakness of a treatment ward, then I heard that Lucy had written a line “Why are you still hanging around?” and it resonated with me looking up at a treatment drip asking the same thing. I love the way people have different interpretations of music, and being the last track on the album it’s also asking the listener the same thing I guess (laughs).

L: I think I was Facebook-deluged with the misery of this country, the housing crisis, lack of a decent government so lyrics like, “Our lands have fallen”, and “Why are you still hanging around?” just came out, a little bit of fury I suppose.

O: The video for ‘The Drip’, with its many nature shots and scenes of decrepit houses, seems to explore the passage of time and the process of decay. Where did the idea for the video originate?

L: We had seen the drone footage that Blue Hue Productions did for a promo video and loved it. They also did the video for the single ‘Despondency’ – so we talked about creating a dystopian world that’s at an end, but where nature still flourishes with the elements. They filmed it in a day with the very talented Slaney Power acting in it. Diving into the sea was very brave of her!

S: To me it was paramount for the video to capture the atmosphere of the song, and I think it has done that. The lads (Blue Hue Productions) did a great job.

O: You have a new album on the horizon. Despondency is the title. Is ‘The Drip’ representative of the music on the album?

S: Definitely yeah, the meaning of the title of the album (Despondency) is running through all the songs. It’s a lack of hope, a lack of courage and loss. Stemming from weeks in hospital I’d imagine (laughs), but it’s not all bleak. There is hope throughout it too. ‘The Drip’ represents all of our styles from the first album to now. It also represents the album being more synth-driven than our debut album all while maintaining the classical guitar, the organic drums and the ethereal sound of Lucy’s voice. The last track on our debut also had like 82 tracks or something (laughs) so it was also a conscious decision to try write a song that’s just as big an as vast but far more naked.

O: Did you approach writing and recording this album differently than your debut album?

S: Yeah, I definitely wanted the songs to have more flow and more of a bounce to them than the previous album. Don’t get me wrong now I love the first one, just it wouldn’t even interest me to write an album unless there’s a new goal to achieve in terms of the sound the vibe or atmosphere ya know. The two albums sound completely different yet similar in many ways. Joshua Guest, our engineer, had to push me a bit on the recording, but sure isn’t that what all good producers need to do?

O: A few years back you released a rather unusual cover of ‘Call Me’ by Blondie. Instead of doing a straight cover, you really put your own twist on the song. Was it daunting to change up such a classic song? Were you worried about how it would be received?

S: I’ve loved that song since my mother showed it to me millenniums ago. So it was always on my mind for a cover, I remember mentioning it to Lucy loosely and then I was on the rip in town one night and it must have come on in a bar or something because I rang our engineer at the time (Jonathan Yeats) and booked some studio time (laughs) and he rings me a few days later saying he has us booked in for “that Blondie cover” on Saturday. I had completely forgotten about it and no one was prepped for it and I couldn’t fund the fee for a cancelled booking so I just said yeah Saturday is cool man (laughs).

The cover itself was always going to be completely different, the song is a masterwork already so just copying it would have been boring. It got feedback on Blondie forums ranging from “absolutely love it” to “kill yourselves” (laughs) so take it as you will, it was a bit of fun anyway – their guitarist did like it on Twitter though. Great video by my mate Daniel Martin too. We have a few others in the pipeline too, so watch this space.

O: Do you have gigs planned to promote the new album?

L: We’re playing at Electric Picnic and we’ll be gigging from June when we release the album. We’ve been told the new album is ‘soundtracky’ so we’re looking into those opportunities too.

O: What Irish bands are you enjoying at the moment?

L: I love Altered Hours, Just Mustard and King Bones. I’m really impressed with David Keenan; it’s so refreshing to hear someone sing in their own accent with their own style (I try to sing in my accent but neutral south side Dub is not always attractive) – he’s got a touch of John Martyn and Jeff Buckley about him.

S: I’m liking New Valley Wolves, Twisted Autocracy, PolyGlove and Vinci. Their cello player actually features on one of our new tunes too. All great in their own way.

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