To Kill a King
JAMES, bass player for the awesome To Kill a King, talks to me…
about a number of things – in a typically humorous and insightful way. The reason I am excited about the group is the following they are amassing. With comparisons to titans like The National, the London boys are generated a lot of buzz and excitement. James discusses the video for their new track, The Good Old Days, and what we can expect from their upcoming (third) album. I was interested in learning more about the band dynamic and whether there were any saucy secrets in the ranks!
James gives me insight and an all-access-pass into one of the most talked-about bands of the moment. I ask about Record Store Day and covering The National; the artists important to the band and whether there will be any gigs in the pipeline.
Hi, how are you? How has your week been?
Hi there! We’re fab, thanks.
Last week we played three back-to-back London shows which were, in a word, ‘wowtastic’. We’ve got Dot to Dot Festival next week so this week gives us a bit of respite before getting out gigging again.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
Enchanté (*kisses hand*).
We’re To Kill a King. We’re an Indie-Folk-Rock band living in London. There’s five of us in the band: Ralph (Vocals, Guitar), Grant (Guitar); Ben (Keys), James, A.K.A. ‘me’ (Bass) and Josh (drums).
Can you reveal how To Kill a King came together?
Ralph started the band at uni. in Leeds in the late-’00s with a different sound and name. The band moved to London and renamed To Kill a King – and adopted a new, folkier sound.
The Good Old Days is your new single. What is the story behind that one?
The Good Old Days was originally written by Ralph and another songwriter, Anders Grahn, to be used elsewhere.
I remember Ralph playing us the demo. and being besotted with it.
We decided to keep it for ourselves and rework it and here it is today…ta dah!
For me, the song expresses this notion of memory being warped over time and how the past has this glorious golden haze – which isn’t necessarily there.
The video looked like it was a blast to film. What was that experience like?
It was one of the best Bank Holiday Mondays I’ve had. We gathered in a church in Angel and all wore animal masks. Afterwards, we went to the pub (we had taken the masks off by then).
How did you manage to get Ruby Bentall in the video? What was it like working with her on the shoot?
She was in our other recent vid. for The Problem of Evil. She’s one of our pals.
Her sister, Edith, sings with us sometimes. She’s in a band called FOURS, who are brill. Ruby is really sweet and a great actress: we had loads of fun with her making the video (unless she was just pretending to enjoy making it which only highlights her acting skills further).
You’re releasing your third album this summer. Does it have a name yet? What kind of songs and ideas will you be exploring on the record?
Currently, it’s a toss-up between being called Thriller or The Very Best of: Sting – we’re really pushing for sales with this one.
The album is packed with ideas: mainly about life and the bigger picture. I think music should be escapism but, actually, it’s very healthy to be reflective and frank about the world we live in.
ARTWORK: Melinda Koji
Recently, you released a 7” single for Record Store Day – including a cover of The National’s I Need My Girl. Was it important, as a band, to get involved with Record Store Day? How important are vinyl and ‘proper records’ to the band?
Oh yeah, it was amazing to be involved in Record Store Day. It’s become a real staple of British music culture.
We played at Banquet Records in Kingston on the day and the queue for the shop was endless.
It’s, perhaps, a bit self-indulgent but I love this sentiment of people having our albums sitting proudly in their record collection.
Can you tell me the kind of artist and musicians that have been important (to) To Kill a King’s sound?
Songwriting is a real craft and it’s artists like Tom Waits, Nick Drake; Neil Young and Joni Mitchell that we really admire – the real big guns, ya know.
Leading on from that, our sound is very fluid and embraces lots of styles. More-modern bands like The National and Arcade Fire are also artists we look up to.
I can tell The National are a huge influence. What is your favourite album from the U.S. band and are you excited about their forthcoming record?
We’re loving that new track. They’re touring soon, too! If they need a support act, we’ll be sat at home with our gear ready to go.
My fave album of theirs is still High Violet. I remember buying it for my car in college and just thought I was so cool and brooding – as cool and brooding as I could be in a Fiat Seicento driving through Yeovil.
Ralph. Your voice has been lauded because of its incredible croon and flexibility. Is there a secret behind that voice? How do you get it so luscious and evocative?
That’s what they said to Milli Vanilli!
Ralph has got a lovely croon: it lends itself to our music perfectly.
All of the band members have a great connection and talent. Do you spend a lot of time together away from music? Is there a member who is a bit of a joker or particularly cheeky?
We’ll go for a drink after practice to unwind and usually see each other at the weekend, too.
Ben makes me laugh a lot.
Recently, we were talking about bees and he said “I’d actually be up for getting stung by a bee, soon”. It was probably the most stupid thing I’ve heard in my life.
What does the rest of the year hold for you guys in terms of touring? Any date on the horizon?
I reckon the album will come out in September. We’ve got a few gigs in the pipeline but nothing major in terms of festivals and tours. Things will pop up out-of-the-blue; so I’m sure we’ll be rocking more than expected this year.
If you had to select the one album that has meant the most to you; which would it be and why?
A constant record in my life has been The Blue Album by Weezer. Man, what a record!
It’s just always been around. It reminds me of watching music channels with my brother and sister when I was a kid; playing in bands at school, moving to London – and I still listen to it now.
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
Don’t rush figuring out and labelling what your sound is: everything nestles itself in and eventually you’ll end up sounding like… you.
Finally, and for being good sports, you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
I’ll pick three as a treat to myself!
Let’s go for:
Say It Ain’t So by Weezer (obviously)
What You Won’t Do for Love by Bobby Caldwell
I Saw the Light by Todd Rungren
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PHOTO CREDIT: Wolf James Photography