It’s hard to imagine the Aussie rock scene in 2017 without Kingswood.
It feels like the Melbourne rock outfit have been doing the rounds for ages, and although they first formed in 2005, it was only several years later that they really broke through, courtesy of a swathe of festival shows and relentless touring. 2014 saw the release of their debut album, Microscopic Wars – securing Kingswood an ARIA nomination for Best Rock Album – but the absence of new music from the band has been conspicuous ever since.
However, late 2016 saw the triumphant return of Kingswood via the unexpectedly dark new single ‘Creepin’, and they’ve followed that up with the slow-burning ‘Golden’. The stark contrast between the two songs is perfectly indicative of the greater exploration of their sound on After Hours, Close To Dawn, their new album due out this week.
“I guess there’s an inevitable pressure on the second record for any band,” says lead guitarist and songwriter Alex Laska. “Obviously the bigger the first album goes, there will be more pressure from people for the second to live up to it.
“I guess Microscopic Wars was successful, but it wasn’t some huge blow-up or gargantuan experience, but in a sense it was a really nice setting for us to expand upon. The one thing we wanted to be really conscious of was – and we start to do it in Micro Wars – was to have a level of diversity that was unrestricting, because there’s a lot of different music in our heads, and we started to go down those roads on a couple of tracks that probably weren’t the bigger ones on the first record. That’s led us now to the diversity that is on After Hours, Close To Dawn.
“As much as certain natural pressures might occur, and that you want to beat the first record, you have to also forget those pressures when you’re writing,” Laska adds. “It has to become its own thing in its own world, so the diversity was a big thing, and that’s something that I guess we’ve achieved with this one, because when we played it for the record label they thought we were playing a joke on them. Even with people’s reactions between the first single ‘Creepin’ and this latest one, ‘Golden’, the album is just way more diverse than you could possibly anticipate.”
While the album is undoubtedly diverse, showing off sides of Kingswood that fans might never have expected, there aren’t many songs as far removed from each other as the lead singles.
“It’s funny, because any single that follows ‘Creepin’ was going to be a huge departure,” Laska laughs. “That’s just in the nature of what that song was like. So we’re just releasing them in a way that’s structured so it makes sense to us, and how we want people to experience the album. We make albums to experience albums, but in this day and age where people tend to focus more on one or two songs that they might be jazzed by… [that’s] cool, it’s just a different listening environment now.”
Returning to music with a revitalised sound was always going to be a huge risk for Kingswood, which is part of the reason their appearance at number 48 in the triple j Hottest 100 with ‘Creepin’ was a massive shock.
“We’d been away for so long and it was the first thing we’d put out, the first step back into the world,” says Laska. “People started to talk about the Hottest 100 and we just thought that honestly it would just be great if we got in.
“It’s really hard to gauge how the song’s translating – as much as you see comments and you hear it on the radio, sometimes it’s not indicative of how it’s going. This was our highest position ever – we were overjoyed, we just had the biggest night of all time. On Instagram we just had stories coming through at 6am that no one remembers of us just dancing and silliness. We’re so appreciative of everyone who voted.”
Apart from spending much of the last year on the road, Kingswood have also enjoyed a good chunk of time recording their new record in Nashville, a city that has become something of a second home to them. After Laska and his bandmates Fergus Linacre and Justin Debrincat recorded their first album in that famous musical city, it felt only natural to return.
“The assistant producer on our first album, Ed Spear, has now gone on to become a kickass engineer, so we went for him,” Laska explains. “It wasn’t even a decided thing, but we just became such great friends after the first one, so we’d basically chat every day. It wasn’t even a question of who was going to do the album, it was more like, ‘When are we going to do the album?’ There was never any decision-making; it just feels like we’re on the same side of the creative spectrum with us writing and him engineering. With this one he just said, ‘We’re doing it here [in Nashville] – we have to do it here, just trust me.’ He always just says, ‘Trust your boy, trust your boy.’ We have a great relationship.”
Kingswood are about to set off on an Australian tour of capital cities and regional towns alike – something that will undoubtedly come as quite a change from playing stadiums with AC/DC, whom they supported in 2015. It’s also a chance to get back to their roots and play the venues where they cut their teeth as an emerging rock band.
“I love the smaller shows, man,” says Laska. “Don’t get me wrong, the AC/DC shows were heaps of fun, but my favourite shows are when it’s just a sweatbox and you can 100 per cent ascertain people’s expressions, and your interactions with people are so in-your-face.
“We built our fan base on rural touring. Back in the day, all we did was tour Australia to cultivate a fan base, because that’s just where you did it, and to an extent I think that’s the way it still is. So we like to honour that tradition and respect the people that we’ve gone back to. We love it. Going back to these places is really special for us; the Newies, the Wollongongs, all that sort of thing. Some venues don’t hold massive numbers, but all of the sudden the atmosphere becomes these sweatboxes and people are really into it.”