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INTERVIEW: New Town Kings

Hi Dabs, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

-Yeah, we’ve been great thanks. It’s been a busy year so far and we’re in a great place.

Can you talk to us more about your song “Reach Out”?

Funny that. There’s eight of us in the band and you’d probably get eight different answers. Personally I think so much is said these days about how live music is suffering, and on many levels it’s true. We’ve got historic venues closing down, major labels taking less risks, Brexit potentially shutting down the age old European tour routes and a bunch of other factors making it more and more difficult to be a touring band.  You’d be surprised at some of the really successful bands we know whose band members all have other jobs they do to keep a roof overhead. The fact is, it’s hard times for a lot of people at the minute and so the song is about solidarity. Whatever the weather, New Town Kings has put in the hard yards for 12-13 yrs now, I’m heading for my 5th year fronting the band and after a few years sketching out new ideas I think we’re evolving new elements to our music and starting to get a clear direction.

Did any event inspire you to write this song.

Not so much an event as a sentiment. I think we’re a band coming out of a transitional phase and we are really enjoying writing at the minute. It feels as if we are gathering momentum again so the song speaks of forwards movement, dedication and longevity. I think it’s fair to say that the album itself is a bit of a turning point for NTK and “Reach out’ is one of the songs which was written with that in the backs of our minds.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

This one was a really easy one to be fair. We wanted to try to catch an element of our live performance in a non-gigging environment. To that end, James the director and his team found a really cool little spot in Hackney which helped pull attention away from all of our ugly mugs! One of the little things they don’t tell you about when it comes to shooting music vids, (in the UK at least, I wanted to film in Montego bay but apparently it’s quite a long drive from London!) is that you invariably end up stone cold to the core from sitting around waiting for the production team to do their thang!  Somebody actually had the presence of mind to bring a few heaters and a kettle to this shoot so yeah, I’d say it was a winner!

Why did you name the album after this track?

I can say on good authority that naming an album is like naming a baby, but in the case of NTK you’ve got 8 parents! First and foremost, we quite liked the song and it’s been going down really well with our fans when we play it out. We were mulling over quite a few different ideas for album titles. The problem was that we have a fair variety of different styles within the record and we wanted a title that didn’t pigeonhole us. I think the message within the lyric speaks to our ideals and the music itself points towards one of the directions we’re currently exploring. We’ve had a few songs of late; “Change” and “Borderline” come to mind, which are maybe a little bit heavier in the message and rhythm department than previous releases. I was keen on the song which came to be called “Reach out” as being the title track although we were undecided as to the actual title. I think Sky our drummer is credited with the final idea to call the album “Reach out”. Little secret, we actually had a different working title for the song but I think it was Rob our percussionist who suggested renaming it to fit the album title, or was it the other way round! I dunno! We all span our heads around on it for a good long while until it just kinda fit. To me, it works as figuratively, the band are reaching out from where we are to where we wanna be but also we’re reaching out to an incredibly loyal fanbase and to all people who might not know our music yet.

How was the recording and writing process?

Writing music is one of the biggest pleasures in life for all of us so the actual writing of the songs was a really simple, natural process which just constantly kinda happens really. Most of us like to write a song, create a riff, think of a nice melody and we all have other projects which keep us creative so we never really have any shortage of ideas. We had a wicked time recording at KONK studios on kit which had recorded the likes of Al Green, Adele and the Arctic Monkeys and that’s just starting with the A’s! The room has an amazing sound and the equipment was like a musos dream. In terms of post-production we had a few little snuggles; my partner and I quite selfishly had a baby during the process which probably slowed us down a little, but as with all labours of love the time flew. All in all we had a really good time of it and are looking forwards to the next one already.

Are you hoping to get more modern or will you remain in your classic lane?

Ha! You could argue that we’re both or that we’re neither depending on your tastes. It’s always uncomfortable to describe your own music so maybe It’s best to leave what we are for the listener to decide. I really enjoy playing some of the older styles that we play. I love a lot of our reggae tunes and I think we’ve upped that element of our show and introduced a bit of our take on rocksteady. I also really enjoy playing a lot of the more trad Ska that we play. Since I’ve joined the band I think we’ve occasionally delved into a bit of what might be deemed ‘modern’. The two most recent releases “Borderline” and “Reach Out” might be indicative of that. Truth is we kinda just play what comes to us. The UK has a strong, strong link with Reggae music as does it with Ska music. We also have a history of musical cultural significance so we’ve a world of influences. There’s 8 of us with constantly developing interests and ideas in an ever changing world and so the only “hope” I can have is that we continue to grow with the listener and maybe one day we’ll look back and feel we are a small part of the scene and have had a few people vibe our music on the way.

What aspect of politics and our social climate did you explore on the record?

We have definitely touched on a few themes of that nature although we’ve plenty of songs on the LP which explore other topics. “Borderline” talks about the problems causing mass migration and questions what our attitudes towards people arriving at our shores says about us as a nation. “Long Long Road” is a straight up song about Peace. “Reach Out” explores elements of societal discord. I think in the times we live in it is difficult not to have a stance on these matters but by the same token we aren’t strictly a political band. It’s always a tough balance. Who knows, maybe by the time we put the next album together we’ll be living in a world where everyone respects each other and there’s no need for songs about inequality or troubled times. I reckon history, and current world politics would suggest otherwise however.

Any plans to hit the road?

We’ve the album release tour up and down the UK in May, a bunch of festivals in the summer and are off touring again in October. There’s also talk of a jaunt into Europe in the Autumn. If peeps miss us on tour we’ve plenty of standalone shows in between so we’re looking forwards to a really positive year ahead. Come check us out online yo.

What else is happening next in New Town Kings’ world?

We’ve a few more songs/videos to release in the summer from the album including a collaboration with Sylford Walker in Jamaica. We’re already writing the next bunch of songs and are basically enjoying refining our sound, improving our live show and Reaching out (Ahem! pun intended) to new audiences. If there’s one thing this band is good at it’s keeping on keeping on. One love.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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