Alex Laska is late to his 9.30am interview, but not because he slept in – the guitarist by night, retail monkey by day was simply stuck at work.
He says he gets vaguely recognised occasionally by music-savvy customers, but generally denies any involvement in rock band Kingswood while he’s working during the day (he has to hold on to his rock cred somehow).
According to their website, Kingswood is ‘classic indie rock’, but don’t let that label lead you astray. They don’t write much of the material on their website, and Laska says that publicists, managers and other people “try to make stuff more interesting than it is.”
When music journalists hear “rock’n’roll”, it’s no holds barred on the name-dropping: KISS, Motley Crue and all manner of classic rock bands have been linked to their sound. It’s confusing for the boys in Kingswood: “It’s just like, how did you possibly come to that conclusion?”
The most common answer they give to the genre question is “post-stadium,” playfully mocking the numerous sub-genres that have sprung up: “progressive this, post-that, something-core, post-core…” mumbles Laska. Genres are hard to pin down these days, and Kingswood are content to just play music and let people draw their own conclusions from there.
One thing they did write themselves was their Triple J Unearthed profile. Kingswood claims to be influenced by “rock, blues and love,” and Laska is quite happy to address each component. Rock and roll is quite broad for them, and any music that is “supercharged”, anything with that “bravado and energy…is rock and roll.” Laska thinks that a lot of their songs have that vibe, and he’s right. Just listen to their music and try to not be energised.
The blues for Kingswood refers to musical expression. “Everything comes from the blues,” he says, including rock and roll and even pop music. Finally, love. Laska calls it: “the universal context, the eternal struggle,” what everyone writes about it some shape or form. Whether through dance, art or music, he believes in some way, everything is related to love. “So there you go, I’m romantic at heart,” he laughs.
Another influence for Kingswood is the city they live in. Most musicians agree that Melbourne has a special something that makes it a haven for creative types. Laska is no different. Having travelled the world, he says that the only city in the world that rivals Melbourne so far is London.
He still can’t get past Melbourne’s eclectic social mix, he marvels: “There’s just all this information and knowledge and experience people can so easily access.”
For Kingswood, inspiration is drawn from the people around them, and the competition doesn’t hurt either. “If people are striving to do great things, that’s healthy,” he ponders, before taking a dig at the ubiquitous ‘talent’ shows making the rounds on television, “not when you fucking put a show on TV and have people singing against each other and stuff, that’s fucking horrible! But that’s another spiel…”
Ultimately, “Melbourne influences by being Melbourne. Unless you’re an emotional stone.” As to the Sydney vs. Melbourne debate? It’s Melbourne by a landslide: “Sydney has no mystery.”
Currently playing the Split Ends tour with fellow Melbourne band and co-headliners Boy In A Box, in essence, Kingswood will headline one show and Boy In A Box the next.
However, the ‘versus’ element has been expanded on, with Boy In A Box singer Tobias Priddle likening the ‘versus’ gigs to an old school, ‘Godzilla versus the giant squid battle’. Laska is happy to jump onto that analogy: “they’d definitely be the squid, and we’re going to pull them out of the water, onto the ground, and they’ll suffocate. And then we’ll eat the squid at a barbecue.”
The competitiveness only gets worse from there, and eventually, Laska decides Kingswood is more akin to a wolf, with Boy in a Box remaining an unimpressive giant squid.
Even asking who they’ve supported turns into a competition. Boy in a Box has supported ‘We Are Young’ performers fun., and Laska name drops Canadian superstars Billy Talent, who they supported in Melbourne. “I don’t even know the guys from Boy In A Box, but there’s all this competition about who’s supported who and what animal we are…” says a baffled Laska.
Taking a break from the competition, he chats about the band dynamic. All of the band members sing on their tracks, which gives them a sense of camaraderie. As with most things, it happened organically. It started with just lead vocalist Fergus Linacre singing. Laska joined in because he wanted some harmonies in their music, and it escalated from there.
“One day Mango (Hunter, bassist) was like, ‘I’ve got this song and I was gonna sing it’.” They asked if he could sing, “and he was like, ‘I can kinda sing,’ and we all could kinda sing!” They don’t claim to be the best singers around, but that doesn’t matter to them. “It’s about creating harmonies, that’s the purpose of our singing. I’d say we’re great harmonisers.”
The future is wide open for Kingswood, harmonising extraordinaires, but for the moment, they’re focusing on developing and touring. Their schedule in the coming months includes the BIGSOUND music conference, Queenscliff Music Festival and Pyramid Rock at year’s end, as well as “an awesome secret” which Laska refuses to reveal.
Other than that, they are working on securing a record deal and creating an album, which he says they have, “we’ve got so much material. We want something really honest. We want to make something great.”
The ultimate aim, however, is to get Kingswood to London and the UK. While they do intend on visiting America at some point, the UK for Laska is “like the home of rock and roll. That’s where the blues became electrified and exploded.” And that’s what they aim to do with Kingswood, by extending some Melbourne rock and roll into the world.
“Inject it! Fuel inject it! Kingswood is fuel injected rock and roll!” Laska declares. Watch out, England. Kingswood is coming for you.
Kingswood are currently on tour with Boy In A Box for the co-headlining Split Ends tour, full dates and details here. You can also catch them in the lineup for the forthcoming BIGSOUND Live, Queenscliff Music Festival and Pyramid Rock Festival.