Kingswood The Aussie Rock Reawakening

The Cover Story

Words: Joe Harris
Design: Nicholas Jones

Kingswood, a scorching alt-rock four-piece hailing from Melbourne, are mere weeks away from taking the musical world by their fiery storm.The band, comprising of lead-vocalist Fergus Linacre, guitarist Alex Laska, bassist Mango Hunter and drummer Justin Debrincat are gearing up for unquestionably the biggest moment of their career: the drop of their debut record, Microscopic Wars.

In what has been one of the most hotly anticipated Australian releases of 2014, this record emphatically lives up to its hype, and then some.

The 13-track long-player sees the quartet explore a plethora of sounds, from dry desert tunes to wailing blues, mind-bending psychedelica and space-rock atmospherics, surprising mournful piano ballads to punk rock ferocities, Microscopic Wars confidently offers a sonic slice for any palate.

Ahead of its release, we chatted with band, exploring their path to glory from a bunch of music-obsessed school kids to four beared men, recording their debut record with one of the world’s most revered producers in Nashville, Tennessee.

Lead-guitarist Alex Laska bared the bulk of our conversation, taking us through his musical beginnings, “I started playing piano at the age of nine, and then all way through school I was playing saxophone and clarinet, it was predominately classical, then I got into jazz. After that I went to the VCA and studied piano there as well, so music was pretty significant, I just thought ‘look, music should just be my life.’”

Recounting his days of first witnessing live performance, Laska continued “I got into jazz when I was 14 and 15, I used to go see teachers play around town in jazz, swing and beat-bop bands, stuff like that, sneak into The Nightcat. After that I got into rock n’ roll not realising it was not the same thing as heavy metal and shit, which is what I used to think it was, which is ridiculous!”

Squeezing his way undetected into the jazz holes of Melbourne, Laska spoke of the first major gig that really shook him, “I have a really good memory of seeing The Living End at The Palace when it was still opposite The Palais and Luna Park.”


Before very casually dropping the ultimate story-topping experience, “I flew to England to see Led Zeppelin for their reunion gig. So that’s definitely a standout, it was just the most amazing thing, it was one of those whirlwind dream comes true scenarios.”

The ‘Zep reunion was in 2007, and by this time the foundations for what would be Kingswood were well and truly laid.

In fact, the guys all grew up and attended school in the inner south suburb of Prahan, Melbourne, “except for Mango, who I met playing in a jazz band when I was 15, he was friends with a guy who played saxophone in the band at the time” Laska explained.

The boys had been making music together for over a decade, the guitarist recalling the hilarious first live show he ever performed, “it was with Ferg, we were 12-years old and it was at the school fair and we played in a band called Sweet Garlic.”

“We played three songs, one was an original called ‘Living On The Edge’ and then we played two covers, one was Aerosmith’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’ and the other one was Lynard Skynard’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and we played to 12 girls and that was it and we thought we were fucking boss.”

From the classic-rock cover days of the Sweet Garlic schoolyard to playing their first official show as Kingswood in 2009, he went on to recount the bizarre process that allowed he and his mates to play their first serious Melbourne venue.

“The first couple of gigs we were packing out, everyone’s like ‘who is this band?’ and as soon as the novelty wore off we were literally playing to fucking no one.”

“Our first ever gig was at Ding Dong Lounge, there was this chick that used to work there called Kel Reynolds who also worked at a recording studio in South Melbourne called Metropolis.”“She was the receptionist there and I walked in and just went ‘hey, what goes on here?’ and she was like ‘we’re a recording studio and we also book venues’ and I was like ‘reckon you could give me a gig?’ and she was like ‘yeah what’s your band called?’ and we were called The Service I think, no no, Lip Service and she gave us our first gig and we played Ding Dong Lounge, it was wild.”

Pretty insane, right? What follows next is crazier.

Kingswood sold out their first show at Ding Dong! “We bought so many of friends from school, we had quite extensive friend networks so we packed it out and had a huge line.”

“The first couple of gigs we were packing out, everyone’s like ‘who is this band?’ and as soon as the novelty wore off we were literally playing to fucking no one.”

Anyone who has followed the group’s impressive rise would know that sonically, Kingswood have always buoyed in the depths of ferocious guitar-charged rock n’ roll.

Ignoring the status-quo of indie-rock and dance that heavily dominated Australia’s scene at the time (courtesy of Empire of the Sun and Cut Copy) Kingswood fearlessly followed the path of killer Aussie rock outfits The Vines and Wolfmother, “it wasn’t a going against the grain kind of thing, whatever culture or sub-culture that fits for you, it just kind of fit for us” Laska assured.

“Instrumentation is a big thing as well, it’s the way we approach those instruments that has led us to that sort of field.”

“It might be a serendipitous thing, but the way Ferg’s voice is, it kind of fits rock n’ roll and once I got into it I kind of fell in love with bands like Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, it’s like if something speaks to you and you resonate with it that’s the way you’re going to go” confirmed the guitarist.

Mango too weighing in on this, “we all have quite different taste in music spanning across many genres of music so there are musical influences that have come to the fore.”

The four-piece having confidently secured their own sound, a searing meld of blues inspired desert rock ‘n roll, rapidly gained fans in Melbourne and afar for their raucous live performances.


The Aussie Rock

The Cover Story

Words: Joe Harris
Design: Nicholas Jones

The year 2013 saw the group release their EP Change of Heart, an 8-track “mini album” that cemented the band as one of Australia’s premier rock outfits. So much so, that the extended-player miraculously landed itself in the hands of American producer, Vance Powell.For those of you who aren’t aware of who this man is, Vance Powell is a Grammy Award Winning record producer, the chief engineer of Third Man Records, who has recorded the likes of The White Stripes, Jack White, Alicia Keys, Buddy Guy and Kings of Leon, just to name a very short few.

Having been massive Jack White Blunderbuss addicts since its release in 2012, the news that the Vance Powell was digging their EP rang many alarm bells in their Kingswoodian ears.

A gobsmacked Laska told us, “an opportunity came up where we could communicate with Powell, he asked us, ‘would you guys consider coming over to the States because I have some free time, I would like to record you’”

“We were just like ‘fucking hell man’ when that happened. I mean how often does that happen, when a Grammy award-winning producer says ‘hey I’m free and I really like your stuff, maybe you should come over’” and we’re like ‘alright, that sounds like a pretty good idea.’”

After a few Skype calls to ensure both band and producer were on the same page, the decision was set in stone: Kingswood would make their way to Nashville, Tennessee, to record their debut LP with legendary producer Vance Powell. Their ultimate dream had become a well-earned reality.

The four rockers spent two and a half months in Nashville, as well playing gigs and CMJ Festival in New York City.

“We went over and after fucking begging, borrowing and stealing, we got the cash together – which we still have got to pay off from heaps of family and friends and everyone is fucking working really shit jobs, whatever it’s great, that’s the whole process of it” the lead-guitarist said.

At the mention of shitty jobs, drummer Justin Debrincat stepped in to comment “I drove a ute, after school care, folded t-shirts, worked in an office and tried to teach year sevens drums.”

Laska continued, “we got there and did a week of pre-production which was just going out with Vance every single night around Nashville, bonding.”

Bonding definitely seems to be the case, as any of you who have seen the band’s crazy Nashville Diaries on Facebook would understand.

One particular scene shows karaoke, which we discovered, was an integral part of their US stay, “karaoke was a big thing, and in Nashville there is a venue called Santa’s Pub, it’s basically two trailer houses joined together, the beers are cheap and the company is great. It’s owned and run by the guy who plays Santa at the mall every Christmas.”

“We killed it as a collective in our amazing rendition of ‘Call Me Maybe’ by Carly Rae Jepson'” – our chance of catching that one live, according to the lads, is not so high.

Ferg too weighed described his fond memory of this, “I think my favourite place was Santa’s Karaoke or even Motown-Monday at the five spot. So much dancing. I miss those places a lot.”

The lead-guitarist then continued, “we just drank so much it was so stupid, and by the time we got into the studio we were like a little family and ready to work, after that, all the teething problems were done.”

With Powell being inducted into the Kingswood circle of trust, it was time for the group to get to work.

So what was “a day in the life” for Kingswood during this unforgettable time? Laska, bursting with excitement, revealed all, “we’d rock up to the most amazing studio you’ve have even been to in your life called Blackbird” notably where Dan Sultan recorded his stellar record mere months before their arrival.

Still wiping the stars from his eyes, he detailed the world-class studios, “it’s just a different world man, you walk in and you have your own recording studio which was fully stocked with breakfast every single day, snacks, there were interns running around, anything you wanted you’d just go ‘can we get this’ and three of them would run off and get you rose scented candles if you were in a particular mood or whatever, it was amazing, it was a different world.”

“We’d go in, have breakfast and then Vance would pour us all a bev and he’d be like ‘alright let’s get to work’ and we’d work a song for a couple of hours arranging and finding the vibe what we were going to do, then we’d just record it live as a band, and work really hard, from 10am ’til 11pm.”

Kingswood most certainly left their mark at Blackbird studios, the band playing so hard that Vance Powell was forced to make some slight renovations to the recording space, “they had to come and blow more insulation between the studio walls because of the volume of what we were doing.”

This moment has been captured on the Nashville Diaries and is fuckin’ classic, although Laska coyly admits, “yeah, it’s a little wanky, but it’s also pretty funny.”

Unable to break away from the impact producer-Powell left on their recording process, Laska continued on the experience, “Vance is really great ‘cause he’ll throw you curve balls when he thinks something needs to go somewhere else, he’ll investigate and push your own creative level.”

“There was no point even working with a great producer and going ‘this is how we want to do it’ because if you want to do that, you just get a really good recording engineer and just pay them to do that.”

Laska, a proudly professed gear nerd, actually fuck it, a complete music nerd, explained what his intentions were for Microscopic Wars, “I wanted it to feel interactive.”

“I wanted the record to feel like you were there creating it when you’re listened to it and I feel that we’ve done that in a weird way, it feels that it sounds really authentic to the moments we were making them in, rather than being manipulated heaps and heaps.”

This sentiment couldn’t be truer. From the moment Debincrat starts beating the skins in the opening track ‘All Too Much,’ one intuitively imagines their fingers as drumsticks pelting imaginary drums in unification to the demonic percussions.

Microscopic Wars oozes with fat riffs that are so juicy that you’d swear they’d cause your waistband to stretch. Tracks such as ‘Suckerpunch’ and ‘Micro Wars’ exemplify this notion perfectly.

Laska commented on this, “riffs are an interesting thing, essentially you can spend all day investigating and mucking around with sounds and guitars and pedals and amplifiers and vibe, and occasionally you can stumble across something worthwhile but more often than not, the best riffs transpire like a good melody, almost instantaneously – so there’s a bit of both.”


The Aussie Rock Reawakening

The Cover Story

Words: Joe Harris
Design: Nicholas Jones

There’s no question that Kingswood bestow a similar desert-stoner rock aesthetic akin to the Queens Of The Stone Age, a comparison frequently applied to the band.The guitar maestro willingly opened-up on this topic “for whatever reason, that ‘style’ of ‘rock n’ roll really resonates and feels like the right soundscape on a certain level.”

Insightfully, he continued, “it’s a natural thing to do. It allows for distinctions and reference, which allows the user or listener to make decisions on whether they like the content/vibe/existence of a band/music. Without comparison you have no ranking system or basis with which to rank the things you’re drawn to.”

“This applies to every single person in the world. Or band, in the same way you can find QOTSA’s origins. Basically the soundscape of QOTSA for us is like putting on your favourite shoes, so naturally, those comparisons occur.”

“I do think however the album is a drastic pull in new musical directions for us also, like trying on new shoes or a different style that you’re intrigued by but not sure if they’re you yet.”

Laska could not have spoken a truer word. His assertions of new directions are more than prevalent on Microscopic Wars.

‘So Long’ sees the band step through a time portal to the swinging ‘60s, guesting swimming psych-laden guitars as Fergs vocals seamlessly partners with a southern-blues inspired organ, a depth we’ve not yet explored with Kingswood.

In addition to this, ‘Eye Of The Storm’ is a bone-chilling piano ballad that cements that Kingswood as much more than one-trick ponies, almost harkening to ‘November Rain’ as Laska takes the role of Slash, slicing through the keys with his emotive guitar tones and Ferg’s soaring vocals.

Change of Heart, albeit a brilliant release, contained its peaks and troughs, however Microscopic Wars never once lets up, spinning as a true, holistic record that douses the palate with a range of sonic flavours.

“Microscopic Wars is very much an experience in that here’s point A here’s point Z and everything that happens in between is a correlation of feelings and emotions and kind of creativity instead of being like ‘hey this is a single and this is a stocking filler and this is a song we put in because we didn’t have anything else'” Laska stated.

Confirming this notion, he said “‘I think the thing that is indicative of that is if you put it on shuffle, it would not have the same feeling or experience.”

We almost fully agree with this sentiment, however, something must be said of the brilliance of ‘I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me.’

Ferg’s layered smoky croons are hauntingly addictive, the tune catching fire with space-synths as Laska unleashes unforgiving solos before the whole orchestra come together in blazing Kingswood symphony, all four members lifting the band far, far above anything they had ever previously created.

Ferg leads us through the progressions from Change of Heart EP to Microscopic Wars, “Change of Heart has a kind of juvenile feel when I listen to it now. I still love it but I think the band as a whole has matured and the songs of Microscopic Wars are bolder, more interesting sonically, and have a less guarded sentiment to them.”

“We have all lived and grown together since the EP, and that experience combined with Vance’s encouragement to create fearlessly and without boundaries makes what I believe is a record that won’t grow old”, he concluded.

This record is a proud statement for Aussie rock, cementing that our scene is a force to be reckoned with, as Laska’s final words too attested, “the rock scene in Australia is so great, there’s just a vast and diverse pallet of bands that I would put in this category, I mean you’ve got The Preatures, Violent Soho, DZ Deathrays, Dan Sultan, Sticky Fingers, Karnivool.”

With what we tout to be one of the most greatly received records of 2014, Microscopic Wars is a major victory for Australia’s illustrious music pages.

Microscopic Wars is out on Friday 22nd August, and trust us, this is an experience that cannot be missed in 2014.

You can have a listen to the record below.

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