Regular readers will know that we’ve really been digging band on the rise, Kites of late, so much so that when singer Matthew Phillips recommended Look, Stranger! to us, we just had to go check them out. We’re glad we did too.
They may only be in their mid-twenties but this young band has been playing together, in one guise or another, for over ten years and has also clocked up a bucket load of band miles from playing with the likes of Laura Marling and Noah and the Whale’s Charlie Fink, amongst others. In short, they know what they are doing. If that list of artists has you thinking, ‘great, another acoustic indie-folk combo, just what we needed’ then think again for Look, Stranger! comes with batteries (and cables, and synths, and some rather lovely melodies) included.
Chances are, if you’ve happened upon anything about this London four-piece already, you’ll have read about their smooth, polished 80’s sound, except, that description is not exactly one that singer Tim Sheinman recognises. In his opinion, as he explained to us when we spoke to him before Christmas, that may be more to do with the age and expectation of the critics. Certainly he feels that people, critics included, subconsciously allow a review to influence their opinion, picking up one aspect in particular, “ it is that thing where people pick this up and suddenly it all makes sense “oh yeah well they’ve got the 80s influence and now I see it” you know and all that sort of thing”, and repeating it.
The band currently self-produce, primarily for the freedom from any time constraints, and smooth is not something they are particularly aiming for, “ sound is so degraded at the moment”, he says “and it’s so production based that you can use slightly worse microphones, as long as you’ve got good recording software like Logic or whatever, you can do it all at home”. Because of this, there isn’t really much challenge in making something sound like it has been polished to within an inch of its life, “I think sheen is easy to put on a record these day, I really don’t think that’s where the action’s at”.
Sheinman is a fascinating person to speak with, outspoken, forthright and with an opinion and background knowledge on a myriad of subjects. During our chat we cover football’s governing body (“a mafia clique”), Jon Ronson’s theory of conjuring up a back story to better sell an artist, ‘astro-turfing’ (“fake grass roots and stuff”) and his own theory on how record labels handle new talent (“ development’s dead, you know. record companies don’t do development except they do, they just kind of do it now to get this kind of near authenticity, you know, say hide them for a bit and keep the money away from any public projects they do until a certain point”). His sharp tongue is in stark contrast to his soft, harmonious and sometimes choral vocals, especially on the fabulous “Kept It Alive”.
So what do they sound like, and more importantly, what does Tim think they sound like? He makes mention of their use of reverb in production and a haunted sound, “you can record good quality things with lots of reverb on them and that’s absolutely brilliant”, and is quick to identify “Kept It Alive” as being “a full on sort of banging UK funky step dance indie, you know, monster if you like that sort of thing”. We do, very much. It’s pop music, just the way we like it, with a glorious hook, infectious beats and guitars and synths a plenty.
This up-tempo ‘banger’ is juxtaposed on the EP with the more sedate, languid styling of “To The River”, a shortened version of a track that appeared on their previous EP offering, If You’re Listening. That four song release brings to mind Cut Copy, and specifically last year’s brilliant album, Zonoscope. It too blends an organic, almost tribal beat into the swirling, digital, synth soundscapes.
The guys are minded to just keep recording and releasing on a regular basis, which is a bonus for us fans as it means we’ll be getting regular doses of this pop fix. In fact, the next EP is already on the books, One For The King is due out on 9 April this year, no doubt on their bandcamp page where you can also pick up both If You’re Listening and Kept It Alive for free.
If you want a live show to sink your teeth into then you can catch them on a mini-tour over this coming weekend in Manchester (Thurs 26 Jan), Warwick (Fri 27 Jan) and Reading (Sat 28 Jan). More details of the gigs can be found via their Facebook page