3rd March 2018 // Carnival Club // Interview // Live Music // Fruit
If you went to see Liam Fray on his recent solo acoustic tour, chances are you’ve already seen Carnival Club, and it capped an outstanding year for the northern lads, and gave them a platform to take their music to the wider audience they’re destined to reach. Their unashamedly retro rock ‘n’ roll brings to mind some of the all-time greats from the rock canon. There are bits of Led Zeppelin in there. Bits of Sabbath. Bits of Motörhead, the Stones and garage prototype-punk of The Stooges and the MC5. That they’re so incredibly young belies this encyclopaedic knowledge of rock’s back pages.
Then there’s the fact that they’ve been labelled a ‘Manchester band,’ which obviously carries a lot of clout. Apart from elements of Second Coming-era Roses, there is little to suggest that they belong to that famed, if idealised, ‘scene.’ People, myself included, tend to have a Rose-tinted judgement of the Manchester music scene, specifically the period between the Buzzcocks to Doves, so mid 70s to around 2000. But Manchester’s changed now. Only really The Courteeners seem to be consciously following that traditional Manchester ‘sound’; melodic, anthemic music, masking often acerbic, dour lyrics. Unfortunately every band to come out of Manchester has this albatross around their necks, even though the city’s home to some of the most experimental and left-field music around at the moment. In fact, in terms of current bands, they share more with Queens of the Stone Age than any of those bands 100 miles down the M62.
They’re not essentially even a ‘Manchester band’; only singer/guitarist, Kai Jon Roberts actually hails from Manchester. The others, drummer Joe Lodge, bassist George Peel and guitarist Eddie Moxon come from Stockton-on- Tees, Clitheroe, Lancashire and Withernsea respectively. They seem to have been labelled as such because the others all study music in Manchester, and met Kai on the local scene. Much like a The Chemical Brothers are sometimes labelled a Manc band because they studied there. Their shared love of 70s rock sets them apart from what people have come to expect from a band from those parts. And they’re all the better for eschewing that particular brand of music, whilst also maintaining a healthy respect for their forbears. It’s difficult to totally escape the colossal behemoth that straddles the music scene there; people will always try to shoe-horn in some kind of Manchester influence, but they seem to be operating outside those parameters completely.
They’re an exciting young band, whose trajectory has been swift; their forthcoming Nomads & Crooks EP, due in March, will only be their third release, and they seem to have amassed a healthily rabid following in the course of just over the couple of years since they formed. They played The Sesh last year, a sort of homecoming for guitarist Eddie Moxon, but on 21st March, they make the step-up to playing Früit, something they’re excited about, if not entirely surprised about. They’re aiming big, and fully expect to be up there with the greats in the not too distant future. I chatted with vocalist and guitarist, Kai, ahead of their visit to Hull:
Anyone from Manchester is going to get asked this question: How far do you align yourself with the lineage of Manchester bands? Or do you prefer to completely distance yourselves from it?
‘We don’t really fit in with the “Manchester Band” thing. Really I’m the only Manc in the band, Eddie, George and John are from all corners of the north. I guess you can say there are some similarities from the likes of Oasis and The Stone Roses but not enough for you to close your eyes and pin point where were from. I like that about us, we don’t wear Parkas and Fred Perry polos because that isn’t us. I’m proud to be from Manchester, it’s the music capital of England but we’d be crooks to say we belong in that list; respect your elders.’
There’s a definite classic rock n roll flavour to your sound. Who do you all listen to?
‘We all listen to the likes of The Rolling Stones, Led Zep, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains. But if you were to sit down with us individually I’m sure each one of us will take you on our own musical paths.’
From what I’ve read, you seem to be a sensible chap. Is it important to be grounded? Is there a temptation to go ‘full rock star,’ as your music brings to mind some hard-living rockers?
‘From the ‘Rock Stars’ we’ve met, I feel as though it’s far too hard to go all-out, up your own arse rock star. Like who has the time or attention span to buy into that anymore? I believe the people that stay grounded are the ones that stay connected to their fans, and that to us is the most important thing. Never forget where you’re from, I couldn’t imagine living the life I had, then putting my kids in Eton, d’ya know what I mean?’
Which city do you feel most gets you? Which city do you love playing cos they go apeshit?
‘Manchester is just the best crowd because it’s essentially our homecoming gig each time. However, Leeds and Hull always put up a good fight; they’re two crowds you want on your side.’
You seem to have built up a healthy fanbase already. Are you happy with the speed of your trajectory?
‘Were over the moon with how we have been accepted by so many people in such little time! It blows our mind all the time, but we truly want to go the full way. We won’t stop until we’re playing to 50’000 people in Argentina. That’s a promise…’
Do you have a special bond with your hardcore fans? Why do you think you’ve captured their devotion so much?
‘We love talking to our fans because most of the time they have really similar music tastes to us. And what would a band or an artist be without their fans? Respect them or you will never make it. I also believe there aren’t many bands out there like us. We offer something not many people have dug their teeth into yet.’
Do you feel any affinity with any contemporary bands? (quite misleading)
‘What a poetic way to word that. But yes, at the moment Royal Blood, Peace and Wolf Alice all came back with some quality music that I really think changed the game. ‘From Under Liquid Glass’ is my favourite song of the year, what’s not to like about it? Were lucky as we’re at a point where the ‘Indie Landfill’ bands have disappeared and some top bands have made it.’
You’re curating a one-day festival. Which five bands do you want on the bill and who’s headlining?
‘The Rolling Stones, Arctic Monkeys, Dua Lipa, Queens Of The Stone Age and Jack White.’
Man Utd or Man City?
You must be enjoying the season then. How was your Sesh gig at The Polar Bear? As Eddie is from Hull are you excited to play his home town again?
‘The Sesh was great, but this gig at Früit will be the one. As it is our first Hull headline, we can’t wait for it and I’m sure the crowd will show Ed the love he deserves. People from Hull have high expectations though; to impress a Hull crowd you really have to have something. I mean The Stone Roses didn’t do well in Hull; that’s bold. I hope we impress…’
What can we expect from Carnival Club next? Have you got any festival slots and when can we expect an album to drop?
‘For festivals and Album dates it’s all too soon for us as we’re still finding our feet amongst the rocky road we call the music industry. Were gonna keep doing what we do best and play to as many people as possible and we have some singles to release over this year. We can’t wait for you to hear them.’
It’s refreshing to see such a healthy balance of confidence and discipline. They certainly have the tunes and the potential to become as big as the bands they’re in awe of, but that well-grounded attitude sets them apart, and shows absolute conviction and belief that they will continue their upwards trajectory until they reach the peaks they dream of. What happens when you get there can make or break a band, but Kai seems to have a maturity beyond his 18 years, and the bond they share with their fans is key to their success. It’s a cliché to be nice to people when you’re on the upswing, but you get the sense that he means it. It’s bordering on an obsession, and you’d be daft to bet against them reaching the top of the current crop; it’s no hobby, it’s a full-time job, and as my grandad used to say , another cliché, ‘if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.’ And they’re doing that job with a degree of professionalism and talent that wouldn’t be out of place for most well-established bands. And it’s set to pay huge dividends by the looks of it. British guitar music seems to be undergoing some sort of renaissance, despite what we saw on The Brits this year. I’m sure Hull will be on their side 100% on March 21st.
They’re aiming for dizzy new heights, but won’t be blinded by the lights as someone once said…
Book Tickets for The Carnival Clubs Fruit Gig here >>> http://bit.ly/2tc3tU1
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