Kins, a guitar-pop quartet hailing from Brighton, UK, have just begun their first US headlining tour, with additional dates supporting the lovely Courtney Barnett as well. Following their Autumn UK tour with special guest Francis Lung, the core members of Thomas Savage, Alex Knight, and Rob Walters will hit up over ten major American cities as well as Noise Pop Festival and SXSW to promote their gorgeously luscious debut self-titled album, Kins, which was released back in July 2013.
Not long ago, lead vocalist and guitarist Thomas Savage stopped off in Montreal to open solo for San Fermin as well as play an intimate, private set the following night, both times performing an introspective yet raw acoustic gig that captivated each and every audience member. I was lucky enough to steal Savage away for a few minutes to chat about musical character, Michael Jackson, and future plans.
So here you are, embarking on Kins’ first US tour. How did you get here?
I’ve written songs since I was sixteen, and I always wanted to play with other people to immerse myself in music. For Kins, there was a transcontinental relocation from Melbourne, Australia to Brighton, UK a few years ago. Since then, we’ve toured the UK a bit and released the album last year. Now here we are in North America for our first US tour. Sometimes it feels like we’re constantly pushing uphill, where it’s felt like a struggle for a long time, but it’s really exciting to finally be here. As for my solo Montreal gigs, they were really interesting as I haven’t played on my own in like six years.
And how has the album done in the UK?
It didn’t do extremely well in the UK, to be honest. Strangely enough, the US surpassed the UK in the matter of a few months. Fan attention in the US and Canada just kind of sprung up, which came as a surprise to all of us. It’s funny, these days Soundcloud tells you everything. You can almost just dictate the whole tour based on where your listens are coming from. I was never expecting success in the US in my lifetime, and with the debut Kins album, we all had a really modest outlook. I think it’s the fact that the US and Canada have thriving music cultures, where people are as obsessed as I am with music. Turnouts for gigs are also amazing because people really care about new music, and that’s really exciting.
What did you find was the overall approach to the album Kins? Do you think you achieved it?
I think the approach to the album was not having an approach. I always feel like I can tell when music sounds contrived, like when people have a very specific aim and go for that. We just went for whatever and hoped for the best. I think it worked out well because we went for a vibe or mood for each song, but in a natural kind of consistency. That being said, it’s a bit confusing at times when I listen to our album. “Aimless” feels really escapist for me, and allows for me to forget all my inhibitions and worries, and was written about six months ago. In contrast, “Pale Faced Fear” is about six years old, so we have this temporality thing going on. The disparity between songs feels inconsistent to me, and that’s why I want to do another album, but this time, within a smaller time frame.
I’m going to call you out on a self-descriptive quotation found on the Kins website. You said that you specialize in “the sound of doubt, detachment, and muted aggression”. Care to expand?
I think doubt is a really good one. I hate the idea that in music people know what their doing. If feel like if you do, it’s not spontaneous or creative. If you conceive an idea and take it as it comes, the final product always seems more detailed to me. Doubt is definitely what we believe in, and it’s important to doubt yourself. Imagine if you made an album and think ‘Yes, that’s the best album I’ve ever made,’ and then you still feel that way five years later. Why would you make more music? I think music is really supposed to be made, digested, and shat out. It’s a constant cycle, I don’t really believe in timeless music. As for detachment, I think musicians are always people who took an aspect of their life and removed it to go off and do their thing. But then, the purpose of music is meant to be for social connections. So it’s funny how people detach themselves in order to be social with other people. I would say Kins is less social in a way, so I guess that’s why we claim it to be detached. Muted aggression, at least for me, has something to do with male human nature, and how musically, the aggression is still there. Genres like rock and metal just go all the way, whereas our approach is more restricted, and therefore more muted. I would say our newer stuff is heavier, more aggressive, yet still as lush as “Aimless”.
Describe a Kins fan. Who are they and what do they look for in music?
I reckon I want to describe twenty people who are totally different. I want a sixty-year-old Japanese woman who just migrated last year, and I want a forty-three year-old Scottish farmer, and a sixteen year-old couple. Just a mental mix. In particular, the ones I really appreciate are untrendy mid-thirty’s fans who come out to the shows and don’t care about what’s cool. They’re just genuinely enjoy the music, whether it’s cool or not. Kins fans look for experimentation. I wouldn’t call our sound experimental, but I think we’re experimental within an idea. Our pop melodies and melancholic chord structures reflect that we like to experiment within restrictions.
Who are you as a music listener? What do you seek out?
I look for variety. In the last month I’ve insanely danced to Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and have zoned out to John Tavener. Each accommodates a certain mood that I find myself in. Music to me is a separate character altogether; it’s a reflection of the character who made it. Listening to music is like having a friend. You feel like the character accepts you, and makes you feel good. It’s the same with a Michael Jackson song, it’s an amazing friend who’s an awesome entertainer. It’s like, ‘Come hang out with a Michael Jackson song, you’ll have a great time.” So yeah, I look for a strong representation of a character.
What can Kins fans expect from the tour?
I never know how to answer that. It’s rock music. I still don’t know what people are supposed to do while we’re playing. I don’t know if they’re supposed to dance, sway, talk over, or fall asleep. I would hope people are able to zone out to our music. It’s funny though, if fans are able to feel all of this internal emotion and climax, we would never really know, because all we would see are zoned out, blank faces. It’s like if you go see a forty piece orchestra, people just sit in silence there with no expression. It’s interesting when musicians pretend they do it for themselves, because that’s complete bullshit. Everyone wants the praise and recognition.
How do you feel going into this tour? What are plans for the immediate future afterwards?
It is strange to have come this far and still own everything and feel musically free. But it’s something I try not to think about it, because I really think it should be less industry focused and more musically focused. We’re really excited for our showcases at SXSW, which is where we’re ending our tour. We’ve got the singer of Tall Ships on tour with us, as well as my brother, who is a guitarist and keyboardist, so I’m really looking forward to it. As for the future, we’re about half way through writing another album. We’re really taking it month by month.
Listen to the full Kins debut album below. You are guaranteed to zone out and/or melt.