Interview: The K’s

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The K’s – Jamie Boyle (vocals), Ryan Breslin (guitar), Dexter Baker (bass) and Jordan Holden (drums) – headed into the first national lockdown off the back of a headline tour, which included their biggest headline show to date at The Ritz, Manchester. Their hit singles and live performances have attracted a strong and loyal following, and big things are expected once live music returns.

The foundations for the Earlestown band were set when Jamie and Dexter got sent out of a high school music lesson to learn Hallelujah, and were in turn invited to join a band, ‘The K’s’. However, it was only thanks to a chance encounter between and Jamie and Ryan a couple of years later at an after-party, after both being on two separate nights out, that they decided to give the band a real go, and they’ve not looked back since.

All that was missing was a drummer. The boys hosted auditions to fill the vacant position, of which Jordan was the first to arrive. After smashing out Sarajevo, Glass Towns and Got a Feeling, the rest of the auditions were scrapped, and The K’s as we know them today were fully formed.

Fresh from rehearsal in Warrington, we caught up with Jamie and Ryan over Zoom and discussed that huge show at The Ritz, as well as the chances of new music in 2021, hometown pride, the importance of small venues and plenty more.

NC: How has lockdown been for you as a band. Have you been doing any of the virtual gigs and have you managed to see much of each other?

RB: “We did a live stream acoustic show after the first lockdown, just me and Jamie, and it did really well. So we did it with the full band, set a tent up in my Grandad’s garden, got cameras and lights and made it a bit like a festival, and that was really good too. Then the harder restrictions came in and it was difficult. We kept writing and sending each other stuff but nothing more than that. But that’s the world we’re living in – just existing through Whatsapp at the minute.”

JB: “That’s the only positive is how much new stuff we’ve got written. We’ve not got album 1 out yet but album 2 is as good as ready with all these new songs. So we’re just prepared to hit the ground running as soon as we come out of lockdown now.”

NC: The last thing you did was the headline show at the Ritz and following tour. Can you sum up that gig on a personal level?

JB: “It was unbelievable, they always are. We say it was a ‘hometown show’ in inverted commas in the sense that it’s the closest place to play a gig in a decent sized venue. But they just get bigger and better each time. The Ritz tickets sold out that quickly that the promoter had booked us to play Academy 1 in October, which is nearly double the size. Without sounding arrogant, we fully believe we’d have sold that venue out too because wherever we play we seem to sell out. So it’s gutting to know things were flying, playing in iconic venues and then we’ve had the brakes slammed on us. But we are ready and we will go again as soon as we can.”

NC: You mention your hometown, and one of the great things about The K’s is hometown pride. You say you’re an Earlestown band rather than latching onto a nearby city, which bands often do. Is that something that’s important to you?

RB: “We wouldn’t be true to ourselves if we said we’re a Manchester band. Even though the Manchester scene is influential and you want to get into it, if you try and pretend you get found out as a fake. We see bands bouncing around trying to be Oasis and we just think, be true to yourself.”

JB: “And I think it’s better that way because we’re still selling out these Manchester venues without being portrayed as a ‘Manchester band’. Like Ryan says it’s just about being true to ourselves. We’ve got nothing against any of these cities or anything, but we would just be lying if we did that. And we don’t want to fall into certain categories because we like doing stuff our own way and being independent.”

NC: ‘Sarajevo’ has over 2 million streams now, which must be mad. Can you give us a bit of a background on the song?

JB: “A couple of weeks after we decided we were gonna be a band again, we started writing some tunes. We’d never released a single or anything, this was the first one we’d recorded. We had no idea what we were doing and had some help from our manager, Nikki, who had a better idea because she’s worked in music all her life, so she was great. We put it out on Spotify and it started getting picked up by playlists and getting bigger and bigger, which rocketed our following to what it is now. We were lucky because we never had to play the circuit with no fans there as such, that song helped us out massively. Jimmy’s Manchester was the first headline gig, then Deaf Institute, and we just keep increasing the size of these city venues and selling them out each time. We are so lucky with the support we’ve had, that’s why we love it so much. That’s why we miss touring so much too, the live side of it, interacting and connecting with people.”

NC: And when you release such a great debut song, is the pressure then on to keep delivering and keep living up to ‘Sarajevo’?

RB: “I don’t think there’s pressure because we know that any song we release is good enough. We wouldn’t put it out if we weren’t confident. We’d never put a half decent song out for the sake of it, we need to know it’s good enough.”

NC: You released ‘TV’ in September, are we expecting to hear some new music this year?

RB: “As soon as those doors open, you’ll hear new music. We want to play it live first.”

JB: “That’s the way to do it we think. We released ‘TV’ and it did unbelievably well in the circumstances, but you miss out on that first time playing it live and touring it, the excitement and buzz around the new tune. That’s the best bit about releasing new music.”

NC: So are you hoping for the return of live music in 2021, or are you as clueless as everyone else at the minute?

JB: “We’ve got a full summer of festivals planned and a full April tour planned that’s just been postponed. Our team are working so hard behind the scenes to make sure that whenever we can play again, we are ready to go. It is stressful for them and like you say, nobody really has any idea what’s going on, so we’ve just got to go with it and hope for the best.”

NC: Would you do the socially distanced shows if the opportunity was there?

RB: “I’m that desperate at the minute I’ll play anywhere. I was dead against it at first because I thought it wasn’t what live music was about at all. But some of them look alright and if people are having a good time then why not. I wasn’t sure about the Sam Fender gig where people were penned in cages but some of the smaller, more intimate ones look alright. We wouldn’t want to do it unless it was safe, but if we get offered the right one we might say yes.”

JB: “We were looking at one during the last lockdown for the start of this year, so it’s potentially on the cards, we’ll have to see.”

NC: Small venues are topical at the minute with a drive to save the venues during the current struggle. Surely you understand the importance of those small venues and how they can boost a band’s career?

RB: “It’s awful. It’s where bands come from. You’d not see 99% of bands if it wasn’t for these small venues. As a band you can’t just decide you’re gonna play the O2 Arena, it just doesn’t happen. and I think you meet the most interesting people and the best crowds. That Jimmy’s gig was unreal, seeing your brother flying across the room at the back was just mad.”

JB: “You don’t get that same connection at the bigger venues. They are great, but it’s not the same atmosphere as the smaller gigs. You do meet the best people, and there’ll be people missing out on opportunities if the venues don’t stay open. Without Gorilla and Deaf Institute (saved by Tim Burgess last year), Manchester wouldn’t be the same. Sound Control has already gone, one of the best venues in Manchester. If all three of those went it would leave a massive hole in the Manchester music scene.”

NC: As a guitar band, what I like about you is that you’re a throwback in the sense that you’re doing the basics right, a proper guitar band. Do you ever feel a pressure to experiment with the music?

RB: “I think that’s why it works so well. We don’t wanna be like all these wishy washy bands, who are trying to be different for the sake of it. That’s not us.”

JB: “That’s why people love it so much too. There’s loads of bands we know that play with backing tracks, we just go and smash a set out. It doesn’t have to be perfect as long it’s live, that’s what people want, that raw edge.”

NC: Have you had to rely on radio backing since the pandemic, because I know the likes of XS Manchester have been good to you in the past?

RB: “XS have always been great with us, Radio X (John Kennedy) too. It’s always good to have radio on board regardless of the time of year. We’re living in a digital world, more so now than ever I suppose.”

JB: “We’d got to a certain level to get that backing before lockdown. That’s why I feel sorry for new bands at the minute because they can’t tour and get their name out there like we did. We’re lucky and it’s great that we have that sort of radio backing.”

NC: Another struggle for bands is breaking into Europe and getting abroad to play gigs. Is this something you have done or something you will be doing, and how was the EU visa issue affected your plans?

JB: “I’ve not read enough about the visa to comment really. We do love playing festivals abroad though. UK festivals are my favourite to play but there’s always a weather risk, you’d have to be really unlucky to get that issue at most of the other European festivals.”

RB: “The visa is just another hoop to jump through. We played Serbia and Croatia and loved it, anywhere with sun and cocktails, I’m there. The crowds are mental over there too. A lot more insane than English people. Still out at 7 o’clock in the morning when we’re just waking up.”

NC: What are some of your festival highlights as a band so far?

RB: “Kendal Calling. That was ace, we played a tent and they had to shut it because we were over capacity. The only band to do that on the day. It was so unexpected because a festival crowd isn’t your crowd, you’re playing to people you don’t know. We were on at the same time as Miles Kane too!”

JB: “The stage manager told us we had double the crowd of anyone who payed that tent over the whole weekend. Like Ryan said though, you never know what to expect from a festival. If you’re playing a gig they’ve bought a ticket to see you, but at a festival you’re never 100% sure how it’s going to go. There’s multiple artists they can watch, so when we get a response like that it’s unreal. Also Neighbourhood Weekender was great as well. They put us on the Viola Beach stage, the smallest stage, and there was that many people turned up to watch us that they used our picture as the promo afterwards. A sea of people in front of us, it was so good. Even if we go down to Isle of Wight to be fair, we were booked to play a bigger stage this time around because so many people came to watch us on the smaller stage last time. Festivals are the best time of year, touring is good but festivals are the number 1.”

NC: Onto our new feature ‘Fantasy Pints’ now then. You can choose any musicians, past or present, to go out for a drink with. Who are you choosing and why?

RB: “Probably Keith Richards because I wouldn’t come home for about six days and it would be an ace party. Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley too. The three of them in a room, it would be mint.”

JB: “I’d take one of the Gallaghers, probably Liam because he’s so volatile he’d keep things interesting and you never know what’s coming next. Then I’d also choose Keith Richards to keep the party going. But I reckon you’d need someone to bring it back down, so I’m going with Luther Vandross. If things get out of hand he could play us a nice, mellow track to calm us down.”

NC: And finally, what’s the one thing you’re looking forward to when all this is over and things are back to normal?

JB: “Playing a gig – I’ll take a gig anywhere, I miss it so much. And then also returning to St. James’ Park to watch Newcastle!”

The K’s will be back on fire as soon as it’s safe to do so, so keep your eyes peeled for their re-arranged tour dates. They’ll be picking up where they left off in 2020, but in the meantime here is their brilliant cover of Pulp Do You Remember the First Time:

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