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27th September 2013
When Kids in Glass Houses released their third album for Roadrunner, 'In Gold Blood', two years ago, its reception was somewhat devisive amongst the band's established fanbase due to its darker, less upbeat nature and, generally, against the grain of what people had come to expect from their music. However, two years on and they're back with a fresh deal, having signed with Transmission Recordings, for the release of new studio album 'Peace' which sees the Welsh troupe hark back to their poppier, more hook-driven roots that characterised their debut and sophomore offerings. Commencing a European tour around a week before the official release date of the album, Metal Discovery met up with sticksman Phil Jenkins on the third date, in Lincoln, which brings the band back to the county within which 'Peace' was recorded earlier in the year. Here's what he had to say...
METAL DISCOVERY: The new album, 'Peace', which is out on Monday, of course - a lot of the reviews seem to be suggesting that it’s your poppiest sounding record to date with the biggest hooks. Is that the kind of vibe you were aiming for?
PHIL: Yeah, definitely. We’ve always been quite a hook-based band. You know, that was our primary thing when we first started is that we wanted, especially the vocals, to be as hooky as possible. And we kind of lost that a bit on our third album so, in a way, we just got back on track with that. That’s in the title of the album… it’s relevant to the fact that we’ve made peace with what a lot of people like about our band. We showed a lot of resistance with that, especially on our third album, so, on the fourth one, we got back to our roots a bit.
(Phil Jenkins on the new album's title, 'Peace')
"...it’s relevant to the fact that we’ve made peace with what a lot of people like about our band. We showed a lot of resistance with that, especially on our third album, so, on the fourth one, we got back to our roots a bit."
Phil Jenkins backstage at The Engine Shed, Lincoln, UK, 27th September 2013
Photograph copyright © 2013 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: Back to basics sort of thing, but even better…
PHIL: Yeah, I think we just wanted to go to town with it, really; throw the kitchen sink at it. Aled has such a poppy character to his voice and he’s grown up listening to lots of pop music… it was a good experience to try and take that to the max.
MD: You recorded it up here in Lincolnshire, of course, at Chapel – a couple of people I’ve interviewed recently who’ve recorded there have been complaining about the local pub shutting down. Did the lack of a local boozer bother you too?
PHIL: We didn’t go to the pub, to be honest, when we were there. We were really quite focussed. It’s a really good place to go and record an album because you’re really secluded and it made us focus on what we were there to do, which is to record an album. We were really well prepared before we got there as well so we weren’t writing any songs when we were out there; it was just completely go from day one. I think I came home for one weekend because we had a little break in the middle but that was kind of a good thing because, otherwise, you would’ve gone a bit insane… it was a bit too secluded! Like, at one point, it snowed and we got a little bit snowed in!
MD: I presume you tracked all the drums first so you had a lot of hanging around to do?
PHIL: Well, we had a really good way of the manner in which we recorded the album. We did it song by song but we spent two sessions on each song. We didn’t overcook it so, like, you didn’t hit a wall. It’s quite hard to explain but we spent a bit of time with each song and then we went around again so, the second time we started working on it, you were like, “ah, this is where we left it off; let’s just try and do the percussion bits or the synth bits later on.” So you weren’t butting heads with the song and then getting sick of it; you moved on the next day so you were doing the next song. It was a really refreshing way to record. No-one was just stuck there doing nothing for a week; everyone was active. It was really cool.
MD: It gave you a lot more freedom, I guess?
PHIL: Freedom, yeah.
MD: You had Dan Weller producing it – what was your working relationship like with him?
PHIL: We really hit it off with Dan. We were familiar with a lot of the bands he’s produced. We met him a bunch of times through mutual friends and he’s a sweetheart. He really connected with what we were trying to achieve because he’s kind of in our peer group. He was familiar with our band and he was really glad we were trying to pursue this initial pop route, and he’s a big pop head as well. So, even though he was in that band SikTh, which is a metal band…
MD: Were you a fan of them?
PHIL: No, not so much. They’re a very technical band but, yeah, at the time, I’m sure Aled and Iain were big fans.
MD: They were a great band.
PHIL: Yeah, we hit it off and he’d done some stuff with Enter Shikari… the main selling point was the way he worked with regards to integrating synths into bands’ sounds. He’d done it slightly with Young Guns and Enter Shikari have that kind of vibe going on, anyway. So that was something we’d been working on at home, anyway, and we worked together to interject the synth element into our band.
MD: Did he mix it as well?
PHIL: No, he didn’t mix the album. We had a guy called Adam Noble who mixed it, who did a very good job.
MD: It said in press blurb I had through that there’s been an online stream of the new album so that “everyone can learn the words to sing…at the shows…” So how has the new stuff been going down; have you found people have been doing their homework so far at the two shows?
PHIL: A lot of people have, yeah. We were really concerned because our tour started six days before the album’s even out and people wouldn’t have even heard any of the songs we were hoping to play. So that’s kind of frustrating for us and that’s the main reason we put it on a stream. And also, as well, we feel like we’ve been off the radar for quite a while so it’s a good thing to do so people can just check it out and make people aware that we have a new album out with a bunch of new songs and we’re doing a tour.
MD: And you started in Liverpool on Wednesday, didn’t you?
PHIL: Yeah. This is the third night of the tour.
MD: Did you encounter the Lambanana in Liverpool? Have you even heard of the Lambanana?
PHIL: No, I’m not too familiar with the Lambanana.
MD: The main one’s called a Superlambanana, a giant yellow sculpture – the front half’s a lamb and the back half’s a banana. There are lots of little ones all around the city too.
PHIL: I’ll have to keep an eye out for that next time.
MD: A bit of a random question this but if you could combine a fruit with any animal, what would it be?
PHIL: A fruit with any animal… well, the Lambanana itself is probably the most innovative.
MD: Yeah, that’s the pinnacle of animal/fruit combos.
PHIL: I’m just thinking obscure now but you could definitely… if you make a hybrid of grapes and a bird.
MD: Grapes and a bird, I like that.
PHIL: I don’t know what you would call it but the feathers and the grapes would kind of go.
MD: You’ve got the concept, that’s fine, the name can come later. Anyway, back to the music! You have a Pledge Music pre-ordering thing going on where fans can get hold of handwritten lyric sheets and all this kind of thing. Was that a band or label idea to go down that route?
PHIL: It was purely our idea, to be honest. I mean, our album was all wrapped up; we didn’t need to crowd source any funding to record our album. We just thought it was cool to generate a bit of interest about our new release. But we get left over with so much stuff after we record, it’s a good way to… we sold Aled’s original lyric book; the white board we used for our progress in the studio; we took a load of photos… It’s just a way to connect with your fanbase because we’ve been going for a while now and our fans just really wanna… they just show massive interest in everything we do. I think the main thing we wanted to do was, if we were younger and our favourite band gave me the opportunity to buy the singer’s lyric book when they brought out a new album, I’d freak out to do that. It’s just like, if Daryl Palumbo was selling a lyric book when a new Glassjaw album came out, I’m sure everyone would flip their lids to go and buy that. So it’s just a really good way to connect with your fans.
MD: It’s coming out on Transmission Recordings over here so are you still signed to Roadrunner in other territories?
PHIL: No, no.
MD: That deal’s completely finished now?
PHIL: We finished our terms with Roadrunner but there’s no bad blood there; we had a really good thing going on there with those guys. It’s a shame a lot of their offices shut down.
MD: Yeah, the UK office shut, and Canada and the Netherlands too, I think.
PHIL: Yeah, Australia and Japan went as well.
MD: I remember a few eyebrows were raised when you ended up on their roster…
PHIL: Yeah.
MD: For me, it didn’t seem too weird because it was at a time when they seemed to be diversifying…
PHIL: Yeah, when we signed to Roadrunner, it wasn’t our first choice. Like, typically, like you said, your eyebrows raise when you think about that. But the team at Roadrunner were brilliant. And, like you said, at the time we signed with them, they’d just signed Biffy Clyro and The Wombats in the US so, to us, it was like a big label, they’re doing really well, and I can’t say a bad word about ‘em.