Interview with Alvarez Kings

The UK-based indie-electronic quartet Alvarez Kings have rapidly been building a steady buzz since they formed in 2012.  Comprising of brothers Paul (vocals/guitar) and Simon (keys/bass/backing vocals) Thompson, Richard Walker (drums/samples/pads) and Sean Parkin (guitar/keys), the band has given impressive performances at various festivals, such as Isle of Wight and Vans Warped Tour, as well as providing tour support for PVRIS and Melanie Martinez.  The band just released their debut full-length album in April, making waves with their hit single Cold Conscience,  and are currently in the midst of their first US headlining tour.  They are excited about an active tour schedule in support of the new album, as well as connecting with their fans, old and new alike!  The guys sat down with me recently before their Louisville show at Zanzabar to answer a few questions.

Stitched Sound: You guys are doing your first headlining tour of the US.  How is the tour going so far?  Any highlights?

Simon: Yeah!  The last show we played, which was in Columbus, was really good.  The one we played before that was in Brooklyn, in NY, and that was probably the highlight so far.  There was a really good turnout.  We had some buddies come out and our team that’s behind us was there too so it was really fun.  It was a good show.  All of the the venues we’ve played, really, they’ve all been good.   There haven’t been any shows that so far that weren’t particularly good.

SS: So what’s your favorite part of touring in the US?  When you are in a certain city do you have a particular place you like to go or any favorite foods you’ve discovered that you love?

Everyone: Chicken wings (laughter)! 

Paul:  Buffalo chicken wings.  

Sean: It’s a wings tour of the US really (laughter)!  

Everyone: Alvarez wings!

Richard: I mean, for me…I don’t know if I can speak for the rest of the guys…but for me, it’s the weather, obviously.  Well, if you tour in the summertime.  And just the people and the fans are so receptive to what we’re doing and appreciate us being in their city or town.  

Simon: The fans are like “I can’t believe you’re here” and “thanks so much for coming”, and we’re like no, thank you for buying a ticket so we can come here and play.  They’re the reason we’re here, so yeah, it’s been awesome.

SS: You guys just released your debut full-length album.  How was the recording process for that?

Simon: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.  We rented a cottage in the Peak District, which is a national park in England.  It’s in the middle of nowhere.  We did some pre-production and recorded some demos.  It was set up like a home studio.  We then gathered all of our songs together and went out to LA, to Eagle Rock, and we recorded the full album.  It was fast (laughs).

SS: What was it like to work with Grammy-award winning producer Carlos de la Garza?

Sean: It was awesome!  He’s an awesome guy to work with!

Simon: Yeah, he’s an unbelievable engineer, as well as producer.  And his knowledge of setting up and getting a really good drum sound and things like that is great.  We recorded at Ocean Studios and the sound he got was incredible.  He knew his way around the studio perfectly.  

SS: I read that he had offered to go to the UK to record with you but that you guys decided you wanted to come to LA to record.  What made you decide that you wanted to record in the US, as opposed to the UK? What were the benefits of recording here?

Paul: Part of it is because when you think of LA, for us Brits, we think of the movies and stuff.  So we just wanted to experience the glossy-eyed dream of recording in LA.

Simon: We were also taking ourselves away from our home comforts, as well.  The UK is so small that if we were recording somewhere there would be too much temptation to go home for the weekend, which would break up the recording process.

SS: So it would be too tempting to procrastinate?

Simon: Yeah. Whereas if you are away from home, in a foreign land, you focus on one thing because that’s all you know.  You’re just there to do the album.  You’re not off going and seeing family and doing this or that.  We weren’t sure what we were going to do at first, but after we got there we thought “this is perfect”!It made sense.  And Carlos himself is just an awesome guy.  A properly funny guy.  We still keep in touch with him and we’ve still got an open What’s App group.  Every so often we’ll catch up and we’re going to catch up in LA, as well, which will be fun. 

SS: The new album seems a bit heavier on the synth.  What made you guys decide to steer your music in that direction?

Simon: We got to play with toys.  Carlos hooked us up (laughter)!

Sean: A lot of that was written on the laptop, kind of in the box style, because that’s what we had as our capabilities while recording.  But as soon as we got over to Carlos’s place, he had some amazing old school synthesizers and proper analog gear.  So basically, we were like kids in a sweets shop (laughter).  We were just testing all of this really old, cool gear, like Prophet 6, Prophet 12 and Junos.  He had everything!  

Paul: At times we just didn’t have enough hands for everything! (laughter)

SS: How does it feel to be performing soon on the Emerging Artists World Stage at Summerfest?  To be able to have that opportunity?  It sounds like some pretty amazing bands have performed on that stage in years past!

Richard:  For me, personally, it’s a festival I’ve always known of.  There’s a handful of festivals in the US that people always think of like Lollapallooza and Coachella.  So that’s always been, for me personally, a dream festival to do.  And when we got the offer, I think I had to pinch myself!

Paul: And some of the other bands on the same stage, as well, are amazing.  It’s really cool to have the opportunity to see their sets too.

Sean: And then you have Bob Dylan, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pink, and you’re like “what”?  I wish we could just stay there the entire time and watch all of those acts, but unfortunately we can’t.

SS: How does it feel to have been considered as one of Live Nations Ones To Watch bands?  Who are you guys listening to right now that you think everyone should be listening to?  Perhaps some emerging bands that people may not have heard of?

Paul: First off, Live Nation saying that about us was a real honor.  That was a big deal for us.  In terms of new bands that we are listening to…I’m trying to think.  It’s really hard to go out and discover new bands because you get so immersed in the touring cycle that you don’t get the chance to go out that much.  And when you are at home, the last thing you want to do…I don’t know, I’m just speaking for myself here,,,is go out to gigs.  I like to relax and chill and give my ears a rest when I’m at home.  But yeah, that’s a good question.

Richard: I don’t think I listen to any new and emerging bands, if I’m being honest.  I just like listening to classics.

Sean: I listen to a lot of EDM.  I like discovering new music, but I never take note of who it is, which is a terrible thing to do (laughs).  I like to jump on Soundcloud and listen to random songs and playlists.  I love my EDM, so I’ll just quite happily say that I listen to a bunch of house music and those really long sorts of DJ sets where you don’t know exactly who the DJ is.  I’ll just think “that’s really good” and save the song for another time.

SS: You guys made a music video for Sleepwalking Pt II.  How was that process?  Do you enjoy making music videos and think you’ll continue to make them?

Simon:  Here’s the thing-it was a bit of a weird situation.  We were given a bunch of ideas from a bunch of different directors and producers.  The ideas all came presented to us in a couple of booklets.  The four of us just jumped straight on this one idea, loving the concept of it.  It interpreted the song with a completely different spin, which is kind of what you want from a music video.  I don’t think anything should be blaringly obvious to the listener.  Ultimately, the whole idea of our song is your interpretation of it.  We’re not going to dictate that.  If we can have a quite far removed video concept from somebody else’s perspective on our music, that’s great.

Paul: In terms of the process of filming it, as well, it was quite easy for us actually.  The crew were filming over five days I believe.  They literally just flew us out to film our parts, which only took a few hours, so it was a pretty easy process for us.  I imagine everyone else had a lot more to do.

Sean: And that’s only because the record label wanted to feature us in it.  We didn’t particularly want to be in the video to be honest (laughs).  We kind of wanted to keep ourselves a little bit elusive but they wanted us to be in the video so we happily obliged!

SS: I read that your dream musical collaboration would be with either The Weeknd and/or Foals.  What is it about those two particular bands that you guys love so much? Do you think it’s something that will happen?

Sean: Well, hopefully they might let us jump on a tour with them or something like that and we can start with some collaborative efforts that way.

Paul: Actually, there’s a funny story about The Weeknd.  He actually liked an Instagram story of ours that we were featured in and we were all, like, freaking out and like “what”? 

Sean: The Weeknd is a talented guy, and with Foals, we love the musicality of what they do. 

Paul: There’s definitely some inspiration in Foal’s music.  In terms of would it happen?  Who knows?  If we could make it happen, though, we definitely would jump at the opportunity!

Richard: We’ve pretty much grown up listening to them. 

SS: What is tour life like for you?  What do you like to do on your days off?  Do you have a chance to do much other than driving and sleeping?

Sean: It tends to be driving, but yesterday was really fun! We had a great opportunity because we have quite a lot of friends here.  It’s just nice that we got to meet up with everybody and were taken to hang out at somebody’s lake house.

Simon:  Somebody was having a party and we just turned up there, and there were people on, like, floats and bikes.  It was like walking into a film…like a stereotypical American Pie party…it was exactly like you see in the films.  It was good and really fun to do that and to not have a driving day.  We just chilled out and it was awesome.

Paul:  Also, we have made quite a lot of friends here in the US, whether it be people working the crews or in various bands, and they always give us recommendations of places to eat in certain cities or what a certain state in famous for.  For example, in Columbus, we didn’t actually get a chance to get one, but I think they are called coneys?  It’s basically just a ridiculous amount of cheese on a hot dog vessel.  We do try to make a point of eating local cuisine when we can, though. 

Sean:  Although there’s not much healthy food over here (laughs).

Paul: I’ve definitely put on a few pounds (laughs).

SS: What is your hometown like?  Does it have a good music scene?  What do you like to do when you are home and not touring?

Sean: I live a bit of distance away from these guys.  I’m down in sort-of South London.  Depending on the time of year, this time of year, when it’s summer, London is one of the prettiest places in the world to go.  There’s always something to do and it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.  I just like hanging out in fields with my mates and having barbecues and things like that…going to museums and different art shows that are going on and stuff.  

Paul: In terms of Sheffield’s local music scene at the moment, there are some amazing bands.  Arctic Monkey’s are from Sheffield.  Bring Me The Horizon are killing it right now. Those guys are awesome. But yeah, Sheffield has always been a breeding ground for some big artists, like Def Leppard, The Cult and Human League.

SS: Have you guys always wanted to make music together?

Paul: Yeah!  Well, Simon and I are brothers so we didn’t have a choice really (laughter).  We have to!

Any sibling quarrels on tour?

Sean: Paul hates that one (laughs)!

Paul: All the time…relentless (laughs). We could give the Gallagher brothers a run for their money (laughs)!  Nah, it’s not that bad really. This tour, we’ve been alright!

Richard: I’ve seen some brotherly love actually.  Some bonding (laughs).

Paul: Love is a strong word (laughs).

Simon: When we get back home, it’s sort of like time to relax and catch up with family and friends.  Obviously, we’ve been away and missing them.  So we like to just do that and relax as much as we can!

SS: What’s next for you guys?

Simon:  The album has only been out a couple of months so we have some touring plans in the pipeline.  We have a European tour coming up next and then will be coming back here sooner rather than later.

Paul: We’ll be back in the US in the fall.  We have Europe in the fall, as well.  We have a bunch of festivals and headlining shows to do over there which we are really looking forward to.  Literally the day after we fly in from doing this tour, we’ll be doing Tramlines Festival, which is huge.  It’s kind of like the SXSW of Sheffield.  It’s a huge award winning music festival and we’re on the main stage, so we are excited for that…well, as long as the jet lag doesn’t kick us in to much (laughter).

SS: Thank you guys for taking the time to answer some questions!

Everyone: Thank you!

Check out the music video for Alvarez Kings’ hit single “Sleepwalking, Part II” below:

Make sure to support the band on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Interview by Emily May

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