Fresh from releasing their debut album 'A Vision In The Dark' at the end of last week (19th June 2020, Libertino Records), and following buzzy TV soundtrack spots for the likes of Made In Chelsea and Black Mirror, Wrexham newcomers Kidsmoke have, well, a slightly quieter summer than they were expecting, but with buckets of indie-pop charm, and the promise of yet more new material to come ("We're all powering through in lockdown at the moment, trying to use this time to work on new songs."), they're ones to keep an eye on.
What first drew you to wanting to be a musician, have you been at it long?
Lance: When I was about 12, I was at a sleepover at a friend's house, and he had an old Spanish guitar - I remember asking about it, and he taught me Wonderwall. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I was only listening to the stuff on the radio back then - I used to save up and buy those pop guitar chord books and learn songs like 'Let Me Entertain You' by Robbie Williams. A few years later, James introduced me to The Beatles - I think that's when I started taking it a bit more seriously and began trying to write my own songs.
And how did you guys meet then form the band?
Lance: James and I have been in bands together since we were in school, but around 2009 our group disbanded, and we spent a bit of time doing other things. In late 2012, we began working on some demos, and the songs felt like a step up from what we'd done previously, so we decided to start something up again and Kidsmoke was born (we are named after a Wilco song - one of our favourite bands). We released two EPs and a handful of singles, and some band members came and went, but things really clicked into place when Sophie and Ash joined in 2016. Since then, we've become a very tight-knit group and have been working our socks off in the build-up to releasing this album.
What's the most exciting thing you guys have done together so far?
Lance: I think it would be toss-up between when our song 'Take Me to the River' was used on Charlie Brooker's Netflix show Black Mirror and playing Robert Smith's Meltdown festival in London in 2018. There have been lots of stand-out moments for us so far, but both of those were very special.
Soph: I think I'd add going to SXSW 2019 to this list. It was an absolutely crazy week, we played so many shows and met some amazing people. Travelling half-way across the world to play gigs with your mates is a dream come true.
How do you approach songwriting, is there a specific vibe you go for?
Lance: Nearly all of our songs are written in the same way. James writes the music and will send an instrumental demo over to me; I will write the lyrics and vocal melody, and then we'll take the song into the rehearsal room. This is where Soph and Ash will add their parts, and it will begin to feel like a Kidsmoke song.
We are currently demoing album number two and are trying a different approach to the songwriting process. We'll see how it works out!
Where do you look for inspiration?
Lance: Books, films, stories I read or hear, personal experiences - anything really. I also spend a lot of time studying other artists' lyrics for inspiration. I really like to dig deep into how people approach lyric writing and the way they tackle certain subject matters. It's really interesting to me and gives me ideas of how I can adapt and evolve my own writing.
Tell us about your debut album, what's it about? Has it been a long time in the works?
Soph: Our debut album is called 'A Vision In The Dark', we're releasing it with the amazing Welsh label Libertino Records. It's been in the works for some time now, and we're so excited to share it with everyone. We recorded most of it with Russ Hayes at Orange Sound Studios in the beautiful North Wales town of Penmaenmawr, then took a trip over to West Kirby to record the track 'Rising Sun' with Bill Ryder-Jones. There's a bit of a light / dark theme that twists itself throughout the record, we have always enjoyed playing between these lines as it can be enjoyed by even a casual listener on the surface, but there's also plenty more to find if you dig a little deeper.
It must be weird releasing it during a pandemic, how has that impacted you?
Soph: It has been really weird, to be honest. Obviously, we had a bunch of gigs planned, and we had to pull those straight away, but it's most important that everyone stays safe and well at the moment, so we're just taking it on the chin and getting on with what we can. It might still impact us for a while yet, but we're doing our best to keep things heading in the right direction.
We pretty quickly made the decision not to push back the album release, as it's something we've been working so hard towards for so long and we had everything pretty much ready to go. We also thought that with everything going on at the moment, people might appreciate having some new music to look forward to.
Are you creative in non-musical ways too?
Soph: We do have an on-going word-by-word story that we sometimes add to when we are on long journeys. Most of it is absolute nonsense, but it keeps us entertained for hours.
What do you do for fun?
Soph: Outside of the band we are actually just really good mates, so when we are not in lockdown we do like the odd Kidsmoke staff-night-out to a local pub. To be honest, we always end up just talking about music and the band anyway - that and playing shit-head, the greatest card game of all time. Top tip: Always take a pack of cards to the pub.
We also all love following football. James loves Arsenal with all his heart and Lance is eager for the season to re-start/not get binned as he's a long-suffering Liverpool fan. I am a Man United fan (i got drawn in by my Welsh hero Giggsy in the 90s), and Ash is a Wolves lad originally, so he follows them.
Do you have any predictions for later in the year?
Soph: Hopefully our album is going to be critically acclaimed (by my dad at the very least) and an all-round roaring success - then we are aiming to crack on in the studio with album two as soon as we can and hopefully play some shows as soon as it's safe to do so.
Kidsmoke's debut album 'A Vision In the Dark' is out now.