Kid Canaveral have been a constant on this blog as I’ve followed them through from their third single to their recently released third LP ‘Faulty Inner Dialogue’.
It’s been rewarding to follow the band on that journey as they’ve gained in confidence both as a live band and on record and in ‘Faulty Inner Dialgue’ they’ve delivered their best record so far.
Whilst it may not have quite as many obvious pop songs as the two previous records there’s no question that they’ve managed to broaden and toughen up their sound utilising new member Michael Craig to assist in this endeavour.
But what’s most impressive is that, whilst their progress seems to have been incremental, there’s a surprising distance between their debut ‘Shouting At Wildlife’ and the new album. Somehow they’ve continued to sound recognisably like Kid Canaveral whilst continuing to evolve.
Ahead of their return to the Cool Cat Club at Beat Generator Live! in Dundee on Saturday (24th), singer/guitarist David MacGregor spoke to MPT about how the new record differs from their past work.
Whereas last time out David reckoned that ‘Now That You Are A Dancer’ had resulted from an unconscious evolution of the band’s sound, the approach this time was less of an accident.
“I definitely wanted to do something different. I think we took a huge leap forward with NTYAAD, but it wasn’t quite as far away from our debut LP as I wanted.
“I thought about the bits of NTYAAD that interested me the most and the tracks that best represented that were probably ‘A Compromise’, ‘Low Winter Sun’, ‘Skeletons’, and ‘So Sad, So Young’ – the heavier, reverb-heavy elements of the first two and the electronic flashes of the latter.
“I felt emboldened by the critical performance of NTYAAD to push myself a bit further, to try and be more adventurous.”
This desire to progress meant that David had to find a new approach to songwriting.
“I took a couple of college courses, set up a home studio and started to play around with different guitar effects, drum machines, drum machines through guitar effects, and a couple of synths.
“I started writing things on a synth, which is something I’d never have been comfortable doing in the past. In fact, I think I pushed myself to do it because I wasn’t comfortable. ”
“My skills on keys are rudimentary at best so it was real learning curve for me. There was a lot of guff, a lot of pleasing but unusable synth parts, but I think where it worked (i.e. what we recorded and released) is great.”
Whilst pleased with the final product, David acknowledges that there was a fair amount of work needed to get to that stage and credits engineer Gal (who worked on both the Kids’ previous records) for his input to the record .
“He threw me onto a Moog to redo the bass part of ‘Pale White Flower’ because it wasn’t gelling and it didn’t fit with the rest of the record as it was up to that point. It was certainly a lesson in not being too precious about what we were doing. The final track is far superior to what it was.
“A similar thing happened with ‘Listen To Me’. We recorded it and it was a jangly mess that we hated. It’s still the same chord sequence and structure, but the instrumentation is completely different. The guitars more abstract, the drums insistent with the crisp snare crack and percussive crashes and clunks. Rose gets to show off her bass synth chops, too.”
If the record musically marks a progression for the band there’s a strong impression that lyrically the band is breaking new ground in a couple of different aspects.
As the title of the record suggests some of the songs are quite bleak, none more so than ‘From Your Bright Room’ which has an intense opening and only finds marginal relief in its chorus. Lyrically hope is a little thin on the ground. It’s a stark contrast with the band’s early image as a happy go lucky indie pop band.
David admits that it’s a personal record:
“I had a long period that started in between the first and second records up until early in 2015 where I was really struggling with my mental wellbeing. I could be OK for spells, but then the lows were unbelievable.
“I finally got some help in late 2013 and clawed my way back to sanity. I wasn’t an easy person to be around, I’m sure, and I did a lot of things that certainly made my mental state worse.”
David hopes that writing about his problems would not only help himself but others too.
“It’s something I’ve struggled with since I was a teenager, but I was at my absolute lowest ebb recently. I decided that I wanted to write about it because, apart from the catharsis it provides, it may help someone else who’s going through something similar if more folk openly talk about it.
“Public understanding of mental health issues has become much better in recent years, but there’s still a lot of folk who subscribe to the ‘You just need to cheer up’ school of thought, which is completely hopeless.
“‘Gun Fhaireachdain’ touches on the complete numbness that can swallow you when you’re suffering from depression; ‘Pale White Flower’ the self-obsessed, hyper-criticism; and ‘Lives Never Lived’ the obsessive second-guessing of every decision you make, the agonising over the outcomes, the self-deception of making do with where you are.
“The final song ‘Reel’, looks back over the record and the time I spent unwell, and the terror that you might tip back into the pit out of which you’ve just dragged yourself.”
Away from the personal, ‘Faulty Inner Dialogue’ also sees the band taking on issues on a wider scale. As a band Kid Canaveral were prominent participants in Yestival during the Scottish Independence Referendum campaign and David thinks that those wider interests have seeped into his songwriting.
“A number of the songs on the record are political. although they’re not in-your-face and waving a placard at you from your speakers.
“I wanted to try and build something a bit more subtle. If you want heavy-handed rhetoric you need only look through Twitter or Facebook.
“‘First We Take Dumbarton’ is a collection of exasperated images. Folk who are the most marginalised in our society on this island are suffering from exploitative working conditions and are being demonised on countless TV programmes.
“Everything possible is being commoditised and debt has become an expectation. You can get a Sex Pistols credit card, for Christ’s sake!
“‘Lifelong Crisis of Confidence’ is a brief exploration of the Scottish psyche through the lens of the referendum and everyday shortfalls in self-belief. The Darien Venture casts a long shadow.
“‘From Your Bright Room’ was the last song that I wrote and that we recorded for the LP. Too many folk have lost sight of their humanity. Suffering is fine as long as it’s across a significant enough body of water.”
David admits that a lot of what’s going on just now doesn’t fill him with optimism for the future. Quite the reverse.
“It can feel like everything is going backwards, social justice is well and truly fucked, and we’re spiralling toward some sort of dystopian hell that would have seemed laughably implausible not so long ago.”
With the record out in the wild, the band are keen to play live more often than they managed in support of ‘NTYAAD’.
“We’ve got a tour booked for this autumn (their dates in mainland Europe, England and Wales are just completed at the time of writing) and we’ll be heading out again in the new year. We’ll be touring this record as much as we can.
“It’s incredibly difficult to coordinate five schedules when everyone is holding down full time jobs, too. There’s even a couple of Kid Canaveral kids that need to be factored in now. But the fact of the matter is we can’t support five people with the money made from the band at present.”
As ever David is keen to pay tribute to Lost Map and how important the label is to the band.
“It’s great having a family of other musicians to bounce ideas off, play with and pinch when your bass player is at a wedding. In the tough world of Spotify and service station food, it pays to have a gang.”
‘Faulty Inner Dialogue’ is available now from all good record shops and will be available at the show on Saturday.
A full list of upcoming Kid Canaveral dates is available here.
Here’s the video for the first single from ‘Faulty Inner Dialogue’: