A a few weeks ago Kowloon Walled City dropped their first recording in 3 years. Grievances was the result of Kowloon Walled City taking its time to focus in on what they really wanted out of a record and the end result is stunning. Kowloon Walled City’s sound is in a class all it’s own. Most of the time while trying to describe their sound to friends I am usually left with only adjectives (crunchy, low, slow, dynamic as f#¢k!)) and fumbling to make comparisons with other bands. Grievances takes all the sound structures built in 2012’s Container Ships and improves upon them. Everything from guitar tones being cleaned up, vocals and screams becoming richer and more distorted, and the overall tempo being pulled back just hair. Grievances is a complex and emotional ride from beginning to end. When all is said and done, I don’t know if I’m ready to crawl in a hole or go on a rampage and fuck shit up.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to see KWC live, seek out their closest show immediately. They will blow you away. Not to mention they are super humble and great to talk to. After hearing Grievances I absolutely had to reach out and and ask singer/guitarist/producer Scott Evans a few questions. If you do get the chance to talk to him at a show, but be sure not to ask him to come up with poetry on the spot.
When we last talked to you in Salt Lake City almost two years ago you told us that the recording process for your new record was coming along really, really, really slowly. Was Grievances the result of that long slow writing process? Or is it a new effort that resulted sometime afterwards? Any B-Sides that resulted from the recording sessions?
Grievances is the result of that process. When I said writing was going slowly, I meant it. As for b-sides, most of our ideas get thrown away before they become full-blown songs, but we had an extra song or two at this session. I don’t know if that material will ever turn into anything.
You’ve touched on how Grievances ties to into Lewis Hine’s photography and the struggles in early American labor and class issues. Could you elaborate on that?
A few of the songs on this record are about work and capitalism and control. As I was working on those songs I learned about Lewis Hine’s work. He worked for the National Child Labor Committee in the early 1900’s, sneaking into factories and mines to photo-document child labor practices. In the end his photography had a real effect on child labor laws. Anyway, the subjects of his photos seemed emblematic of the things unchecked capitalism is willing to do in the name of the bottom line.
The entirety of Grievances is absolutely amazing. However one of the standout out tracks for me is “White Walls.” Especially where the last half builds some momentum. It’s one of the coolest things we’ve have heard in heavy music this year. Any insight you could give us to the writing of this song or that part in particular?
That’s one of the last songs we wrote for this record. Last year Jon and I did a lot of writing in my studio–just the two of us bouncing ideas off of each other and refining them, and sometimes programming basic drum beats. The push-pull of the guitar and drums in that last part happened that way, then we brought it to practice and built it up with everyone in the room. Sometimes it helps to have a skeleton like that to work from.
One of my favorite Kowloon Walled City characteristics is how heavy, strong, and aggressive KWC can be, yet always within the realms of slow, restrained and somber. Very calculated. Is this a result of playing to your abilities (which you talk about often)? Or just the sound and tone you had envisioned for the band?
Those two are intertwined. We’ve always tried to write cohesive, intentional records—that’s just how I think. But it’s also always predicated on things we think we can each do well. And of course all anyone hears is the stuff that makes it out of the practice space–we’ve written lots of things that we then realized we can’t deliver well. I think that’s the case for any edited thing.
While writing, rehearsing, or just dicking around, do you guys ever just need to play something super fast and aggressive? If so, any go to original songs or covers?
Nope. Wrong band for the job. We all have other projects to get non-Kowloon stuff out of our systems.
I’ve been recording myself and my friends nearly as long as I’ve been playing music. I absolutely love recording, probably more than I like playing really. I’ve made various attempts at “taking recording seriously” over the years but I’ve never believed in myself enough to do it for a living. In the past six or seven years I think my work has improved a lot, thanks to playing in this band and meeting a lot more good bands than I used to know. At this point I have a rad little studio in Oakland and I spend as much time as I can manage there, between my day job and family. I still dream of buying an old church in the boonies and converting it to a full-time studio, but that’s not realistic.
I read you quoting a Trent Reznor interview where he is asking himself if this chord or that chord will save rock n roll. I remember listening to him talk about that and ultimately he came to the realization that he didn’t even consider what he was doing to be “Rock n’ Roll” and he wasn’t responsible for saving it anywise. One of my favorite interviews. How important is it for you to be writing music for personal evolution vs. what people expect of you?
I don’t think about what people expect. We’re not talking about many people in the first place! I have my own set of expectations for the music I make and that’s what I worry about. I can probably tell that some projects have no hope of an audience and some do, but honestly I’ve found that a lot of the records I really love are not other peoples’ favorites. So I may not be the best tastemaker.
Do you think in any way that “Rock ‘n Roll” needs saving? Or music in general for that matter?
Nah. Music’s not going anywhere. It’s part of humanity. Rock music’s just a blip in that continuum. If rock music goes away, well, 1950’s bop went away too. I’d love it if the music business was healthier but it’s a blip too, and it’s always been pretty fuckity.
Ian knew her and introduced her to the band. Julia’s been playing in bands around the Bay Area for years, and she was stoked to try playing loud and slow. She’s a really good drummer, very musical and fun to play with.
We were super bummed that we weren’t able to make it to see you guys at Crucial Fest this last summer here in SLC. You have some west coast dates lined up soon, any plans to make it back to Utah?
Crucial Fest was great! No Utah plans currently. We’re still figuring out our 2016. So much real life.
Read our 2013 interview with Kowloon Walled City here.
Purchase Grievances from Neurot Recordings here.
Scott Evans Links: Twitter | Instagram | Antisleep.com