From Bangor to London, Kowalski are the latest local act to make the exciting move to pastures new. A continuation of a worrying trend or a positive show of ambition? Kowalski see it as the latter. With a glistening debut album launched this summer, the pieces of the puzzle seem to be falling into place for the quartet. Paddy Conn from the band chats to CB about the big move.
► Where in London have you moved to?
Paddy Conn(keys): We’ve moved to South-East London, to a place called Newcross. It’s a really well connected place and is doesn’t affect our wallets too much either. Tom (bass) and I are living together with two other guys from Northern Ireland so it’s good fun.
Louie (vocals) has just moved over but the rest of band have been living here for nine months now. We’ve been practising almost everyday since he moved so we’re feeling very good.
► What were the main reasons behind the move?
Most of the band had never been away to Uni or anything like that so from their point of view the whole Bangor thing had gotten old. They’ve lived with their parents and just wanted to experience something else. London ended up being the place which everybody agreed on was the best place for us. There is only so much you can do in Belfast. It’s so much easier to play gigs or tour if you’re hub is on the mainland UK. Now all we need to do is get a van and we can play anywhere. Manchester, Leeds, France. All these places are easier places to go to now. I really enjoy touring in Europe actually, it has the bonus of feeling like a holiday. Hopefully it won’t be too long until we touring around there again.
► How have you found your new home?
I really like it. It’s so cutting edge, if you want to be the best at anything then this the place to be. They argue that New York and London are the two most diverse and forward thinking places in the world. As soon as you get here you realise that. All you need to do is grab a free Time Out magazine from the subway and you’ll see there is so much going on – there’s almost too many gigs! I’ve actually got to less gigs here compared to when I was back living in Belfast or Glasgow. There is a crazy amount of demand here too. Gigs sell out so fast. I tired to get tickets for Atoms For Peace but they sold out in minutes! I just love it, you can get to places quickly and there are opportunities for everyone.
❝ I think that people understand that we’re just four guys doing everything ourselves and they want to support that. ❞
► We’ve seen a number of local bands take the plunge and permanently move to mainland UK, with more set to follow. What benefits have the band seen so far?
Northern Ireland is always slightly behind everything if you know what I mean? That can be quite draining. If you want to move up and move on then I think you need to be in a place like this. Some people might see it differently, however we don’t want to just settle for anything.
Just from being here things have gotten better. We’ve made contacts with promoters and already we have a few gigs lined up for the band in London. It feels right. Everything feels new, everything feels fresh. We like that.
The band we’re set to play with actually has Northern Irish guys in it, they’re called Grand Forever and have two former members of SixStarHotel in it. Then there is also a band called Symbols who we hope we’re going to play with. I’m really looking forward to playing with a whole rake of new bands.
► Did you feel homesick being away from Ireland this summer?
I was gutted I didn’t get to go to Glasgowbury or Forfey as they’re so much fun. I think I’ve learnt my lesson this year. I saw everybody’s photos of animals walking through the Forfey farm and it looked class, I love stuff like that. Last Glasgowbury too! Wish I could have been there.
► Opening track on your album is called ‘Forfey’, might it be an ode to the Fermanagh festival?
The reason that song is called ‘Forfey’ is because if you look back on the Babysweet documentary on the festival then you’ll see Kowalski at the start of that video. The song which we played is similar to the album’s opening track. I remember saying to the rest of the guys that I really liked a riff or something in that song. So we took it, rewrote it a bit, and throughout it’s history it never had a name, it was always just been ‘the Forfey song’. We didn’t know what else to call the finished product so it stuck. It’s a pretty cool word too, haha.
► What was the thought process behind giving fans the option to download the album for £free?
We just wanted as many people to hear it as possible. Cast of Cheers did it for their first record and it worked really well for them. When people get to hear it we find that almost everybody gives us great feedback. We’re not really fame hungry but we’re confident that we’ve got a great album on our hands, so we want to make sure that people get to hear it. What is really interesting is that even though you can download it for free we’ve given people the ‘pay what you want’ option and what’s been really positive is that almost half of the downloads have contributed money. I think that people understand that we’re just four guys doing everything ourselves and they want to support that. I personally think it was a really good move, we don’t regret it at all.
► Has the record been in the making for a while?
We’d been playing a few songs live for a while now. A lot of the tunes were written after our ‘Take Care, Take Flight’ EP. We really felt like we’d honed our sound with that EP and we couldn’t wait to get writing more songs like that – expect better. The songs came quite quickly during the recording process, it was everything after that which took so long. We weren’t quite sure if we wanted to go down the label route to not. There came a point where we started to get frustrated, we wanted to get the album out. It probably took three months overall to get it published.
► What is ‘For The Love Of Letting Go’ all about?
It is basically about going after something and not letting it get out of reach. Love’s young dream in a way. It’s about escapism and striving to do your best. It’s the idea of letting go, but for all the right and positive reasons. Leaving Bangor was a big deal for us, it was hard, but it was undoubtedly something we needed and wanted to do.
Musically it’s quite breezy. We’re very much influenced by our surroundings. We’ve never written anything about urban city life. It’s always about landscape. Songs which are spacious and airy. You can hear how we felt about home in this record, it’s got a melancholy feel but it is still upbeat.
► Did somebody from your hometown like Gary Lightbody help you believe that you could make a career in music? Or did his success highlight the need for a move?
He showed us that you can sing in our accent and still be globally successful. We kind of felt we had the make the move as, if you think about it, very few have been able to make it without moving.
When a local radio station does an interview with Gary Lightbody he does what he usually does, and that’s champion local music. Which is fantastic and it’s really important that we somebody like him spreading the gospel. But then that station doesn’t play any local music. That’s a problem. I’ll not name names, but in Northern Ireland Two Door Cinema Club only got airtime on some stations after they got famous. Why weren’t they supporting them while they were up and coming?
► Will we see Kowalski come back and play Northern Ireland again anytime soon?
I love coming back home but it’s really hard to tell at this point when we’ll be able to. We’re going to spend some time promoting the album in London and the rest of the UK. Hopefully there’ll be a single soon, so keep on the look out for that. We always keep an eye on the local scene as it’s just so good. Fingers crossed we’ll get a Christmas gig booked and everybody can come down and party.