Photo: Jack Hayter
“It seems like we’re getting a crowd beyond our mates now.”
Bristol’s sprawling psych-pop outfit, Cousin Kula have had a busy year; but despite touring up and down the country, much of their progress has actually been behind the scenes. Vocalist Elliot Ellison-Holder and drummer James Vine have just cycled into town to have a chat with me about their upcoming run of shows, which kicks off here in Bristol at The Louisiana.
Putting his pint on the table, Elliot says, “This is exciting because it’s the first one we’ve done in Bristol with a national promoter.” Having had a DIY approach up until now, it feels like new terrain for the band. James continues, “The Exchange was pretty much full a few months back but we really wanted to make a mega big bang of this one. It’s fun doing headline shows in Bristol, obviously it’s where we feel most comfortable playing. It seems like we’re getting a crowd beyond our mates now.”
The tour essentially celebrates the release of their new single, ‘Jelly Love’ which will pave the way for a string of new material in the new year. Elliot explains why they’ve been holding off on dropping any new music in bulk until now. “We haven’t put something out in a while because we wanted to make sure everything was right. We’ve got loads of music ready to come out, this year has largely been about thinking how’s best put it out. It might seem like we haven’t done much but we’ve been working hard behind the scenes; lots of writing, recording and experimenting.” Jack adds, “We had the privilege of using the Warner Music studio in London where we recorded a few tunes that are in the bag to come out.”
“When we’re writing, we get a lot of spontaneous ideas that we’ll explore endlessly. It’s actually bringing it all together to make the finished tune that’s the laborious bit.”
It’s clear that the new track is just the tip of the iceberg. Despite having a multitude of ideas floating around, the band clearly have a clear grasp of discipline: “When we’re writing, we get a lot of spontaneous ideas that we’ll explore endlessly. It’s actually bringing it all together to make the finished tune that’s the laborious bit,” says Elliot. “Although the music is very textured and expansive, each band member knows their duty.” James says, “Cousin Kula songs are very well defined in terms of the parts. We know the songs so well because the structures are always the same so when we play live individual members can take a bit more liberty and have a bit more fun, that’s when you get a bit more spontaneous energy.”
They recall a bizarre moment over the summer where these liberties were taken to an extreme. James laughs, “We had a few funny gigs at festivals where there were hardly any people there, so we went a bit wild. We did a private festival where we played to a few hay bales and some cows in the fields.”
“We’ll be cooking breakfast and we can talk about a song that we were working on the other day. It’s very spontaneous.”
Japery aside, the band run a tight ship in the live setting. Their sound is definitely a product of them having played together for years. Elliot explains, “I love the moments where it’s just two of us but it always gets built upon and that’s just part of the journey of how we write stuff. It ends up becoming a completely different entity to what it was.” He stresses the length of the process, adding “It’s usually about a six-month journey for one song I think. Some come out quick, but we take others down so many different avenues.”
It’s also an aid that half of the band live under the same roof in Easton. Elliot explains, “We’ll be cooking breakfast and we can talk about a song that we were working on the other day. It’s very spontaneous in terms of how we talk about our music. We’ll just pass each other in the corridor and prompt each other to write. It’s so easy to write music with your mates. We’ve all got to pay rent but we all love this project.”
Looking to the future, the band are happy taking things at their own speed. James says, “Since we started there’s been a steady momentum and I don’t want to force it anywhere. The right people have come along and wanted to be involved and to help us. We just want to write music as friends and hang out.
Hang out with Cousin Kula at their Louisiana show on 6th December.
Listen to new track ‘Jelly Love’ here: