It’s hard to find a band that mixes charisma, energy, passion and outright talent into both their records, and live shows. Bristol-born six-piece, Three Kings High, faultlessly channel riffs similar to Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Arctic Monkeys without losing their personal touch. We spoke to frontman Joe Eden on the back of their new album, They Think They’re People, about Mr Wolfs, Shakespearean plebs and eating with Anthony Hopkins.
Bristol-born rockers! How has this city helped you form and grow as a band?
One of the first things I found when moving to this great city 10 years ago is how open and friendly it is. As a band, we’re from all over the UK so finding a place that welcomes out-of-towners to get involved in the local scene was great. Bristol was a good place to carve out a niche and get into something new. Venues like Mr Wolfs, The Lanes and Thekla made it possible to either host our own nights or support bigger bands. However it’s an easy city to over-saturate, so we try to do out-of-town gigs as much as possible.
Your second album ‘They Think They’re People’ is said to be representative of your place in the music scene. Why is this?
The album title comes from a tongue in cheek attitude we have of ourselves. Don’t get me wrong – we give our all when it comes to performing and recording, but a lot of our peers take themselves too seriously and spend a lot of time navel-gazing about ‘being cool’, or counting followers and Twitter-trending.
We just want to do what we like and not beg fans too much. We joke when good things happen, or we get radio play and good reviews and ask ‘are we people yet’? Early on we decided to set up a label – ‘DONUT RECORDS’ – to put out music by ourselves and friends. For a while we acted as manager, booking agent, publisher and plugger just to get out there. Since then, people seem to respond and play us on radio, book us for gigs, or even interview us (for their sins). Now we have a good team around us – a booking agent and music publishers, so the title was an announcement of our arrival and kind of a bitter dig to the label elite I suppose.
What do you think will change for the music industry in the next five years?
I can’t call it because its changed so much from when I was starting out as a kid. It used to be about getting in front of as many people as you can, as often as you can, but these days you could gig every night of your life and it wouldn’t necessarily mean that people buy your record. Streaming is a huge minus on sales, but a huge plus on reach.
I do feel like musicians are becoming the Shakespearean plebs they’re born to be – where the dream of ‘making it’ is getting harder and harder. At least that might separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s not a glamorous life unless your one of the lucky 1% to get on a major label.
The resurgence of vinyl is promising in that it suggests people still covet that collectible object, which brings a bit of balance to the throwaway streaming culture.
“I THINK PROMOTERS ARE KEY TO THE SUCCESS OF ANY EARLY BANDS”
What problems lie in store for musicians who desperately want to break onto the scene?
I think promoters are key to the success of any early bands. Obviously if you’re great then you get attention, but in those crucial early gigs, you want people to take a chance on you, put the feelers out and test an audience.
It seems that’s becoming less and less – a lot of promoters want a guaranteed turnout for their investment, hence those pay-to-play gigs that are rife. That and the fact everyone is in a band these days and no one wants to give credit to anyone else in fear they steal what little they have from them. I think just blocking out the noise of the competition is crucial, Set up your own label, put on your own nights, build it and they will come!
Your music bears similarities to world-conquerors Arctic Monkeys and RHCP. What are your thoughts on being compared to two phenomenally huge bands on the music scene?
I like both bands, or at least used to, but I think the comparison to RHCP is to do with our style coming form a hip-hop background. The comparison to the Arctic Monkeys may be due to my northern dialect and our big guitar riffs. Not that we out and out rap, but the cadence can still be found in some of our tunes so I can see why people may be reminded of RHCP. But I honestly don’t feel like we’re on that wave at all. However, if we have to be compared to anyone, those lot are as good as any.
Who would you personally compare yourself to?
We all have our own ideas within the band, but I personally think we’re a weird blend of Ian Dury and early Sabbath, with a twist of Eagles of Death Metal. It always sounds really contrived, doesn’t it? I like hearing what other people think, but I’m not sure to be honest. I think our strength is in sounding familiar in that classic riffy, tough bass, unarguable head-nod sound, with some weird northern 90’s rap fan crooning over it. I’ll be happy if we can stay weirdly familiar, but like nothing else – somewhere between the blurred lines. That way you can keep surprising people without alienating why they liked you in the first place.
What’s been the biggest challenges for you as a band?
With the DIY approach of releasing music it’s always going to be money! None of have any trust funds or rich parents. We all work normal jobs and we all pour money into this bottomless well hoping to see a return, so yeah cash money cheddar cheese is a hurdle, for sure. Those magic beans I bought did f**k all, so back to square one for this next album. Also management is difficult. If you don’t have an in with someone it can be a case that management and booking agents won’t touch you until their job is easy, and then they back a horse past the finish line.
We’ve been lucky enough to get on a great agency for bookings with this release, but that was a tough one for a while. Also people-herding can be tricky. There are six of us so it can be difficult to work out free time, and with full-time jobs things like half-hour radio slots through the day can be hard making sure we’re all free. The biggy though is PR – knowing who’s shady and who’s genuine, how much to pay and what to expect. The goal posts are always shifting depending on the company, and finding a decent plugger or PR company is like gold dust.
And what’s been the highlight of your musical career to date?
Despite our cocky posturing we’re pretty humble, so when things like supporting big bands we’ve been fans of our whole lives come around, we still get well chuffed. We also spent a whole day in full-blown zombie makeup shooting a video in an abandoned prison, getting drunk and freaking each other out, – that was a great experience.
Playing Hamburg this year and some other dates in Germany was great. I always said as long as music allows me to travel and gain new experiences I’ll be happy and Germany felt like the start of that. Getting kudos from Huey Morgan and Craig Charles was cool, but this album is the thing I want to show people when they ask what we’re about. This release is the highlight really, until the next one at least.
How have you grown together as a band since previous album, ‘Hail’?
‘Hail’ was a massive learning experience. We’re all very fond of that album, and it was while making it we decided that what we were doing was all wrong! We went back to the drawing board with ‘Hail’ when we were half way through because we finally found a sound that we thought captured us best. Since then, we approach recording very differently and the production process is very collaborative.
“This album is the thing I want to show people when they ask what we’re about”
We also gigged extensively for that first album, and by the end we just gelled better than ever live. We’re all narcissistic ego-maniacs, so there are always explosive arguments, as well as communal back-patting. We always leave with a diplomatic compromise, though…no-one’s voted BREXIT ON US YET!
We’ve been told you’re “even better live”. What do you bring to your tours that you shy from in your records?
I don’t know, maybe we’re odd to look at? We’re really comfortable onstage, and we like to have a laugh with the audience too. But that’s something we were told a lot in the beginning. I think that sound we were looking for was to capture what we do live, and that didn’t really happen until the last album. I feel like we’re there now, so what you hear on record is very much how we sound live.
Also it’s a big sound – our kind of riff-heavy music lends itself to the sticky floor scene…No, not peep shows! Although we’re REALLY into peep shows . . . A lot of feedback we get is that we look like we’re having fun, which is weird because I’m usually shitting myself on stage most times (figuratively speaking..no one wants to see that).
Finally: if you could invite anyone to a dinner party, alive or dead, who would it be?
Bill Murray sat next to Dr John adjacent from Jessica Lange and Rutger Hauer, who are sat next to Stevie Nicks and Skip James. Maybe Anthony Hopkins and Jim Carrey if they play their cards right… A lot of jokes met with awkward silence at that meal…
Three Kings High play Free For All Bristol on Saturday 7th January. Check out ‘Nowhere Fast’ below.