Some weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get my hands on the debut EP from young Manchester-based four piece band Carnival Club. I gave the EP, “Magdalena’s Cape” a rave review, way ahead of the pack in covering the record and tipping this band for big things. Now it is out there, I stand by my previous praise and predictions.
Carnival Club are lead singer and guitarist Kai Jon Roberts (18), lead guitarist Eddie Moxon (20), bassist George Peel (21) and drummer Joe Lodge (19). They make a glorious noise and have just dropped their bitching five-track debut EP.
Formed just over a year ago in April 2016. Joe, Eddie and George were in a previous musical project together, unhappy with their direction. Kai and Joe met on the Manchester music scene, then they started writing and making music together on their own in a Manchester practice room, recording rough demos and dishing them out to friends and sticking a couple of tracks on-line.
Then Joe brought in his previous band mates Eddie and George to lay down the songs. But that project went down in flames when the guys got threats of legal action, apparently over ownership of those recordings, even before they were a proper band. Nothing came of those threats.
Madchester or what?
Some people are labelling Carnival Club as a “Madchester” band, and mentioning them in the same breath as the likes of Oasis, Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets and their ilk. But Kai and the boys reject that label, for a good reason. Only Kai was born and bred in Manchester. Joe is from Stockton-on-Tees, Eddie is from Withernsea near Hull, George from Clitheroe, Lancashire. The latter three moved to Manchester to study music at University and are still there. Kai quit college, where he was studying politics, sociology and philosophy, to make the band and music his full-time focus. Kai writes the lyrics to their songs, and all four then contribute to the creation of the finished songs.
Eddie has experience as a solo artist, influenced by his guitarist Dad. Kai’s Mum was a backing singer in the 1990s. His Dad has worked behind the scenes in music, and has top end contacts. Joe, well, Kai makes a revelation about the youngest in the band. “Joe was bonkers as a kid! He did mad stuff like jumping from cliffs and bridges into water. He was threatening to do it the other day into the canal in Manchester, but we all talked him out of it”.
“We knew were on to something…”
All four members of Carnival Club had the same desire: to be in a band full time. “No matter what happens, or who gets in the way. We all had the same dreams. So we set out to make music that we all appreciated and our friends would like. But after the first and second gigs, we really thought we could make this happen. By our third gig, crowds were coming, and even people not there to see us were engaging. We knew we were on to something. Even with rough recordings, we knew the songs were strong enough. We weren’t just another generic indie band springing up out of nowhere”.
“We all love The Stones, all the old rock and roll bands. We are a dirty rock and roll band rather than an indie band”. Let me help you out here, Kai. How about; The Bastard sons of the Rolling Stones, meets The MC5 meets the Ramones, and a good helping of The Stone Roses power, attitude and energy for good measure? Works for me…..
So after just a few gigs and still a new band, the word was getting out. But things We struggled…..were not smooth sailing.”No one put their trust in us. We struggled to get support slots off people, because we are not an indie band. Electronic music crossed with indie bands is the thing in Manchester now. ‘Psyche rock’. That’s not us at all, so no one really wanted to go near us. The A&R people all said no, not for us, not now lads. But because we believe in it so much, we carried on and landed on our feet massively with Mike Darby”.
“It would be bloody brilliant to be as big as Oasis, Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys”
Mike is a go-getting Bristol businessman who owns several record labels, has a strong pedigree in working with reggae music and has recently ventured into book publishing too. He set up the Demolition Diner record label as a platform to launch Carnival Club, after the Stone Roses former manager and tour manager Steve Adg tipped him off about them. Mike has also signed the band to his management.
So do you guys think you could be a globally famous band one day? Kai answers. “It is all well and good saying you want to be the biggest band around. All kids want to be in the biggest band in the world, but I think our main goal is to make timeless music and to make records we want, when we want and how we want to.
“It would be bloody brilliant to be as big as Oasis, Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys, but it is more about making a debut album that could never be pushed off someone’s shelf in their house”.
Could they handle being as big as those bands and all that goes with it? “Oh God, yeah.” Kai laughs. “But I do think we need time to grow, but it is what we all want….”
Their sound has evolved from their first batch of songs and studio recording, to what it is today. Which Kai attributes to working with recording engineer Kev Carroll who produced their debut EP. “The first time we recorded, the engineer did not push us. Then the next time we went to record, I’d been writing all summer and had these songs ready and I asked my Dad if he knew anyone who could record us. He introduced us to Kev Carroll, a family friend, who for the last 20 years has been working with dance music and electronic new age styles. But he loves rock and roll and had not done that for ages.
“We went in to record with him, and we thought we knew our own songs. But we didn’t. He taught us to be more open minded about what we were doing. Those weeks in the studio, made us grow as musicians and in turn the music grew.
“It got ballsier. We added a few steroids to it!”
The studio was above Sankeys night club in Manchester, where the Smiths did their first demos. Sadly it is now closed and being demolished. Carnival Club were the last to record there.
So how do the Carnival Clubbers describe their music to those who have not yet heard it? “We have been compared to loads of bands, but it is strange; I cannot really pin point what we are. It sounds quite mainstream in a way, but it’s very dirty rock and roll, with a slight modern twist to it. We use loads of feedback…..yeah, it is old rock and roll I think”.
Where did the title Magdalena’s Cape come from, for the EP? “Well, she was a friend of mine, and that is not her real name. But it is an enchanting name and quite vampire-esque. The whole sound of the EP, the lyrics; all quite dark. ‘You’re So Hostile’ has graphic lyrics. I see her as a vampire in an old Victorian book. The lyrical content of the EP is quite Gothic and Victorian, in some sense”.
Kai’s track by track summary of the EP:
- “House of Cards”: Our heaviest offering. A tip of the hat to the old 70s rockers.
- “Mistakes, Troubles and Kisses”: Naive pop.
- “You’re So Hostile”: This is my favourite. Probably the biggest sounding song live. I am a big Kings of Leon fan and I was listening to ‘Only By Night’, which a lot do not like because it is the most poppy. But a lot of the elements of ‘Only By Night’ I wanted to interpret into our music. Especially a song called Closer, based around a certain line.
- The title track: Musically the furthest out there we went. It is more melodic than the rest.
- “Headache”: An old 70s rock and roll tune. The most catchy; with a chorus people sing along to at our concerts.
The band’s influences range from Kai’s heroes, Jack White, Mick Jagger, Jeff Buckley and Alex Turner. Eddie is a Stones and Queen fan.George a big Muse and Rage Against The Machine admirer. Joe digs Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles. If they could choose one band to support on a big tour, it would be Queens of the Stone Age.
The aim with the new record? “We all want this EP to put us on the map, for us to land a support tour with a bigger band. To sell as many copies as we can…..” The long term goal is a tad more ambitious: “To headline Glastonbury by 2020”. Kai laughs loudly after that audacious comment, but I kept quiet. Stranger things have happened……
Kai (pictured above) has strong links with the iconic Somerset festival, his first trip there when he was just six months old, and having been more than 10 times since. His parents have worked there in various roles, including artist liaison. But Kai doesn’t just want to go back as a punter. No, no, no….. “I have never played there, but that’s the dream. One place I have to play is there. There’s something in the mud in that field that makes it very special”. The band DID get to Glastonbury very recently, with potentially disastrous results.
They played a gig in Liverpool and had two days free until the next show in Bristol, so Kai wanted to take the band for two days to chill out in Glastonbury town and show them the famed festival site. But they had to pull over when a front wheel of their van came off. Stranded, they called back home with an SOS to another band, who sent their tour bus to rescue them and get them to their Bristol show.
They got them old Rock & Roll Caravan Blues…………..
They may not be living the wild rock and roll lifestyle expected of a young rock band, just yet. There will be no TV’s lobbed out of the hotel window, or all night boozing sessions for this band right now. To save cash on overnight accommodation, they tow a caravan behind their van! And Kai has recently discovered that he cannot drink much alcohol without losing his voice, so the band have a strict “two drinks only” rule before every show.
The best moment of the band‘s 12-month career so far: their first ever headline gig, a sold out major Manchester venue with more than 300 punters paying to get in. Singing along to their songs and lifting the roof. After just nine months or so since they started. “I have never felt a buzz like it. I didn’t look very rock and roll that night; I just kept smiling”. Since then, the band has repeated the sold out mode with a triumphant home city gig to launch their EP on the release date this month (May).
So, let’s talk about you being called a ‘Madchester’ band. How does that sit? “Every Mancunian is very proud of being a Mancunian. But we are not a Manchester band….There’s a lot of pressure to be the next big Manchester band and there’s not a lot of room for failure. Stone Roses, Oasis, Inspiral Carpets; all these bands are monumental and I do not think we fit in to that category at all. I am also the only one actually from Manchester in the band”.
Kai’s ‘feet clearly planted firmly on the ground’ attitude is spot on. Although he realises the band are cooking on gas, and are picking up a growing and loyal following early on in their career, he is not wanting to rush things. Talk of a full album is met with a “whoa there” response. “We need to grow and I need to develop more as a songwriter, before we leap into making and releasing an album. It has to be THE first album. I’ll know we have made it when people love our second album, and think it is as good or better than the first! That’s making it…..”
When will I be famous?
Do you want to be famous? “You see a lot of the artists you love, take the wrong way, so sometimes you can think twice about if you actually want to be famous or not. I reckon it could bring a lot of positives, but it is not the biggest thing on my agenda”.
Their raw, dangerous, powerful, incendiary sound on record and live, could never, ever in a million light years be considered contrived or a calculated attempt at fame or fortune though. Kai’s pet hate is not something he will ever be accused of in this band, methinks: “Manufactured bands.” Nuff said. He says the band are striving towards growing on the public enough so they can eventually play in each city, and have a crowd that “love us as much as our home city fans do”.
He may still be only 18, but Kai’s sights were set on music as his lifeblood early on. He shudders when he recalls that there is footage of him in his first band, at the age of 10, winning a year seven battle of the bands contest at school, with a song he wrote. “I cannot bear to see it….” That’ll bite his arse as and when he does make it, I’m sure!
Carnival Cub have all the modern day sensibilities of the likes of Wolf Alice and Royal Blood, combined with their various retro influences, and that kind of gets close to trying to capture what these cool young chaps are about. It’s an exciting sound with a raw edge. I have faith that they WILL do very, very, very well. Kai thinks that the special thing about this band is; it feels like they are three years down the line, after only a year together. “We all want it so much and we are all impatient. So we will work 26 hours a day, eight days a week, and we will not stop. We work so hard and that is why we have grown so quickly”.
Last word, to Kai, when asked just how good he believes Carnival Club are as a band: “Fucking good”. No argument here…
“Carnival Club: Magdalena’s Cape” is out now on Demolition Diner Records in CD and limited edition vinyl formats.
By Simon Redley