Being made to wait for a band’s debut album doesn’t always bode well.
Often it turns out that early momentum has been squandered on overly fussy songwriting or confusion over artistic direction.
But a long gestation can also go the opposite way, a band applying themselves to the fine-tuning of their craft and the establishment of a distinctive sound. With Kingfisha, it’s definitely the latter. “We’ve put a lot of work into the tunes and different parts and we tried to get it all right,” explains vocalist Anthony Forrest. “It did take us a long time, but it was worth it to give the songs the best chance of being successful … I’m really happy with how the sound’s developed. When we started, this was where I was keen to go: pretty heavy and dubby, but it was just one of those things that needed time to get there.”
Kingfisha burst onto a busy Brisbane reggae scene four years ago and immediately impressed with their sharp musicianship and Forrest’s silken vocals. But as local interest in the genre levelled out and other groups fell by the wayside, Kingfisha doubled down on their craft. The resultant self-titled debut ranks as one of the strongest Brisbane releases of the year so far, and perhaps has more in common with the sort of dub you’d hear coming from across the Tasman rather than the organic, jam-based reggae records typically produced on local shores.
“There’s some really good reggae stuff coming out of Brisbane, but on the whole I’m a lot more into UK, Europe, and especially New Zealand music,” Forrest says. “I suppose the other thing is that we’ve always been pretty keen to have songs, to have hooks. And then try and get strong rhythms as well. I really like songs and a lot of different music and strong songwriters, so that’s really where we’ve been trying to go. It’s cool that there are hooks on those tunes.”
Undoubtedly helping was the work of Paulie B, who the band drafted in to produce the album. Some might consider it a strange call, given the collective production experience within Kingfisha, but Forrest explains that it was important to have someone from outside of the band who wasn’t attached to the tunes. “I think it was the missing link,” he says. “We’d tried for the last few years to self-produce the album and it just wasn’t getting there. So we had a chat and I’d worked with Paulie before on other records and I knew the way he works: he was awesome in the studio and a really cool guy. So yeah, it ended up being fantastic, because we had all the tunes and we had strong ideas and then Paulie’s got strong ideas as a producer as well.
“And just having someone to say yes or no. Someone who we respected … He’d hear a song and he’d try to find the strongest part of that tune and then we’d roll with that. So when we recorded, it wasn’t a normal, ‘Let’s lay the drums down and then the rhythms’ and stuff like that. We’d put a skank in there and maybe a shaker and then work the tracks up the opposite way. We’d build the groove up and just work within the tune. It was great.”
Of course, it’s one thing laying down these brilliant, dub-soaked songs in the studio, but perhaps another challenge entirely to reproduce them in the live environment. That’s exactly what Kingfisha have been doing since the start of the month, travelling the east coast for a slew of album launch dates. “Some of the tunes on the album, we recorded them a bit differently,” Forrest explains. “So we’re learning the parts and we’re just trying to get a strong set – something that we can have fun with. That’s where we want to take it. I think it’s a five-week tour, just on weekends. But yeah, since we finished recording we haven’t played much at all, so we’ve really been looking forward to it.
“There are a couple of parts that we probably won’t worry about, but we have live dubs and our sound engineer’s a fulltime member of the band and Andrew, our guitarist, he’s got a live dub setup on stage, and Jason, our keyboard player, has got fuckloads of pedals as well. So it’s going to be our sound.”
KINGFISHA PLAY THE HI-FI FRIDAY JUNE 22 AND THE COOLUM CIVIC CENTRE SATURDAY JUNE 23. THEIR SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM IS OUT NOW.