‘We’re quite dark guys, we want a tinge of darkness’
by Sara Seddon at The Bucket Playlist
Hamburg-based indie rock band The Kecks are gearing up to record an EP with Gordon Raphael, the renowned producer behind the first two albums by The Strokes.
They’re an international bunch, featuring Lennart Uschmann from Austria (vocals), Samuel Telford from Australia (guitar/backing vocals), Joel Phillips from Doncaster in the UK (bass/backing vocals) and Kai Weidle from Hamburg (drums) and, until recently, Corentin “Dragon” Neyran from France (drums). They have been playing together for around two years.
I ask them how they ended up in Hamburg: ‘I ask myself that daily!,’ Joel said. ‘It was a bit of an accident. I went to see The Rolling Stones in Berlin four years ago and loved the place. I thought Hamburg would be similar but it’s nothing like Berlin. In Berlin, people are trying to be cool but in Hamburg they are cool.’ Sam, who’s from Hillsville, a small town not far from Melbourne, came to Europe the traditional way, first to London in 2011 to try and start a band, then Amsterdam, before moving on to Hamburg. Lennart, who’s from Vienna, studied sound engineering before moving to Hamburg six years ago.
‘When I met Lennart, he already had a band but I kicked them all out,’ Sam laughed. ‘We wanted a new name, I knew ‘kecks’ was an old word for trousers but as a verb it’s to be sick and we thought that would kinda fit!’
‘I wanted to show him that he wasn’t alone, even when everything is grim’
Last month, they released their single, ‘Tonight Might Be Different’, which harbours an infectiously catchy, dirty disco groove, and which they describe as being about ‘life being a constant shambles, yet we always live with the hope that tonight might be different’: ‘Lennart and I sat outside at two in the morning two summers ago,’ Sam said. ‘He was going through a difficult period and I wanted to show him that he wasn’t alone, even when everything is grim.’
Their music video for the track was put together by Andy Lemon, the director of the movie, MondoFuzz: ‘It’s an amazing documentary about bands (it chronicles Austin’s underground punk and garage rock scenes) featuring anti-rock ‘n’ roll ads,’ Sam said. ‘I wrote to him, I always wanted to work with him, so I reached out to him and he got back to me and said he was thinking ‘Death Drug’ film from the 70’s for the video, the guy was having one of those days and we were like, what do you mean?! The film tells a hard story, it’s anti-drugs. The clips in our video, which are sometimes psychedelic, are all from that film. For the song, the music came first, Corentin wrote the bridge and we said “No, that’s the hook”, it had a discoey but sad vibe.
Unable to tour during the pandemic, the band, who have been compared to The Strokes, focused on live streams, playing for War Child and Music Venue Trust in the UK as well as socially distanced gigs that were professionally filmed – Molotow Live, Qatantunes Live – in Germany.
Last year, they released the self-aware and mournful ballad ‘All For Me’: ‘A lot of the time, the ideas come from Sam, probably 75% of the songs are written by him, although the final song can go in a different direction,’ Joel said. Sam laughs: ‘I thought ‘All For Me’ was a pretty sappy love song, I wrote it about someone I knew, there’s swearing and weird stuff in it. I thought it was simple but the guys added all these parts into it.’ Joel is nodding: ‘When we were recording it, we found this strange instrument, an omnichord, in the studio, but it was broken. I sat down for five hours and tried to fix it. It’s shaped like a little spaceship.’ Sam joins in: ‘Yeah, we added it in, it sounds like a digital harp.’
‘We’re quite dark guys, we want a tinge of darkness’
They deliberately try to add a nugget of darkness into their songs, according to Joel: ‘We’re conscious of that, we don’t just want to be happy tappy,’ he said. ‘We’re quite dark guys (laughs), we want a tinge of darkness.’ Sam deadpans: ‘You guys lighten it up!’
Exciting times are on the horizon for them, with a recording session next month at Hamburg’s illustrious Clouds Hill Studios with Gordon Raphael. ‘I did some stalking online and sent him some music as people say we sound like them,’ Joel said. ‘He was in Berlin for a few years. We’re going to record an EP with him, although we’re not sure which tracks will be on it, that can change right up to the take. I think we’ll sit on it until next year so we can tour it, we want to play some shows.’
Although they have different musical influences as a band, one band they are united on is Californian surf rock, psych band, The Growlers. ‘We met properly to see them on the bus to Berlin,’ Joel said. ‘I had a mullet and a beer, they’re an aphrodisiac to an Aussie (they all burst out laughing). Sam is still laughing: ‘I thought he was one of us,’ he grinned. Sam is also a fan of Perth psych band Tame Impala, The Strokes and Pulp. ‘I’m a huge fan of Pete Doherty’s solo stuff,’ Lennart said. ‘The Strokes were always my favourite band, so I’m really excited to work with the guy behind their first two albums.’ Sam and Joel both recommend London-based three-piece Calva Louise: ‘They’re poppy grungy, she sings in Spanish sometimes,’ Joel said. ‘She can go from sweet to a fucking hellish howl!’ Sam nods: ‘Yeah, she has great fucking tone.’
‘It has cool intro music, we use it as our warm up music’
If they could hear one of their songs on a TV show, Sam picks a true crime show ‘where they’re showing the murderer for the first time’. Joel has a similar view: ‘Could we be squeezed into a Tarantino film?,’ he asked. Lennart, however, has other ideas: ‘I’d like to hear us on BoJack Horseman,’ he said. (An American adult animated tragicomedy story about an anthropomorphic horse called BoJack Horseman, the washed-up star of a 1990s sitcom who plans his return to celebrity relevance with an autobiography.) ‘They’re very similar,’ Joel joked. ‘It has cool intro music, we use it as our warm up music.’
They’ve had some funny moments as a band: ‘We once set off for a tour, we had our engineer/sound manager with us. We live on a street that’s two cars wide and somehow he crashed the van into this parked car before we’d even left the apartment,’ Joel winced. ‘We had a fun night in Paris, somehow we got spread out across Paris, me and Lennart ended up in an apartment somewhere and at 5 a.m., we realised that we were close to the Eiffel Tower, so we went and took a terrible photo of me and Lennart holding hands!’ Sam is laughing: ‘You fucking do this everywhere, a photo of you holding hands. I’m just jealous!’ Joel laughs: ‘It’s true, we have a photo of us holding hands next to a river that had turned green,’ he said. ‘One time, we had a show in Groningen (in the Netherlands), just before the show, I got stung by a wasp on my bass playing hand and we had a song about the wasp hand.’ I ask if we’re going to hear it any time soon? ‘It’s less of a chant and more of a drunken chant,’ Sam joked.
If they could tour with anyone, Lennart picks The Strokes, Joel picks Kirin J. Callinan, who he describes as ‘an Aussie weirdo, a bit Bowie’. Sam jumps in: ‘Do you knowing the screaming cowboy meme? That’s him.’ Joel would also add The Strokes and The Growlers to his line-up. Sam has other plans: ‘I’ll say Tyler, The Creator, he’s a big hip hop person, he’s really driven and positive.’ Lennart looks at him and grins: ‘The opposite of you!’
Photo from left to right: Lennart, Sam, Corentin and Joel. Photo credit: Denis Uhreniuk.)
this story first appeared on: https://inthebucketplaylist.com/ on September 11th 2021