Kids In Glass Houses have pushed their musical ability to its outer limits with the release of ‘In Gold Blood’, an album which showcases the band’s refined songwriting ethics and their inability to allow their sound to stagnate. The band’s frontman Aled Phillips recently spoke to Kill Your Stereo about the album, their upcoming Australian tour as part of Soundwave 2012, and why they really love Japan.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your role in the band?
Yeah basically, I just do the singing and that’s basically all I do. Everyone else does a lot of hard work and I just jump on at the end. I’m 26, I live in Cardiff which is in South Wales, and I guess the band is my job now. It’s kind of all I do. Apart from that, I just do a bit of design work on the side and that’s pretty much the story of my life.
What have been some of the highlights of 2011 for Kids In Glass Houses?
Definitely writing and recording the album was probably the big thing that happened, between January and May, and that just took up a lot of time. I mean, we spent quite a lot of time sort of thinking about it, putting all of our ideas together and kind of making it a lot better than anything we’d done before. That was kind of rewarding, and a big turning point for us as a band, I think.
Have there been any highlights touring-wise this year?
I think our headline tour was awesome. We did a headline tour in October, the first tour in support of the album, and that was amazing. We’d never really done a show like that before. We did a lot of on-stage production that featured invisible UV paint, which we’d used somewhat in our videos. At one point in the set, all the lights in the venue went out and we all just started glowing. That kind of stuff, experimenting with that kind of crap, was a lot of fun for us.
What have been some of your favourite releases and new bands for 2011?
Oh shit, I’m really bad at this game. I really like the Letlive album that came out this year. I won’t be able to tell you any album names or anything, but it’s something I really like. It had bits of Glassjaw and Refused worked into it, and they were two bands that I loved when I was growing up and I still love now. I really enjoyed that and I hadn’t listened to any new music in a very long time, so it was nice to get into that. I really liked the new Thrice record, ‘Major/Minor’. It’s really like a massive return to form, not that they’ve ever gone bad, but it was just an incredible album. Justice, ‘Audio, Video, Disco’, it’s a dance record basically, but I kind of loved that. Bon Iver as well. I’ve been a big fan of him for a long time and his new album was just ridiculous and makes me feel really shit about everything.
So you listen to a whole variety of music from the sound of things?
Yeah that’s the thing, I guess we don’t really listen to the kind of music that people expect us to from sounding the way we do. It’s good to listen to different kinds of music because when we’re writing, it adds a really different perspective on what we can do I guess.
Would you say your wide range of influences has an impact on the music that band makes?
Yeah definitely I think. If you go from band member to band member, no one has the same taste. Joe the guitarist is absolutely obsessed with Radiohead and Sigur Ros and all that atmospheric, soundscapey stuff. Our bassist loves Rod Stewart and things like Meat Loaf and stuff. There’s just no way that the songs are gonna sound like one thing because there’s a mix of ridiculous influences, and that’s kind of why they sound a bit eclectic and a bit different I guess.
So you wouldn’t pin the band’s sound down to a single genre?
No, definitely not. I think the one band we really agree is The Police, that’s the one band we all enjoy. But apart from that, I think we’re quite a diverse band and just think we just kind of run with it.
How did the writing and recording process for ‘In Gold Blood’ differ from the band’s previous releases?
On our first two records, we basically went back to the modern means of recording where you go and you record the drums, then you do the bass, then you do the leads and the guitars and so on and so forth. We’ve done that for two records, just the same thing, and we just kind of got bored of it. The sound was just really, really clean and processed, and we just didn’t want to do that for this record. We decided we were gonna do the album live and set up everything in the same room, and then the producer just lets it flow, basically. We just thought we’d do it that way and keep the best takes, and it gives it a more ‘live’ feel. It sounds more like how records used to sound in the 70s and stuff like that, which is a big influence on the album and the songs. That was the key difference. With what we were writing, we’d just spend a lot more time thinking about songs and how it was gonna flow from track to track, and how it would fit as an album rather than just writing twelve random songs and kind of just sticking them on a CD together.
You describe ‘In Gold Blood’ as a concept record. Was it a conscious decision to thematically link the whole album?
Yeah, I think it was something that got brought up quite early. It was kind of a way to discipline myself, because sometimes I can be a bit lazy when writing lyrics. It was a way to make sure every song had a purpose and every song had a message and a story to tell. It was just really exciting actually to just do something that was different as well. We’d done two albums that were just twelve different songs, and we wanted to do something that was just like a body of work. As we wrote, every song and every part of the music just fitted together and sort of told part of the story.
What are some of the influences behind the album, musically and lyrically?
Musically and lyrically, Bruce Springsteen was quite a big, big influence on a lot of the songs, and more so on the way he worked on his songs and always used characters to tell stories. He keeps using those characters on different songs and different albums. We were watching the making of ‘Born To Run’ just before we were recording, and that had a big impact on the writing and the recording as well. My Chemical Romance as well. They’ve done two concept albums recently, and just the ambition they had for their records was something that we really admired and really inspired us to do something different with this album.
Was the band trying to create something new and more experimental with the album’s instrumentation?
I don’t think we were thinking along the lines of "we need to change", as such. We wrote a couple of songs and thought that they were quite different and it feels quite good. It just felt like a natural step. I think we started playing a bit with the instruments on ‘Dirt’. There’s a bit of brass on there and little bits and phrases, but recently we just wanted to make the songs sound a lot more rounded. There’s a lot more keys on a lot more songs, and there’s saxophones on there and trombones. We just wanted to be a bit ambitious with it and a bit out there, and not just do what everyone else is doing at the moment. We just wanted to do something that sounded quite fresh.
So you’d say that the new album is a natural, organic progression for the band?
Yeah I think so. I think in parts it might sound like a million miles away from anything the band has ever done, but the bones of it still very much sound just like us. It was just us pressuring ourselves really, and choosing not to take an easy option on the songs.
In terms of musical accomplishment, would you say the band has reached its peak?
Yes, I definitely think that we’ve reached a high point. I think that we’ve peaked on this album and it’ll go back down. Seriously though, I think the songs on the album are a lot stronger than our other songs, and I think the ideas are far beyond what came before them. Our guitarist and our drummer wrote the brass lines as well, and there’s that much more thought that went into all the piano lines. I think it’s definitely a creative peak for us.
But with future albums, you’re obviously going to expand on what you’ve done, and continue to excel with your musicianship?
Well, I think you’re a bit fucked if you stop doing that, really. It’s kind of what keeps making albums exciting as well. You want to always keep pushing yourself and always doing new things and trying out new techniques in the studio or with different instruments or with your voice. I think our next album will be in a similar way to what ‘In Gold Blood’ was to ‘Dirt’, with the same kind of progression.
What do you love about touring Australia?
I’ve only ever done it once and it was kind of the shortest tour of all time. I think we played about seven shows in five days. On that tour we didn’t really get to see much and we were just completely jet-lagged and screwed for five days. Everyone in the band just wants to have fun and everyone loves partying and that always makes a good tour. We didn’t get to see much or go to the beaches or go to parties as much as we would have liked when we came over last, so everyone’s just excited for Soundwave. It’s the best show to be on and we’ll get to hang out with all the bands and just have the best time. I guess it’s just touring places that you’d never dream of seeing. We feel very fortunate to play there and we’re just stoked to come back.
So I take it you’re keen for the festival?
Yeah I am, I’m beyond excited. Our friends The Blackout played there last year and they just had literally the best time ever. Whenever I was on Twitter I just had to stop following them because they were making me insanely jealous. But yeah, we’ve all been buzzing about it and we’ve all just been chatting about it now, so we literally can’t wait for it to get started. I mean, it’s the sum mer there as well. We never get sunshine, whether it’s summer or winter, so it’ll be nice to get out there in the sun and just hang out.
I bet you’re stoked to hit some of our beaches?
Yeah, we definitely need to catch them this time. It rained the last time we were over so we need to make up for it.
Are there any bands on the Soundwave lineup that you’re keen to see in particular?
I’m really keen to catch Letlive, because they have an insane live reputation and it’ll be really cool to see them. Lostprophets are really good friends of ours and I’ve loved that band for ten years, so I always enjoy watching them. I like You Me At Six and I can’t even remember who else is playing. Who’s headlining?
Marilyn Manson, Limp Bizkit and System Of A Down, they’re headlining.
I’ll probably watch all of those headliners, actually. Marilyn Manson is pretty next level, but I’m sure there’s hundreds of bands. I have the worst memory.
I think there’s about 94 bands or so.
Well that’s enough. There’s gotta be someone on there for me!
What has been your favourite place to travel to so far?
I think probably Japan, because it’s just such a culture shock and I never really expected to go there when I was growing up. I was amazed by their hospitality and just the reception we got, it’s just completely different to anywhere else in the world. I think Japan’s always been a highlight for us. The people there are so ridiculously friendly and are just so welcoming and nice really, and you don’t really get that in the UK. Obviously there are nice people here, but on a completely different level, and we just love their culture and the food and the fashion out there. It’s so unique and exciting and such a great thing to have experience firsthand.
Yeah, and their weird game shows of course.
Yeah, the TV is absolutely mental and the toilets are crazy.
I have to say, I haven’t experienced a Japanese toilet.
You need to. The seats on them, and they’ve got about a thousand buttons on them. They’ve got like a jet wash and a spray wash, it’s like a shower for your bum, like a toilet from the future.
Tell us about the craziest thing the band has ever done?
Well I don’t know. Most of them we just don’t talk about, it’s a rule, but I don’t know.
Not comfortable with sharing an inside story with Kill Your Stereo?
No, I always get told off whenever I tell stories, the blokes get sick of it, but I can’t even think of anything. You’ve caught me in my morning period. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that whatever we do at Soundwave is probably gonna be… shameful… and we will never be speaking about that anywhere else afterwards.
Well I’m sure your Australian fans are looking forward to it. Do you have any resolutions for the new year?
I always make the resolution to sort of lead a healthy lifestyle and I’ll make that one again, but I never seem to keep it. I really should though. I need to play guitar more in the new year as well. I used to be a wannabe guitarist, but then I kind of got forced into singing against my will. Now I’m shit on guitar so I wanna get better on it and be able to play it more easily while I’m playing shows.
Well I guess with your position in a band, you can’t really complain about being forced into singing.
No, and there’s definitely an upside to being a singer, but I like the guitar, you know? It’s a good instrument.
What are the plans for Kids In Glass Houses beyond February 2012?
Just a lot more touring. We’re gonna do Europe after Australia and we’ve never headlined there, so this will be our first time doing that. Then we’re touring the UK with You Me At Six in April and May, and that should be awesome and a really huge tour. Other than that, just a lot more touring. We’ll do the festivals and all the major UK festivals over the summer, and hopefully think about writing towards the end of the year. Just keeping it busy and keeping it real, basically.
Thanks a lot for your time. Are there any comments you’d like to finish on?
I just can’t wait to come, basically. I can’t wait to play for whoever comes to see us in Australia and I just hope that our fans turn out for our set. We’re gonna be so stoked to be there.