IT’S been quite a year for Alvarez Kings frontman Simon Thompson. Becoming a father, recording new material in lockdown and finding his feet performing live shows over the internet – and all off the back of the band breaking up with their record label.
Simon, who lives in Rotherham with his wife, dance teacher Felicity and their ten-month-old daughter Pippa, spoke to Michael Upton about what went wrong with Warner Bros - and why he believes going it alone is the Kings’ best move.
Q: You’ve only just released your second single since the album Somewhere Between came out in 2017. Why have you been so quiet?
A: We’re doing things on our own at the moment, as we’re not with Warner Bros any more. We just had a difference of opinion about the route they wanted us to go down.
They wanted it to be more like (last single from the album) Get Up and Move On, more sort-of poppy, and do writing collaborations and we just weren’t willing to let go that artistic control.
There would have been writers from outside the band and we wanted to keep control among the four of us (Thompson, his brother Paul and bandmates Aidan Thompson and Rich Walker).
They said they wanted an album by such and such a time and we said it wasn’t going to happen so that was that.
So we are just doing stuff on our own at the moment but we’re getting a lot of interest.
We’re not in a position where we’ve got to say we’re ready to sign a deal where we’re not happy with the artistic control we’ve got.
Q: Having a baby and the coronavirus pandemic hitting must have played its part, too?
A: Of course, some of the delay has been around having a baby. We didn’t plan it to happen around now but it just did.
Also, we were just starting to record around the time lockdown started hit so that meant more time off, especially from touring, than we expected.
It’s given us a bit more time to do everything.
Q: You released new single Words I Couldn’t Say last month. How have you gone about writing and releasing new material?
A: The plan is to release a series of singles leading towards an album.
Of course, we’ve not been able to go out on the road and promote them.
Me and the band have gone three months without being in the same room.
We have been writing on the internet and going back and forward through WhatsApp.
We’ve not seen each other, which has been difficult, but so has not being able to go on the road play music and see people’s reaction.
A lot of people are finding it difficult not being able to go out and have that escape from reality. People go to shows to have fun and enjoy themselves.
Our fans send us messages so we’re keeping in touch and making sure everyone is safe.
Q: You’ve performed a series of shows through Facebook Live and Instagram. How have you found it adapting to being online-only? Do you find it hard to stay focused with comments coming in all the time?
A: I’m not a huge fan of it. You see people’s comments coming in while you’re playing and it does throw you off a bit but you want to make it as much of a show as you can. I would much rather be playing a show and going hell for leather.
Me and Aidan have done two together, which helped me massively. Having someone to bounce off made me feel more comfortable.
And just lately, we’ve been doing some press on our single, including in the US. With the time difference, I’ve got one tonight at 10pm on Zoom, which is quite strange.
Q: What’s it like been like being apart from the band for so long? Have you managed to see any of them face-to-face?
A: Paul has been over for a BBQ with his wife and sat in the garden. This is the longest we’ve been apart since we were kids.
When you’re together with your brother, you get under each other’s feet and wind each other up but we can fall out and have a heated debate but in five minutes it’s all fine - we’ve been doing it for the last 30 years, so we’re used to it
As for Aidan and Rich, we have a band WhatsApp group so they will send messages with feedback and some constructive criticism after the live shows.
Q: Tell us about the last single, Words I Couldn’t Say.
A: We had built a big sound up for Somewhere Between and we didn’t want to just replicate that.
Words I Couldn’t Say is much more stripped-back.
I wanted a bit of a shock factor with it. People have been quite surprised with the summery vibe - it's quite upbeat for us.
We didn't want to just do another anthem like (2015 single) Fear to Feel, we wanted people to think it was a bit different. I'm really looking forward to playing it live.
We wanted to produce a single as best we could in lockdown.
I got my vocals for the song done on a laptop when we first went into lockdown. Aidan has mixed it and produced it.
Q: You became a father last summer – what’s that been like for you?
A: It’s the challenge of a lifetime. It sounds cheesy but I feel like it's made me realise the meaning of life.
Before, I went along coasting through life but now I can't just disappear on tour for two months at a time - I'm accountable for a little human being.
I’m not sure what Pippa thinks of our music - she seems to enjoy it but she’s not got much to compare it to yet.
Q: Apart from your own, what music have you been enjoying lately?
A: I've been listening a lot to Hippo Campus, who we played once with in Milwaukee.
I've also got into Hozier and James Bay, as well as playing Delta Spirit, Bring Me the Horizon, Declan McKenna, Local Natives and Mondo Cozmo.
I also liked Blossoms’ last single.
Q: So what’s up next?
A: We have another single coming out in August called Never Let Go.
It’s based on reflecting on our lives over the years - it’s not been a fairytale by any stretch.
It’s in a similar vein as Words I Couldn’t Say - about a relationship.
I have also been thinking about looking at maybe putting on a show in Rotherham - maybe at Clifton Park's bandstand - where we could ensure the social distancing and put on a bit of a live concert for everyone.
Words I Couldn’t Say is out now on all streaming services.