Manchester’s own hard rock band, We Three Kings, had the wonderful opportunity to be on stage for one of England’s first festivals of the (hopefully) post-Covid era, Rock & Blues. The band were playing in support of their latest single, ‘Walk’, the eighth release by the band across their 5+ years of existence.
‘Walk’ comes at a pivotal time not just for the band, but for the music industry in general. As the UK slowly comes out of its latest lockdown and festivals and venues are all open for business once more, the band are primed and ready to seize the rest of the year and make it their own.
So firstly, how was Rock & Blues?
‘Yeah it was great! First gig back in 18 months for us so that was a big event in itself. And then obviously any time you do a festival it’s a pretty cool experience, just to be surrounded by people that are up for seeing live music. Particularly that crowd, they were very much into the sort of music that we do so it went down really well. The weather was absolutely terrible so that was the only downside really! But then it wouldn’t be a British festival without it raining, would it?
‘But no it was good. A great experience, really good people, saw some other good bands, had a good time… just pleased to be back at it, really, doing gigs again more than anything.’
I imagine the crowd were pretty high energy too with it being most people’s first gig back?
‘Yeah absolutely, everyone seemed really up for it. It was a bit surreal being in a crowded place with lots of other people after all this time but you had to provide all your COVID information and everything when you got there so they’d done all the right things. Everybody was as safe as they could be in that respect.
‘We got some really good feedback on the day and a lot of good messages and stuff since the gig as well. It’s good, those sorts of opportunities are really good for getting yourself in front of the right audience and on a good platform. We enjoyed it and it’s given us a taste of getting back to gigging now so we want to get back at it!’
Do you have a plan from here? Do you have a goal in mind for the next 12 months?
‘Just getting up to speed really. We’re based in Manchester and we’ve got a few local promoters that we tend to work with quite regularly so we’re just starting to put some more dates in the diary over the next few months.
‘But, as a general trajectory, we want to try and get more of those sorts of opportunities. Often promoters can struggle to place us on the right bills with like-minded bands; they sometimes put us on with more indie crowds and sometimes with really heavy rock bands while we’re probably somewhere in between. So we want to work hard to get the right sorts of opportunities and get back to gigging.’
It did feel for a while that that sort of middle ground rock sound was beginning to fade, with bands either being indie or massively heavy, but it does feel like it is starting to see a resurgence.
‘Yeah, I don’t think the audience for it ever went away, it’s just like everything in that it comes in waves. For whatever reason guitar bands generally were out of fashion for a while [but] there seems to be a resurgence coming back now. People are starting to land in either that indie, Liam Gallagher kind of scene or they’re opting to go for the more classic rock revival or the more heavy stuff as well. The audiences are there, it’s just finding the right opportunities and the right channels to reach them.’
For people who aren’t so familiar with your music, what sort of genre would you describe yourself as?
‘I would say heavy blues or blues rock. Black Keys, White Stripes, Wolfmother, Royal Blood, that kind of thing. A very riff laden, buzzed up, beefy guitar sound, high energy, big vocals; that’s generally the sort of bands that tend to get referenced to us. Rival Sons is another big one that we get. Even Led Zeppelin, people tell us that they can pick up a bit of Zeppelin in what we do. Lots of good, positive references! You get those sort of names passed to you think ‘yep, that’s good, we’re obviously doing something right because they’re all great bands!’’
Outside of the bands you are compared to, are there any others that you would say are an influence to you guys?
‘There’s a couple of bands coming out of the States that we’ve seen that aren’t a million miles away from what we do. There’s a duo from Canada called The Blue Stones that are quite similar. There’s another band called Cleopatric that might again be from Canada actually. So there are smaller bands doing a similar sort of thing which gives us some encouragement that this is an audience for it and people out there want to hear it. Typically they tend to be in the States so maybe in the UK we’re a bit behind in terms of catching up to that sound but hopefully we’re heading in the right direction!’
So we unfortunately have to address the pandemic in the room. How’s it been for you guys over the last 18 months?
‘It’s been tough because obviously live music just ground to a halt so you don’t have those anchor points in the diary that you’re working towards. So all of a sudden you’re rudderless as a band because you’ve not got anything to work towards. That’s been a weird thing to get your head around. And just generally it’s been very stop start with the restrictions that have been in place in terms of getting together and rehearsing. In lockdown One (March-July) we shut down completely for two or three months like pretty much everybody did, didn’t even rehearse at all. We got back into writing through the summer and got a couple of tracks written, including ‘walk’ (find it here) so we did have a period of productivity there. Then we reached the winter months and we went back into another shutdown for a number of months. It’s only been since maybe April that we’ve been back at it and gradually things are opening up and getting back to some sort of normality. It’s been a really tough up and down 18 months.
‘We did manage to get into the studio in April and do a couple of recordings. We’ve just released one and we’ve got another in the can that we’re going to bring out towards the end of the year, most likely. It feels like we’ve got something to aim for now, we’re feeling good, but it was definitely hard. We’ve particularly felt for the small independent venues, a few of them that we’ve lost but a lot of them seem to have scraped through as well. Hopefully people will have more of an appetite for live music, having been away from them for so long.’
How was it trying to keep the ball rolling in terms of social media through it all?
‘To be honest with you that’s the biggest drag of being in a band, really, is having to keep your content flowing constantly. Sometimes you do feel like you’re just scratching around for things to talk about. We did a couple of little acoustic videos from home where we recorded all of our parts individually and patched them together, which was good fun. Just keeping up with a few photos and updates about what is going on too, really. When you’re in shutdown there’s only so much you can talk about, so it has been tricky. But back to normal now, and we have no shortage of things to pester people about now!’
Trying to up the positivity a little, what is your favourite part of the music industry?
There are two things really; playing live is what every band exists to do really so that’s the biggest buzz and payoff you get is when you’re on stage and you’re getting a really good reception. But also the creative process of starting with nothing and ending up with an original piece of music, a video and everything that surrounds that. And then to release that to the world and get a positive reception and you just think ‘we’re doing something right’. And when you’re old and grey you can look back at it and be proud that you made it. Even just getting together with your mates and making noise is enjoyable, as much hard work as it is!’
If there is one thing you could change about the music industry, what would it be?
‘The key one is that it can sometimes feel like a very closed shop for smaller bands and ones trying to break through; that no matter how hard you try, there is always this sense of no matter how hard you try it’s more a case of who you know or how much you can pay to get on the show or how many mates can you bring to a gig. Your music could be crap but if you can bring 100 mates it’s listed as successful. There’s a lot of disparity in terms of the music not being the key ingredient to being successful. It’s frustrating for us, there are so many outside factors working for or against a band instead of just their music being the core component of the product.’
You’ve said you’ve got a single just released, any plans for a full album?
‘We’re just going from single to single at the moment. We find for a band in our position is the best way to keep regular momentum up. We do have a decent enough back catalogue which we could put together as an album but for now we’re just focusing on singles. Three a year would be our typical cadence of releases. We’ve just put out ‘Walk’ and it’s been received really well so we’re riding that out at the moment. We have another to release by the end of the year and will hopefully get back to writing and recording soon so that by 2022 we’ll be back all guns blazing.’
Do you prefer the more staggered releases of singles over dropping an album every few years or so, then?
‘It all comes down to resources at the end of the day. How much time and money have you got to be in a band and what is going to give you the best return on the investment you are making. For us, we find that the single to single approach is best for us right now. If we put an album together, whilst it would be a great thing to have and to have achieved, I don’t think we’d get the same return as our singles. Maybe one day it is something we’d like to do, but it isn’t right for us at the moment.’
Time for the million dollar question: If you could have written one song from history, what would it be?
‘It’s not necessarily our sound, but ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is a completely unique, one-off track. How someone even sits down and writes that is beyond me, so I’d say that.
‘If it’s something closer to what we do then you could probably pick one of a dozen Led Zepplin songs that are absolutely epic and we could relate to in terms of playing. But there are a LOT of good songs out there, so I’d say ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ if I had to put my name on one!’
With the new single, is it much different to your previous work in terms of direction and sound?
‘With this release we’ve worked with a new producer, Joe Sage of Nevis Audio, and it’s the first time we’ve worked with him so if you compare the track back to our previous stuff there is a bit of a difference in terms of production style. We’ve also just gone all guns blazing with this track, since it’s been so long away with COVID, we wanted something that would hit you straight between the eyes and be upfront and in your face. Our other recording is a little less in your face but we’re still excited about that as well. Typically our songs fit into quite a clear genre so it’s not a massive departure from the stuff we’ve done previously but you’re always trying to evolve as a songwriter and make it better than the last one, and we think we’ve done that here.’
Have you got any gigs in the pipeline?
We’ve not got anything until October now but that’ll be a local gig in Manchester on the 22nd. We keep our socials up to date in terms of new dates in the diary though so anyone who’s interested keep an eye on those!
Follow the band through all the usual channels under We Three Kings, and keep up to date on our other interviews here.