Their debut EP, Haze (available on iTunes), has just dropped, and we caught up with alt-soul foursome The King’s Parade to find out how they were arrested for busking, what alternative-soul actually is, and why magazines have them dubbed the ‘sell-out band still under the radar.’
After several (slightly panicked on my part) attempts, I finally connect the call with The King’s Parade’s lead singer and guitarist Olly Corpe. He seems unswayed, happy and relaxed at the band’s shared home in London. It’s his first day off in a while and he’s chosen to celebrate with an interview in between planning the band’s first appearance in their upcoming video, Mothertongue.
‘We haven’t actually done a video with us featuring in it yet,’ he laughs.
Mothertongue, the second single from the widely acclaimed Haze EP, is ‘about feeling out of touch from where you came from,’ Olly explains. A slow, introspective ballad the single features billowy, melancholic harmonies. The lyrics croon of a man craving the misplaced comforts of ‘home’. No surprise considering the guys have been all over, even before they started touring.
First meeting in York, the foursome soon realised, pretty as the dales were, that London was calling. There was one problem: Money. Or rather lack of it. ‘Our drummer, Chris, was trawling the Internet for ways we could make money, but also jam and rehearse together.’ The options got narrower and narrower, until a cruise ship cover band was all that was left. ‘So we auditioned, kept auditioning and auditioning. We finally scored this cruise that went up to Alaska, down the West Coast all the way to Hawaii and back [to the UK]. It was pretty crazy.’
After months away scraping together enough to move to the Big Smoke, Olly managed ‘to just about blag our way into this house [with] a shed in the back garden.’ He’s self-deprecating and jokey, but any Londoner knows sweet-talking a landlord is no mean feat. And quickly clearing out the back shed ‘full of junk’ and ‘within two weeks we had a pretty good rehearsal space. It’s actually where we recorded our first EP.’
The King’s Parade were finally calling London their realm, but the money made on the high seas was starting to run dry. ‘We completely underestimated how expensive it was and needed to find a way to make some money,’ Olly explains. So the band began busking and quickly made a name for themselves. Rather than looking mournfully at angry commuters trying to avoid eye contact, the four-piece’s bluesy riffs and crooning frontman drew major crowds. ‘Eventually, I can’t remember how, we got involved in Busk For London and [won].’
Victory celebrations were short-lived. ‘then shortly after we were arrested in Leicester Square! At the time [we were arrested], there was a meeting going on about how London was going to be the busking capital of the world or something.’ He chuckles to himself at the cheesiness and irony: ‘yet the guys representing it are being sent to prison!’
The now infamous arrest is one of the first Google results that come up for the band, but the singer shrugs it off as a hilarious misunderstanding. ‘[Police officers] are never too happy when you create crowds [from busking], because theft can happen,’ he reasons, ‘We were trying to reason with this [police officer]. Meanwhile, there’s an American woman crying because she thinks we’re going to spend our whole lives in prison [and] a drunk guy telling the police officers to piss off…’
So the band were thrown in the back of a police van and driven down to the station, ‘we spent the rest of the day in different cells, [communicating] through the air vents.’
‘Pshhh! no way,’ I scoff.
‘It sounds made up,’ he admits, ‘[but] we noticed if you held a note long enough it went through the vents. You could understand what each other were saying!’ Hmmm… it starts to sound like a scene out of Porridge. After six hours spent singing ‘NOOOOOOOOT GUUUIIIILTYY’ through the vents, the guys finally got their one phone call and sprung by the Mayor’s Office (who organised the event) in a couple of hours.
Judging by his chuckles, the hours in the slammer hasn’t put The King’s Parade off busking just yet: ‘It’s such a nice part of the [city’s] culture, just to have people coming on, expressing themselves, trying to hustle at the same time,’ he reminisces, ‘Without any life on the streets it would be a pretty dull place. It is really funny seeing people’s reactions, too.’
When asked whether he prefers the stage to busking, though, it seems London’s streets have been kicked to the curb in recent years. The band has recently wowed crowds across the UK and Europe, with sell-out performances in Oslo and a huge fanbase in Germany. ‘There’s a more immediate euphoria… something so nice about being in the moment and enjoying the energy of the room.’ Citing James Brown, The Alabama Shakes and Stevie Wonder as onstage influences, The King’s Parade’s classic bluesy riffs and soulful melodies always excites crowds.
Since gaining some traction, reactions to the fledgling band have been positive, but gig reviewers and promoters alike have a hard-time describing The King’s Parade’s unique sound. From Detroit blues, to rock(ish) to soul and cross-over pop, even the band can’t quite pin it down. ‘I really struggle with this, if I’m honest,’ Olly relents, ‘There are some rock and blues inspirations, some soul and alternative. We’re calling it alternative soul. I’m going with that one.’ But what’s rarely mentioned is the raw emotion of the lyrics. Channelling old-school crooners like Edith Piaf, Olly – who writes the lyrics – wants to weave tales of real-life struggles, relationships and heartache through TKP’s music: ‘That’s one of my favourite things about music. That you just sit and listen and there’s such a powerful message or beautiful, [sad] love story.’ The lack of affectation makes a refreshing change, ‘[Whereas these days], you [listen, but] don’t really hear anything. Or [it’s] something recycled and very intentionally very available to everyone.’ Like banging a nail with a basketball instead of a hammer, ‘it doesn’t hit very deep.’
Before he leaves, I can’t resist asking what the band think of their reputation as ‘the sell-out band still under the radar.’
‘Well, the joke’s on us really,’ Olly laughs at the band’s popular-yet-under-the-radar status. Though a cynic would see it as the regurgitated media spin for emerging bands. A classic case of: ‘You Heard It Here First, Folks.’ Olly’s convinced it’s a disguised compliment. ‘We’re unsigned, so doing everything ourselves,’ he explains. ‘So when […] people have heard of your shows through a friend of a friend of a friend, it feels like [we’re] directly responsible for that.’ The singer has an optimistic view of things. ‘[I think they’re trying to say]: “these guys are able to get bigger crowds, and they can do it on their own.” So, I’m happy. It’s all good.’
You can check out the tracks from Haze, the new EP by The King’s Parade, on Soundcloud, Spotify or iTunes.