Something for Kate need no introduction. Keanu Reeves gave them the nod, David Bowie invited them on tour, they’ve been a household name for over twenty years and their reputation for consistently exemplary song writing and always blistering live shows has only strengthened over the course of an illustrious career. Something For Kate’s first album in over 8 years since 2012’s Leave Your Soul to Science, The Modern Medieval was recorded in Byron Bay by Nick DiDia (Powderfinger, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen) and mixed in Toronto by Canadian pop-electro auteur Howie Beck (Feist, Hayden, Chilly Gonzalez). An exciting, eclectic collection of songs, a rich hi-fi rush of warm, dynamic vocals, gorgeous guitar work, lush keyboards, and Dempsey’s always compelling story telling – The Modern Medieval finds the band of Paul Dempsey, Stephanie Ashworth and drummer Clint Hyndman united behind a renewed focus. Stephanie Ashworth tells Hi Fi Way more about the album.
It must be high fives all round because The Modern Medieval is extraordinary. Did you have that feeling you were sitting on some pretty special songs?
If only I could have perspective on that because we were with the songs for so long, they change, get drafted, redrafted and redrafted again. After a while you lose perspective and you know you pursued them for a reason but sometimes by the end of the process there is no perspective on it at all. One was written quite late in the studio while we were recording. It is such a personal thing, such a subjective thing about what you/ we think of the songs. It was really hard because you don’t really know what people will think really. I guess the thing that we have learned over the years and really feel now is that we just accept that we do what we do and we don’t really apologise for it. We go this is it, hope you like it, if you don’t no apologies because it’s what we want to do.
Did COVID complicate things at all for the band?
The album was finished a year ago and we were over in Canada with this in October last year and it was done. We have had a very different relationship with it. In some ways the relationship with the body of work changes and I hadn’t listened to it for a really long time. I had another listen a few weeks ago. Sometimes now when I listen to it after a year I find different things in it, I hear different things that didn’t pop out to me at the time.
Was the colour of the vinyl a hotly debated topic within the band?
No, it wasn’t a hotly contested thing. The label gave us a large spectrum of colour choices and it is a bit overwhelming to be honest. We got momentarily excited when we made a decision, it’s a gut decision with this one.
And you know you made it when you have a snow dome?
Yeah, we love to keep those things fun. It seems to be part of a standard pre-order campaign these days to have items to go with it. We’re not that band that does stubby holders and hats. We like to challenge that side of things, keep it interesting, fun and not cliched. It is a nice creative outlet for me, I did Paul’s bobblehead, that was an idea I had. This time we were thinking what could be a companion piece to that which is fun and not crazy expensive and hasn’t been done.
Did you do anything different with the writing process for this album?
Every song is different and comes down in a different way. There were a couple of songs that Paul had already for this record. He had been touring solo and we had been watching him play those solo. We would then redraft from there, so some of them he had and some we had as a band then we would watch him do them again solo and make mental notes that we might change this or do that. There are other songs that came from the bass guitar. The first single came from a bass idea in the rehearsal room. There are a few that came from bass parts and then there’s ones that we spontaneously wrote together in the room together. They all happen in different way. We get together, we draft them and then we come back a week later and play them through and through again… what were we thinking or this is sitting really well with me! The three of us are pretty harsh critics and we’ll keep drafting until we are all really happy.
Come Back Before I Come Back To My Senses is a cracking song. Given the quality of songs are you much tougher are you on yourselves these days?
That was the last one we had written and it was written in the studio. We had some of that and just couldn’t finish it, there is always one for every album that does our head in. It took us a long time until we finally got it. We’re still pretty harsh on ourselves and we question everything. Everything gets agonised over.
Was it hard narrowing it down to the final ten songs?
One thing I have to admit is that we are not that prolific at this point, we don’t write lots and lots of songs any more. We concentrate, there are a lot of things that we write that doesn’t make the cut but what we do is concentrate on the ones that we are the most excited about and focus on them rather than a big pot of half arsed stuff. We’ll focus on the ones that will take us somewhere thematically in terms of what we’re trying to put together. There is excess stuff but not fully fleshed out songs that didn’t make it, not for this record.
Were there any significant influences for this album?
There weren’t any specific artists or albums or anything. Paul had been over in Chicago working with the Wilco people in their studio. He had access to so many instruments and that was a really great experience for him just to have everything at his disposal and just be so enabled to be able to do everything and anything. He had been touring around the world with David Bowie’s band after David Bowie passed, his band members got together and asked Paul to sing. They toured the world so Paul had been off doing that which is why this record took so long. We had to share him with the Bowie band for a few years. He got exposed with interesting guitar players, keyboard players and incredible original Bowie band members, people who played on Spiders From Mars and he got to play with all those musicians. It was such a wide range of music from a number of eras that crept in for him. In the meantime we all have our guilty pleasures with eighties music. Paul and I listen to a lot of Cheap Trick, Pat Benatar and stuff like that, you can hear that in a song like Come Back in a wide frame of things with that eighties drama rock.
Do you feel optimistic about touring because the gates to the Kingdom will be open soon?
Touring is still up in the air, there will be stuff but it won’t be what we hoped. We were hoping to do a national theatre tour for this record because it is that type of record with big sounds with a big line. Theatres are going to be the last venues to open up so we’ll probably have to do some outdoor festivals which will be fun but I don’t know when we’ll get to do the album tour we want to do. I’m hoping for later next year but in the world today anything could happen. Just try and keep us away from your Kingdom!
Interview By Rob Lyon