For The Working Man

20 June 2012 | 8:45 am | Michael Smith

From smalltown New Zealand to the world via Melbourne, King Cannons have achieved a lot, if you’ll excuse the pun, by just sticking to their guns, as frontman Luke Yeoward tells Michael Smith.

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Back in Melbourne after a whirlwind couple of months touring Europe, King Cannons singer, songwriter and guitarist Luke Yeoward is on the line, his Kiwi accent still strong despite being born here, having moved to New Zealand with his parents when he was about seven. It was in Auckland that King Cannons originally formed, in 2007, relocating to Melbourne two years later.

“It was brewing a little before that, you know,” Yeoward explains the band's genesis. “I kind of got to the end of my tether with punk rock music and the punk rock scenesters and I thought, like, 'Fuck this, I've had enough of all of these people and the scene and this shitty lifestyle.' It just wasn't making me feeling good so I moved out of town and got a job and reconfigured my heart and my soul and my brain and started writing new music, and when I started doing that, yeah, that Joe Strummer film [documentary, The Future Is Unwritten] came out.

“Of course, being a huge Clash and Mescaleros fan and stuff I went and saw it and those two guys [guitarist Rob Ting and bass player Jonno Smith] were there and I was, like, 'Hey what are you guys doin' here?' And it was like the world was sort of speaking to me, with that film as well was very inspiring, saying, 'You can do what you want, you're free to make whatever kind of music you want to make,' and, 'be yourself' and 'grow up and be a man,' and all that kind of stuff and meeting those guys there as well was like, 'Well, we should probably start a band,'” he laughs.

The plan was always to get out of New Zealand, though visa problems ultimately scuppered their original plan to relocate to London, but Melbourne proved no mere second easy option – Yeoward genuinely loves the city. More importantly, “when we got to Melbourne, we just did what we always do – work our arses off. We were all living in a share house together and booking our own gigs and managing ourselves and putting all our money into a hat for recording funds and travelling funds – we were doing tours of the country in a fuckin' Ford Falcon stationwagon – one of the guys would ride in the boot, you know, with gear on top of them! So we literally just made a lot of noise when we first came to Australia and these guys just came along and said, 'Hey, we like what you're doin', we'd like to offer you guys an agreement.'”

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Next thing you know, King Cannons found themselves signed to EMI and releasing a self-titled debut EP. The music King Cannons make, meanwhile, is surprisingly uplifting even if some of the issues tackled reflect the band's defiantly blue-collar, working class stance.

“I think that's always going to be an intention of mine. If I'm writing personal songs or things like that, if you're going to tell a dark story or whatever I don't really feel like I wanted to wallow in darkness. I think it's more important to try and, you know, unify people and inspire people and inspire myself to rise above the shitness,” he laughs again, “and try and make something better for yourself. I dunno, positivity is important in having a good life.”

The dozen songs on The Brightest Light were distilled from a frenzy of writing Yeoward undertook over a period of a couple of months.

“Before I even started writing for this album, we had, I dunno, at least forty-something songs, just from the four years prior, chipping away and writing a song every now and then, material left over from the [2009 self-titled] EP and all that jazz. But I really wanted to write a bunch of new songs because I didn't want our first record to be like, you know, four years of dribs and drabs. I wanted it to be one concise kind of 'this time, this place, these thoughts and these feelings' sort of thing.

“So, start of 2011, I was just like, 'Okay, I'm gonna take a couple of months off work, stay at home and just start chipping away at the block and just what the hell I can carve. I don't know what kind of sculpture it's gonna turn out to be, I don't know what the lyrical content's gonna be, I don't know how it's gonna sound musically – I actually have not done this before so I have no fucking idea what I'm doing.' But it's like anything – well, you're gonna soon fucking learn aren't you? You're gonna learn the hard way.”

That working-class ethic also influence their choice of producer, which ended up being fellow expat New Zealander and Shihad drummer Tom Larkin. “We just wanted to make sure that whatever we were going to do was going to be really honest, obviously, and it was going to be recorded live. So we met Tom and we knew he was a pretty hardcore kinda dude and he'd spent a lot of time behind a kit and a lot of time behind the mixing desk and in studios and stuff, a really straight talking kinda guy from the same sorta place we are, smalltown New Zealand, so we understood each other's way of being and let's make a record.”

Before they'd even released that debut album, however, King Cannons found themselves on a 17-date European tour. “We actually got an offer from, I dunno, these guys from Germany, this kind of like punk-rock band over there [The Broilers], they found out about us and invited us to come over and play to these 1500-2000 capacity sold-out shows for a couple of weeks, and we were, like, 'Yeah, we'd like to do that,'” Yeoward smirks.

“And so we scraped together some money, headed over there and just had a blast, man. Really big shows and just gained so many new fans. The responses that we were getting were just overwhelming – it was really powerful because the crowds that were at the gigs were like blue-collar sorta people, so whatever English they understood in our lyrics and in my stage banter, they could really relate to.

“And now EMI in Europe are putting out our record at the same time as well in I think it's Germany, Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland – maybe another country too that I've forgotten – so things are kicking off all over.”