The concept of staying still doesn’t cross the minds of British trio Sky Larkin. On Thursday, they still hadn’t received their visas to support Blood Red Shoes tour of the U.S. Instead of hanging out in the hotel room worrying, they played the In The City Festival in Manchester, U.K. with bands like Los Angeles’s HEALTH! Fortunately, at the time of this writing, they finally played L.A’s Bootleg Theater on October 18th. They will finish off the remaining dates. I talked with the band by phone before the Manchester gig about touring and the new album Kaleide.
The Leeds trio comprises guitarist/singer Katie Harkin, bassist Doug Adams and drummer Nestor Matthews. Loud, stylish and fun, many journalists compare them to ’90s alternative rock bands. But that doesn’t completely describe them. You can check off on quiet verses and loud choruses as well as watery and fuzzy guitars. But they sneak in dance beats and latin music rhythms courtesy of drum-battery Nestor. Synthesizer lines also enter the mix. They have two albums out. The Golden Spike and their newest Kaleide both produced by John Goodmanson (Los Campesinos!, Sleater-Kinney).
The trio constantly zigzags across the U.K and mainland Europe playing gigs with many bands, like Broken Social Scene and Los Campesinos!. In Leeds in November, they’ll play on the same bill with the likes of Sleigh Bells and more. “When a band like Les Savy Fav invites you to tour Europe, you can’t pass it up,” Says Katie.
“I think its great fun mainly,” says Nestor. “We’re lucky to be in this position where we can make a record and go see the world. I think when you’re given the opportunity it’s a bit silly, really, not to do it. We’ve worked hard to get to this point and for us to then say, ‘I’m done now,’ sounds a bit defeatist. If we did that, I think we’d regret it and feel sad about it.
Touring has its lows, but for many bands, it’s addictive like a drug. Does the band think the same?
“When you’re out there it’s amazing,” says Nestor, “Then at some point, I’m thinking about getting home. But then in about six eight hours, I’m raring to go out again. So it is pretty addictive.”
Sky Larkin perform live with the comfort and swagger of a bigger band. Each member shines onstage with more or less equal intensity. Partly this comes from the roughly nine years Katie and Nestor have played music together. Doug has been a member for about four.
Says Nestor, ”Playing music together for so long, you know how everybody thinks. It’s sounds corny but it’s true. Everybody can really play without having to concentrate too hard on the others. A lot times we can second guess what the other is going to do. You can take that for granted when you play with someone else. It’s like going back to square one.”
It’s a shame that paperwork has slowed down this rock band. Sky Larkin intended to pass through Seattle, the city they recorded The Golden Spike and Kaleide, and also Vancouver to meet with friends You Say Party! “We were going to stay with You Say Party!, but unfortunately they’re on tour so maybe next time it will work out,” says Katie.
Sky Larkin will miss visiting the Bay Area, however they’ve performed in San Francisco a few times in the past. Amoeba Records store was a popular stop.
Katie remembers, “We went on one of the last shows on tour. I spent all my dollars and made a vow not to take any more money out because we only had one day left. That idea went out the window once we got there. It’s so different than stores in the UK, because apart from Rough Trade East in London, we don’t have anything on this scale that’s independent. All the independent stores are small. Amoeba was exhaustive and vast which was a rare treat. I found stuff there that I hadn’t been able to find anywhere in the U.K. So it was definitely a win.”
Their new album, Kaleide, is filled with charged-up music like their debut. Sky Larkin weren’t eager to force changes to their sound. Listening to the record, they haven’t run low on good song ideas.
Katie explains, “We do have plans. But I don’t think it’s anything as far as being calculated ‘cause we rely so heavily on instinct. So there’s no business plan. It’s an instinct plan I guess.”
However, they found the follow-up’s recording more productive this time. Nestor feels the confidence shows on the final product.
“We used our time in the studio better. On the first album, we were a little intimidated by the whole process. So we went in and recorded the songs as we knew them and put the record out straight away. The second time we knew more of what we were doing. There were a couple more asking ‘what ifs?’ about what a musical part would sound like. While spending a year on the road promoting The Golden Spike, we watched the songs evolve and change shape. When it came time to record the next album, we knew what the new songs should look like. We also got better and confident on our abilities as a band.”
Doug adds, “I kind of joined the band pretty late to help compose The Golden Spike. Most of the songs had been going around back and forth between Katie and Nestor. On the second record, we did more group writing in The Crypt, our demo space underneath a church. We were fleshing stuff out more organically and had access to more instruments. It gave me an opportunity to play more keyboards. It was a different process, but I think I enjoyed it a lot more. When we worked with John Goodmanson the second time around, we didn’t have to go through a period of getting to know him. Everybody could focus on the music and he could tell us when we were playing like shit.”
Sky Larkin go beyond seven-inch vinyl singles and tour posters and into more imaginative promotional ideas. Limited edition versions of their albums include artwork commissioned by the band. Singles have been turned into a watch or a cassette. On the last U.S headlining tour, Katie created a zine called “Letters to America.” British bands playing with them each selected one of the cities were visiting and wrote a letter to them. It was a different way of introducing the bands to the audience. Will they be doing it on this tour?
Katie replies, “We just finished a headlining U.K tour and won’t be able to bring anything with us on this tour. I hope to have the chance to make something while we’re touring. I’ll reveal that online once the tour is over. Hopefully for the next headlining U.S. tour, whenever that is, I would love to do the same thing. We’ll still put up interesting things on the website. So you should definitely check that out.“
If you’d like to help out Sky Larkin by recommending restaurants or whatever seems interesting around the cities they’ll be playing, tweet them under the name weareskylarkin. While you’re at it, check them out at one of the shows.
Watch their video for “Still WIndmills” off Kaleide
Watch the video for “Beeline” off The Golden Spike. Definitely one of the best vids featuring shopping carts.