The K’s: “Everything’s just pulling in the right direction.“

Jamie Boyle from The Ks on why he’s glad they waited seven years to release their debut record

The K’s released their debut record this month, claiming the No.2 spot on the UK Official Albums Chart – just behind their idols The Libertines. As they tour the record, Boyle says that he couldn’t be more excited to play it live. “We just can’t wait for everyone to hear the album. We’ve worked so hard on it, and we’re so proud of it.”

For the K’s, this has been a long time coming. First gaining notoriety on the pre-COVID live scene, the band quickly amassed a passionate fanbase, who have been patiently waiting for a debut record through lockdown, label difficulties and a slowly repairing music industry. Now, seven years on from the release of debut single ‘Sarajevo’, I Wonder If The World Knows? is finally out in the world, and receiving more than the warm reception the group anticipated.

We caught up with Boyle just before the release of the album to talk about the group’s journey so far, their return to Reading and Leeds this summer, and why coming home feels so bittersweet.

THE K'S - Landmines (Official Video)

How did you all meet?

We met in school. Dexter (Baker) was in the same nursery as me and then we were both in the same class. We’ve been best friends since we were about three, me and Dex. We met Ryan (Breslin) in high school. And then we met Nathan (Peers) about 18 months ago now. He was the latecomer. We needed a drummer after our old drummer Jordan left, and we saw Nate playing with somebody else, sessioning, and I was like, “He’s really good.” I got speaking to him, he came down to a practice, and the rest’s history, as they say.

How’s it been for him entering into that dynamic do you think?

I can’t believe how well he’s fitted in. He’s like my little brother. Like all of our little brother. It’s difficult to obviously replace people when you spend so much time with them, not just onstage but offstage as well. But Nate just slotted in perfectly. He’s a really good lad. We all love him.

There’s a lot of anticipation around this release. Does that make you nervous at all?

No, we’re not nervous in the slightest. We’re just excited for people to hear it. We know what we’ve done. We’ve heard the album, we know how good it is, we’re so proud of it, and even if somebody turns around and says they don’t like it, we don’t care at all. We’re really proud of what we’ve made. That’s enough for us. Everything else is a bonus. But we’re quite confident that people are gonna like it, based on the singles that we’ve released so far. They’ve all gone down a storm, and my two favourite tracks on the album still aren’t out.

The K's - Lights Go Down (Official Video)

Which are the tracks that you’re most excited for people to hear?

‘Lights Go Down’ and ‘Throw It All Away’. ‘Lights Go Down’ is the best song we’ve ever written. It’s simple as that. I think everybody would agree with that. It’s different, but it’s better than we’ve ever written. ‘Throw It All Away’ isn’t going out as a single. One problem we’ve got with the album is all of us disagree on what should be singles, because we all feel that the album is so strong and they genuinely all could be singles. It was a toss-up between ‘Throw It All Away’ and ‘Black And Blue’, and ‘Black And Blue’ just edged it. It’s just a bit more radio friendly, that song.

So you feel like this is basically an album of singles?

Yeah, I would say so. There’s no skips on it. But obviously I’m biased. I’m sure the boys would agree with me. I think once it’s out there, people will understand why we’ve taken our time making this album. We’ve had offers before to make albums and stuff, and it never felt like the right time. Now we’ve got our new management on board, and we’ve been releasing music every couple of months for the past 18 months or so building up to this point now. We’re not nervous, but it’s more like anticipation. Once people hear the album, they’ll understand why we’re so excited about it.

It must be so nice to be able to have so much confidence in your work.

Yeah, I think it’s because we’ve got such a solid fan base as well of loyal fans that have supported us since the start, and we’ve come up through our live following. It’s no secret that we had no idea what we were doing, and we probably still don’t to an extent. But when we put a show on sale, it was selling out and people were watching us live, and we were building that and building that. We’ve played up and down the country, everywhere, to build this following for years. We just know what our fans like, we know what we like, we know what we want to make.

The K's - Sarajevo | Distiller TV Live From Neighbourhood Festival 2018

Were you surprised by how quickly and effectively you accumulated that live following?

Well we had an astronomical rise straight away, and then COVID hit and we had to build it back up, but we were building it back up from sort of halfway. We started off playing Jimmy’s in Manchester – we hadn’t even had a single out – and then we released ‘Sarajevo’ which did really well. We started selling all these venues out, we sold out the Ritz – we didn’t know anything else other than: put the show on sale and it’ll sell out. That was literally our experience of being in a band for the first year or two. And then COVID hit, and after that people were a lot more reserved when buying things, and obviously over the lockdown period we had to find different ways of engaging people because we couldn’t play live shows. We built our whole band on live shows and then we obviously couldn’t play, so we had to try and come up with different ways of engaging people. It was a good year after lockdowns were lifted before the live scene got back to normal. We had to build it again, and then – touch wood – it’s just gone from strength to strength.

The venue upgrades are massive. For example, we went from 450 or 500 at the Rescue Rooms to Rock City in Nottingham, which is 2000. This is why we’re so excited. Everything’s just pulling in the right direction. It just feels like the perfect time to release our album. We’re doing a tour of venues well bigger than we’ve ever played, and they’re all gonna sell out. We have to pinch ourselves sometimes. Rock City’s a big one for me. I remember when we started playing in Nottingham, everybody in the music scene talks about Rock City as this iconic venue. You always see tour buses outside. And now we’re headlining it. It all feels surreal.

Was there ever a moment in COVID where you guys were worried that this wouldn’t all be waiting on the other side?

Yeah, definitely. COVID just completely f*cked everyone over but I feel like the live music industry is the one that got hit hardest. And I’m sure there’s people in other industries that probably feel the same way. But so many venues closed down, and that’s still an ongoing issue with the grassroots venues. I think it’s going to be really difficult for up and coming bands if these venues don’t stay open. We’re lucky in the fact that we’d already built a foundation before that, but for future bands – not even just bands, any artist that isn’t backed by either a major label or has big funding and can just get on to big tours and stuff straightaway – it’s going to be really difficult for them, and they’re not going to get the same opportunities that we got and everybody else before us got. So it could change music massively.

But anyway, going back to lockdown, there were times where we just thought we were just gonna have to knock it on the head. We were talking with big record labels before it happened, and then afterwards, obviously, they have such a big backlog of stuff and everyone was like, “We’re not signing anyone now”. We were left in the lurch a little bit. Now we look back on that and think everything happens for a reason, because this is a perfect time for us to release our album and our debut wouldn’t have been half as good if we released it back then. We’re just a lot better as a band and as musicians. We might have gone the long way round – we were talking yesterday about how crazy it is that seven years ago, we played our first show at Sound Control – but we just can’t wait to get the album out now.

The K's - Heart On My Sleeve (Official Video)

It’s so interesting to hear from bands who started to see success just before lockdown. It’s always impressive when they’ve still managed to grow beyond that gigantic pause.

I think we’re one of the lucky ones. I think a few bands didn’t make it out the other side. Sometimes that’s just due to financial reasons, which is probably the case for a lot of them, because obviously people needed to find other ways to make money. Then once the lockdowns were lifted, you couldn’t just go back into the situation that you were in before because it probably took a good year for it to get back to normal. It really is a shame. Obviously, there were a lot of worse situations that happened than just not being a band anymore. But from my own point of view, it is a shame seeing your friends just knock it on the head because of that.

Your debut album is called I Wonder If The World Knows? How did you settle on that as the name of the album?

We were gonna tie it in and be clever, but I’ll just be open about it now. We had 15 songs for the album, I think. We’ve got more songs than that, obviously, but I mean the ones that we were properly considering. One of them was called ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ and I wrote it right at the end, just before we were recording the album. We really liked this song. But it became apparent as we were playing it as a full band properly in the studio that it just wasn’t ready. The song was more than good enough, and it’ll be on another album too. But it wasn’t ready. There’s a line in that song that says, “I wonder if the world knows that everything’s f*cked, so it’s pouring down again.” When that was on the album, we took the line from that song. Now it’s not even made onto the album but we all liked the title that much that we were like, we’re keeping it.

There’s a single from the album called ‘No Place Like Home’ that I wanted to talk about. Could you tell me a little bit about the story behind that song?

We love coming home, and we love where we’re from. It’s made us who we are. We all still live in the same place, and I think we will continue to live here. I don’t have any intention of leaving. But that song is basically about how even though we love being at home, and we love seeing all our friends from home, it’s not necessarily always the best thing for us in terms of mental and physical health. You just go out for one beer around here, and the next thing you know, it’s seven o’clock in the morning and you’re stood in somebody’s kitchen… it just escalates very quickly, and it’s all down to our own lack of self control. That’s essentially what the song’s about, that sort of dread the day after, when you wake up and you think, “For f*ck’s sake, I’ve done it again.” The chorus is like, “It’s everywhere that I go, it’s everything that I know, there’s no place like home.” Sometimes we can’t get away from those sorts of nights and the sorts of things that they entail. It’s not saying we don’t want to be back at home at all – we do love where we’re from. It’s just not necessarily the best thing for us.

The K's - No Place Like Home (Official Video)

Is it a weird duality when you’re home now, with the success that you’ve had? Does it ever feel jarring to be back in those familiar situations?

What it is for me – and I think the boys probably agree with this, because we live sort of mental lives being on tour, where we’re absolutely everywhere all the time, and we never get a minute and we’re constantly around loads of people – I think we actually live quite chilled lives when we’re at home. We like being at home, but we don’t go as mental as we used to. I think it just gets a bit too much when you’re touring so heavily. It’s just been winter when no one can be f*cked to do anything – I’m sure I won’t be saying this in summer when the sun’s out everyday. But we’ve learned the hard way through years of touring and just trying to burn the candle at both ends. Maybe we’re just f*cking getting boring, I don’t know.

I’ve not drunk in a few months because I’ve got other conditions, and after the heavy toll of last year and Christmas, I was feeling a bit sh*t, basically. I just thought, right, I’ll knock it on the head until after this tour, and then obviously it’s just been sh*t weather and I’ve not even struggled to not have a drink or anything for three months now. And then the sun was out last weekend… as soon as the sun’s out it gets a million times harder. During festival season I’ve got no open of not having a drink when I’m onstage.

Speaking of which, how are you feeling about heading back to Reading and Leeds this year?

I can’t wait. That was probably my favourite show we’ve ever played because it was just surreal. I remember just being in absolute awe when The Libertines got back together and I was watching it on BBC in a caravan with my mum and dad. They’re my favourite band ever, The Libertines. You see so many iconic performances on that stage. When Charlie, our agent, was like, “Oh, yeah, you’re doing the Reading and Leeds mainstage,” we were like, “What do you mean?!”. We did it and the turnout was massive – it was f*cking mental looking out and seeing people setting off flares to us at the biggest festival in the UK. (Bar Glasto, obviously). But doing it again… We do have to take a step back and think, “F*cking hell, we are doing well. Fair play to us”.

We never think about stuff like that. We never have. We never set milestones for ourselves – we just concentrate on smashing what’s in front of us. With this tour, our whole lives are focused on getting this right. We’ll just make sure that that’s right, and then the next thing just sort of falls into place. We never set goals, but sometimes you do have to take a step back and look at how far you’ve come. To us it’s just another step, but if you look at it in the grand scheme of things, the trajectory is crazy. Long may it continue. We f*cking love it.

The K’s are currently touring the UK and will play several festival dates this summer, including Reading and Leeds. Find tickets here.

I Wonder If The World Knows? is out now