The Nottingham trio Kagoule first gained critical acclaim as an honest, fresh reflection on the spirit of punk and grunge when they were just 17. Still barely legal in the United States, where the band recently played their first international shows, I spoke with guitarist and principle songwriter Cai about being an energetic new voice in the big world of mainstream music.
The Student: Hi Cai. First off, tell me about the last time you played in Edinburgh?
Cai – Yeah, once, we played Sneaky Pete’s. We ended having so much fun. I think it was the most dancing people have ever done [at a show of ours]. We’ve got a quite a good opinion of Edinburgh at the moment… Looking forward to playing Sneaky’s again, that’ll be wicked.
Kagoule has been called the best band in Nottingham by the press; who is better?
There’s definitely lots of better bands. A bunch a bands from 15 years ago showed us all the music we like to at the moment… Dischord records. Every time I see them they show me a new band that influences me. Cagumaza, Grey Hairs, there’s a band called Bob Tilton that were really influential. The good thing about Nottingham is every band that’s coming out is of a different genre. There’s not a certain sound, so you could easily be the, “best in Nottingham” doing your own thing, because you’re probably the only person in Nottingham doing that sort of thing.
Have cassettes come to be a big part of the Nottingham scene in the same way the’ve been taken up in Glasgow and the US?
Yeah, loads of it, man. The place we practice, JT Soar, in my opinion the best, nicest DIY venue in Nottingham, they sell a bunch of bands’ cassettes and 7”s that gets pressed in editions of like 20. I think it’s awesome. It’s something I prefer to buy off a band as well – something they’ve worked hard to make – rather than going to Rough Trade and getting a CD. It’s good they take it into their own hands.
What’s the best DIY show you’ve played?
Like four years ago, when we were just starting, a couple friends put on a night in a warehouse that just opened and they called the night, “Ham.” I remember for a DIY show, the amount of effort put in to it – proper lighting rig and everything with no funding or promoter – makes it one of the biggest shows we’ve ever played. Just done by some friends in a warehouse. We used to put on shows called “Clomp,” where’d we get a couple friends’ bands to play, and we set up in the middle of the room, with the crowd in a circle around the band. In the round. Those were always really fun. It’s very easy to set up your own show in Nottingham.
Let’s tackle social media. Do you think Twitter is a boon or bane for artists, considering the situation Ten Walls got into?
It’s sort of cemented in history, isn’t it? Everything you do or say can be brought back up and used against you at any time. Right now, in the kind of world we live in, it’s pretty essential. There’s obviously the whole, cool, “I’m gonna stay off social media” thing, and we’d love to be like that. If anything, social media is the biggest chore of being in a band. Constantly people on your back like, “post this! Share this! This promoter wants this up!” It’s shit. But in this kind of day you have to use it for statistics and stuff. It’s really awful how much is based on social media stats. One of the most disgusting things I found out about music: bands won’t make festivals because they don’t have enough, “daily views” on facebook or something. They’re not looking at the band, they’re looking at some numbers. I think it’s the worst way to go about [the industry]. But we have to use it, so we just try to take the piss out of it. There’s nothing worse than the huge social media posts that some bands do. It gets rid of all the mystery.
So would it be fair to say you’ve gone through some rude awakenings, entering the music industry and signing to a major label?
God, yeah. It’s the things that we thought were non-essentials… we thought you could just write good music and that would be enough. But you need an “angle” and all that. It’s a game, and there’s a way to do it. And it’s kind of a shock when you’re first introduced to it. Earache are good in the sense that they don’t force us to do a lot of the things major label bands have to do. We have a lot of creative control. We can play it our way, so it’s not too bad really. I think metal bands stand up for themselves more. I don’t know if that’s a massive assumption… but they’re used to people saying “no,” so they’re used to being stood up to. It’s a better relationship, not so one- sided.
If you could be any kind of Haribo candy, what would you be?
The little white, jelly men in the Starmix. Are they grapefruit flavored? I think they’re great.