Interview by Tracey Moyle – Music Maven Events
This week I had an absolutely amazing chat with Sunny Rowlands, lead vocalist of Australian rockers King Coyote, about their new single Coca Cola, their upcoming EP ‘Wild’ and got deep into the intricacies of producing an authentic rock sound in a genre that is hard to differentiate yourself in.
Sunny shares his secret formula to their very own sound, talks about playing with Aussie legends Grinspoon and gives us an insight into who makes up this talented group of rockers who call the mid north coast of NSW home.
Hi Sunny, thanks for talking to us at Good Call Live.
“My absolute pleasure, thanks for having me on. What’s happening?”
I just wanted to have a chat about the new EP ‘Wild”. It’s brilliant.
“You like it?”
I love it..
“Thank you. I’m glad you like it. That’s really cool.”
It reminds me of the kind of music that I’ve been listening to for years and always go back to…
“Hit me, hit me, what are you taking about, what does it remind you of?”
When I first heard the EP, although it’s been likened to having a Queens of the Stone Age vibe to it, it reminded me of really early Kings of Leon and The Black Keys.
“I love early Kings. Early Kings of Leon was so good. So good. Early Black Keys were good too, like ‘Rubber Factory’ is a wicked record.”
Those two bands really stood out to me when I heard you guys. And this might be a bit out there and I don’t know why but I get this real You Am I feel from you as well.
“Oh cool, that’s cool. Sweet. I love You Am I. I was actually watching some footage from their 1996, or 98 or whenever it was, Big Day Out performance the other day. Looked like absolute chaos man. Such a good band. You know how when you’re scrolling though Facebook and shit comes up, well a You Am I track came up from that Big Day Out and I was just like, holy smokes. I got to hang out with Davey Lane from You Am I when he came to Port when his band was supporting Wolfmother which was pretty cool, he was an absolute legend, a friend of a friend of mine and so shout out to You Am I.”
The other band I got from the first song on the EP Running Wild, the end vocals remind me of that Jim Morrison angsty cry at the end, do you know what I’m talking about?
“I ‘love’ the Lizard King. He’s a big inspiration of mine, I mean not lyrically but as an artist I love his voice, I love his persona on stage. I’ve got a portrait of him tattooed on my calf. I ’m a huge Jim Morrison fan.”
I totally hear The Doors in there…
“I get that a lot. I get that a fair bit. You know what, I’m not comparer of sound in as far as like for my own music. But I do it to other people all the time. Like when I see my mates band I’m like those guys sound like… blah blah blah But for my own, one of the big ones that stood out for me was, in that Running Wild song, at the end there, I hear so much – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.“
I love Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. They were another band that popped into my head. When I hear new music and straight away I think wow that’s amazing, it’s because it’s resonating with me the level of all the bands I’ve listened to and love over many years.
“Well you know that’s some pretty cool people to be rubbing shoulders with.”
I just call it as I hear it.
“We get a lot of people saying we sound like Jet live, throughout recording we get a lot of Queens of the Stone Age and it makes sense, my favourite record of all time is ‘Songs for the Deaf’ so it makes sense that I draw a lot of influence from Queens of the Stone Agebut you know hearing Jim Morrison, that’s you know….. What I’ve been getting lately from my vocals live, is people coming up to me saying ‘Oh my god, you sound so much like Billy Idol.’ Sweet, I love Billy Idol.“
That’s great, I can’t wait to hear you guys live.
“Yeah, come, come, bring all of your friends – everybody!”
I totally will. It’s my mission in life to get people back out to live music.
“That’s fantastic you’re doing the lords work.”
King Coyote have only been around for a few years but you are out there getting a great following from those who have seen you live. You’ve come from all over as band members. Can you give us a quick run down on who King Coyote are and how you came into this magical musical world?
“We’re a bit of a mismatch. Basically we reside in Port Macquarie, which makes it difficult in it’s own right, coming from a little regional town. It’s only got room for one or two types of music that’s everybody’s into. And most of the residents of Port Macquarie don’t leave home after 7.30 at night. (Laughs) So it makes it difficult at times but we do our best, we’ve started a scene here, we’re bringing a lot of touring acts here. We hope we’re doing the right thing. Most of them crash at my house with my partner and my kids. I’ve got Jimmy (James Buckley) – my lead guitarist, my right hand man, he’s from Newcastle. We’ve got Josh (Hall) – Josh is from Forster. I’m probably out of everyone, and why I’ve been led to the least artistic role as the singer…… (laughs) all the other guys are full on muso’s, have always been full on muso’s, will always be muso’s. Steve (Gerbhart/Stevie G) grew up in marching bands in LA in California, moved over to Australia, and you know, remained an avid drummer. Then we’ve got Mike (Montgomery-guitars), Mike’s the newest member of the band. Just an absolute SRV fanatic. He’s the youngest member of the band and he’s living the best life. We played 700 people on the weekend supporting Grinspoon, you know what I mean, he’s just living this epic life. Shout out to Grinspoon. And then I’m from Port Macquarie, I’ve been around everywhere but Port Macquarie, I came back here basically pissed at a mates jam shed, got on the microphone, sung and from there they were like you have to sing in a band. So since then I’ve continued to grow as a singer and songwriter and here we are. We haven’t really been a recording band as far as not that we haven’t wanted to but you know we’ve got some influences around us . Some pretty solid people in the Australian music industry that are close, you know what I mean and they’ve always been like hone your art, make sure if you are going to record something amazing that you can back it up live. Now you’ll see us about to pump out the music.”
That’s great and I saw that Michael Lynch (Jimmy Barnes, Midnight Oil, John Butler Trio) produced the album that pretty impressive.
“Yeah he produced the EP for us, he’s the un-sung hero of the band, he’s the sixth member of the band. We’ll stick with him until day dot I think.”
So the new single Coca Cola is out and the EP ‘Wild’ is officially released November 1st. You’ve got some touring to do still, Thirsty Merc coming up are you touring the new single locally as well?
“We’ve got a few shows locally. We’ve got a show next weekend, the 18th (October) at Finnian’s in Port Macquarie. It will be packed, always is. Locals night, they support the locals. We get to play with some cool friends of ours, Scuffs and Slippery Gypsees, the place will be packed which we are stoked about. We’re doing an acoustic show later in the month at Art of the Empire which is something different for us but we’ve requested to do it and the key note is that it shakes it up for us. Then we’ve got the show with Thirsty Merc. Apart from that we’ve been trying to shut the doors but we can’t, we’re not going to say no to an opportunity to support Thirsty Merc and it’s the 28th of December in our home town in a big beer garden, it will be crazy. We couldn’t say no to that but we’ve got our heads deeply, deeply into this record at the moment so that’s the plan. You’ll see us by the end of January if we get offered some cool stuff between now and then which I’m sure we will. First and foremost we’ve worked hard to release this EP then we’ll get straight back in and start recording a record.”
Would love to see you guys up in Brisbane.
“For sure, we just played Burleigh and Kingscliffe. We often play Brissy, we play with Port Royal up there. So we generally come up to Brissy when we’ve got something lined up with Port Royal. So look out for that, we’ll be up there for sure.”
Tell me, who would be your ideal tour partner? What band would you want to tour with or support? Maybe one Aussie band and overseas?
“For an Aussie act, I’m going to have to say Grinspoon for Australia. To support them on their whole ‘Chemical Hearts’ tour, I would have been so cool. I wish we were a year in front of where we are now as far as what we can pull for numbers. The Grinners are our vibe. The people at the Grinners show on the weekend absolutely loved it. Phil Jamieson is an absolute veteran though, watching him up there on the weekend. He had the flu, he was as crook as a dog, he stumbled off stage and could barely stand up and I heard people after the show saying, that’s the best I’ve ever seen Grinspoon and these people have been watching Grinspoon for 20 years. And they were running that hot that the PA was on fire and so the whole PA goes up on fire during the set and he’s just that much of a veteran that he just turns and goes, ‘Is there an emergency? I don’t know if there’s an emergency right now?’, and there were people running from everywhere with fire extinguishers and he just picked the acoustic up the band just stopped and he just started playing an acoustic, he did not skip a beat. Had that been me in that position, I would have just stood there like a deer in the head-lights. (laughs)”
I just thought of the line in Hilltop Hoods Nosebleed Section ‘If the roof is on fire it’s an electrical fault’
“(Laughs) Hey yeah, that it.
So Grinners for an Australian act, they’re still so relevant as a touring band. I watch a lot of bands man and they still kick arse. And as far as an overseas act I reckon Arctic Monkeys, that would be super sick man, ‘AM’ is probably my favourite record of the last decade. And Queens of the Stone Age, I mean Josh Homme was a big part of that record so Queens of the Stone Age are just one of my all time faves and just an incredible touring band. I’ve watched them every time they come. But that’s only me, I’m only speaking as Sunny, not King Coyote because I know the rest of the guys in the band have very different opinions on who they’d like to tour with.”
That’s great and that’s what give you that King Coyote feel, you’re bringing in the influence from every band member not just you so that’s what gives you your own authentic sound.
“That’s it. It’s very hard to be in an authentic rock n roll band. It’s very difficult to be original in rock n roll. I’ve been having a conversation with a really good mate of mine who was in sick bands back in the day, you know, its really difficult. Everybody is thinking you’re copying, like this has been done before, well our formula is get five people who have absolutely no connection just as far as the only thing that ties them together is rock n roll. Five people who have influences from the furthest direction from rock n roll you can get, like, we’ve got Josh – The Black Angels and The Dandy Warhol’s and that style of rock n roll. Then you’ve got Jimmy who’s into Airbourne and Iron Maiden and epic glam rock side of things and then you’ve got Mike, the young guy and he’s into all the classics you know what I mean, but he listens to Alice in Chains and hes a big Soundgarden fan but he’s into heavy riff kinda stuff and then me and Steve are really close we’re probably the only two that are on the same wave length. I love all those styles of music, I love the rock n roll genre as a whole. And Steve’s very similar. And I love Black Rebel man. I love Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.“
I absolutely love your song Diamonds, the last song on ‘Wild’.
“Really? I love Diamonds too.”
Its got a great feel to it. It’s one of those songs you could listen to sitting back chilling, or crank it at a party or just driving around. It’s brilliant.
“I tell you what, the formula our band has always gone by and it’s always been my thing that I bought to the band from day one, all my favourite songs have it, well not all but most, and it’s something a lot of bands skip over, they don’t take it into account enough and its contrast. So the contrast, whether it be between verses and chorus, the contrast lyrically, the contrast between how you sing your vocals, you’re whispering during the verses then your screaming your head off during the chorus. I think that contrast adds, like a theatrical element to it. People get more absorbed into the song. They give more to the song because they’re waiting for something to happen. So if I start the song off and I’m whispering through the vocal track and then ‘boom’ the chorus comes in and it’s a big staccato chorus like in Diamonds, and then I’m projecting my voice a lot for it, so people, you know, they’re waiting for that, it’s drawing them in. They’re white knuckling on the seat during the chorus and they can relax during the verses. I think it creates more of a ………. It’s not background music. If your song’s got those elements I don’t think your song gets stuck in the background while people are cleaning the house.”
Yeah, because what people are doing is kind of riding that wave of emotion that goes through the songs.
“Exactly, man. And I think contrast is a big part of that. You know if I just hammered you for 15 minutes straight with hectic vocals and just crazy riffs it’s all good but how long can you listen to that for. Arctic Monkeys’ ‘AM’ – perfect example. The contrast in that record – it’s a masterpiece that record, honestly, I don’t know who the fuck planted whatever it is, into that band but that record is incredible. I’ve spent a lot of time on that record man.”
Bands from the Grunge era did a lot of that, but if you go back to the Pixies they are known for that light and dark sounds. You kind of ride it and you know it’s coming.
“It’s little emotional triggers man. I reckon they’re a big part of song writing. Trying to song write, trying to get the message across to someone, or you’ve got something to say. You want people to be involved in it, you want them to be absorbed in it and you can get across what you want to get across.”
You want them to feel it…
“Exactly, if you just run the same shit through the theme the whole time to people after a couple of songs all the rest of your stuff is just going to get lost in transition. Like it just gets washed, you know what I mean? I think there’s a fine line. I think contrast is a really good method. And that’s just my opinion.”
King Coyote’s latest single Coca Cola is out now, stream it on Soundcloud and Spotify. The new EP ‘Wild’ will be realised on November 1st. Keep an eye on King Coyote’s Facebook page for all upcoming events.