British sibling trio Kitty, Daisy & Lewis are discussing why their fourth album “Superscope” is their most upbeat yet. “I think you just get bored of moaning all the time, don’t you?” says Daisy, 29. “Going on about love and ‘poor old me,’ that kind of thing can get boring.”
“S—- happens,” laughs Kitty, 24, “Get on with it.”
We’re sat in Kitty, Daisy and Lewis Durham’s refurbished home studio, a cramped space disguised along a busy road in north London. Four years ago it was an Indian restaurant: Today it is cluttered with vintage instruments and analog equipment (not to mention an excitable greyhound). It was built with the same spirit that runs through Kitty, Daisy and Lewis’ music: Take something old and familiar — in their case the very roots of rock ‘n’ roll, blues, ska and soul — and turn it into something of their own. “We get the retro thing a lot,” says Lewis (27). “But we’re not just looking to the past.”
The Durhams come from musical stock. Their father Graeme was a sound engineer, while their mother, Ingrid Weiss, was the drummer in uncompromising ’80s post-punkers The Raincoats. “She didn’t sit us down and tell us stories about the old days,” says Daisy. “There was just an old Raincoats CD in the house that we used to laugh at. It wasn’t until years later when people would interview us and say ‘your mum was in this really cool band.'”
“She put it on once,” says Lewis, “and we just said this is s—-! Put The Kinks on.”
The siblings, all multi-instrumentalists and vocalists, picked up piano, guitar and tambourine as toddlers. “We learned songs because our dad would play at home for fun,” says Lewis. “Slowly, we just went ‘let’s do that.’ It was very natural.”
Performances at school and local pubs evolved into a full project. “I think the first proper gig was in 2000,” says Lewis. They were still teens when their 2008 self-titled debut was released. Like its followup, “Smoking in Heaven,” it was recorded at their parents’ house in minimal circumstances. By contrast, “Superscope’s” predecessor “The Third” was produced by Mick Jones of The Clash.
“It was an interesting experience to have someone else there who isn’t usually there,” says Kitty. “It wasn’t wrong or right,” says Lewis. “He was just there and it happened.” For “Superscope,” they went back to working alone. “We knew exactly what we wanted,” says Lewis, “and we just wanted to get on with it.”
The writing process didn’t change — “We write individually, get into the studio and show and tell” says Kitty — but the songs coalesced into a vibrant whole to make a positive, good-time rock ‘n’ roll record. It came together quickly, in part due to Daisy, heavily pregnant, being absent for the album’s completion. “I got my bits done first because it got too hard in the end. The gigs were the worst. I’d come off stage and burst out crying,” she says.
Baby Ivy was in the studio when I arrived. “She has rhythm! She sits in rehearsals with her noise headphones on banging on a tambourine and hitting drumsticks,” says Daisy. The fourth member of the band? “It’s going to happen,” she laughs. “The kids are going to take over.”
That’s some way off; perhaps just as well given life on the road can be testing. “There are difficult moments, as there are in most bands,” admits Daisy. “But because we’re a family, we put up with it and carry on.”
“If you fall out, just have a cup of tea and chill out,” says Kitty. “Soundchecks and rehearsals are the main times, people storming out and coming back 10 minutes later.”
Quarrels aside, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis can’t wait for their return to “crazy, friendly, fun” Japan. Just as long as they can work out how to use the bathroom.
“I still have trouble sorting out the toilets — all the buttons with music notes? I get confused,” says Daisy, laughing. “You know the fake flush? The first time I went I couldn’t work out how to turn it off. I thought it was the flush, so it was going for ages and it was really loud! I just had to get out of there. Hopefully I can work it out this time.”
Kitty, Daisy & Lewis will play at Shibuya Club Quattro on Jan. 22, 23. For more information, visit www.club-quattro.com/shibuya
Western bands are stepping out in Japan
The return of Gorillaz (www. gorillazjapantour.com/en) is the highlight of 2018’s burgeoning gig calendar as Western artists begin to plan their trips to Japan in earnest. Damon Albarn’s evolving, genre-hopping collective are in the midst of their most successful tour — billed as “a party for the end of the world” — and their show at Makuhari Messe Event Hall in June is unmissable.
Elsewhere, there is an eclectic array of artists heading east. Singer-songwriters are well represented: quirky Pitchfork favorite Mac DeMarco brings his surprisingly raucous live show to Tokyo’s Liquid Room (www.liquidroom.net) this week, a few days before Julien Baker plays her inaugural show at WWW (www-shibuya.jp/index.html) Last year’s second album “Turn Out the Lights” was full of beautiful, emotionally wrought songs. Grammy nominated Father John Misty’s pseudo-folk rock comes charismatically alive on stage at Umeda Club Quattro in Osaka and Tsutaya O-East in Tokyo: His first ever Japanese headline tour, this is a must see (smash-jpn.com/live/?id=2775).
The xx (thexx.info/tour )return having undergone a quiet revolution, adding color to their monochromatic foundations. The Mercury Prize winners now boast a fully developed live show that turns their minimalist stylings into maximum fun. Gallic cool is promised from both debonair eletro-poppers Phoenix (www.creativeman.co.jp/event/phoenix2018) and fellow Parisian Charlotte Gainsbourg (www.creativeman.co.jp/event/c_gainsbourg), whose first ever headline shows in the country come off the back of her best album to date, “Rest.”
For the poptimists, a One Direction face-off is the stuff of dreams: Niall Horan (www.niallhoran.com/live) arrives in June, but not before Harry Styles (hstyles.co.uk/tour) returns for the second time in six months in support of his actually pretty good self-titled solo album.
Eight-strong international pop magpies Superorganism (smash-jpn.com/live/?id=2816) were one of 2017’s buzz bands thanks to some infectious Avalanches-style cut-and-paste pop. See what the hype is about at their one-off February show.