With a herculean evening of music on the cards, Hastings hotshots Kid Kapichi were in jovial spirits as they sat down with The Mic for a discussion about the looming debut record (and virus), the Sussex music scene, and the rise of partisan punk in the austerity age.
Grotty, bashed-out garage-punk fuelled by the frustration and ennui that typifies a broken Britain; Kid Kapichi make music for the vexed and the voiceless, as well as those who might just enjoy a silky-sheer riff or two. Garnering plaudits from the likes of 6Music, NME, and Radio 1, whose Jack Saunders dubbed them ‘a force’, the past year has seen the Hastings up-and-comers stamp their name firmly onto the hide of the UK rock scene. So when plucky joint-lead vocalists Jack Wilson and Ben Beetham, along with drummer George MacDonald and bassist Eddie Lewis, brought their politically-singed punk to Nottingham’s Bodega last month, the atmosphere was palpable with the sense of a world well and truly put to rights.
A significant change in milieu from the soaring stages of support slots with the genre’s biggest, Kid Kapichi’s debut headline tour marked a sordid opportunity for the band to play by their own rules for the first time. “The main aim is to just get out there and see what and where the market is for us,” a bright-eyed Jack Wilson surmises, “it gives everyone the chance to see us doing our own thing and playing for more than twenty minutes.” “A lot of people have heard us on the radio or online but they’ve never seen us live,” Ben Beetham quips, resting a well-worn Doc Marten boot on his opposite knee, “so it’ll be nice to connect with some fans for the very first time.”
“The only good thing that’s come out of this s**t situation of the last ten years is the music” – Jack Wilson, Kid Kapichi
When asked how they planned to adjust their live show to accommodate these smaller stages, an air of reflection washed over the band before an affirmed Wilson concluded: “We don’t really adapt it honestly, we just do exactly what we would do on the big stages on the small.” “It’s just naturally more chaotic because you’ve got half the amount of room”, he grins, indicating over his shoulder at Bodega’s pint-sized loft. “I do like these little gigs when it’s a proper sweatbox,” adds MacDonald, a childish grin spreading across his face, “and you’re feeling the f*****g energy off everyone. It was great to have the Frank [Carter] tour last year and get a feel for how much energy we can have if there are no limitations, but it’s when you translate that on to these small stages that we feel a lot more at home.” The energy is unsurprising considering the ferocity of hits like Glitterati and Death Dips, which hail from the band’s 2019 EP, Sugar Tax. Much like the controversial Conservative legislation that inspired its title, the EP revels in a feeling of unhinged political disquiet and has cemented the band as a talisman of partisan punk before even they quite know it yet.
A more recent but equally ardent example of the band’s political penchant is the newest single, Thugs – a caustic commentary on Britain’s grotesque wealth divide told through the medium of squalling synthesizers and the kind of scuzzy riffery you’d expect from Kasabian or Queens of The Stone Age. With ‘riff raff’ tattooed brazenly across his knuckles, it was clear that lead singer Jack Wilson was no stranger to being tipped with a bad reputation. “The song’s a call-to-arms,” he surmises, “we’ve always tried to put out music that’s relevant to what’s going on”. Conceived in the austerity-era, with its flagrant deterioration of race relations and the rise of the National Front, and born into a punk genre dominated by IDLES and their vignettes of the forlorn proletariat, the Hastings troop were almost destined for a political temperament. “The only good thing that’s come out of this s**t situation of the last ten years is the music,” Wilson chuckles. “It’s bad really because whilst I was watching the general election and thinking ‘f**k I hope this doesn’t happen,’ at the same time, at least it’s provided us with some fuel and anger.”
Radiating a kind of infectious youthful energy even when dissecting society’s ills, the Hastings foursome bounced off one another like a pinball machine, finishing each other’s sentences and erupting periodically in animated laughter. “There’s a reason why sixteen, seventeen, eighteen-year-old kids are showing up to punk gigs again,” Beetham muses, “that hasn’t happened for a long time and I feel like we were doing that kind of thing as the problems started to get really vast.” “I’m not sure if it was a case of right place and right time, or the wrong place and the wrong time,” he continues: “Whatever way you wanna look at it, what’s going on has given us loads to talk about.” “You don’t really hear happy people writing good music”, Wilson concludes pithily, and the rest chuckle in bemused consensus.
Released in late February and anchored by a similar sense of underlying urban dread, the track’s music video bears the unclouded thoughts of its members with a scathing verve. Donning orange bomber jackets and distressed jeans, the video sees the band picked on by pompous locals as ‘thugs’, before being targeted by the local hunt. “You want a war, we’ll give you war” the track seethes as the band’s disgruntled drummer is rendered captive by the lord of the manor – played by comedian Steve Furst – before a battalion of indignant punks come to his rescue. “We just couldn’t believe that idea didn’t already exist,” chuckled MacDonald when asked about the video’s artistic inspiration, “it actually came up when we were writing 2019 but just didn’t seem to fit with that song.” Though a sense of incredible immediacy pervades much of the foursome’s social and sonic ethos, they are very aware of society’s ability to adapt and change, as well as their need as a band to evolve similarly.
‘The band express their reverence for [Frank] Carter’s ability to open dialogues as easily as he does pits during his live shows.’
“Sometimes you think of an idea and then in whatever way, a year later it becomes more relevant”, Beetham muses, “like that concept of a video wouldn’t have worked with 2019, but then a year later, this song [Thugs] came along and it just seemed to really translate the message.” “We’ve got old songs with lyrics written two years ago that are even more relevant now than they were when we wrote them”, Lewis adds, “like that one that’s like ‘everyone’s got this new disease’. In the age of the callous coronavirus pandemic, the 2017 debut EP relic Waster takes on a fresh and heightened significance whilst placing the band’s penchant for timeless lyricism on glorious show.
When the conversation tips to the debut record, however, the band’s philosophy very quickly shifts to one of invention and innovation. “We didn’t want to use too much old stuff,” Wilson testifies, “we wanted to go, well we’ve done that, here’s something fresh and new.” And the first fruits from the record, Thugs, along with the anti-establishment anthem Sardines, fulfill this criterion in colourful abundance. “We were just writing songs that we wanted to write,” he smiles, “one of us would say, ‘oh, I heard someone say this funny thing the other day and it made me think of this’, and then we’d write a whole song off the back of that.” “It was only when we pinned down a title that we realised all the tracks followed a similar theme,” George furthers, “and that they almost tied themselves together.”
The band exchange playful glances when asked if they have an album release date in mind – “the second half of this year,” Wilson begins with a coy grin. A pragmatic MacDonald quickly interjects, however, wary perhaps of making promises in a turbulent industry and climate: “We’ve got a date in mind but if it’s not right, we won’t bring it out. We’ll wait until it is. You only get one shot at a debut album,” he adds with a twinkle. With the band’s talk of waking up in a tour bus next to Frank Carter, supporting Kent punk paladins Slaves, and behemothian sets at last year’s Reading and Leeds festivals, it’s easy to forget that they are yet to even release an album.
“I think we’ve learned a lot of what to do, but also what not to do,” MacDonald replies when asked what they’ve learned from these experiences. “There’s a lot of bands you go on tour with and you think, that isn’t necessarily how I would’ve done it. But there are also bands like Frank Carter’s, where it’s a masterclass in how it can and should work.” Whilst the band are no stranger to being outspoken in their lyrics, they express their reverence for Carter’s ability to open dialogues as easily as he does pits during his live shows. “It’s easy to think, oh we’re all aware of that,” Wilson chides, “but there are dickheads who aren’t or people who actively go against it, and so what we’ve learned from him, is to proactively speak up about things we believe in.”
‘Kid Kapichi’s tracklist ties modern society to the tracks and floors the pedal, and its impossible not to dance on the wreckage.’
When asked whether they manage to detox from the kind of social concerns that plague their discography, MacDonald admits: “I think it’s near impossible to avoid.” “Where we come from in Hastings, it's a really poor town, a seaside town, and so whether we like it or not, our friends and family are directly affected by it; we’re directly affected by it.” Cutting their teeth at local legendary venue The Tubman as well as with regular appearances at local alt showcase Fat Tuesday festival, it is clear that the Hastings music scene is very much etched into the band’s foundations. “It’s the communities that suffer from the poorest social conditions or whatever else, that also find the best ways to escape,” Wilson explains, his demeanor shifting to one of musing and remaining there, even as he goes on to discuss the “insane partying and music” that pervades the band’s hometown. “That’s where people find their escape,” he concludes, “in a really strong sense of community.”
It’s clear by now that the band’s music isn’t just an escape for their fans, but for them too: “our holiday from that whole thing is this,” Beetham grins, gesturing to the bustling Bodega scene behind him, “coming on tour and just being able to play and go mental, and seeing other people going mental with us.” Whether it be an ode to the toxicity of machismo on Revolver, the rampant gluttony of celebrity culture on Glitterati, or 2019’s apoplectic assault on the austerity age, Kid Kapichi’s tracklist ties modern society to the tracks and floors the pedal, and it’s impossible not to dance on the wreckage.
With the debut record looking to be one of herculean proportions, Kid Kapichi seem set for a year of similar propensity. The band have struck gold with their bashed-out tales of a broken Britain that at once stoke and soak the fire; squalling synthesisers and sardonic libretto’s violently thrust society’s ills into listeners' social and sonic consciousness, whilst simultaneously offering them a vessel to escape such moral madness. Rest assured though, whatever society throws this way, you can count on Kid Kapichi to be ready with a slicing riff and a barrage of synths to turn it into your new favourite song.
Words by: Olivia Stock
Featured and in-article images courtesy of Kid Kapichi via Facebook.