A couple of hours before their show at the Bodega, I sat down with King Nun singer/guitarist Theo to talk about their ‘punk love songs’, ‘sending out an honest message’ and his mysterious connection with the number ‘57’.
19.11.18, 17:45, Bodega Social Club.
‘Why don’t we do love with a punk element? There must be a way to do a violent, twisted, cathartic version of a love song. So we did five of those,’ Theo recalls this epiphany when asked about his band’s latest EP, ‘I Have Love’. His passion and excitement are instantly evident, he’s charismatic and infatuated with William Burroughs’ beat poetry; he’s also a huge fan of R.E.M lead singer Michael Stipe.
Theo asserts that their latest EP is thoroughly conceptual, ’we’re not using love in a romantic way,’ he continues ‘it’s about a love for our audience … or a love for the way the world functions despite how completely fucked it appears to be right now.’ Theo exuberates this love, he’s ambitious yet grounded and he bleeds youthful hunger and drive.
His unmistakable but admirable honesty is something which flows into the band’s songs, emblazoned with emotions ranging from rage to confusion. And as conversation shifts to songwriting and sending out messages, we find ourselves talking about the EP’s penultimate song “Greasy Hotel”, according to Theo ‘very much a folk song’. Not what you’d expect from a punk band.
The song was written in response to Theo hearing of a groping incident that occurred at one of their shows. After his initial anger and disbelief, he made use of his lyrical imagery to radiate a unifying, progressive message and to cement the band’s ‘anti-dickhead stance.’ Thus, enabling “Greasy Hotel” and the ‘feminist sympathetic’ message that it delivers to become symbiotic with King Nun as an entity – ‘that is intrinsic to us as performers … it’s why the EP is called ‘I Have Love.’ ‘Take your hands off of her, it’s not your world to pervert’ is the unforgiving refrain of Greasy Hotel’s chorus.
King Nun really do have something to say, Theo assures me, ‘we’re not doing this because we want to be in a band necessarily, we’re doing this because there’s something that has to be projected.’ He jokes that if he wasn’t in a band, he might be a circus act, trying to convey a different type of message. But notably, he acknowledges that sometimes he doesn’t even know what he’s trying to say. He’s conveying the emotions that evade words, that escape description, but ones that are real and universal, ‘there’s this wordless message that has to come through the songs,’ he adds. Theo pinpointed the embracing of this honest approach, free from ‘basic clichés’ and ‘genres,’ as the moment when King Nun found their direction, their purpose. He recalls learning ‘how to write a song depending on what you want to say and not based on a genre’ and it’s this honesty which sets King Nun, and indeed all great artists, apart from the pack.
At this point, the conversation is interrupted by King Nun’s tour manager showing Theo a bottle of cough syrup, to which he responds with gratitude and amusement. Given Theo’s ruthless, stunning vocal performances, it doesn’t surprise me to learn that he’s suffering from a sore throat.
‘We write incredibly quickly, we’re all very hyperactive’ continues Theo, springing forward from his seat. He talks to me about the unusual writing methods used by the band. For example, in creating the EP’s opening (and my personal favourite) song, “Heavenly She Comes”, Theo would take a dictionary and a poetry book and stick random passages together in order to create a message gifted by ‘fate’. But somehow, this crazy approach works. I can’t think of many artists who could successfully write a song containing 57 ‘yeah’s’ while also conveying a message which is honest and unique to each listener.
The most beautiful thing about music, and all art, is its ability to affect different people in different, personalised ways and Theo concedes ‘I wanted to create a love that even I couldn’t decipher.’ Theo implies that his own relationship with these songs is also a journey, even if at first, he might struggle to understand his own message, he wistfully suggests that ‘it will all become clear in retrospect.’ This coalescence between Theo’s emotions and the messages exhibited through King Nun’s songs is something which he finds difficult to verbalise, a perplexity that’s encapsulated in song.
King Nun’s songs certainly succeed in generating the desired cathartic hit, but this is never at the expense of a sincere message. They’re a band who know what they’re trying to do. Their songs are colossal, with rambunctious guitar solos that will turn your brain into a crushed Wotsit and your blood into tomato ketchup. Theo Polyzoides is vehemently delivering important, honest messages through the medium of punk rock and he along with Caius Stockley-Young, Nathan Gane and James Upton are transmitting this passion, while ‘doing something that we love with all our hearts.’
Photo credit: Peter Hannah