When it comes to Christmas albums, it’s rare to see an Australian artist get on board. Maybe it’s because of the disconnect between songs about snow falling outside the window while an open fire roars, and carollers bring joy to all in need of some seasonal cheer. Or maybe it’s because Melbourne’s Kingswood are an equally rare breed.
Just last week, the Victorian quartet revealed that they’ve got another album up their sleeves for 2020, with A Kingswood Christmas set to arrive in late November. Their third album of the year (following on from March’s Juveniles, and the reimagined version of the latter, Reveries), the record is also their first themed release, and first collection of covers.
Between seasonal classics such as “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”, “Winter Wonderland”, and “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”, the acclaimed group venture into the previously-uncharted territories of jazz and crooning to deliver a record full of the same sort of music that soundtracked their festive seasons for decades.
“With a deep love of the many and varied Jazz-eras and the show-tune stylings of big bands that shaped American and furthermore, western global musical trends for some decades, our fascinations with the classic inspired interpretations on Christmas standards have long been celebrated throughout the years of Kingswood,” the group explained in a statement.
Furthering the traditional theme of giving back on Christmas, the Kingswood lads also announced that all proceeds from their new record will be donated to Beyond Blue and the organisation’s Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service.
To gain a bit more insight into their decision to create a Christmas album, and how their partnership with Beyond Blue came to be, Kingswood vocalist Fergus Linacre chatted to Rolling Stone to explain how a record such as this came to be.
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What was it that told you it was time for a Christmas record?
It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do, and joked about it for years. We started recording some tracks last year, and we had our own album – Juveniles – coming out in March, so we only had a few tracks recorded, so we just kind of sat on it. Then this year, we just thought, “Well, we have to use the time and finally do the Christmas album.” So we got together and had a lot of fun, and now it’s happening – we’re putting out our jazz Christmas album. So we’re pretty pumped.
I’m assuming then that you all would have long been fans of Christmas songs?
Absolutely. Even in the middle of the year, in the tour bus, we’ll play Christmas albums all the time. We just love that music and the feeling that it gives you. Some people ask, “Is it a rock Christmas album?”, and we’re not a fan of breaking tradition too much when it comes to Christmas music; it has a feeling and an aura about it. So we just wanted to honour it and do our own versions.
In much the same way that Reveries was a bit different to Juveniles, so too is this one a bit different to the traditional Kingswood sound. Has it felt liberating to expand the palette a little bit more?
I think you’ve nailed it, and I was talking to Al [Laska] an hour ago about what’s next for the band, and we do feel very liberated in the sense that we can do anything. We’re not a band that is stuck in one genre. The second album [2017’s After Hours, Close to Dawn] was drastically different to the first [2015’s Microscopic Wars], and then the last two we put out were very different. So we do really feel like we can do anything, and we have a lot of songs written.
We were just talking about getting together and playing each other the songs that we have – it might be a country album, it could be an electro album, it could be anything. So we do feel like Kingswood that is becoming a band that is multi-genre, and that is something that we’ve always wanted.
I guess we’ll have to look out for the Kingswood black metal album in the near future then, eh?
A thrash album is definitely on the cards, don’t you worry about that.
Are there any particular Christmas albums you’re a fan of, or even looked to for reference during this record?
Definitely. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby records we really love, we think that they’re the bee’s knees when it comes to Christmas. Ella Fitzgerald does a beautiful album that we… It’s a bit more complex and we leant on her when we tackled songs like “Sleigh Ride”.
Ella Fitzgerald is my favourite singer of all time, and I’m well aware of how technically good she is. But when we were listening to her version of “Sleigh Ride” and I was trying to sing it, I was like, “Geez, there’s a lot of things going on here.” She makes it sound easy, but really she’s a very talented, complex singer.
There are Christmas albums like, The Beach Boys, which is a more modern – let’s call it modern – one that I think is really good, and look, you knock [Michael] Bublé too much, he does a great job of Christmas music, no doubt about it.
We do want to try and remind everyone that Bublé’s Christmas album, which does go to number one every year, is ten years old, and it’s about time that we got behind an Australian Christmas album and raised some money for a good cause.
There are quite few Australian Christmas songs, though that might be due to the fact that traditional songs portray a different experience to what we have here. But do you really think the content of the song matters, or is it more the feeling and meaning it sort of portrays?
Yeah, I think you’ve got to be a little bit mad to want to put a Christmas record out. It’s going to confuse your brand, I guess, which is why a lot of people maybe don’t do it – despite a desire to perhaps make a Christmas record.
But I think we’re at a point now where fans know us, I guess on a personal level, and know that we’re a little bit wacky and know that we don’t really care anymore about being put in a box, or what people think of us if we take a big shift in sonics or anything like that.
So yeah, I think putting out a Kingswood Christmas album is just a bit of fun, and for a good cause, and just trying to put a bit of cheer into what has been a tough year for a lot of people.
You did allude to one of the biggest aspects of all of this, which is the fact that all of the proceeds are going towards Beyond Blue. What can you tell us about that partnership?
I think we decided earlier this year that we did want to go towards… Firstly we wanted to make a charity record. We didn’t think that it was in the spirit to put a record out and just try to make money off it it. There’s something synonymous about Christmas and the idea of giving back. We wanted to go down the avenue of mental health because it’s an issue that’s quite prevalent within the music industry, but also amongst our friendship groups, and experiences that we’ve had going through life.
It’s always something that we’ve tried to help out with for different charities throughout our careers. We consulted a lot of friends in the sector because it is a big decision to try and decide what charity you’re going to align with. So we didn’t take that decision lightly, we did some research and felt that Beyond Blue do a lot of work, and they do a lot of work for everyone – they’re not age-specific or just looking after a certain group of the community.
There are a lot of charities that do just focus on certain things, but we felt that Beyond Blue have a broader window in terms of who they target their support towards. And they also have a specific Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing [Support] Service, so we thought that was an appropriate direction in which to help out.
You mentioned supporting charities in the past, but had you ever done something like this with donating proceeds from an album?
No, I mean, we’ve done things like where we’ve donated all our merch sales to bushfire relief, and we’ve done some tours with Headspace, or helped out different charities and causes as we go along, but certainly nothing to this level. So it’s a new thing for us, and hopefully it does well and raises some awareness and funds.
The new album also arrives on the same day as a run of shows that you have planned for Melbourne. Tickets aren’t on sale yet due to some COVID caution, but what can you tell us about your live return?
It’s all looking like it’s going ahead, and we are pretty thrilled to be playing some shows again. I’m pretty excited about it because it’s three nights, two shows a night. It’ll kind of feel like we’re in a theatre production. Y’know, you’ve got the early show, you have a little break, and then you come back and do the second show, and also being in the same venue every night.
We’re pretty excited, and we’re also pumped it’s going to be so intimate – it’s only going to be about 40 or 50 tickets. I look forward to that; being able to have a chat with the crowd, and to do a lot of different songs from our catalogue in the style of Reveries. Yeah, it’s a great project that we’re very much looking forward to, and hopefully we can tour that show in the future as well.
Was it planned to coincide with the release of the new Christmas album as well?
It wasn’t really planned that way, but we may play a Christmas song at these shows, but really it’s the shows that are aligned with Reveries. And it just sort of fell that they got pushed to this point, and that it’s the day that the Christmas album comes out. I think we’ll… We must, in the spirit of things, do a Christmas song for an encore or something like that. Why not?
Kingswood’s A Kingswood Christmas will be released on November 27th, with pre-orders available now.