South African instrumental act Kings Of Improg, will be continuing onward with their success of gaining fans far and wide, releasing their debut album "Henosis", as well as playing shows and making more music for all to take in. Guitarist/bassist Lloyd Mckeen discusses the band and their album as well.
1. Where did you get the idea for the band name, you planned it or came out just like that?
Lloyd: One of our friends Rogan who used to frequent the early jam sessions at Byron's house, came up with the moniker to describe the improv jam sessions that were taking place i.e, the Kings of Improv. The acronym KOI had a nice ring to it, was short and concise and when we decided to officially go forth as a band beyond the monthly jam sessions, we decided to stick with it, only to change it slightly in 2015 to the Kings of Improg, with a hint to the style of music we play.
2. Why did you want to play this genre?
Lloyd: We didn't choose necessarily to play this kind of music, it wasn't a conscious decision really, but when the four of us got together, this is what came out and what transpired from those initial sessions, so the progressive instrumental sound just sort of developed quite naturally due to the combination of the various members playing styles and backgrounds from previous bands.
3. Did you know each other before the band was formed?
Lloyd: We did know each very well, which was the reason for Byron inviting us around for some impromptu jams sessions at his place from time to time. All hailing form the east rand of Johannesburg, specifically Benoni and Brakpan. Stefan (KOI's first drummer) and myself (LLoyd) were friends from primary school. Stefan, Byron and Chad attended the same high school, although Chad being younger, him and Byron would only become friends years later during their studies at the Academy of Sound Engineering together. Byron, Stefan and myself were all friends from High school days, and subsequently myself and Chad became friends through mutual Beoni friends just before the KOI jam sessions started. So we all knew each other before the band started yes. And when Stefan left late in 2014, Slade joined months later, whom we met him through mutual friends from another Benoni band Strait Jackal. Slade having his roots in Benoni too was a perfect fit to the KOI sound and culture we had already as a Benoni band.
4. Who or what inspires you to play the music that you do?
Lloyd: We inspire each other I think. We enjoy playing together and composing together, we love nothing more than to get together and play music for hours on end with each other. We push each other and motivate each other to push neyond our boundaries and create songs that we enjoy listening to and playing. We have varying interests in music but share many common threads, from old school pioneers like Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd, to more recent (I'm using the term recent very filppantly here - basically beyond the 70's and 80's :p progressive rock and metal bands such as Tool, Karnivool, Opeth and Mastodon to name but a few.
5. Which topics or themes does your music compose of would you say?
Lloyd: We see our music as a journey and outpouring of our experiences and observations of everyday life. Disparate themes such as joy and despair, mindfulness and insanity, elation and depression, life and death, spritual awakening vs the narrow mindededness of followers of the status quo, all find their way into the themes of dark and light we explore within the songs, between the songs and the live character that comes through in our performances. We try and embody all these conflicting narratives and explore where and how they fit into our musical themes.
6. "Henosis" is your debut album, which has been out for a while, do you have anything new in the works?
Lloyd: We are busy writing new material for a follow up album, which ideally we would like to start recording in the second half of the year, hopefully, mixed, mastered and ready for release by early next year.
7. When writing and recording for this debut album, was there loads of pressure on you as a band just because it is your debut album?
Lloyd: I think if there was pressure, it was from ourselves. We are all extreme perfectionists and if anything, our own worst critics. I think being such a niche genre we find ourselves in there wasn't any sort of specific expectation from us, people watched us and enjoyed the live shows for years before the release and if they got even a hint of that on the album I think they would have been well satisfied with what we were able to achieve on our debut album. The pressure outside of the four core members of KOI I don't think was too bad, more just our own internal pressures to ensure we were 100% happy with what we were sending out into the world.
8. How did the signing with Plug Music Agency take place?
Lloyd: Warren from Plug Music Agency put up a post on Facebook wanting to know about new bands on the scene looking to promote themselves. I think we left a comment mentioning KOI, he got a hold of us, and after a Skype meeting at our first band practice of 2018, he expressed his keen interest in us and our music and his desire to work with us and help promote and market our album. After the chat we decided we needed some PR help, we'd reached the ceiling of our own connections within the industry, locally and abroad, and we could use a push in the right direction to help get the Henosis album to the right ears. So having him on board is a huge asset.
9. "Levitation" was made into a video but was not included on the album, just as a stand alone single turned video release, why?
Lloyd: The album was already recorded, mixed, mastered and released by the time we got the opportunity to do a video. Levitation was our latest new track that didn't make it onto the album due to the fact it was only a work in progress at the time, but subsequently it had become a staple in our set for our live shows and so when the choice had to be made of which song to do for a Live in studio video, we decided on Levitation as we had no recording of it, and we wanted to record and showcase that track for people who hadn't been to one of our shows or couldn't see us live due to geographical constraints. We will record the track again for our next album.
10. What else do you have lined-up for this year that we can expect from you?
Lloyd: We are getting onto the festival circuit this year, playing the Misty waters festival in Secunda, South Africa in April, pushing to get onto the bill for other festivals as well. We have a big prog show lined up for June with fellow South African Prog bands at Rumours Rock City in Joburg, details still to be confirmed. As mentioned we are hard at work in the middle of writing new songs for the next KOI release, so that is where all our focus is at the moment. We are pushing our music abroad to help grow our audience and hopefully get some more traction world wide and international listener-ship, and ideally get the opportunity to play on some international stages.