King Nun – Interview

We recently met up with singer Theo from King Nun to find out how everything was going out in their neck of the woods. We chatted about their new tracks and their upcoming tour, and we highly recommend our readers catch them on that tour!

By Jane Howkins

You’ve recently released three new tracks: Chinese Medicine; Family Portrait and Greasy Hotel. What can you tell us about those, and how did you decide on the titles? And speaking of titles, where did the name of the band come from?

I named Chinese Medicine after a Chinese Medicine centre across the street from the Radio X studio where we were taping a session. The neon flashing of the sign, various printout proofs of legitimacy in the window, and what I knew about the study of it all suddenly rhymed with something I’d been writing. I’d been writing a poem-ish thing about something in my life that had transpired a week earlier; for whatever reason, I knew that the name Chinese Medicine, and that shop front, could be the narrative frame I needed to inspire me to turn the writing into something lyrical. A few days later we wrote the instrumentals based on a bass line our bassist Nathan had written. Everything fit together on its own.

The name Family Portrait came about when I felt something melancholy come off the song. The song itself is about being there for family, whoever those people may be, despite a personal expense. I saw an old-fashioned symbol of togetherness, of order, I thought of a family portrait. The title came out of nowhere, but it fit what I was feeling and so it stuck.

The words for Greasy Hotel are based on how I felt the morning after finding out a girl had been groped at one of our shows. I was trying to use uncomfortable imagery to set the stage for the message in the chorus, as well as to help me, and whoever might listen to the words, understand the feelings of the girl there that night. In creating somewhere gross to trap my characters and let all my imagery take place I came up with the Greasy Hotel. This name was constructed before the song took shape and would serve as the basis for how it would play out.

Here are three ways that song names can pop up. Sometimes you find them and they fix onto something you were working on; sometimes they find you and fix onto something you were working on; and sometimes they come and you construct them with the song. It’s hard to pin it down any more than that because I don’t like to think about how these things happen. Half of creating for us is letting it happen and giving it what we have. The name King Nun came about through all these means I think, we’re very lucky for it.

How do you decide on whether a song is worthy of single status or not?

If the song has a good beat, a catchy melody and something wider that we feel we need to give – that will guarantee it.

You’re releasing the I Have Love EP in November; do you have any plans for a full-length release? I’m sure your fans would love to hear a full album from you!

Thank you, I’d hope so. We’re definitely moving in that direction faster and faster by the day.

You’re embarking on a UK tour in November – are you excited? Do you get nervous still, or is it more excitement at this point?

We’re very excited. It’s our first headline tour and we’re looking forward to giving people this show. Nerves are a strange thing. I’m always excited to perform, always. Though early on, even in the relative privacy of our first recording sessions, singing made me so anxious my legs shook so they were basically knocking together at the knees. I still do get nervous, though now I’ve found a way to find my footing so that I can address our audience in confidence. I even find myself chasing that initial fear I had, letting it take hold enough so that I’m not walking out there with an enormous head and no shoulders. As King Nun, we can’t be on stage with too big an ego or without enough confidence. The performance has to be earnest. If all’s going well, I get a good balance of excitement and nerves.

Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing? And if you could play anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Playing London is always amazing, London is my home. As fans of the CBGB punk scene and Bob Dylan and Diners, we’d love in our heart of hearts to fly to New York to play. I’m hoping they haven’t redecorated since the whole 70s mericana thing. And York obviously.

You’re coming up to Leeds which is the nearest date to us, with a gig at the Hyde Park Book Club. Have you played Leeds before? Any chance of a York date in the future?

We’ve done the Live at Leeds festival twice, each time in and around the university. Both shows were great and we played for good crowds. I’m looking forward to be around those people again. I don’t know of any York dates for the moment but we’ll get to you soon I’m sure.

Earlier this year, you played the Reading and Leeds festivals as well. That must have been exciting? Had you ever been before, either as a punter or actually playing the festival? And which bands did you check out whilst you were there?

I’ve never been to any festival as a paying festival goer. Until recently I never liked gigs if I wasn’t playing them, I’d get jealous of the people on stage and the noise wasn’t worth the ringing in my ears. I was very aware of the stature of Reading and Leeds festival, though, it’s absolutely legendary. When the time came, I was honoured and ecstatic to play it. We’ve played it twice; once it was very humbling and the other time it was a beautiful triumph. I hope to be back.

How do you find playing a festival differs from playing a normal gig? And did you do anything special for the festival shows?

I don’t mean to be dragging on festivals so much because there’s a million reasons why these wonderful celebrations of music and people are so important to us as humans and as a civilisation. However, on the technical side of things as a musician, playing festivals can be a pain in the arse. It’s a bigger machine with very short intervals between movements. You’ve got to get through all the sign-in stuff; you’re lugging your gear on stage and sound checking in front of people five minutes before the show starts; and you’re playing much earlier in the day than usual. Everything’s more of a rush, and it’s more impersonal because of that. The trade off for this is that when a festival set goes really well, you really are on top of the world. It feels like an overcoming to me when it goes well, as well as all the usual joys of performing. In a normal gig we prepare in secret, behind walls away from our audience so we can silence our minds and get ready. We know where the nearest supermarket or corner shop is. It’s easier to get a feel for a room than it is a field.

Why would you say people should come and see you perform; and what can people expect from a King Nun gig?

Our show is somewhere to escape to. We mean to have a good time and we mean to leave something with you. Something we feel, something we know needs sharing that we can only give in music. We also sell T-shirts.

Finally, any last words for your fans?

Stay safe, sunshine people.