Kensington are a Rock band from the Netherlands and have a very polished, professional Big-Stadium-Sound but also offer some subtler songs on their present album “Vultures”. Especially for “Ghosts” (one of the bigger stadium hits” and the quiet “Good Life”, I decided to do an interview with them on their tour through Germany and arranged everything accordingly. And then it happened – Blizzards in Berlin, all the streets turned into slippery slopes (and not the metaphorical type!) and because Berlin can’t handle things like ice and snow during winter (I mean, who would think that these things happen during winter?), I had to cancel the interview because I wasn’t sure whether I would survive the way to the club.
However, the band was cool enough to answer my questions (well, Casper was cool enough, I don’t know about the other guys, they might be super uncool…) via mail, so all was fine, my bones are still intact and we can still get some insight into these guys’ work.
Kensington are not really one of the bands I listen to a lot but now and then I really love those grand and slightly cheesy (don’t mind it) songs for the big stages. Snow Patrol, early Coldplay, middle-staged Kings of Leon and present Mumford & Sons have a certain charm and especially if a band works their ass off (and Kensington do that, they tour like crazy), I have nothing but respect for them.
It’s the kind of music I like to hear when I want to feel like the most important, most dramatic person in the world (which incidentally is quite often the case).
It doesn’t hurt that they obviously are Maccabees-fans (as you can hear in certain songs like “No Way Out”). I also like that they still try out different sounds on their album which resulted in “Good Life” and has me hoping that they will try other things in that direction because it suits them a lot.
Ok, enough babble, let’s do this!
Interview with Casper Starreveld
I’ve read in an interview that you learned a lot from doing your second album. If you think back on the first and the second album what were the most important things you took from the process of doing them?
I think the main thing we learned is that everything needs to be taken care of, it’s not just making (hopefully good) music, but also building a whole plan around your release. Creatively we learned how to arrange and produce the songs better, how to make use of spaces, sounds and structures.
You also mentioned in yet another interview that it was good to do the recordings in Berlin because it was far away from home. Is it counter-productive for you to record at home or is it just different?
The most important thing for us is to be away from daily routines, we want to create this bubble when we are recording, and that’s harder at home. Plus Berlin is an awesome, vibrant and inspiring city!
Was there pressure to prove yourselves with the second album?
Yes, a lot. We had loads of debt, so if the album had failed, we wouldn’t be around as a band anymore, probably. It was all or nothing, fortunately, 2013 was our best year ever and now we even get to take the record in to Europe.
Did you have a certain sound/idea in mind for “Vultures”?
Yeah, we wanted bombastic, yet tasteful and catchy rock songs. We like compact and to-the-point song structures although live we like expand and jam more. Mixing with Cenzo Townshend (U2, Editors, Snow Patrol) was a big part of our sound idea; of course, he took it to the next level.
Being under the wings of a pretty big record company, how difficult is it to keep your artistic independence?
Really easy actually, Universal gives total artistic freedom, we don’t feel any pressure at all, which is great.
How is the band dynamic with two – as I think I’ve read somewhere – old school friends?
It’s fine! We are all four very different personalities, sometimes we collide, but most of the time it’s the differences that make things interesting and diverse.
You are a pretty hard-working touring band and life on tour can be very demanding physically and mentally – how do you take care of yourself during long tours?
Try to sleep whenever, wherever you can, eat loads of fruit and veggies and try (haha) to tone down the drinking…
I remember a French band saying that the French music critics are pretty unforgiving and nasty. How about the Netherlands? Is it a grateful scene?
It can be, but Dutch culture sometimes focusses too much on being modest and normal, that’s not always what we strive for. But we are actually quite lucky with all the press so far.
So far, how easy/difficult has it been to crack the international market?
We just started, had two (almost) full clubs in Berlin and Hamburg, and songs from Vultures have been on the radio all over Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and Indonesia, so I’d say we are off to a good start.
Personally, my two favourite songs on your album are “Ghosts” (which reminds me thematically of Hello Saferide “Anna” which also speaks about the hypothetical future of a broken relationship) and “Good Life” because it is a much unexpected last song after the whole album, from a sound-perspective. Could you maybe elaborate a little on these songs and how they came to be?
Eloi wrote Ghosts on the piano, I like how you describe the meaning, cause it’s not far from our perspective, I think. Good Life was about the passing away of my father, I wrote it at night next to the room where he was lying. It was a very emotional time, and this was a sort of way to process some of the feelings I had at that time.
How cool is it to have fans that have their own name (Fansingtons)?
They’re great. We have a good relationship with them. They are not crazy or obnoxious screaming teenagers, but just nice people who enjoy going to concerts and festivals. Our fan base is very diverse in age, we like that a lot.
You played the big arenas in the Netherlands and now get back to visit somewhat smaller clubs – what’s the hardest thing about small venues and what is the greatest thing about them?
The hardest thing is getting the sound right, you really have to go back to basics, but we’ll manage. The best thing is feeling the energy from people 1 meter away; you can connect much more with the audience, on a personal level.
You mentioned in an interview that you already have material for the next album. First: Respect, that’s a pretty awesome work-ethic. Second: Will you work out the sound you established on “Vultures” or do you want to try something completely different?
Thanks! The songs are different, but we want to expand on Vultures as well, we’re quite proud of it. I think it will be a little bit more diverse, big will be bigger, small will be smaller. There’s still a lot of dynamics left to explore.
Hope to see you someday, thanks for the good questions!