Simon Kent's new album, "In Another Life", is available now, via the independent ReprinT record label.
Simon Kent's new album 'In Another Life' is not just an admirable affirmation of one of the UK's most notable singer-songwriters in melody-driven, electronic pop. It's also an acknowledgement of absent friends.
Three years in the crafting, the album arrives on the heels of the irresistibly hook-laden single 'Never Stop Believing,' which gained the support of BBC Radio 2's Janice Long, dozens more stations around the UK and across the Atlantic too. After touring with classic bands such as Echo and the Bunnymen and China Crisis and modern-day troubadours including Nell Bryden and Blair Dunlop, Kent is primed for the next step into a bright future. Seconds into your first listen, you know that he's supremely well schooled in the history of cutting-edge pop and modern rock, but is also the very man to give it a sense of tomorrow. As he unveils these new songs both on record and on stage, he does so with a nod to two key figures: the father he lost recently, who helped shape his musical influences in the first place, and the close friend and intended collaborator on the album, whose personal problems made Kent all the more determined to finish what they'd planned.
'In Another Life' reaches us with impeccable credentials, written and produced by the frontman himself at Aubitt Studios and featuring the fine musicianship of Simon's regular live band. The album was engineered by Rob Aubrey, admired for his work with Big Big Train, and three songs were mixed by Soren Andersen, who's produced both Bryden and Jack Savoretti. They helped finesse the ambience, but the big, soaring melodies and inspirational, finely-tuned lyrics are Kent's very own.
“After I finished my second album in 2012,” he explains, “I met up with my best friend from school. My first band was with him. We got chatting and we agreed to write this album, and that gave me a path to follow and a chance to focus on doing something a bit different.”
Kent always had admiration for the '90s British rock swagger of the Stone Roses and the Charlatans, but his early touchstone had been Depeche Mode, who in turn led him back to classic David Bowie and Roxy Music. “Then it was early to mid '80s things, even the commercial stuff like Duran Duran,” he says. “Then I really got into Japan, because they were a bit more leftfield.”
The pair mapped out dates to make the album, but the collaboration never materialised, and Kent came to realise that his friend was battling alcoholism that would almost claim his life. “I said to myself that I was going to do it as if we were doing it together,” he recalls. “So I followed this electronic path, and that's where it got to.”
And the friend? “I played it to him the other week, and he really loves it. Five of the songs are about him, because as it evolved, I realised he was in trouble. The first song we ever wrote together at school, I found on an old CD and finished. It's called 'Dreams and Memories,' and I tailored the lyrics from where we were then to now.”
The emotional bond with his friend and his past is palpable, in conversation with Kent and on the album. “Everyone else was getting into this guitar music. He'd found his old keyboards, some of which I've used on the record. So when we were starting, we were way out of fashion with what was going on, but now everybody's getting more into that '80s feel. I just got a bit bored with all the macho guitar stuff,” he smiles.
Born in Portsmouth, he got his original musical bearings from his father. “He was a massive music fan and a huge influence on me,” says Kent with raw affection. “He had stuff going back to Sinatra's Capitol years, which was fantastic, and Ella Fitzgerald, jazz-influenced things, Nat 'King' Cole. Loads of black music, then some Neil Diamond, right through to the Beatles and early Elton John.
“It was always playing in the house, and there was something magical about it that I wanted to be involved in. I do remember at school not really understanding why everybody else didn't just pin it to their chest that they loved music. It was like life and death to me.”
When Simon began his own band adventures in the '90s, his father was a firm supporter, even driving them around the sometimes insalubrious gig circuit. “I also had older friends who were introducing me to other things. I remember them playing me the Clash and the Ruts, who sounded a lot more musical than a lot of the punky stuff.”
Through his early admiration of Depeche Mode's 1987 landmark 'Music For The Masses,' Kent dug back into their earlier catalogue and formed a deep appreciation of electronic pop. He went on to listen to guitar rock too, notably the poetic songcraft of Guy Chadwick's House of Love.
“I saw them loads,” he says, “and I did love the first Stone Roses album. I never really got into the macho side of music, and they seemed a bit more arty.” Other bookmarks include the electronic artistry of Tears For Fears, whose name often crops up in complimentary comparisons with Kent's own creativity, as well as 21st century protagonists such as Empire Of The Sun and MGMT.
Without putting any more labels on it, the swathe of music that's helped Simon get to where he is now shares the basic requirements he demands of his own: character and substance. “The thing I love, from the '50s to the '80s, is the differentiation of the vocals. Now everything is Autotune and everyone's got to make five notes out of two. I really wanted not to do any of that.”
Hence 'In Another Life,' an album to restore your faith in the power of pop music. “At times,” says Simon, “I've railed against the pop thing, but I do genuinely love the big pop song. It's the magic of those three and a half minutes and wondering why something so trivial can move you in such a great way.”
Paul Sexton, February 2018
Everything's Alright (Original Version)
We Say Goodbye - Live at Weyfest
In Another Life T-Shirt
Friday 7 September 2018 - The Dublin Castle, 94 Parkway, Camden, London, NW1 7AN. Onstage 8.45pm. www.thedublincastle.com
Wednesday 12 September 2018 - GT Sessions, The Britannia, 9 Millmead, Guildford, GU2 4BE. www.britanniaguildford.co.uk
Thursday 1 November 2018 - The Railway Inn, 3 St. Pauls Hill, Winchester, SO22 5AE. Supporting Wyldest. www.railwayinn.pub
Jo Womar (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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