Gig preview: KOYO at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

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KOYO return home to Belgrave Music Hall on Tuesday October 10 after a series of gigs throughout the country, and riding high from the release of their debut album.

Front-man Huw Edwards spoke to the YEP ahead of the upcoming show.

When we last spoke, you had been chosen to play Leeds and Reading Festival on the BBC Introducing Stage. How did that feel?

Really awesome. Everything we’re doing felt very real for a minute or two! We were in a world of our own until we arrived and then we finally woke up and felt the magic. We got to see Queens of the Stone Age’s secret set the night before we played as well. We were standing there watching a band that have influenced us so much thinking ‘we’re doing that tomorrow’! That certainly put us in the mood.

The album is now out and has universal praise from many publications. Were you expecting such a good response?

Honestly no! We’re still expecting a bad review at some point. It’s inevitable! To be honest if we didn’t get a bad review we’d worry that we’re doing something wrong. People only really want to hate you when people love you! That’s not to say we haven’t been bathing in the glory though! The best moment was probably when we made the Guardian’s write up on Reading and Leeds. They described us “Radiohead meets Hawkwind with saxophones”. Not bad hey!

You have been playing a few shows up and down the country, where have you been received best, and are you looking forward to coming back to Leeds for the Belgrave gig?

We’re starting to create a buzz down in London. We always get a really good reception down there and big crowds! But of course, our heart resides in Leeds. The music scene here is what inspired us in the first place. There are so many gifted bands and artists here.

To be brutally honest though, it does run the risk of being monopolised by a few promoters which can make it harder for smaller bands who don’t lick the right arse or fit the ‘right’ mould to get a gig. What has always made the Leeds scene so exciting is how eclectic and varied it is. I’ve just got a lot of love for this place and don’t want to see it fall on its face.

The album is a rare breed of being an actual album and not a series of tracks tacked together. Is there a theme running throughout or a concept?

We wanted to steer clear of the concept album. That’s far too prog! We have a lot of complicated emotions and moods to get across, just sticking to one theme would be a handicap.

However, it was very important to us to make sure the album was one journey, musically at least. To stand as a whole rather than just sticking 10 songs together.

I think what helped with that is the fact we recorded it in three different sessions spread out across a year, doing three or four songs at a time. Each time we went back we had the attitude of ’well, we’ve got this, and this, so we need more of this and that’. For example, when we went the third time to record Ray of Sunshine we knew we wanted something to kick off the second side, or what became side C. It was always a vinyl record in our eyes!

Have you any big festivals/gig plans upcoming?

We’re about to go on our first ever UK tour. We’re doing London, Bristol, Corby, Brighton, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. And then later in the year we’re announcing some exciting European dates which we can’t wait for. Next year the plan is to be out on the road as much as possible.

What next for KOYO in the studio? A well deserved rest or onto album two?

We’re already working on the second album. We’ve been steadily writing in the background so when it comes to recording it we’re not like ‘oh shit we need to write in three weeks what took us three years last time!’. We’re very excited about what’s coming out. We have a mix of five personalities this time round rather than four, with the addition of our new guitarist Seb. So that’s influencing things. We just recorded a live session at RAK Studios in London, and after hearing that back we definitely want our second album to sound rawer and with more live energy.

As a record collector, the blue and red vinyl is a thing to behold. Is it important as a band to create something unique for fans?

Yeah totally, and for our own satisfaction of course! We knew we wanted it to be special. Like I said the whole time we were making the album we were thinking of it in vinyl form. Everything from the track order, to the artwork, to the production. When we got the coloured discs back and held them in our hands, that was the moment where we finally got closure. That’s what we’d been working for.

Killing Joke have given praise to the album. Is it gratifying to hear feedback from other artists?

That was amazing. I’d love to know how they discovered us. We also had Napalm Death post about us. Crazy! These are big influences on us, and it was such a badge of honour to know that they like what we’re doing. We don’t get too caught up in that kind of thing though, we’re always thinking about the next move or more recently, the next artist we can impress! I would love to say thank you to them though for posting about us and for being so inspirational.

A lot of reviews state you are primarily a prog act. I disagree and think there are a lot of sounds and influences. How would you describe your sound?

Pretty much how you just described it. Yes, it’s progressive rock music, but it’s not necessarily prog rock. Hopefully that’ll make sense to people when they hear it. If we change the connotations that come with the word prog, then that’s awesome, but it’s not like we’re the next Rush, or Dream Theater! People seem to get that though, which is always nice.

It’s progressive because when we’re channeling so many different influences into our songs, its bound to end up sounding pretty whacky. We’re influenced by rock music but also electronic, jazz fusion, funk, pop, hip-hop, metal…we really just let the song go wherever it needs to go. It’s very free.

What has been the highlight of being in the band since releasing the album?

Probably the tour we’re about to embark on! Up till now though, the night we released it. We really felt we could take the night off and acknowledge all the hard work that had gone into it!

www.koyoband.com