CONCRETE KINGDOMS (back, from l-r): Dougie Fraser (bass), Ben Fraser (guitar), (middle): Mark Faulds (guitar), (front, from l-r): Grant Duncan (drums), Mark Hawthorne (vocals)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
From Fife in Scotland, Concrete Kingdoms are a quintet that have been winning over audiences and critics with an electrifying, high-quality hard rock sound, inspired by the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Audioslave, and Led Zeppelin.
Having had to take some time out last year, the band returned bigger, better, and stronger than ever, and they aim to keep this momentum going with the release of their self-titled debut EP this August.
The five-piece spoke to me recently about all this, and more.
How did the band form?
We formed in Dunfermline in late 2014, all of the original members had played in similar kinds of bands before, but by that time were unattached, so started rehearsing together primarily for the fun of doing it! Very quickly though, we realised we were on to a good thing, and Concrete Kingdoms was born.
We spent the following year improving our material and gigging locally, but it wasn’t until spring 2016, when Mark Robinson of Polestar Music Management came aboard and gave us more of a clear direction, that the profile of the band really started to grow.
From where did the name Concrete Kingdoms originate?
Fife has often been described as a collection of “concrete kingdoms“, and with the original line-up all being local lads, we felt it was a name that was very meaningful to us!
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
Most of our songwriting follows a similar kind of route. We start with a basic idea of a riff or a melody, and then flesh out the instrumental side before adding vocals. It is very much a collaborative process, and means we all have a significant creative input.
What inspires the band lyrically?
We want our songs to be relatable to our audiences, so lyrically, we take inspiration from the sort of issues we all face in life from time-to-time, such as love/loss, happiness/sadness, so these very much form the main themes of our music.
Last year, you had to take some time out. What were the reasons behind that?
In December 2016, drummer Grant broke his collarbone, so that put all gigging on hold until he recovered. During that time away, original singer Neil decided the time was right to leave the band to focus on his career and personal life, which delayed our comeback further.
And do you think the break has had a positive effect?
Although things felt pretty ominous at the time, in the end, things worked out very much for the best! We opted to advertise for not only a new singer, but a second dedicated guitarist as well. This resulted in Mark Hawthorne and Mark Faulds coming aboard, and they have been a breath of fresh air.
It has resulted in a much stronger and more rounded Concrete Kingdoms sound, and when we did make our comeback, we were better than ever!
The band have supported the likes of Puddle Of Mudd and Diamond Head, as well as playing a few festivals, including Winterstorm. How were they as experiences?
We have always been very grateful for the opportunities we have had to support larger acts, and you learn a lot about yourself in the process.
We look back at the Puddle of Mudd gig, and can’t help but laugh though- it was our very first higher profile gig, and it came pretty early in the band’s development, so in all honesty, we were terrified before we hit the stage!
The performance went great though, and the set was really well-received. It was a turning point for the band, we knew then that we could take things to a higher level, and have always enjoyed the larger gigs since!
And how is it overall, for you all, performing live?
We love performing live, it is often commented on how genuinely happy we look on stage, and for us, the positive crowd reactions are what make all the effort worthwhile.
This August, the band will be bringing out a self-titled debut EP. How has the recording process been for that?
We recorded the tracks earlier this year, over February/March, with Edinburgh-based producer Mark Morrow, and it was a really slick process. We can’t speak highly enough of the quality of the studio, and Mark’s approach made what can sometimes be a really stressful process relaxed and enjoyable.
And what can be expected of the release?
The EP is four tracks long, and you should expect to hear hard rock riffs and dual solos, balanced with smooth melodic vocals throughout. Every track brings something different to the table though, and we think that makes for a diverse overall record.
What else has the band got lined up over the next couple of months?
The last few months have been very busy for the band, including our first mini-tour at the end of last month, and opening Rockmantic on the Road in Rochdale last weekend, and the coming months will be no different!
In the build-up to the EP release, we’ll doing a busy programme of radio and promotional work, as well as an EP launch gig in time for the actual release.
On top of that, we’ve got more gigs in the pipeline, as well as a return to Winterstorm on the newly formed Jagermeister stage. Exciting times for sure!
And finally, what is your long-term aim?
We’ve made massive strides forward in the last few years, and hope to continue in a similar vein. We want to build on our first run of gigs outside of Scotland and have plans in place for more travels down the line. Ultimately, we want to get our music out to as wide an audience as possible!
THE SELF-TITLED DEBUT EP FROM CONCRETE KINGDOMS WILL BE RELEASED ON AUGUST 17.
FURTHER INFO ON THIS, AND THE BAND, CAN BE FOUND HERE.