Interview with The Kite Collectors – Lord Robby Allen

The band is based in Wiltshire UK and formed 2013, taking their main inspiration from the music of new wave and the 1960’s. The result is a mixture of influences and attitudes with a quality blend of infectious energetic melodies that literally fizzles in the ears. The band have attracted a huge fan base and the new album is greatly received by many. The band stopped gigging to concentrate on their studio work and “Never Look Down” is the result of the last 18 months. The album is superb and is instantly one of my favourites of 2019. Every song is relevant to the daily struggles of life and the lyrics bring some understanding, comfort and peace.

Robby Allen the lead vocalist and song writer captures the true struggles of daily life in many of the tracks. A great example of this is the song “The Ballad of Mental health Issues” Making the tracks clear and relevant to the listener.

Robby Allen has been an advocate of the mod/garage scene for many years. He found success in the late 1980s with garage rock outfit The Mild Mannered Janitors. Support slots include The Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, The Prisoners, The Prime Movers, Steve Marriot, The Godfathers, Zoot Money, Graham Day and the Forefathers with many more.

Buddy Ascott (Chords) and two-time KCs producer Sam Burnett (Back To Zero) referred to drummer Pete Summerfield as one of the best out there. We aren’t going to argue and certainly agree. Everyone who contributed to this from the sound engineer Keith Holmes who worked on some of “The Yardbirds re-masters to Robby Allen and the whole band, I would like to thank you all for providing me with some great music to listen to and cherish.

The Kite Collectors Promo – Never Look Down

When was the band formed?

I started work on the first album in 2012. The first version of the band was formed in 2013 in Wiltshire, UK.
Where does the name Kite Collectors come from?

The original idea behind the Kite Collectors was to be like John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in which I would be at the centre of it and bring in people to augment it. They would be the ‘kites’ that I collect. That was what the first album ‘Mildred’s Tree’ was. The main addition to it was my former bandmate from The Mild Mannered Janitors Steve Duffield (he also played in the Beta Band and now with Steve mason). He is a brilliant bassist with a talent for finding bass melody. Towards the end of that first album I also roped in Pete Summerfield to play drums. I had seen him play live a number of times and asked him to be in a band before but he was always busy doing other things – then I got lucky and he said yes. I added Dave Roe on guitar and Bryn Evans on organ; bassist was a young lively lad called Tom Williams. We had one practice and then did our first gig. That was it really – after that we started travelling the country playing – building up a really loyal set of followers.

The new album “Never Look Down” is dedicated to the Glory days Choir. Who are they?

In 2015 I was travelling back from work and was thinking about call and response songs – I wanted one for the people who spent their hard earned cash in coming to see us. Something I could dedicate to them. So, I wrote Glory Days. I sang it into my phone in a traffic jam and then finished it when I got home. There’s so much that we moan about in life but I think it’s important to also remember that we have good days too. We’ve lost a lot of friends recently because we are now at that age where time and illness catches up. It’s just a call to remember that some days are great, especially when we’re together and that one day we will look back on these days with fondness too. These are our glory days. We call those who follow the band the ‘Glory Days Choir’.

Tell me about some of the bands musical influences?

John Mayall, Small Faces, The Who, The Beatles, Medway sounds like The Prisoners and the New Jersey sound of The Smithereens; mix in a little classical music from Mendelsohn and you have what I write. Steve Marriott was my music hero though – my favourite song of all time is Tin Soldier. I got to support Steve 3 or 4 times in the 1980s. He was playing with the Packet of Three. I remember when he had just sound checked (which consisted of him touching the jack lead and saying ‘yeah, that’s alright,’) he started playing a keyboard. I was sitting on the edge of the stage with my music hero behind me playing blues licks on the organ and I thought that music life couldn’t get much better than that. I was chuffed when he remembered my name next time we played with him – although he did tell me to ‘fuck off’ out of the dressing room later the same night because I kept interrupting him with requests from people to sign stuff.

What inspired you to write & record the new album?

After a gig in London I got quite ill, really bad actually – mental health wise. On the way home in the car, curled up in the footwell; I realised that I needed a break. I was feeling a bit broken. I said to Pete and others that we wouldn’t gig anymore and kept talking about the Sgt Pepper model – where you write and record but don’t gig it.

I started building up songs and demos again and I did consider putting them out as a solo thing. But – Pete is such a brilliant drummer I didn’t want to do it without him. He is also like part of my sanity in music. He is a bit crazy but with me he is often the reasonable one – like the adult. He brings so much energy to the songs. The whole feel of the album is one of creating space for all of the elements to stand out. It also meant convincing Pete to be more repetitive in the beats he plays – he found it a challenge but does it brilliantly. It’s basically me and him and a few guest singers. I play everything apart from the drums.

We recorded 24 songs – I always have loads more than we need for an album. I have never stopped writing. I’ve had more time to play with these tracks than I did with the previous album (Shockerwick 135). It has been more like it was with Mildred’s tree or Clockface. I enjoyed the process and freedom much more.

What is the meaning behind the new albums music & lyrics?

Window World starts with a big Hammond Organ sound. It’s like those big classical pieces that are meant to make you think ‘wow – it’s started’. I love the way it stays on the last chord of the intro and the Lesley amp sound pulsates. We wanted to keep it really airy. Not fill the space too much – that’s why it is organ, bass and drums at first. The electric piano comes in later and the guitar not until the solo. Like a lot of the album it talks about a relationship. The contrast between people and that awful cynicism that can set in – that’s in the line: ‘I gaze upon the sun and feel the rain’.

This is Me Again was a quick song to write – many are. I sat down with my Rickebacker 330 and just started thrashing at it – simple chords in which I could paint a picture of normal life. It’s a comment on the mundanity of life and how we navigate it. Wayne Lundqvist Ford is singing backing on it and does a great job.

Let it Reign had a weird start. I was thinking about the way Steve Duffield does a little shuffle on stage when he plays bass – I’d just seen him with Steve Mason. I then wrote around that movement he does. When I was doing the guide vocals one of my dogs barked and I liked it – so I kept it in and looped it at the beginning. What I like most about the song is the way the bass stays on one note for the first part and the guitar chords change over it. I also messed around with percussion – sometimes it sounds a little out of time but then comes round in time. It’s uncomfortable then comfortable again in a sequence over the chorus. It’s another relationship story – mostly about how little we listen to partners sometimes.

Fly Away was an older song that I brought forward and re-recorded. I asked Anne-Marie Crowley from the Speed of Sound to do the backing. I knew she would do a great job so just left her to do what she does best. It really zips along and has a great 1960’s feel.

Hallelujah Goodbye is a bit strange. It was another older song that I re-recorded. It’s a bit psychedelic I guess as I’m just playing with words and phrases. Sometimes things don’t make much sense but the words just fit in the melody. I wanted the regular chugging sound like a helicopter in it and that was achieved through a trance keyboard sample and piling on effects to get where it is now. It acts as additional percussion.

Soothing is an out and out three minute three-piece band wonder. Bit of feedback and then smack – straight into it. It’s good to crank the amps up and just let Pete go nuts on the drums.

InIn Strawberry Time Again I wanted to tell a fuller story about someone remembering a complete and brilliant weekend at a cottage with their partner who is left full of regret that in the end it didn’t work out because they didn’t say the things they wanted to. Later they go back to the place but end up just getting drunk and falling asleep in a barrel in a garden. The versus are in mono and then switch to stereo for the chorus. The song ends with a mass of swirling backward guitars and Pete thumping his way round the kit.

The Ballad Of Mental Health Issues was written on the piano – I don’t do that very often. I was wary of exposing these mental health elements of myself to friends and the Glory Days choir in this way but, I think people are more accepting of anxiety and similar issues now and I wanted to speak about mine. I orchestrated around the song with strings. The vocal is prominent in the mix because although the music sounds great we wanted the words to stand out above all.

The Kite Collectors – The Ballad of Mental Health Issues

You is a nightmare. That was how I saw it – as a really bad dream. There is so much trivia in life that we just get stuck in a loop about. That’s what the solid guitar and hypnotic drum is about – that brain loop where it just won’t shut up and you’re almost screaming at yourself that none of it actually really matters. But you don’t listen to yourself. John Armstrong from Speed Of Sound did backing on this – He has a great unusual singing voice and I layered it and put it through a bunch of effects to make it sound like an ethereal keys sound.

Take Me With You Please has the feel of a Smithereens song I think; that New Jersey sound. I love Pat Dinizio – he was heavily into The Beatles, as am I – and I guess that comes through. It’s driven by an acoustic guitar and jangly Rickebacker. The person it is describing is trying to reassure them self that the person they want will want them – even though friends are talking the possibility of it down.

A Form Of Hello was written around a drum loop and a repeated jangly Rickenbacker riff. I added a harsher sounding guitar beneath it to give it an edge and then we took the loop out and Pete replaced the beat with his own. It has some weird stuff going on underneath from sounds and effects I was playing with at the time – including playing a spring on an old desk lamp with violin bow and then a drumstick.

I was a little concerned about the song I was a little concerned about the song ‘pretending’ because it has a double meaning. It is about someone considering suicide – that’s what it means by ‘don’t be too keen’.; but metaphorically it’s also about being on the edge from a mental health or stress point of view. At the end of the song there is quite a lot going on with guitars and strings and flutes – the idea was that although the e-piano riff at the end continues going, the other instruments would be added as it progressed. It builds up to that last organ chord.

Icy You is quite psychedelic. It had a simple premise – one guitar riff throughout that sounds like it is three different guitar riffs by changing the sound of it. The vocal melody for each verse is also completely different. It was like I had to write three songs with one tune – I loved the difficulty of that. Pete plays a very mechanical beat too – a challenge as he is usually a bit of an animal on the kit!

Never Look down is very personal. It’s about the advice you get from a loved one that you now miss because geographically or physically they are no longer around you. It’s sort of about their positive impact on you and the lessons you learn and take forward. It’s parents, grandparents, friends that accept your ‘character’ and help you.

Where do you find inspiration for your music and lyrics?

From the things I listen to, things that people say and how I feel. Sometimes I work on a song for weeks on and off and sometimes it just appears out of nowhere. There is a song called Tell Me it’s Real (on Icon Paradox) that I started and I turned a recorder on and sang it. It came out fully formed. I then listened back and wrote down what I had sung. The song wonder (on Clockface) came because of that famous photo of the little boy on the beach who had drowned. I didn’t write about that as such but it set a feeling that inspired the song.

The Kite Collectors – ‘Wonder’ (Clockface Promo)

The band have had so many great reviews and have worked with various people throughout the years – tell me about some of those people?

Two that had a massive affect were not band members but on the production side of our stuff – that often gets overlooked and so I’d like to mention them. A fantastic talented guy called Keith Holmes mixed and Mastered the new album – he was with me for the Box Dwellers ep too and came in to try and save Shockerwick 135 which was in trouble till he came along. We worked very closely on the sonic feel for the new album. Sam Burnett (Back to Zero) mixed and mastered Clockface – he completely bought into the story and worked so hard on it with us. He also worked on Glory Days single.

The Kite Collectors: Album Shockerwick 135

Have you any future gigs or charity events coming up?

We’re going to get back out there in 2020 although we don’t intend to play quite as much as we were before. Do some special things that we’re hoping to announce soon. Have fun and meet great people.

The Kite Collectors – Inside Out – Dublin Castle – 19th October 2013

What has people’s reaction been to the new album?

It’s been great. We’ve tried to push things forward a bit more. So, some elements on it are different – you can’t stand still and just do the same thing. Sam Burnett once talked about ‘progressive mod’ and I completely understand what he means. You can still have that core that sits at the centre of what you are musically and sub-culturally; and then you push at it. It’s not easy selling music these days but the glory days choir is wonderfully loyal and we are continuing to gain new members to it.
What can we look forward to and expect from the Kite Collectors in the future?

We’re going to get out gigging to promote the new album – where and when will be on our facebook page I guess. Hopefully people will come and see us and have a chat – which we love to do. We will have a new bassist and Dave Roe is going to return on lead guitar. I’ve been writing an album for Katie Hallam (Fay Hallam’s niece) with organist/orchestrator Dave Pinching; Pete is going to play drums on it. I’m also working on other new material that I will hopefully have another guest vocalist for in the New Year.

The Kite Collectors available catalogue can be ordered through Paisley Records. Support real, original music.

Copyright © Mods Of Your Generation, Johnny Bradley 2019, All Rights Reserved. Logo & Image Credit The Kite Collectors & Chips 2019. No part of this review may be reproduced without the permission of the authors.

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