Well, I’ve finally got a milestone here on Brewtown Music! For the tenth post, I’ll be looking at a band that I will shamelessly fangasm over for an unspecified number of paragraphs! It’s time to get the big gun, it’s Kitten Pyramid!
Scott Milligan (lead vocals/guitar/piano), Chris Baldwin (vocals/guitar/piano), Daniel Baker (lead guitar), Mark Hamon (bass) and Rob Redfern (drums) make up this weird and wondrous quintet who despite having a repertoire that defies genre, class themselves as prog rock (or neoclassical punk zydeco rockabilly if you want it in Lehmann’s terms).
Kitten Pyramid are a band that have gone through many stages since their creation in 2010 and with high ambitions that, for the most part, have been met with crazy results! Line-up changes, line-up additions, mainstream media exposure and the chance to record at the same studio Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded! But this couldn’t have come from nowhere so let us fill you in.
Since the age of 12, Milligan had been playing the guitar, pottered around various bands and kept aspirations of becoming a film-maker close to keep his options open. At first, he wasn’t too confident in his song writing abilities and always finding himself trying to find comparisons with other artists like Syd Barrett instead of doing his own thing.
However, an experimental rock band from the Welsh Valleys was soon to be discovered by Milligan that inspired him to go in the direction that he wanted for what would become his own music. The band in question are the Super Furry Animals.
But it did take a while for the Furries’ influence to set in as the first band experiences were considered as ‘frustrating, misguided and nerve wracking’ by Milligan to such a degree if shelved any music ambition for almost a decade for him.
As a way to get out of this funk, he wrote a quick little number called “W.H.A.L.E” . Within a few day of the resulting recording being uploaded to Soundcloud, it was starting to get noticed from all over the world with very positive feedback. This would soon spur him on to get back in the game. It would also become the most popular song that he wrote. It would also spur him to forming a band that encapsulated the fun sound that his little ditty, that involved the audience and was more than just people in a room staring at people on a stage.
He started chatting and jamming with his long time friend Tom Goodwin about “how if you attached lobster claws to even the cutest of animals they would look terrifying such as a kitten or even a pyramid of kittens.” You can’t make it up! They somehow did!
Thus, from this disturbing little convo, the Kitten Pyramid was being built. Milligan gathered his original band mates, brothers Matt and Rob Redfern on bass and drums respectively in 2010 and saw to it that they would be more focused to perform and record the music that had been in their heads for so long as they gigged across Burton like never before. After a while, they decided they were at the stage of recording their first EP It’s Time to get the Big Gun which was recorded and produced by Matt Redfern and released in 2011.
This EP contained the songs Marmalade, Spongebob, Emily the Mermaids and W.H.A.L.E which, as said before has proved to be one of their most popular songs, almost an anthem of sorts with a simple arrangement of pounding percussion, catchy chord riff and a bellowed chorus which proves to be the best stomper in Brewtown!
As well as a band to babysit, Milligan has also aspired to be a film maker and has looked to mix his talents in musical and visual media with an expected result of this being short film Uh Oh (the original working title being Elephants and Cars) that has been around in Milligan’s head for as long as Kitten Pyramid has been a band, with over a decade’s worth of thought and development.
I don’t know what’s going on but I’m intrigued! The best kind of independent film reaction.
The man playing the bewildered screamer is Richard Williams (in cahoots with the Indie folk band Leisure Society). The character he plays called Jarek and the film itself is inspired by his late uncle, Jarek Baczyk, a Polish immigrant who came to the UK with Milligan’s mother and grandmother and died of a heart attack at the age of 40 after a battle with paranoid schizophrenia. Go here for the rest of the details on this crazy project!
After the completion of It’s Time to get the Big Gun, the band set their sights on recording their next EP which would not only be a development in the band’s sound but would also continue to tell the epic tale of Uh Oh with three more songs.
During this time, the band went through some major changes, one change being Matt Redfern amicably leaving the band to pursue his own projects and another being changing from a trio to a Burton-based Polyphonic Spree!
I’d say that articles #5-9 on here have been a build up to this piece since a veritable Who’s Who of Midlands musicians were in tow like Gemma Bower from Lady and the Tramp (saxophones, flute and vocals), Max Kendall of The Vibe (bass and vocals), Thomas Miller of Exile 84 and the owner of Burton-based recording studio and promotions outfit, ARCH Creations (drums; with Rob Redfern moving to guitar) session musician Brendan O’Neill (trumpet), Jon Brindley from The Distancing and Josh McCarthy from The Myways.
This was also the time when Chris Baldwin and Dan Baker (yes, THOSE two again!) of Star From Ivy entered the band, on piano and guitar respectively who have remained part of the band to this day alongside Mark Hamon of These Things Exist.
So many people, so many egos going at it right? Wrong! Milligan’s leadership and the individual talents of each member came through, both live and when recording with a sense of community and camaraderie amongst each other, like any sort of scene should! But enough of my idealistic bollocks! Let’s move on!
The Kitty collective set out to record the second EP Crazy Diamonds. This is of course a reference to Syd Barrett, the former front man of Pink Floyd who Milligan also draws a great deal of inspiration from.
A sense of disorientation and WTF to awesome music? Yep, that’s inspiration!
To record the EP, the band looked to find a pro studio to make a more lush and complex production. Enter Sheffield music producer Alan Smyth of 2Fly Studios that has been the recording ground of bands such as Pulp, Arctic Monkeys and Reverend and the Makers (also for Riding the Low and Star From Ivy so Burtonia is clearly very cosy there!)
Along with a brass section and grand piano to help the band with their sound, the final song Stripey Jumper features a solo from aforementioned former Procol Harum guitarist Dave Ball.
Ball has proclaimed his support for them and being the ‘ring-leader’ of the Kitten Pyramid Circus variety event that took place at the Brewers Bar in Burton in September 2012 which not only featured the band but comedian/hapless magician Tom Fermor, belly dancing troupe Pedralta Fusion and former X Factor contestant Jade Richards…Yeah!
Not only did this new EP get a release in 2012, towards the end of the year, KP released a CD called Bedroom Demos: Part 1 which was a collection of various demos and remixes. These songs feature performances from Milligan, the Redfern Bros and Thomas Goodwin. A big highlight from this CD is a remix of W.H.A.L.E produced by DJ Joe Bird of Rap-Torial and performed with new lyrics by provided by Great Scott. There, that’s all of the previous five acts covered on here, so let’s carry on!
The cover for the CD featured artwork was done by P.I.N.T Arts festival mastermind Alastair Kennedy whose other works were promoted on the walls of local brewery/entertainment venue Tower Brewery where the band performed a set of their new material and launched the album in November.
But this had nothing, NOTHING on what was to come the next year! The chance of a lifetime was secured when they got the opportunity to record their long-awaited full length album Uh Oh at the world-famous Rockfield Studios!
Rockfield has been the studio for bands like Super Furry Animals, Oasis, Stone Roses and Queen where they wrote and recorded an underrated cult hit called Bohemian Rhapsody!
This momentous occasion was marked when Milligan was trying to find a studio that would be able to match his high ambitions. One of these studios was Rockfield which is home to producer Nick Brine who was interested in the ‘atmospheric and hard-edged’ instrumentals and ‘expressive lyrics’ from their Soundcloud demos. That was enough to get them on board!
As a preview of this new point in the KP sound evolution , they were set to release the first single which was originally going to be Traffic, but a meeting with a fan prompted them to change it to Uh Oh (Both songs’ demos were featured on the Bedroom Demos album) what with single potential and all!
Re-mastering of previous material is also featured in this album such as the Big Gun tracks Marmalade and W.H.A.L.E and another old track Chester which has bestiality undertones or something (don’t ask!), it’s kinda freaky but incredibly catchy and listenable!
On July 18th, a single launch for Uh Oh was put on at the Brewhouse which not only featured the band, but were supported by Derby-based duo Crushing Blows and backed up by a horn and string section, three backing singers and featured guest appearances from Dave Ball, Jonathan Brindley and Great Scott.
The single itself has received a lot of positive reviews online including this from The Metaphorical Boat comparing the song to everything from David Bowie to Queen (Fate?) to Green Day to Aphrodite’s Child. It was also featured on Channel 4 as part of the Tim Lovejoy’s Sunday Brunch Tune of the week. Lovejoy himself praised the song saying he liked it and had reminded him of Super Furry Animals. Won’t they ever leave KP’s influence alone?!
It was also featured multiple times on BBC Radio 6 Introducing with Chris Hawkins and the legendary Tom Robinson (the 2-4-6-8 Motorway guy). BBC Introducing is a card I’m playing a lot on here isn’t it?
I don’t think there’s any reason to delay the inevitable here. I love this band and it’s music, plain and simple! Kitten Pyramid are a super group in a lot of aspects. A large collective of local musicians from different bands and acts coming together to create unique, enjoyable and striking music.
Unlike super groups such as The Power Station, KP do stand on their own merits as a legit band with their own style rather than knowing you’re just seeing a bunch of musicians from other bands being part of this collective for money, attention or both.
To summarise the band’s music is difficult and trying to decipher the lyrics is even more of a challenge, but even if the bizarre, cryptic nature of the words is not possible to you, the way they’re sung and the tune it’s backed up should be enough to look past passages such as this from Crazy Diamonds:
She smelled of almonds, yellow with long fur
She sort of growled, but gently like a purr
There was a rider, skinny with a beak
Who asked politely, everyone say cheese!
In a way though, there’s an appeal to that kind of surrealist song writing which comes across as a hybrid of Frank Zappa, Hunter S. Thompson and a student poet who’s watched Monty Python too many times! Oh, silly me, you can never watch Monty Python TOO many times!
Out of the many songs in their back catalogue that I love, I will dare to only pick two that I think stand out above the rest. Give me a minute.
OK, OK, I’ve got two. These two favourites of mine are Uh Oh and Seahouses . Whoo! That took a lot out of me to do!
The first of these two (the video of which is above) was a fitting way to give a taste for the upcoming album of the same name! It seeks to combine the wacky and catchy aspects that the band always had with the more complex and detailed approach that the band has acquired over time.
It makes for an enjoyable and diverse listen, starting with a Starman/Beetlebum-esque opening, rapid tempo changes, an amalgamation of rock styles which almost feels like a disconnected evolution of the genre and brass backing towards the end gives the reason why KP put the ‘mental’ in experimental! It sums them up very well and is a good place to start if you want to get into their stuff.
Seahouses though, is a kitten of another colour! It’s a much calmer and soothing song that doesn’t feature much in terms of crazy lyrics or jarring tempo changes. It’s like Star From Ivy’s slower and more relaxed Kizuna next to their much faster and more belligerent Perfection. But it still retains the unique KP flavour with a soothing brass backing and some softly sung vocals from Milligan and Baldwin, painting the picture of how to sit beside the seaside (and being much less cryptic than some of the previous songs):
And the sea to keep you small
They could pull you in
You could sink in sand
And the sky
It’s so black and filled with stars
You blend in so well
You can’t see your hands.
That feeling of seeing yourself as so insignificant when it’s just you, the vast sea and the even larger sky is captured very well even as the instrumental builds towards the end as if the waves are rushing up to the shore in full force as you run into it’s cold embrace. See, THIS is why I shouldn’t be a songwriter!
On top of that, it’s all built on that one E chord that Milligan plucks from beginning to end. Sure the other instruments have much more than one chord in mind, it’s that simplicity that makes this song work and how emotionally captivating they can be as well as fun.
The music video isn’t much to write home about since, like the Crazy Diamonds video, is a montage of random clips from various films, cartoons, anime and whatever public domain clips there are out there to throw in. But it’s mainly just a bizarre backdrop to go along with the music so it’s not much to harp on really! Again don’t take my word for it, even though I’d prefer you did in this case, check the songs out with the weird images for yourself and let me know what you make of it in the comments.
If there was an example of how much I love the Burton and Midlands music scene, it would be Kitten Pyramid. A group of musicians all from different backgrounds and genres coming together to create something fresh, tight and musically fascinating while still remaining an enjoyable and infectious energy to them. I know I explained why I love this scene in my Awkward Introductions post, but this is a band that verifies that thought for me. It seemed appropriate that I’d dedicate my landmark 10th post to them, so come on everyone, HEAR THEM W.H.A.L.E!! Also, hear me sign off saying this has been Brewtown Music serving you another fine brew of Midlands tunes!
Kitten Pyramid’s stuff
Official Website: http://flavors.me/kittenpyramid