Tall Kingdom is the Leeds-based collaboration of Stuart Thomas and Richard Meller. Starting life back in 2017 as a two-piece, bedroom project, they’ve now expanded into a four-piece live band, a move tying into their shift from colder electronics into their a brighter, more instrument led approach. After the release of two well-received EPs, the band returned last week with their latest offering, Amber EP.
Tall Kingdom’s sound is the result of two different songwriters coming together, both have previously pursued their own visions, creating niche music in a variety of micro-genres, yet always having an idea of creating something more accessible and in line with their wider influences. The result is a sound that walks the line between musical styles, pursuing influences across a variety of eras and sounds, creating something that’s forward thinking without compromising on being a thrillingly enjoyable listen.
Amber was the result of a brief hiatus, time taken to consider the next steps and develop a new sound and feel to their music. The band decided to try and blend in the influences of 70’s live recordings, charting a course through classic soul, psychedelia and post-rock thereby creating something entirely their own.
Following the release, we spoke to Stuart from the band discussing making a living out of music, tying aesthetics into their music and why recording live adds a, “variety and depth you almost have to fake in electronic music”.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are Tall Kingdom?
Tall Kingdom is me and fellow musician Richard Meller. We’re based in Leeds and write I guess pretty weird old sounding electronic music with a strong 70’s vibes. Or something. It started after I was feeling pretty burnt out from my other alias Mountain Range, and was a good excuse for us to hang out in studios together writing music!
FTR: Your new record, Amber EP, is out this week what can you tell us about recording it?
We started work on a third EP (following our EPs ‘Frames’ in 2018 and ‘True Enough’ in 2019) about a year ago, with the idea of trying to make something more guitar, bass and drums orientated than our previous synth heavy tracks. We ended up with about an albums worth of material that is being steadily released throughout the year as EPs, singles and mixtapes. The vibe is much more 70s soul/ HipHop and kind of garage rock than our previous electronic outings.
FTR: What did you do differently compared to previous recordings?
Well Rich and I are both alright guitar/keys players, and I’ve been playing drums in bands long before Mountain Range, or even getting a laptop. So with this new focus we started mapping out arrangements at home then rehearsing and booking studio time to track everything, something we’ve never had to do before working solely within a computer. It took some time to get right. The result for me really speak for themselves though. There’s something about traditional, ‘studio session’ based recording that’s timeless, so much human error, variety and depth you almost have to fake in electronic music. We recorded at ‘Greenmount’ studios here in Leeds which is an amazing space too.
FTR: Who are your influences? What were you listening to when you wrote The Amber EP?
Our influences shifted around as we went along. I spent a lot of time with ‘Maribou State’, ‘Tame Impala’, ‘Khruangbin’ and ‘Jordan Rakai’. Music with a strong vibe that has some weirdness around the edges.
FTR: You obviously make music individually as well as together, how do you know when a song is right for Tall Kingdom?
I’ll start writing music for both Mountain Range and Tall Kingdom the same way; at home on my laptop. The big difference though is genre, it would be hard for a MR track to shift over into a TK as they’re such different writing styles for me. And once Rich develops something I’ve started or vice versa it’ll have a tone to it that wouldn’t fit MR at all (at least in my head)
FTR: What are your aspirations for this record? Do you see music as a viable career?
We’re both lucky enough to work in the music industry full time. Rich runs a company called Touch Loops and I write library/ TV music. It means projects like this for me are purely creative expressions. A chance to hang out with a good friend in our studios and vibe out/ experiment with ideas. So much work goes into any record though, so we’re always keen to get it to as many people as well can once it’s released. In terms of Tall Kingdom being a career, who knows. I think we’re both pretty realistic about it all though haha.
FTR: What’s the music scene in Leeds like right now? Is there anyone we should be looking out for?
Leeds is a music powerhouse! We’ve been buried in studios for a year so I’m a little out the loop, but the beauty of Leeds is there’s so much happening it wouldn’t be hard to stumble onto something amazing in any of it’s venues. Hyde Park Book Club has been putting on some great shows, and of course the Brudenell is a corner stone for all genres here.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I feel that the artwork and images we use for each TK release play more of a role than they ever have for me. And that’s really all Rich’s vision. The grainy, film aesthetic he goes for when putting together artwork really (I think) solidifies what we’re going for musically. So for him I think there are a few way to express himself through the project. I wanted to be a painter since my early teens, and picking up a guitar at school was just coincidence really!
FTR: It’s obviously an unusual time to be releasing an EP during a pandemic, how has it affected your plans for promoting the record?
I know haha. It’s all happened so fast! The main issue has been cancelled live shows of course. We were deep into rehearsals as a four-piece band up until a month ago! We didn’t want to hold off releasing anything though, we’ve been sitting on these tracks for too long already!
FTR: What’s next for Tall Kingdom?
A full year of releases! I don’t think we’ve ever had this much music ready to release at the same time, all with the same vibe and from the same recording sessions, it’s really exciting. Usually we release what we have and start writing something new from scratch, but now we can plan out a lot of music that all makes sense together, which is great!
Hopefully when venues start opening again we can bring them to life live as well, if I can still remember how to play the drums by then.
Amber EP is out now. Click HERE for more information on Tall Kingdom.