Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, Kingsley Flood is a six piece band full of eclectic talents and sounds. Their latest EP, To the Fire is enhanced by melodic bridges, leading their way to verses with potent imagery. Partnered with producer, Paul Kolderie, who has worked with Radiohead, the Pixies and Speedy Ortiz, this EP captures the distinct instruments while showcasing lead vocals at an all time high. With five featured tracks, the listener is guaranteed to take a journey through a myriad of emotion and tempo changes. My personal favorite is “Cavalry,” a simplistic song with a grass roots feel. The instrumentation is unprecedented and truly supports Kingsley Flood’s unique sound.
I was able to have a conversation with Naseem Khuri, the man behind the lead vocals and rhythm guitar for Kingsley Flood.
“I had been sitting on a bunch of songs I never dreamed of doing anything with,” Khuri started as he explained how Kingsely Flood came to fruition. “The first boost of confidence came from my Craig’s List roommate Nick, who overheard me in my bedroom and decided to pick up a bass for the first time. Through the amazing Boston music scene, we found people to play with us, and I soon discovered I really liked yelling into a microphone and dancing awkwardly on stage,” he joked. “I then moved to DC to make the band as logistically complicated as possible. Because that’s how we roll.”
I have asked many bands about the story behind their name and gotten responses such as, “my cereal spelled it out in my milk,” or “it was the name of a mean waitress at Denny’s.” It was refreshing to say the least, when Khuri told me about how their name came about.
“I had the name long before the band – I love the word ‘flood’ and all its connotations: reckoning, awakening, starting anew. And I lived on a street named Kingsley in Allston, MA. I liked the name, plus I heard Springsteen used to race cars on Kingsley Avenue in Asbury Park, NJ so that was an added bonus. Not sure our crappy band van is good for racing
Much like their music, even the meaning behind the name Kingsley Flood stemmed from personal experiences in Khuri’s life. The band’s bio focuses on describing the songwriting process for Khuri, who never just sits down with a guitar to start writing – he walks. Be it the cities he’s most used to, or wherever the band is playing that night, he gains inspiration through the scenes that unfold around him.
“I’m just fascinated with the idea of things not changing from cities just reinforcing wider trends of inequality – Boston and Washington are my points of reference – to individuals sabotaging their own ambition. ‘ToThe Wolves’ is based on my experience writing songs behind my boss’ back on napkins, lamenting my job and the world that suppressed such creativity and of course never changing the situation. So yeah, I walk around these cities thinking that often times, we’re just all talk.”
Featured in Rolling Stone, MTV and NPR, the band was described as having a “musical identity shift” with the creation of their newest EP. Khuri talks more about the reality behind this “shift” and what it really meant for Kingsley Flood.
“What’s funny is that we don’t even see it as a shift, rather the next step in a progression we’ve always had. If anything’s different, I would just say that each instrument is pushing its own boundary a bit more. ‘To the Wolves’ is very much a rock song, but there’s violin on there; because Eva’s (violin and vocals) pushing it to its limit you wouldn’t really think of it as a ‘violin’ song. On ‘Salt of the Sea,’ Chris (trumpet, keys, percussion and vocals) is doing what he always does on keys – beautiful swells and layers – and maybe he’s just being a bit more explicit about it, or maybe we’re just upping our caffeine intake,” he laughed.
“Speaking of caffeine… I drink too much Diet Coke, go out for long walks around DC or Boston, and write my thoughts down. Those thoughts turn into a song which I tell myself is a perfect piece of prose – grown adults will weep at its beauty, classes will be taught,” Khuri spoke about the songwriting process. “I present this perfect specimen to my fellow bandmates, who immediately trounce on it, or worse, respond with a ‘meh.’ Bouts of pulling hair and eye gouges later, we agree on the nature of the song and rehearse it enough to get totally sick of it. Rinse and repeat.”
With a firm understanding of how their songs come about, I was curious to know Kingsley Floods’ biggest musical influences. Khuri describes the sounds he looks for as beautifully simplistic as the sounds that come from To the Fire,
“I gravitate to artists I find authentic, revealing, thinking about their wider worlds and willing to challenge everything, especially themselves. With his new album, I’ve found my love again for Steve Earle. That guy is as real as it gets.”
After mentioning this one song the most throughout our interview, I wasn’t surprised when Khuri explained that “To the Wolves” means the most to him off of their EP.
“It is most different than anything we’ve done before. I’m pushing myself with the vocals, we’re challenging ourselves with the arrangement, and it’s just louder and more punch-you-in-the-face than anything we’ve done. That feels good. I get scared of doing the same thing over and over,” he confessed.
With all this playing, where is Khuri’s favorite place to listen to music, you ask?
“The car. But it has to be late at night, and ideally outside of the city where you can feel the stars above. And possibly after some intense conversation, perhaps an argument that forces you to question your entitled and unnecessarily chest-pounding defense. And with the windows open. And with Diet Coke.”
So just like their comprehensive EP, To The Fire, my interview with Naseem Khuri came full circle; his poetic and transparent responses backing the allusions that are represented in every song.
- Naseem Khuri: vocals, rhythm guitar
- Eva Walsh: violin, vocals
- Chris Barrett: trumpet, keys, percussion, vocals
- George Hall: lead guitar, vocals
- Nick Balkin: bass, vocals
- Travis Richter: drums, percussion, vocals