❉ The Korgis’ frontman talks to Eoghan Lyng about their first album in 30 years, ‘Kartoon World’.
“I suppose Kartoon World is our way of world building, in a sense,” James Warren says. “We realised that there weren’t many bands with the letter ‘K’, so we thought about having some fun with it. The only bands we could think of were Kraftwerk and Kool & The Gang. And, The Killers are another one,but Kraftwerk and Kool & The Gang were the ones we thought of.”
From their early beginnings, The Korgis – originally comprised of former Stackridge members – strove to write about their surroundings. They were English, but felt universal enough to garner fan bases all over the globe. And with Warren as their captain, the band have just finished an album that is set to be their comeback.
“Basically, during lockdown, Al Steele and myself decided to do some work together. We couldn’t meet in person, so he would send me ideas from his computer, and I would send him ideas from mine. Eventually, we realised we had almost an album’s worth, which made it the first Korgis album in nearly thirty years. This World’s For Everyone was the most recent one, which we didn’t get to release in the UK. But, it was released in Japan and in certain parts of Europe. “
Like Kartoon World, This World’s For Everyone was born from the band’s personal and professional surroundings, but Kartoon World is the richer sounding album. Beautifully produced, and recorded with great attention to detail, Kartoon World offers every member of The Korgis the chance to showcase both their instrument and their talent.
“It was about a month of hard work,” Warren elaborates. “It was assembled from the computers, but lots of instruments were then added. We added strings, backing vocals. We have a drummer, an incredible drummer, for the live shows. He’s incredibly solid, and Al’s an exceptional guitar player.”
The Korgis have developed an impressive back catalogue, much of it yearning, all of it intriguing. They’re best known for the shimmering Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime, a searching, soulful work that aches as much for self-forgiveness as it does acceptance.
“I was definitely reading Buddhist materials at the time,” Warren says. “I suppose that was the focus of Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime. I’m more humanistic these days, so the lyrics are very different. I’ve moved on, moved away from those views. The words on this album are a bit more politically inclined, and many of them are essentially Al Steele’s. A lot of it comes from the shallow politicking that was going on in our society, and the desire to press that ‘re-set’ button.”
As a Beatle obsessive, I’m anxious to hear about Something About The Beatles, The Korgis track that has gained greater popularity as the theme to Robert Rodriguez’s podcast. His answer surprises me: “Something About The Beatles was a song I wrote for another band, called Stackbridge. Confusingly, we re-recorded it with The Korgis, because we figured that they were the more popular band for radio playlists. Undoubtedly The Beatles were the band that made me want to get into music. They influenced my decision. I had hoped to be a French teacher, but then it was all about guitars!”
Kartoon World is very much a guitar record. From the opening overture, to the choppy , crisp sound of Back In The Eighties, there is a great sense of guitar presence. And then there’s The Best Thing You Can Do is to Love Someone, the very single the band have declared as their most important yet.
“We are looking forward to playing live,” Warren continues, “and next year is the year! Like you, Eoghan, I spoke to two men from Southern Ireland, and they encouraged us to perform there. When we perform, I play bass guitar, while Al plays guitar. It’s sickening how many instruments he can play. We have Paul Smith on drums, Nigel Hart on keyboards, and our backing singers-Emmy Rivers, Jay Marshall and Ava Volante- are an act in their own right, called Born To Win. And then there’s John Baker, who used to sing with Tears For Fears.”
Indeed, there is a raw energy to the album that feels like it’s tailor made for the live stage. To this writer’s ears, the singing ranks among the very best of Warren’s career, especially on the heartfelt Magic Money Tree. La La Land is as jaunty as the title suggests, and Bringing Back The Spirit of Love feels like a necessary laxative to these desolate times. Then there’s This Is A New Low, suggesting that the shackles that bound Warren to his computer aren’t going away anytime soon. Like John Lennon before him, Warren feels that age has only strengthened his performances, as the experiences that developed him as a person culminate in the most relaxed, yet the most truthful, performances of his career.
“I’m very happy with the album,” Warren admits. “I’ve definitely found confidence in the vocals. Listening back to some of the earlier vocals, I feel I could have done them so much better, but I felt too self conscious. I love playing live, and we have great fun onstage. In the studio, we need to be that bit more focused, but it never feels too forced, And this album has worked out really well: it was all easy going. I’m very happy with the vocals, and the album might just be my favourite.”
Seems like there’s more to learn – clear your heart, look around you!
❉ The Korgis: ‘Kartoon World’ – single CD, Deluxe double CD & vinyl expected 15th October 2021: CLICK HERE to pre-order the album today.
❉ A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Eoghan Lyng’s ‘U2: Every Album, Every Song’ is published by Sonicbond Publishing and available to buy from Burning Shed. Follow him on Twitter. Visit his homepage.
❉ Images courtesy of @tenacitymusicpr www.tenacitypr.co.uk