SOMETHING FOR KATE The X-Press Interview

Melbourne indie legends Something For Kate return this month with their eagerly anticipated seventh studio album The Modern Medieval. Coming a whole eight years since their last record Leave Your Soul to Science, a lot has changed in the world of SFK, with frontman Paul Dempsey and bassist/wife Stephanie Ashworth now having two kids and Dempsey spending time pursuing his own solo career. BRAYDEN EDWARDS spoke to Dempsey to find out why the time was right for a new record and how a year after its completion, the events of 2020 have made its release feel all the more meaningful.

Congrats on the release of your new album, it must feel good to finally get it out there?

It sure does. The album was finished exactly a year ago so we’ve been living with it for a while. We couldn’t get it out any earlier due to a number of logistical concerns brought on by the pandemic so it’s been a long wait but it’s a good feeling to have it out there. I think the timing has actually ended up working well, many of the themes on the album seem even more appropriate now than they did a year ago.

It’s been some time since your last release, what would you say is the main difference between Something For Kate now and eight years ago?

When I think back over the past years it’s been an incredibly busy time doing a really wide range of different things. We’ve all had a lot of other ventures both personal and musical and the three of us have gained a lot of different experiences which informs what SFK is today. On top of that the world has continued to change drastically around us. Eight years ago seemed so calm and peaceful in comparison to what we’ve been dealing with for the past four years.

It just feels like the temperature has been raised really high and that changes the kind of music that comes out of you and the things you want to express, to a large degree we are reflecting back what we see around us and it’s pretty fucking different to what it was eight years ago.

I heard you recorded this album at Bernard Fanning’s studio in Byron Bay? Did you find that was a good environment to capture your ideas on record?

It was probably the most idyllic recording experience we’ve ever had. Bernard co-owns the studio with Nick DiDia who produced the record and it’s perched on a hilltop overlooking Cape Byron and there’s a lot of glass and natural light and you can actually see the outside world while you’re working which is the complete opposite of every other studio we’ve worked in. We also worked pretty sensible hours and didn’t rush ourselves, we had a great time up there.

It must feel like a lot has changed in the world even since the time you finished recording this album. Do any of the songs mean something different to you now compared to when you wrote them, especially given the kind of year it has been?

If the album came out a year ago when we actually finished it then people might’ve wondered why we were writing songs about rich people fleeing civilization to live at sea, or billionaires building bunkers in New Zealand, or getting cornered by conspiracy theorists at your local pub, or characters who sit around trying to calculate what the next “black swan” event is going to be.

I think the past year has unfortunately been a pretty good advertisement for this record and some of the songs are probably more immediately relatable than they might’ve been. I’ve always enjoyed writing fantastical songs about hypothetical future events in a slightly sci-fi kinda way. I guess some futures aren’t as far away as they seem in your imagination.

I originally thought the title The Modern Medieval was maybe about society going back to the dark ages, which certainly would have been apt in light of world events the past few years. But when I listened to the album it didn’t seem as pessimistic as all that. How does that title tie in with the sentiment and message of the record as a whole?

I’m not a pessimist, believe it or not, I am an eternal optimist. I don’t think I would be here writing songs and singing them to people if I were truly a pessimist. What would be the point?

But, as you say, world events over the past few years have certainly prompted me to draw parallels with the schisms, feudalism, tribalism, serfdom, wealth inequality, mysticism and fear of the medieval world. And then we got a plague!

As a kid, the word “modern” was always synonymous with a bold and bright and hopeful future, while the word “medieval” filled me with a sense of foreboding where knowledge, progress, freedom, opportunity and hope were off-limits. I guess the title is meant to indicate a crossroads but also a roundabout. It’s a hard juxtaposition but it’s also circular. The medieval period was, after all, followed by the renaissance and the enlightenment, and that kind of speaks to the ideas and the flow of the record as well.

And is there a particular track that demonstrates that idea more distinctly?

Last Resort Town is the second last track and for me it’s where all the themes and ideas in the album reach their zenith. It’s basically a story set at some future time where I stumble onto a vast private compound on the South Island of New Zealand and discover a half dozen cryogenically frozen billionaires and I’m faced with the conundrum of whether to try and wake them up and explain what happened to the world while they were hibernating, or whether to simply turn them into a sculpture garden and enjoy them as my own private art project.

I imagine you’re itching to get out there and play these songs live? Is this something that’s still in the “wait and see” phase…and can WA fans dare to anticipate seeing you over here at some point?

We are definitely itching to play shows, the sooner the better and we can’t wait to get back over to WA.

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