Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – More Kicks

Artwork for ‘Punch Drunk’ courtesy of No Rules PR.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Sure to light a fire under those who like The Buzzcocks, Guided By Voices and The Kinks, London’s More Kicks are eager to make you ‘Punch Drunk.’

Branded as the “Purveyors Of Power-Pop,” this gritty trio recently dropped their sophomore full-length album ‘Punch Drunk,’ out now on Rottendam’s Stardumb Records and Milwaukee’s Dirtnap Records, already praised for its hard-hitting (pun half-intended) breakout singles like “Terminal Love” and “Animal.”

‘Punch Drunk’ was recorded live straight to 2” tape and takes on a sonic range of influences from 90s guitar pop and 70s NYC rock ‘n’ roll to 60s garage.

The Music Bugle had the chance to chat with the band – comprised of singer/lead guitarist James “Sulli” Sullivan, drummer Kris Hood and bassist/vocalist Paolo Mantovani – about ‘Punch Drunk’ and more, which you can check out below.

Music Bugle – What do you feel is the coolest part of the London music scene that you might not get anywhere else? 

Kris Hood – I think probably the fact that pretty much every band we know in London has a mixture of nationalities. The city is such a mix of cultures and nationalities, it’s natural that bands are too. It means everyone brings something slightly different to the table.

James Sullivan – I’m the only one in the band that was born in Britain, although I’m not from London. I always find it quite strange if someone manages to play music in London for years and doesn’t play with people from all over the world. I mean, how and why are you only hanging around with English people in London?

Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your particular style of music? 

James Sullivan – I quite like working with constraints and trying to push things as far as possible within those boundaries, so even though we’re ostensibly a guitar-based, rock ‘n’ roll trio, that doesn’t mean we can’t attempt to cram in acapella harmonies, spoken word poetry and psych riff freakouts in one three-minute song. By the way, we’re gonna record it live.  

Paolo Mantovani – I think what I like is that it’s not too easy to define exactly what the band is. We all come from slightly different musical backgrounds. For me, it’s been punk rock bands in Italy and England…

Kris Hood – For me, it’s a slightly more 60s power pop kind of thing…

James Sullivan – And I played in indie bands as a teenager before getting corrupted by trashier and heavier stuff, so we have no natural church that we belong to.

Paolo Mantovani – We’re homeless, basically. 

Music Bugle – How did you guys decide on the name “More Kicks”? 

James Sullivan – I used to play in a band called Suspect Parts with Justin Maurer from Clorox Girls and Chris from The Briefs. Our first bass player was a guy called Smail from the incredible Berlin punk band The Shocks. They were an insanely good three-piece playing blistering songs at breakneck speed. Pristine clean guitars absolutely raging while Smail is spitting out the most slangy Berlin-accented German you’ll ever hear. Fantastic. Anyway, I started listening to The Shocks after I joined Suspect Parts with Smail and I fell in love. They have a song called “More Kicks” and I always thought it was the best name. I swore to myself that I would one day make something called More Kicks. I didn’t know if it would be a band or a record or a book or God knows what, but then when Kris and I started to make a band in 2017, I realized I could finally use the name. I asked Smail if it was okay, of course. The concept of getting kicks pops up everywhere. The Undertones, Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, Exploding Hearts… It’s always lurking and everyone is always looking for more. 

Music Bugle – What were some challenges that you came across while making ‘Punch Drunk’? 

Paolo Mantovani – For me, personally, it was the first time I’d ever recorded live on to tape. I was pretty scared. You have to get everything right in one take – and so do the other guys. I was used to the opposite – the endless loop of re-doing things and trying to perfect it, but then I would end up obsessing about that process so much it would stop being enjoyable and I would just overthink everything. Recording live to tape, there is no real possibility of doing that. It captures the moment and sounds completely honest. 

James Sullivan – Recording live is definitely an interesting one the first time you do it, but I am a total advocate. I haven’t recorded digitally for years and have no desire to return to that. The challenges for me were in the writing. I wrote a lot of songs for this record and they were quite disparate in style. Lovelorn ballads, ragers, piano ditties… you name it. I was slightly concerned that the record would be a total mess of styles, but then through the filter of the three of us playing it in a room, it suddenly sounded cohesive and natural. 

Music Bugle – We feel one of your standout tracks is “Animal.” What made you guys want to release that as a single? 

Kris Hood – I like that one too. The rhythm section definitely drives that song forward, which makes it really fun to play for me and Paolo, especially. I think we all agreed pretty quickly that it was a good opening taster for the new album. 

James Sullivan – It was the first time I attempted to write a More Kicks song that sounded sexy. I wanted the guitar to be incidental so it should be a slinky bass, drums and synth-driven dancefloor groove. Not totally sure we pulled off the sexy sound, but it was clearly a good track to release first from ‘Punch Drunk.’

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise? 

Paolo Mantovani – Right now, we’re in the car on tour in Germany and we’re listening to Weezer.

Kris Hood – I really like that Alvilda single “Negatif.” They’re a new band from Paris. I saw them in London. It’s a sugar rush of a record – great melodies, great sound, great people.

Paolo Mantovani – I’m catching up on the Marked Men. We played with them at Dirtnap Records Fest in Wisconsin in June and I was blown away. 

James Sullivan – I’ve been listening to Pavement this week because I had tickets to see them in London, but we ended up being away on tour, so I had to sell the tickets. I was bummed about that, so I’ve been wallowing in my grief. I’ve been listening to Ryley Walker a lot too, who is making me feel bad about my guitar-playing ability.  

Music Bugle – How do you prefer to get your music – through streaming services or physical means like CD albums or vinyls? 

Paolo Mantovani – Physical. Our tour “van” is a Skoda Roomster car, which only has a CD player, so my CDs are coming in very handy.  

Kris Hood – For example, the Weezer CD we mentioned earlier.

James Sullivan – I’m one of those hypocrites who moans about streaming and uses Spotify every day, but I obviously prefer vinyl. Even just aesthetically, it’s nice to hold that square piece of cardboard and stare at the artwork while the record plays – and as an analog recording guy, that transition from tape to vinyl is just fucking timeless.

Music Bugle – How were you initially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? 

James Sullivan – Well, we released our first album in November 2019 and did a three-week tour of Europe in February 2020 – and then the world caved in…

Kris Hood – We had loads of touring plans for 2020. Italy, US, Portugal… all gone.

James Sullivan – There wasn’t much choice in what to do. We just had to prepare a new record for when we could record it. Once it was possible to do so, we started rehearsing obsessively. Usually, we would play the songs live to get them into good shape for recording, but that wasn’t possible this time, so we practiced more and more.

Paolo Mantovani – We practice at a place called Rockaway Studios in North London. During Covid, we all lived within a couple of miles of it.

James Sullivan – I was living in a warehouse with 25 people and the fire exit literally opened up to the front of the Rockaway building. My commute was three seconds.

Paolo Mantovani – So as disheartening as cancelling plans was, I think getting ‘Punch Drunk’ out of it was as good as we could have hoped.

Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians? 

James Sullivan – It’s a tedious reality of modern life. 

Paolo Mantovani – I would say that I think ‘Punch Drunk’ is very definitely an album. It feels like instant accessibility to little bits of music on social media does devalues the actual thing slightly.  

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep going? 

James Sullivan – “Fuck it, Dude. Let’s go bowling.” 

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