Every so often, along comes someone who just exudes star quality and self-belief, yet stays in touch with reality enough to come across as being warm, down to earth and not arrogant. One such person Is Matthew Phillips, AKA Matthew Kites, frontperson of a band recently hailed as the best unsigned band in Britain, picking up plaudits not just across the blogosphere but also from Music Week and veteran indie DJ Gary Crowley. When I call him up, he’s making his way home in Brixton in the early evening.
After exchanging pleasantries, I begin by asking how Kites came together as a band.
‘It’s a deeply personal project for me, ‘ he explains. ‘It wasn’t just something that I just fell into. I developed demos over a period of time.’ Though even in the photos he has a strong personal presence, it’s clear that he views Kites very much as a band.
‘I met Rick (Kites, electronics, synthesizer) quite randomly,’ he says. He’s clearly in awe of his bandmate’s way with electronics ‘I’m a complete luddite!’ he admits cheerfully. ‘Jack and Jasper (drummer/instrumentalist and guitarist) I knew independently. They hold the glue of Kites together.’ The age spread is also something he thinks reflects the diversity within the band. ‘I’m 26 years old, Rich is 32, Jack’s 19, and Jasper’s 24. Even in our ages we reflect that diversity.’
Kites are London-based, though Matthew was actually born in Helensburgh. ‘I had a very Nomadic childhood,’ he explains. ‘I moved to London to explore an artistic direction, but I didn’t know quite what it was. It wasn’t a ‘eureka’ moment.’
Given the myriad of influences that Kites seem to have both musically and seemingly non-musically as well, I as ask him about the influences on him. He reels off an impressive list of those who feed into what he does. ‘Folktronica, lyrically Billy Mackenzie, Marc Almond in terms of lyrical projection. And Love and The Doors from my Parents’ music collection.’ As for the non-musical influences, he tells me that he’s ‘often been described as quite dandyish and foppish. It’s mainly authors like Evelyn Waugh and Oscar Wilde. ‘I’m not afraid to draw on these when we play live.’
With this in mind, I question whether people have formed any misconceptions about the band so far. ‘We’ve been lucky,’ he states, gratefully, explaining that people so far seem to have grasped what the band are about. However, he adds ‘I know that we’re going to offend some people along the way of our journey. I can see criticisms being thrown our way.’
Speaking of criticisms, I take this moment to confess to him that when I received an email about Matthew describing them as being the new Morrissey, I was extremely cynical – until I heard the music, and realised that they weren’t another Smiths, but pretty damn good in their own right. He takes this in good humour. ‘I’m trying to distance myself from the Morrissey comparisons,’ he says, referring to the iconic Smiths’ frontman. He adds: ‘We both adore language – but in terms of our life stories, we’ve lead completely different paths!’
And what about his plans for the band for the next twelve months? ‘We’d really like to play outside of London,’ he says. I put him on the spot about coming to Scotland – and he reels off an impressive knowledge of gig venues in Glasgow. ‘We will play anywhere!’ he tells me. The single ‘Brother’ is imminent, though there are tracks in circulation. ‘At the moment, I just want to put out material. We haven’t officially released anything ‘til now.’ Brother will be a self-released single, but the band are hoping to do a release with a record company soon. They’ve also been approached by a couple of big-name producers, though he doesn’t reveal who.
He’s clearly ambitious and with big plans, and even on the ‘phone he seems like a star in the making. Yet despite this, he doesn’t come across as arrogant or egotistical, but as a man with his eye on the prize who is getting ready to take the spotlight for his own.
Watch Kites soar…
‘Brother’ is released on October 24.