From the campus of Michigan State University

Impact Chats With... KINGS GO FORTH!

Nick Van Huis: Your sound has kind of a Motown feel to it, how does it feel to be in Detroit?

Andy Noble: You know, the "Motown" thing gets tossed around a lot in interviews and stuff, and it's not that it's not true, but it's just that 9 out of 10 times, my inspiration for the R&B or funk stuff comes from the people who were standing in the shadows of the Motown people, the ones who didn't have a huge record deal or anything like that. A lot more of the mom and pop recorded groups were more of an influence on us. Motown was kind of fancy. But it's a huge soul city, a ton of people I'm a fan of have created albums here, so it is exciting. I love Detroit, it's great for records, it's great for soul people in general.

NVH: Have you played here before?

AN: Nope, this is our first show.

NVH: You used to own a record store, right?

AN: I did, for ten years, and if you can believe it I actually closed it because it was preventing me from having more records because I had to be stationary all the time. I hunt for records so vigorously both physically and intellectually that I needed the freedom of movement.

NVH: Did the ownership of the record store play into the formation of Kings Go Forth?
AN: There were some really direct connections. Our lead singer Black Wolf I met in my store. He came in, he had been arranging a gospel record in a studio across the street, and he came into my store and that's how we met. There's a lot of influence in the music that come from records that I was listening to, buying, and discovering when I was in the shop, and not just soul and funk and R&B stuff, but rock, a lot of stuff from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I'm into what I call "Real People Music", music that was made by the little guys and that didn't have a lot of bullshit with all the business and stuff. It's more about the people who made records to see if anyone would play it on the radio.

NVH: Where have you toured so far?

AN: Basically, the first time we left Milwaukee was for SXSW, and that really opened a lot of doors for us. I was reluctant to do it at first, really. It's a big gamble, basically, but it paid off. We got a lot of exposure, and I think we really stuck out there, just because we were doing something that not everybody was doing. We did a small east coast tour to DC, New York, and Philly, and this is really just the third thing we've ever done. We've never been out for more than a week or so in a row.

NVH: How did you end up on Luaka Bop [David Byrne's record label]?

AN: Though David Byrne owns it, he's not really hands on with [the label] anymore, I guess. So Yale [Evelev] found us through a BMX video, his son's like this super good BMX guy and stuff, and they like watching BMX videos all day. I guess they put the song "One Day" in one of the videos, which I didn't even know about, but I guess that's how it goes some of the time. So he heard that, and just looked us up online and got in touch. I knew the label, I had the record shop, but I knew about them because I was really into Brazilian music. They had started out with a lot of Brazilian music; to this day, they have Tom Zé and Os Mutantes, I knew Os Mutantes' stuff, the Shuggie Otis reissue that they did was pretty amazing. So I knew about the label, and I thought it was a pretty weird fit for us. They were definitely thought of as being very international, except the last three artists they've signed have been from America. They're all really different from each other, Javelin in particular I really like. Javelin is really interesting though, I think we both have influence from third-world music.

NVH: Is it hard being the group leader in a group with almost a dozen members?

AN: It can be, and there have been times already when on singer has had their eyes on a song and I've decided to give it to another singer for whatever reason.

NVH: So you pick those things?

AN: I do, more or less. You can't have a pure democracy with a ten-piece group; it's just chaos. I tend to make the final call, but I'd like to think that I take the most input as possible, sometimes even from outside the band. I'm a record listener, I'm a record collector, so I bounce ideas off people. I'm really interested to see how one note, one chord, one song can bounce off different people in different ways.

NVH: So with the recent revival of soul music, with artists like Sharon Jones and Duffy, how does it feel to be thrown into that mix?

AN: To a certain extent, I think we're all helping each other. Sharon Jones' band has a couple members that I've been friends with for a while now. I think that they broke down a lot of these barriers, these doors, with the size of a group like that. I guarantee you that Gabe [Bosco Mann] and Neal [Sugarman of the Dap-Kings] did not start that group thinking it would be charting on Billboard. It wasn't what they even wanted. I feel like since they broke down these doors, that all we're doing is walking through them, so of course I'm going to be like, "Thanks, Sharon, thanks Gabe, thanks Neal!" because they did do a lot of the work already. People know now. Otherwise, you would say, "You should go check out this band tonight, they're a soul band," and people would think we were a wedding band. Now you can say, "Kind of like Sharon Jones," and even though it's not exact, it's closer than the wedding band. I don't begrudge any of that stuff.

NVH: I'd be interested to hear what you'd define as "rare soul".

AN: "Rare Soul" is a catch-all term for the regional artists that never really broke out, a lot of the stuff that came out on tiny Mom and Pop record labels back in the day. Rare Soul is a term I like to use in place of more media-friendly terms like Northern Soul, Deep Funk and things like that. Those are more English-oriented terms that refer more directly to subcultures in England. Rare Soul is a great umbrella because it is what it is. They're just rarer soul records, they're people who weren't as famous as Otis Redding. Lee Fields or someone like that is a great example. He made records back then, and he sounds a lot like James Brown, he can sound a lot like Otis Redding. He made records back then, they were great, but he wasn't famous at all. He's way more famous now than he was back then. Rare Soul is sometimes just that simple, sometimes it's just more obscure. But after you've waded through tens of thousands of titles like I have, you start to notice sounds, and whole styles, that never bubbled up to the charts. It's a fascinating world, like jazz and its infinite amount of subgenres. There's all these different worlds, there's a lot to explore.