Having toured and recorded for several years under the name Sükko, the Norfolk-formed band recently rebranded themselves as A Different Kitchen, and, on St Patrick’s Day, they dropped their first single under their new name, titled “I’m Fine I’m Fine.”
The band’s guitarist Eliot Clarke joined Post-Burnout to discuss the single, as well as the change in their name and music, the background for their new name, the importance of empathy, how working as a sound engineer for other artists has inspired experimentation for his work and more.
Yeah, so I guess the first thing I’ll ask is how A Different Kitchen came to be?
Yeah. So, we all kind of went to school together; we all grew up together in Norfolk, just near Norwich, in a really small place called Wymondham. And we all…yeah, I guess we were all just involved with the music programmes at that school, and we all were aware of each other without necessarily, I guess, being interlinked kind of in our friendship groups. And it was actually ironically only when we kind of moved away and went off to uni, that we… – well, Felix [Jordan, vocalist] and myself – we kind of co-created the band and we started off just making music, I guess just the two of us, and then we wanted to expand and, you know, play more live shows and expand our sound and kind of put on a bigger performance. So, we got the other guys – James [Jordan, guitarist], Ben [Alexander, drummer], and Matt [Thompson, keyboardist] – on board, who are fantastic musicians, who went to our school and, yeah, we kind of just went from there, really, a few years ago and it’s all sort of evolved and developed and has become what it is now. But, yeah, it all started…the classic kind of “Went to school together” story, which I think is probably quite common with probably quite a lot of bands out there, but yeah.
I’m assuming the [band] name comes from the Buzzcocks album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen?
It actually doesn’t. The story…so, I’ll kind of give you a bit of context behind the whole name and everything. So, we were, until quite recently – until only this year, really – we were formally known as Sükko. That was the name we went under, and we kind of played and performed and released music under that name for probably three or four years and we got to a point I guess in our musical journey together where we kind of wanted a bit of a fresh start; we had these new songs that – I mean one of them, “I’m Fine I’m Fine,” we’ve just released – but there’s load more songs of a similar vein and it’s very kind of a different…I wouldn’t say necessarily a different genre, but a different feel to what we’ve made before, and we kind of felt like, “You know what? Let’s jump into this new feel with, you know, both our feet and take it into a new direction,” and, in doing so, formed the name A Different Kitchen, and it’s actually named after one of the band [members], his family member who we sadly lost over Christmas and, yeah, he used to run a kind of London underground music night called “A Different Kitchen,” and we just absolutely loved the name and we thought, “You know what? That’s such an incredible way to honour him and keep him in our journey.” So, yeah, that’s where the name came from and it’s obviously quite a personal story but, yeah. So, yeah, it’s not actually in reference to anything else. But, yeah.
Yeah. When I was looking at the press release, you mentioned: “for fans of Fontaines D.C., Wet Leg and Nothing But Thieves.” I think that sort of postpunk-infused indie rock is kind of in vogue at the moment; it seems to be really popular, particularly here and in the UK as well, but I think it’s kind of going everywhere – by “here,” I mean Ireland. But I was wondering was that, from the get-go, the agreed upon music or is that just what it eventuated into?
I think it actually came across very naturally. I think we didn’t ever sit down and discuss…because I’m fully with you, I think it’s…I don’t want to say it’s “become a bit of a trend” but, at the minute, it’s definitely…it seems to be the “in thing,” let’s say, and as I said, bands like you just mentioned, Fontaines and Wet Leg have kind of driven that into probably more of the mainstream indie music scene, I would say. But it wasn’t actually as a reaction to any of that; I think it’s the kind of music that we all grew up listening to and absolutely love but also just love playing live, you know? It’s just got that…That heavier music with a bit of an edge has got such a great feel to it live, and I think my favourite shows are when you go to see a band and they just absolutely blow you out of the venue with the first song and it just hits differently, and I think with our music that’s really what we’re trying to do, especially with the topics of conversation that we’re also getting across in our music. I think we wanted something a bit more not necessarily rough-and-ready, but kind of something with a bit more edge, let’s say, and that also kind of built upon the plan to move away from our old music, which was a lot softer and a lot more kind of indie pop, and I think we kind of…you know, naturally our taste changed and progressed and we landed in this spot now, which I think coincidentally fits in with what’s popular at the moment, so that’s not a bad thing.
No. So, yeah, your first single is called “I’m Fine, I’m Fine,” and it’s about, I guess kind of passive empathy, I guess in a way, where it’s like…it’s a situation that a lot of people can relate to – I certainly can – where it’s like, you use in the song this character Jack, and it’s this kind of idea of seeing someone who you’ve known who’s, I don’t know, seems to be in a rough spot but you don’t know how to approach it, kind of, and I think a lot of people can relate to similar things like that. I was wondering if maybe you could kind of give the backstory a bit to the song?
Yeah, I think you’ve actually got it spot on there. Yeah, it’s…I think the actual kind of, the song is very much used as an overall metaphor for, I guess, just checking up on your friends and asking…if anyone, you know, kind of comes across or seems distant or looks…you know, is just going through a general rough patch in life, just put an arm around their shoulder and just make sure they’re OK and just ask, and I think at the end of the song, there’s the lyric, “He looked happy/Man, I hope he was happy but I didn’t ask,” and I think that very much sums up the whole song and what we want to do with it and again with the song title, I think we’re all guilty of you know…maybe we’ve not had the best day, maybe we’re going through a rough patch, maybe, you know, it’s something more significant, but I think as…I’d say as British people but also, you know, just most people anyway, just tend to shrug it off and just say, “Oh, no. I’m fine. I’m fine.”
Yeah. It’s that stiff-upper-lip kind of mentality.
Yeah, exactly. So, I guess the song, in a weird way, we’re using a very specific story of…it was Felix, who’s our singer, and, you know, he was just out one day and he saw this guy who we used to go to school with and…Yeah, so I guess we’ve used that very specific and kind of quite normal and quite, you know, unextraordinary experience and turned it into a metaphor for, you know, reaching out to your friends or, you know, just looking after one another. So, that’s kind of the message we’re wanting to come across with it.
Yeah, we kind of are in an era of connectivity in the sense that anyone you’ve known in your life, you can kind of reach out to in a digital form, you know, whether it’s through social media or what have you – through the phone or whatever. But yet we seem a lot more distant. It’s very strange, where, I don’t know, people seem to be kind of exposing their life online voluntarily, but seemingly we also don’t really know what’s going on beneath the surface; it’s all very surface level. So, why do you think that’s an important topic to explore, and do you think that kind of empathetic approach is something that’s going to be reflected in the rest of your music coming out?
I think so. I think in the press release I sent you, I can’t remember if I went into it too much, but a lot of what we write about is very much dictated from…some of it is kind of personal experience and things that we’ve gone through and, in all honesty, we’ve had fairly sheltered lives – I think we’re very blessed to say that – but we’re also aware of that, you know, a lot of people haven’t and perhaps we might not be able to directly relate to that but I think it’s within, as humans, our best interests to educate ourselves and to feel that empathy that you said. So, then a lot of what we write about is also kind of, you know, stories you hear in the news, whether that’s, you know, such as the crisis going on in Ukraine or recently in Turkey and things like that, but also kind of more…I don’t think we see ourselves as being a heavily politically opinionated band but equally I think there’s things that come up in the news and you see and you read stories and sometimes they just inspire you to write a song around them and, you know, it really is just all Felix who, you know, it’s his head and the lyrics come out of him but I think we’re all very much on the same page around that and, you know, we all kind of work together and we’re all very, I think, in-touch with what our music’s about. So, yeah, I think the next few songs are very much the same. We’ve got our second single which will hopefully be out fairly soon…
Is that “No Effort Spent”?
Yes. We’re not definitely there on the title yet, but that song.
The provisional title? [Laughs]
Yes, exactly, yes. [Laughs] But, yeah, that track’s very much about more reflecting upon yourself and looking deep within yourself, as opposed to reaching out to other people. We wanted our second song to be more self-centred but not in a selfish way, just in a way of, you know, being OK with yourself and being happy with yourself, and I think there’s no way you can reach out to other people and check in with then if within yourself you’re not happy. So, I think that’s kind of what that song’s about and I think the two go quite well, hand-in-hand.
It’s an interesting thing to think about, in the sense that if you reach out to other people and you’re empathetic to other people, that’s seen as kind of like a virtuous trait, you know? It’s like you’re altruistic and you’re a good person, but yet if you have a similar kind of empathy for yourself, it’s seen as selfish or it’s seen as…it’s like frowned upon. It is just kind of a strange facet of human culture that seems to be worth remarking on.
Yeah, I think so. I think in my experiences, people are very guilty of not taking their own advice, you know? I think it’s very easy – it’s actually in some respects easier – to give advice to other people or, you know, to offer comfort but then, you know, within yourself listen to that, you know? If you’re offering someone else advice, then also take that advice. I think, personally, I can relate to that. I think it’s important to just be kind to yourself and, as I said, take your own advice and, yeah, that’s kind of it really, I think.
Of the two tracks I’ve heard of the band so far, they both seem to share a motif of kind of noisy, punk, droning music that kind of at times gets stripped away to a very kind of soft acoustic sweetness. I was wondering do you think that will be a repeating motif throughout the band’s music or do you think that just happens to be in the case of these two particular songs?
I think it’s something we like to do. I think, for me anyway, when I’m writing music – I think I can speak for all of us – yeah, we like contrast, you know? I just love songs where they really take you on a journey and each section has its own purpose within a song but is also well thought out and well-crafted and ultimately I think a song is a story and it’s a journey and I think it should be…especially when you’re writing about topics that mean a lot to us as individuals, I think…yeah, I think it’s important and I mean, I’m a sucker for a big, heavy chorus that, you know, draws people in, is somewhat [anthemic], but then dropping it back to a verse that sits very quietly, and I think in “I’m Fine I’m Fine” you kind of here that, where you obviously start off quite heavy and then we drop it down, then we gradually build it up, go heavy, and then drop it down again and I think…yeah, I’m not going to say…I was going to say something a little bit cringe about how that can be a metaphor for life or something. [Both laugh] We definitely didn’t see it like that! But, I guess it could be and I think, yeah, I think it is a trademark thing – well, not a trademark thing – but I think it is a thing that will keep going because I like it, and I like songs that have variety and I think nowadays you see so many songs that when you actually look at the waveform of a song, they’re just a brick, and I think we want to do something a bit different and I think we’ve never been a group of individuals who want to follow what the mainstream is doing anyway, and I think there’s a place for not following what the mainstream is doing also and I think there’s more pressure on songwriting to kind of have that thirty-second hook that goes viral on TikTok or Instagram or anything like that, and I think…I don’t know, I think the purity of just writing music is something that we want to kind of maintain in what we’re doing.
It seems like the modern-day kind of equivalent of, like say 20 years ago, every artist was complaining that their songs had to be like three minutes… – for radio – had to be like three minutes long and the hook had to be within the first twenty seconds, and in a lot of ways, that’s shifted but seemingly there’s also this thing, a modern-day equivalent, I guess. I was wondering…you were talking about, you know, kind of how the songs can kind of be a journey; I don’t know if this was just me, but with the new song, I actually got kind of a bit of Radiohead vibes from it and then it goes into a tunnel of noise and becomes its own thing. But you look at a band like Radiohead, and, for them, the song had to be as long as the song needed to be. Do you have a similar mentality, where it’s like, “We don’t care if it’s like ten minutes if that’s what it needs to be”?
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think it’s interesting that you mentioned Radiohead, because that’s one of our…definitely, one of our biggest influences, although I’d say we tend to sit on the heavier side, I think in terms of our calling and in terms of melodies and the voicings of the different harmonies that are going on in the track, we start with a similar vibe to probably what you would get from Radiohead. I think in terms of the song length, yeah, absolutely. I mean, the next track we’ve got coming out, I think it’s about five-and-a-half minutes and we just added on another little section because we thought, “Why not?” And, also, it rounds off the song nicely and I think for the amount of people who, you know, are into the two minute, send it and then stop, there’s equally going people out there who want to be taken on more of a journey and want to listen to a song and, if they like the song, they want it to keep going, and why stop an idea early when you can develop it more? That’s what we think.
Absolutely. One thing I wanted to ask is, I know for the band, you guys work “regular jobs” when you’re not [playing]. I was wondering how you balance the two, between that and the music, and I don’t know if you guys have toured around the country or anything like that? Like, how you’d kind of balance those things?
Yeah. I mean, it’s the same for yourself, right? It’s that…that’s kind of the premise of what you’re doing and that’s why I wanted to reach out, because I could definitely relate to that, you know?
Yeah, it’s always tricky to find time, you know, it always is. But equally I think the wonderful thing about it is we’re not putting any unnecessary pressure on the music, you know? We’re all stable in our lives; we all went to uni, we all…You know, I have followed the music path more than others; I’m working currently as an audio engineer and a producer, but that’s for clients and for other people rather than for myself, so none of us are following the music as a path and the band to be our career; we’re just doing it because we love it and we’re doing it because it’s what we want to do with our free time. So, there’s no unnecessary pressure and I think with that, relating to the previous question, there’s also no real desire to write songs purely on a commercial basis. You know, we’re not putting music out there to get however many millions of streams; we’re just doing it because we love it and I think whatever happens, happens, you know? We are also dotted all around the country: I’m in Lincoln at the minute; Felix is in Sheffield; James is down in Reading, so we’re all over the place, but equally, as you said, it means that we get to play in different cities and play to different people and experience different venues and just experience different…I wouldn’t say “touring” in a traditional way; we kind of all drive to one person’s house, crash there, and then go play the gig but it’s given us an opportunity to get out and about. And, you know, obviously, we were formed in Norfolk but none of us are actually living there at the minute, so it’s nice to go home and play music to people back there and it’s got an awesome music scene, so we’ve tried to stay connected to it. But, yeah, I think naturally it’s difficult, but also when it’s something you love and something we love doing, then we’ll always find the time for it.
One thing actually just based on what you said, you were talking about working with other clients, like doing music engineering, I was wondering does that kind of influence your sound, then? When you kind of hear what other clients want, do you kind of go, “Oh, shit! Maybe I could adapt that to my music” or anything like that?
Yeah, absolutely. I think for anyone wanting to get into, I guess, just music in general but I’d say kind of the production side of music, is work with as many people as you can. You know, say yes to every collaboration that you can because everyone will have their own way of doing things and, you know, their own ideas and their own musical take and way to write a song and structure a song, and it’s all really interesting. And, yeah, absolutely, I think it’s definitely made…personally, I think it’s made me a better musician from working with people and, yeah, I think there are things that you kind of take into your own writing. You know, influences and whether you’re influenced by, you know, bands like Radiohead or you’re influenced by someone coming in tomorrow to record a song, it’s the same thing and it’s…yeah, I think it’s cool and I enjoy it.
I guess the final thing I’ll ask is what’s the plan, in terms of releases for the immediate future? Do you guys plan on releasing singles for the meantime; EP, maybe an album?
I think for now – I think to play the game just a little bit – I think we’re going to stick to singles for this year, only because naturally every time you release a song or content – whether that’s a single, an EP or an album – that’s an opportunity to reach new people. So, I think a lot of bands and a lot of up-and-coming bands are moving in the way of single releases; and whether that’s singles building up to an EP in the end or whether it’s just singles for the case of singles. I think at the minute, it also gives us the flexibility to just write a song, see what happens, and chuck it out there. And I think what’s also important is not to be too tied down with needing to lock in an EP and then write it, record it, produce it, and then master it and put it out. I think there’s far more flexibility. That being said, you know, in a year’s time, yeah, absolutely, I would love to put out an EP. We put out an EP under our previous name and, yeah, it’s good fun. It’s nice to have a collection of songs that fit together and feel like it’s a flowing story. But, yeah, singles for now and we’re just going to try and release as much as we can over the next year-and-a-bit and, yeah, just put as much music out there as possible.
Perfect. Is there anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?
I don’t think so. I think I’m pretty happy. Thank you so much for having us and having me, and, hopefully, this is the first of many chats.
A Different Kitchen’s debut single “I’m Fine I’m Fine” is available on all streaming platforms now. The band will perform at Sidney & Matilda, Sheffield at Refugee Rhythms x Shapes on March 31st and This Feeling on April 15th. Tickets for both events are available here. You can view all of the band’s social media links here.
Aaron Kavanagh is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Post-Burnout. His writing can also be found in the Irish Daily Star, Buzz.ie, New Noise Magazine, XS Noize, DSCVRD and more.