The Special Ks Interview – Electro dance boys from Brighton, Made in Chelsea

December 18, 2011

The Special Ks have featured a number of times on the soundtrack to UK soap Made in Chelsea and have gigged heavily over the summer circuits this year.  Music Vice reporter Ngawara Madison recently caught up with the boys at their London launch party at The Bowery for their new single, “Crystal Fields”.

The Special Ks with Caggie DunlopThe Special Ks with Caggie Dunlop

The Special Ks first caught my ear, and eye a few months ago when I was forwarded a link to a music video called “BOA”. I wrongly expected some kind of euro-dance, strobe-light infused number; but was instead presented with a lurid [albeit distressingly catchy] musical tale of a beautiful girl controlled by her obsessive lover. The video was a dark, mature filmic debut for the band; shot in Birmingham by an independent production company who have also worked with indie favourites Mamas Gun. Never before have I been so pleased to replace an initial misconception! This is a band that can do pop but can also act their own age, so do not make the misstep of disowning them as a generic, irrelevant, or over-commercialised outlet.

So where did Howard and his band of merry men start out? The story goes that they were discovered out of music college back in 2008 by the same team responsible for the development of the Kooks! Mat, Gan, Howard, Ryan, and Darren, have worked painstakingly hard over the past few years to obtain a strong fanbase, both in their hometown, and across the UK. The band are massive on the Brighton scene and hold somewhat of a local celebrity status; however something tells me that this social popularity would exist somewhat regardless of their commercial success as the guys are all naturally charismatic and endearing.

Read on for my interview with The Special Ks…

Ngawara: Hello guys! Thanks for chatting with Music Vice. Big congrats on the new single,  “Crystal Fields”! It must feel great to see such an awesome turnout at The Bowery, here in London for the release. I really do think that this song is one of your strongest tunes Ive heard yet! What is this tune about?  

Howard:  The song is actually about my spider bite! I was bitten by a ‘White Tail’ spider out in Australia a few years ago and I now have a reoccurring wound on my left wrist!  The bite occasionally opens up, and it is extremely painful. It can happen whenever, and when it does, it takes over my whole body and mind. “Crystal Fields” is about when the bite opened up in the middle of the night. My girlfriend was with me and tried to talk me into a more peaceful state, this is where the image of “Crystal Fields” came: it’s about the battle to forget pain, whether it’s from a poisonous spider or a broken heart.

That’s very gory and a unique inspiration for a song! So this new single is based on a personal experience of yours, Howard… who is the main songwriter in the band?

Howard:  As far as songwriting goes, there is not one ‘main songwriter’ in the band. A song can come from anywhere with us, a keyboard line, a guitar/bass riff, a vocal melody, even an iPhone app. As soon as there is some sort of rough idea all five of us will get into a room and mould it into a song…

Very cool. You guys seem really well balanced as a band. There must be a lot that goes on behind the scenes to prepare for a night like tonight, and there certainly is a great turnout for the launch tonight. I was chatting to a number of people earlier, and some have really travelled quite a distance to be here tonight in London.

Matt: Yeah, over the last couple of months we’ve been selling out our shows in London and Brighton, it’s been great and we thank everyone for making the effort to come. We’ll be on tour next year from late Jan 2012 so people won’t have to travel to come and see us – we’re coming to them. It’ll be great to check out all the different places.

You’ve worked really hard at this for the past few years, gigging extensively all over the country. How long have The Special Ks been together and where did you meet?

Darren: I met Howard on my first day of moving to study music in Brighton actually. So a few years ago.  From there it wasn’t long before we had met the other members either through friends or at house parties etc.  Brighton’s music scene is such a close-knit community where everyone knows each other so it doesn’t take long to meet other musicians! From there we rehearsed and wrote a LOT, quickly getting a set of songs together which we gigged with all over the country.  I think we played over 100 shows within our first year of forming!

A hundred shows! No wonder you guys have such a tight setup now! People say that you learn a lot from living with friends, and I guess its probably similar when you’re touring in a band. Living in each other pockets. Nice to see you’re still as enthusiastic and close. In that note, you guys seem to be really great friends as well as band mates. Is the lineup today the same as it has always been, Tom?

Tom: It definitely helps being friends with the band as we spend so much time together. The line-up has had a few minor adjustments since we started the band but the important thing is that I’m still here, as the key to a successful band is continuity in the bass player department!!!

Brilliant. Well don’t go anywhere Tom! You’d be like Geri Halliwell leaving the Spice Girls – they were never the same after that!! Now the name… “The Special Ks”.. What does this name mean? Ive heard many different ideas but I don’t know if any of them are correct. Your name is like the number seven on a bottle of Jack Daniels, whats the story? Has it got ANYTHING to do with the breakfast cereal?

Howard:  No the name has nothing to do with the cereal! I don’t really even LIKE the cereal! The names actually from Facebook of all places! My last name is ‘Kaye’, when I moved to Brighton one of my cousins created a Facebook group called ‘The Special Ks’, it was for all the ‘Kaye’s’ in the world to join. I thought it sounded quite cool and so it stuck. Hopefully it will soon get to the point when people just associate the name to the music rather than the cereal.
When you think of ‘Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ you instantly think band. We’ll see!

That said… perhaps it could be a great marketing ploy slash product/music collaboration? You guys would be great as a backdrop to a cereal commercial, no?

Matt: Bring it on! We don’t have any affiliation with Kellogs though!

If I bump into anyone from Kelloggs Ill have to mention it and tell them you’re grrrrrreat.

Have you guys played abroad yet? Do you feel like its a fashionable thing to be British these days?  

Darren: We have played abroad actually; we were actually lucky enough to play a huge festival out in the Maldives. We spent nine days on our own private beach resort, played a gig to thousands of people, and had one of the best holidays of our lives!

I think British music is definitely fashionable abroad, especially in Europe where touring British bands seem to receive a lot of good attention. We would love to take The Special Ks music to Europe and across the water to America and Canada.  Definitely something we’d like to achieve in the future.

One of the starlets from the E4 ‘reality drama’ Made In Chelsea, Caggie Dunlop, turned up to support you guys at the launch.  hear the show is set to  be broadcast in American soon.. any word on whether they would be using the same soundtrack?

Tom:  I’m not too sure. American shows do seem to have a lot of British music on them so if pushed for an answer I would say “erm… yeah, probably”.

Ok just before we round up, Christmas is coming!! What are your guys’ plans for the holidays? Any shows? Who is spending the holidays where and what are your plans for New Years Eve? Are you playing or partying, or both?

Howard: I am looking forward to just getting home for Christmas, spending a bit of time in London and really resting for the manic next year..

Gan: I intend on fattening myself up over Christmas and I predict I will suddenly get quite thirsty on New Year’s Eve.

 We must use the same palm reader because I was predicted something similar for New Years eve! How about you Darren, what are your plans?

Darren:  I will be back in Essex with my family at Christmas, raiding the cupboards and fridge for all the extra food which is in the house during this time! I haven’t settled on plans for New Years Eve just yet, but I’m thinking I’ll be back home for a night out with friends in Brighton.

Ngawara: Excellent. Well thanks ever so much for  catching up with MUSIC VICE! Good luck with the single, good luck with the impending new year and looking forward to seeing a lot from you guys in the future!

Ngawara Madison, Music Vice

Internet links: The Special Ks

The Special Ks – “Crystal Fields”:


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