Goldray are releasing Feel The Change on the 31st July, and you will be hard pressed to find a better album than this released in 2020. Eight weeks into lockdown, before the release of How Do You Know?And the Pysch Cosmic Epic, Oz, I spoke with Leah Rasmussen and Kenwyn House, about the singles, the forthcoming album, playing live, and their distinctive style. I was looking forward to talking to the man, who created one of the best riffs I have heard, on Place Your Hands, when he was with Reef.
What I was unprepared for was that both Leah and Kenwyn are not only very interesting people, who know their stuff about music, the arts and mythology, but that they are the type of people you could talk to all night, and not get bored. We talked about festivals, mainstream ‘X’ Factor watered down Pop, Mother Nature putting us on the naughty step, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Stones, artistic creativity. However, just like our chat, I digress.
I have been lucky enough to hear the album Feel The Change and it is absolutely mesmerising and flows beautifully, did you have a concept before you recorded the album or did it evolve organically?
Leah – Oh it evolved organically, the songs kind of speak for themselves and they create the stories
Kenwyn – The creativity kind of leads the way but then you look back on it and go,O Yeah, there is a definite thread in all this. It really did tie together. I cant talk for Leah’s lyrics as much as she can but I noticed that the feeling of the music that I write, she has come up with something exactly right to go with that lyrically
Leah – They both have the same meaning.
Kenwyn – They do. The music has the meaning and the lyric has the message, and I am very happy with how that has married up on this record.
Like all great albums, it does flow really nicely, and it is not an album to dip in and out of. To really appreciate it, you need to start with track 1 and go in order all the way through to track 8!
Kenwyn – That is amazing to hear because we really did put a lot into this album
The album is shorter than your first album, Rising, and apart from the truly epic opener, Oz, most of the tracks are shorter, was this a conscious decision?
Leah – No, it wasn’t, in fact all our songs are long at first.
Kenwyn – Funnily enough we have to do a lot of weeding and pruning, before you get to hear them. The song Forest and Forest – Part 2 are really the same song, if you put them together then they it is over 8 minutes, but if you put them together they are the same song, just like Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall part 1 and 2.
Leah – The reason we did that is that we would like to release Forest as a single at some point, we have some video ideas, so that is why we possibly separated them.
I was going to ask whether you had cheated and split an epic song.
Kenwyn – We have been spotted!
Leah – It was written as one song and was always going to be one song, but then one day Kenwyn started jamming a solo for Forest which didn’t have a solo and it was just phenomenal. I thought, oh my God, we have got to have a solo in Forest which made the song even longer, so we thought, right OK we are going to have to chop this song in half
Kenwyn – Leah had the idea and a friend of ours who heard it said ‘that first part has got to be a single’. We thought maybe we should , and the only way you can do that is to code it. You need to code it for radio. However Forest and Forest – Part 2, are the same song in our hearts.
I personally love the long tracks such as Diamond Road on the first album, and Oz on Feel The Change, and Forest, which is a bit of a cheat. Do you find it hard to make songs fit a time constraint, and if so could we one day see a six track double LP?
Leah – Yeah very much so, and we almost thought of that, as we have too many songs, so we thought shall we make a double album this time because we have so much material. Kenwyn and I write so much stuff and we find it kind of hard to choose which ones to use. We realised it would have taken a bit longer to release the album if we had gone that way, because we take a while to write, record and mix as we want to make sure that the album is perfect. We cannot churn things out quickly and just say that will do. We cannot let it out until we are entirely happy with it, we are both perfectionists, maybe too much so. Even now we could have carried on working on the album, you know forever.
Kenwyn – Exactly, there has to be a cut off at some point. There is a part of us, and especially in me musically, where at some point we will make a double album with six or eight songs. There are so many of my favourite albums that are like that. On the Led Zeppelin Live album, Dazed And Confused, is twenty nine minutes long and I don’t get bored when i listen to it. A lot of Pink Floyd and King Crimson stuff. Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, which is a studio album, one of the tracks is 19 minutes long. There is thing that when we have done a bit more, and people are a little more accepting of us we will do some music which is a bit more like that. But this album just seemed to happen naturally and seems a bit more accessible and, without trying to be, came out a bit more commercial.
Leah – And slightly heavier in some ways.
Kenwyn – Exactly, and ended up in a shorter format, than we would have done, so we didn’t fight that. However, the one thing we do find hard is trying to get a four or five minute song into a format for a radio edit, which needs to be under four minutes.
Leah – A lot of our material is very long, so we could do something like that. We have to try really hard to fit it all in.
I guess that that needs to be the format for radio airplay, but if you take a really great song and it’s played live, a three or four minute song played live will last for ten minutes, and the crowd love it.
Kenwyn – Absolutely, and if you look at the most popular music of all time, especially Rock and Roll, they are long. If you look at Stairway to Heaven, it is long, and even Smells Like Teen Spirit which is all over the radio, it’s nearly six minutes long. It is difficult for anything that is not Pop to conform to that. On radio these days it seems more about the DJ talking and the Ad breaks, and oh yeah there is some music as well!
That’s why I love Oz. It is the sort of song that you can sit in a darkened room, put your headphones on and immerse yourself in it.
Leah – That’s it. It is a journey
I think you mentioned it earlier. Feel The Change seems a darker album, than your previous stuff, but it is not mournful like some albums, which I am not decrying, because some of them are brilliant albums. But you seem to have made a darker album which has a really uplifting vibe as well.
Kenwyn – I am glad you noticed.
Leah – That’s great. You know we are in deep times, humanity, and people are going through it in some ways and I think people are doing so well. People are doing so much better than they think they are. Things are a lot better than we think they are, and there is a lot of fear that brings us down in our daily lives. Its about the light and dark, with the light goddess and the light goddess, with the dark goddess not being the wicked witch. Kali the Destroyer, the Earth Mother, who eats her children because they are ill and dying, suffering. Then you have the lights that gives you the hugs and the starlight and tells you it’s alright.
Kenwyn – There wouldn’t be any growth otherwise. I am glad you asked this question, because this album is dealing with darker themes, but what are we meant to do here? We are all given our share of pain and suffering, and we need to transform that into something positive. If you don’t then you just go down.
Leah – You can’t give up
Kenwyn – There are so many stories, like The Hero’s Story which is a really great film. There are not many stories that start with oh yeah I had a really great day today and every other fucking day has been great too, The End! No there is always a Dragon to slay, or someone has to go through suffering and at the end they come out a better person. The painful experiences in my life have made me a nicer person. I don’t mean to be funny, but I think that somebody would be a superficial dickhead if there wasn’t something in life that had challenged them a little bit.
Leah – Do we grow or do we not? Do we stay in our insanity, our madness and our pain and cause more suffering to ourselves and others? Or do we make that change and that is what the Hero’s Journey is about. Joseph Campbell, the anthropologist, discovered that all stories are really the same story.
Kenwyn – Star Wars is Lord of the Rings with light sabres and spaceships.
Leah – We are all stars of our own story, and are we going to make it, and that is really the concept of this album. The Hero’s Journey. It gives you power. You can heal yourself. We are all magical beings, we have just forgotten that.
Your new music seems a lot more layered and complex now, do you think there is a Goldray sound, or is it more fluid than that?
Leah – There isn’t a sound that we intend, but I suppose there is a sound in Kenwyns riffs and my vocals, where i use a lot of effects.
I think you use your voice as a musical instrument, and it becomes part of the music, which is part of Shoegazing and Pysch Rock, where the voice interplays with the music.
Leah – Thank you, that’s what i like to do, and that’s why we love Psych Rock because that music is about freedom and that translates musically in the freedom to express yourself. That then transcends into freedom in living, like guys dressing up more. In the 70’s guys were much more flamboyant. You see that at festivals, not just Pysch Rock festivals, but in festivals in general.
Kenwyn – Especially as a man, when I look out there it is a quite boring time to be a young man. High street fashion is very muted and lacking in flamboyance. Leah and myself musically and visually have a real influence from the sixties and seventies and even into the eighties. If you look at Hendrix and Plant, they look like they sound.
Hold that thought because I want to come back to the visuals. The singles you have released from the album are very different, Oz is a trippy epic, and How Do You Know? reminded me of Jefferson Airplane, is the idea of the double single release to give people a taster of the album?
Leah – Thank you, great compliment, I love Grace Slick. You are spot on as that is exactly what we wanted to do. If we had just released How Do You Know? then they still would not quite know, and if we had just release Oz, then they would have thought that it was just one long Psych cosmic journey. This album is a mixture of the two. It is light and dark and ying and yang and male and female. It has got that real balance, so we had to show that as a first step out really. We thought, why not give people something as they are a good bunch going through a tough time.
Kenwyn – We realised that this is time not to hold back, it is not ideal and a lot of bands are holding back and not releasing because they can’t tour and the apocalypse thing was a great shock to us as we had to cancel our tour and it changed a lot of things for us. We thought what are we really waiting for because we were excited to get the music out there. And at this time, when people are having a tough time we wanted to get it out. Music has got me through the toughest times.
Leah – For all we know we might not be able to tour until next summer, and we don’t want to hold onto this album until then. The meaning of this album seems quite current and meanwhile we are going to be getting on with writing and finishing album three.
That’s the six track double album isnt it?
Kenwyn – I love it! You know what, don’t encourage me. At some stage something like that is definitely going to come out
I absolutely love, Feel The Change, and have been playing it over. I don’t know how you do it, because it must be like choosing your favourite child, but how on earth do you choose which tracks to release as singles?
Leah – Oh it was tough to decide.
Kenwyn – We never thought Oz would be a single, it’s seven and a half minutes long, it’s a prog rock cosmic epic, and we thought was the least likely to be played on radio. We have a friend who is a radio plugger, and he told us that he thought he would be able to get it played on radio, because the audience that we are going for, and the rock audience, they don’t mind a bit of long. There are about five songs that we thought could be singles.
I thought there were about eight!
Kenwyn – Do you know what, its a bit of a choice for us as well.
Leah – We are undecided at the moment ourselves. It is down to videos, we are getting video ideas at the moment and obviously in isolation, it is difficult doing videos. The video for How Do You Know? was made in isolation, as we only had one day of actual filming. We were supposed to have two or three so it kind of took a change and turn in a different direction, and is actually a lot better than we had planned. It was only a few days after our first day of filming that lockdown happened. Louis just managed to get back to Barcelona, and we were supposed to go over there and join him, we had these great ideas, but none of that happened. So we had to create something different which actually has the same narrative. We think it has come out better. He had to work with the visuals and had to work harder and longer.
Kenwyn – The cool thing was, and it was a great decision, we didn’t realise it at the time, we actually filmed a lot of it in front of a green screen because we were going to add stuff. Then there were going to be other days when we were either on location or using a more realistic background. But we did the day of green screen, which as it turned out was the only thing that worked. Barcelona was on proper lockdown, we could at least go for a run, but he was just locked in. So he worked on our video for six weeks and did an amazing job. Without the green screen this wouldn’t have worked there would not have been enough footage of us, so we lucked out there really.
In terms of visuals on stage , in an age where bands seem to image themselves in Black and White wearing t-shirts, is it your aim to put the Glam back into Rock?
LR – Abso-bloody-lutely!
KH – I have nothing against Jeans and t-shirts but there does seem to be a lack of people pushing the boat out visually.
LR – This is an exciting time for guys in the growing Psych Rock scene as there is a permission to get out there. In the Psych scene you can wear nail varnish and glitter and be free. All we need now is to get Hells Angels wearing sequin biker jackets.
Where do you get your fabulous stage outfits from, do you have to have them specially made?
Leah – We do, we have to make them. Mine have to be made and half of Kenwyn’s is made and the other half altered.
Kenwyn – You have to go to vintage stores and then get it altered. You just have to work with it. Both the white outfits for this album had to be made. Leah leads the visual side of things and styles us and I think she has done an amazing job.It isn’t in a high street store put it that way
Leah – It takes a lot of work, but it is creative and it is enjoyable, and it would be really great if fashion just got a bot more out there. It would be easier for people to get this kind of stuff, it is almost impossible to get anything different. You have to make it really, and not everyone can make it. Finding a cheap tailor is good, and that is what we have managed to do, and I do a lot of stuff.
Has Kenwyn ever stolen something that you were meant to wear?
Leah – Oh yeah loads, and I have stolen things that he is meant to wear!
Kenwyn – I have to get it altered, because there is a lot of interesting stuff that is made for women, but it is cut for a woman’s shape, so I get it altered so that I still have silk with embroidery in. Look at what Jimmy Page was wearing in the 70’s, these days you have to pimp up women’s fashion.
Well it is a great look and with Psych there is a whole level of freedom to express yourselves in whichever way you like.
Leah – That’s it and we want to feel that when people come to our gigs they can dress up if they want to, not that they have to. There is no pressure, because it is not everybody’s cup of tea, and we don’t expect it to be, because the world is not the same. It is something that is really fun to play with and when you are accessing or triggering all the senses, you are creating a full emotional experience. We look forward to meeting you at a festival around a campfire sinking a few beers.
I will hold you to that and make sure I am glittered up so that I did not look out of place! How are you staying ‘match fit’ for when lockdown is lifted?
Kenwyn – I play a lot of guitar everyday, and we play together quite a bit, so if we get a date when we are ready to go into a rehearsal studio and play some festivals and gigs, we will not be unprepared.
Leah – A few rehearsals and we will be there, we just need to get in the room with the boys. Kenwyn and I play together, but we just need to get together as a band and get up to that level, which would not take long at all.
Kenwyn – If we got the call to do a gig within a month, then we could do it.
You have played some of the songs live already haven’t you?
Kenwyn – Yes we have road tested five of the eight, and the thing with this album is that every one is a live song. On the first album we had Gypsy, Calling Your Name and The Oranges song that were down played more production based songs.
Leah – In the early days of a new band gigging people tend to want more upbeat songs, so we saved Calling Your Name for later on.
I did think, listening to the album, that if you did a gig, and like Pink Floyd often did, and said you were going to play the album in order, it would work.
Kenwyn – Yeah I did think the other day, that we could do that
Leah – I think so too we could play the album in order. You are making me want to go out and play live now!
Well if you were playing live tomorrow, what could people expect from a Goldray gig?
Kenwyn – Well hopefully for us to appear!
Leah – We like to take people on a journey. Hopefully people would leave buzzing, glowing and happy. Our job is to make people feel good and to have had all their senses stimulated.
I think that talking to Leah and Kenwyn was one of the most enjoyable interviews I have done. I suspect that they would make anyone feel like a kindred spirit within minutes of talking to them. This shines through in their music, and Feel The Change has been a constant in my playlist. I think I know the album back to front, however front to back is the only way to listen to it. If you were impressed by the previous single releases they get this on pre-order, because the only disappointing thing about the album, is that the cosmic kaleidoscope fuelled by epic riffs and soaring vocals ends. This is a psychedelic masterpiece which is far too good to just to stream!
I have two post lockdown wishes;
- To glitter up, maybe even make myself some flamboyant clothes, and chat around a camp fire with this beautiful couple.
- To get a campaign going, as I know that Leah and, especially Kenwyn, will not need to much convicing. #SixSongDoubleAlbum