“It was Con’s 30th birthday party in his backyard and it was a no clothes party, which meant basically you had to wear anything except for clothes and Jason had, for me, the pick of the bunch… He came completely covered in beer cartons but they were very well-designed, cut-out and sewn together into what looked to be a gladiator’s outfit. We only had three songs, we sounded terrible, and I’m sure the neighbours were very angry, but it was great.”
If you’ve ever encountered King Social – as a band or one of its members alone – you’ll know how fitting an anecdote this is as, on the cusp of launching their debut album, they look back at where it all began.
Playing strictly originals since forming in 2013, Townsville band King Social has amassed a following that is as diverse as its own five members. With an undeniably catchy catalogue that blends genres from country to hip-hop and a stage presence that draws punters like flies to a picnic, the band often appears as a group of lads just mucking about. But King Social’s list of accomplishments – before even having released a full-length album – is testament to the very deliberate moves they’ve made along the way.
“Angus made the decision as soon as we formed the band,” said hip-hop artist Steve Mitchell. “He said ‘We’re having a proper go of it’ and there was no two ways about it. For him, we were going to be the best band in the world. I’m a little bit more of a pessimist; I sort of just follow along and whinge.”
Singer Angus Milne, who also manages the administrative side of King Social, said he works on the band every single day.
“It’s more than I should but this is what I want to do,” said Angus. “It is hard to find time to be creative but that’s the beauty of it! Sometimes a song will come to me in the middle of the night. I’ve gotta be up for work at 5am but I can’t stop writing this song because it’s coming now!
“Music is everything to me. It makes me feel. I just want to make music but I’m smart enough to know that I need money if I’m going to do that properly. I’d love to be rich and have a mansion and just make my music all day everyday but to be honest I don’t think that’s how it works. Without the struggles and stress of a real life I think our music would be pretty bland.”
It would seem that “realness” is a key ingredient in King Social’s recipe for success: many of their songs deal with universal topics, such as break-ups, bullying and being human. The relatability mobilised enough fans late last year to see the band set a national record for the highest ever crowdfunded debut LP. That LP, titled In Colour, is set for release on 3 September, and the band agrees it’s the best music they’ve made to date.
“It means we could do it properly,” said Angus. “Not only record and produce [the album], but also promote it – we’re giving it the very best shot.
“We’ve put a lot of time and money and energy into it ourselves, we’re doing it the best possible way we can. Those people who donated, and everyone else who’s helped us out in any way – I feel like we owe them, and we’ll be paying them back for ever. But it all comes down to the songs in the end, and I think we have them.
“This album is a real collaborative effort compared to some of our older recordings. The majority of the songs were written by all five of us. I think that has really evolved our sound and I reckon we will continue to evolve as we write more songs together which I am pretty excited about,” Angus said.
“It’s hip-hop and soul. This is how we always wanted our music to sound.
“My favourite part of this album is Jason’s guitar hook in Simmer Down. It’s brilliant! Jason, Wonga and Con’s instrumentation and attention to detail in this album are just pure gold. Stevie and I are just the fluff on top.”
For the two front men, Steve in particular, being “the fluff” comes with some added pressure to rise to expectations.
“I constantly have the sort of feeling, I suppose everyone would, that people often see me on stage and they see a very confident performer and I often hear – particularly from my family who are just so supportive – ‘Oh, whatever you want to do you can do’. But I think that expectation is what frightens me a little and you sort of go ‘Shit. What if I don’t?’” Steve said.
“You’ll hear it on [the track] Lemonade – I sort of thought guilt has taught me to reach for expectations. I think feeling guilty about people expecting me to get into a certain position because of whatever attributes I have freaks me out. So I sort of drive myself into a position where I have to be good at it and if I’m not, I tend to run away.”
It’s a glaring contrast from the confident, high-energy larrikin fans are used to seeing on stage.
“Because I don’t play an instrument, my stage presence is my power,” Stevie said. “When I’m not in the song or I’m not doing anything, I’ve got to be running around or jumping around and enjoying myself. And I do. Thoroughly!
“Back when I used to rap in Bombay Rock, because Aussie hip-hop is such an angry art form, it was always like flexi-fit hats and pissed off white boys with their arms crossed and at the end they would all just sort of nod. So to get in with a band like this and have a crowd that’s so responsive – it’s fucking awesome.”
They’ve come a long way from headlining their own birthday parties and, while there’s a long way to go before staking a legitimate claim to the tile of “Best Band in the World”, King Social are certainly on the rise. In Colour had sold more than 700 copies, before they’d finished writing it and, if the success of the first release Simmer Down is anything to go by, we can expect to see plenty more from this determined five-some.
King Social’s album In Colour drops 3 September and is available for pre-order now from iTunes and GooglePlay.