Photo: Lauren Luxenberg

Miles Kane: Changing the show

On his upcoming album, Change The Show, Miles Kane doesn’t hold back in his enthusiasm. Why should he? “I love the lyrics so much in this record!” he exclaims, well-practised in regaling interviewers but not tired of talking about the album quite yet. “I always just write for me and what I’m going through, and I feel comfortable in that place when I’m being creative. This album just paints a picture of life and things that everyone goes through.”

Change The Show certainly lives up to its epithet. From start to end its Motown-inspired and luxuriously smooth sound marks a tidy yet not unforeseen deviation from the more typical rock of Kane’s previous solo works. Complimenting this newer sound, the album’s cohesion ushers the listener in. “The songs fit together like a jigsaw! It is so cohesive in style and emotion, it’s such a little world if that makes sense”. 

It sounds a bit scatty but there’s an album for every mood

Miles Kane

Change The Show stands up well, although as sudden cases of nostalgia are like to precipitate it may suffer from the labelling of its Motown inspirations. “There are so many great artists out there who get labelled as being sort of retro or this or that and that annoys me sometimes,” Kane despairs. “Just because you have a guitar, drummer, and bass player doesn’t mean it’s retro.” He laughs before continuing, less defensively, “It’s classic really, and just because it doesn’t sound like a transformer having a shit doesn’t mean it’s not modern.”

Like that classic band formula, this new album is uncomplicated, straightforward. Sonically it’s a more intimate follow-up to the sound of The Last Shadow Puppets’ 2016 sophomore, Everything You’ve Come To Expect, in some contrast to Kane’s third solo effort, 2018’s Coup De GraceEach new release only spurs Kane on for more. “I push it as far as I can go,” he says, “and I beat myself up a bit if it’s not getting the reaction that I want or hitting a chord or hitting a nerve that I want.”

Opinions can also change, and fresh ears can sometimes make for painful listening. “Sometimes you can get so excited by it on the day. I’ve definitely done that in the past and then it sort of wears off and you feel a bit deflated, so it’s a stressful job but it’s worth it, you know”. 

Change The Show is similarly deliberate and thoughtful. “The slower songs I was imagining Roy Orbison or being in a David Lynch film, especially songs like ‘Coming Of Age’ – there was definitely a visual in mind for that,” he discloses, considering the settings people might want to listen to the album in – perhaps some sort of fancy LA apartment with a whisky chaser. “Then the upbeat ones, ‘Never Get Tired of Dancing’ or something like that, I imagine we’re playing it onstage and rocking out.”

These sentiments follow something of a philosophy that directs Kane’s albums and how he listens to music. “It sounds a bit scatty but there’s an album for every mood,”. Off the top of his head, some of Miles’ favourite go-to artists at the moment are Neil Young, The Four Tops, John Lennon, and Action Bronson. “It’s good to go listen to a Neil Young tune and to an Action Bronson tune, then listen to a John Lennon tune. That’s how you find all your little uniquenesses I think.” 

On his own little uniquenesses, Kane’s lyrics on Change The Show are certainly more revealing than those of his younger self. “I’m done with playing the fool/It’s something in the way that I act/I’m tired of bending all the rules,” he sings on the album opener ‘Tears Are Falling’. He echoes similar sentiments over the phone, talking about his move back to London from L.A. Such a lifestyle change perhaps evidences a growing maturity but is also just the kind of scene-change that fosters creativity and a renewed approach to life. “The last record was made over there [L.A.]” he says, “and your surroundings have a big part to play. Where you are as a person in your life and how happy you are or how comfortable you are in yourself. It has to come from within you first.”

For some reason I love writing about worrying, it’s my go-to

From those L.A. heights that were the settings for his previous releases, Change The Show is the product of a warehouse in Hackney Wick. “It was very no-frills,” elaborates Kane, enthused as ever. “There wasn’t even a kettle, it was a complete shithole, but it was great, I loved it!” 

He goes on, commending the album’s producers, Dave Bardon, and Oscar Robinson: “these two young lads who are these amazing musicians like 10 years younger than me, I can see myself in them from when I was their age”. Maybe it was their youth that generated the album’s fresher sound? Having fresh blood “was a really nice feeling, and to encourage them too, it was a great combination.” But maybe it also reflected how Kane is an older musician now. 

This sentiment is certainly apparent in his statement that these lyrics are his most honest yet. “I write about me and whatever’s going on in my life and how I’m feeling” he thoughtfully notes. “For some reason I love writing about worrying, it’s my go-to”. It flies a bit in the face of his older albums but simply put, that was him then and this is him now, a Miles Kane more comfortable and less keen to be so explicitly edgy in his music. Frankly, “I don’t wanna diss my old songs because I love them,” but “I think any artist gets excited about the latest thing that they’ve just done.” Self-effacingly then, “it’s not a diss to say the others are shit, it’s just, the best of what? I know I couldn’t have done any more, I really went to town on them if this makes sense.”

A glimpse at some of the track names reaffirms these statements as does some consideration of the album title itself, almost political in one track but (perhaps thankfully) not explicitly so. “That song, ‘Changing the Show’, is me flicking the news off. It was just before Biden was elected, the news was all Trump, and it was raining outside. My friend was staying with me, and he was having a bit of a rough one, so you could just feel all of this negativity whether you looked at the television or looked out of the window and it was just one morning, I thought ‘oh change the show, change the channel.’”

It’s one of the more anthemic and glamourous tracks on an album that is already fairly spangled, made rocky by abrupt and acerbic lyrics building up to a more melodious chorus and a sexy, over-saturated buzzing guitar. “It was almost like a nursery rhyme melody,” he says. “I just started on the acoustic, then we took it to the studio, and it became a more anthemic sort of tune and it was a song that I needed on the album – another big song”. 

As the title track, for Kane “it kind of became the defining point of the album that seemed fitting, and it has a sentiment to it”. Putting aside any other pretensions, Kane adds: “I have been playing it down, but it is kind of a statement as well”. You can decide that for yourself, though. Perhaps this track serves better as something more personal instead of something political. That being said, if even Miles Kane is making political statements, something must be seriously wrong with society.

“That sort of hunger or desire is still there, burning bright or whatever”

Of the other tracks on the album, ‘Coming Of Age’ stands out by virtue of its title and cliché overtones. Kane is able to laugh this off though, “Yah you’ve shot yourself in the foot haven’t you, coming of age again!” he audibly grins. Despite this change in sound coming from a Miles Kane who is now far closer to 40 than 25, it will be down to future releases and retrospect as to whether Change The Show can be labelled in such a way. 

“That sort of hunger or desire is still there, burning bright or whatever” he notes. Even if he has wised up a bit with age though, “I feel the same as what I did when I made my first album in terms of excitement. I never think I do enough, I want to do more, I feel like sometimes I don’t do enough. I feel like I’ve still got so much to prove,” he adds. “By no means do I feel like I’m at the top of the hill or whatever”, quickly adding that he doesn’t want to blow smoke up his own arse of course! 

We don’t discuss his future projects, since at the time of writing Change The Show is still yet to be released. Fans can rest assured of one thing though; Miles won’t stop here, and neither will he stop collaborating with other artists. “I love the duo thing and the collaborating; I love both worlds and both of those characters,” he asserts. Of all of them though he sums it up best himself. “The Puppets is its own very special thing, all the other collabs have kind of just happened”. 

Reaching the end of our brief phone call then, I sneak in one last sly question. Are there any artists he wouldn’t want to collaborate with again or ever? “I’m not throwing anyone under the bus, you’re good, nice move” he chirps, leaving me pleased that just because his latest songs are his ‘most honest yet’ doesn’t mean they are too gushy. Yes, it was worth a try. 

Change The Show is out now (BMG)

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