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Sometimes being a musician in a vibrant music scene is akin to playing the dating game. You go from band to band, testing to see if you’re musically compatible, get along socially, have similar tastes and ultimately have the same goals and desires. That’s one of the great virtues of the Melbourne music scene, where it’s possible to play in several bands at once in the hope that one or more will eventually tick all of of your musical boxes. Adam Kurzel of Melbourne three-piece The Romeo Knights seems to be one of those journeymen. Last time Australian Musician caught up with the talented guitarist was as part of another great Melbourne rock band Crying Sirens. Adam still plays with Crying Sirens and there’s no talk of that changing any time soon but it’s with The Romeo Knights that he gets to express himself as the main singer and songwriter. AM’s Greg Phillips spoke to Adam about the creation of The Romeo Knights’ new album ‘Spires’.

The Romeo Knights have been kicking around since 2011, when Adam and a couple of mates got together in a Melbourne warehouse to belt out some tunes for an EP release. Since then, their original bass player has relocated to America leaving the current line up as Kurzel on guitar and vocals, Luke Price on drums and Sam Murray as their bass player. On the May 12th this year, the band launched their debut album Spires to a full house at Melbourne’s spiritual home of rock, The Cherry Bar. Featuring eleven tracks, Spires is a vibrant slice of Australian rock ‘n’ roll in which it’s bark is as big as it’s bite. The Knights know a thing about dynamics too, striding out loud and proud one moment (Leech, Kerosene, Diamond Days, No One Left to Drive) and taking it down a notch the next (Full Moon House on the Waterside, Forever). While fat, swaggering chords, courtesy of Adam’s well-worn Fender Tele Deluxe are ringing out in the foreground, underneath Kurzel exposes the band’s social conscience, pondering society’s many foibles. This is no more evident than on the album’s title track Spires.
“The idea came from there being maybe a larger corporation or an ego, or something that overshadows people,” explains Kurzel. “Spires in general is about a brand or corporation or belief whether its a religion or whatever. At the same time, a Spire can be something prominent in the skyline. In the early days, it used to be a symbol of hope and a sense of direction. If you saw something prominent in the skyline, that gave you a centre point … a place of possible refuge, so there’s an ambiguity there. I thought that it neatly and concisely wrapped up and encapsulated what the album was all about.”

Kurzel is one of many musicians who have benefitted from the wonderful Push Songs program, the songwriting workshops run by The Push, APRA and Arts Victoria. It was during sessions of this program with mentors like Charles Jenkins, Davey Lane and Rebecca Barnard, that Kurzel was able to take onboard valuable advice from some of Melbourne’s most respected artists and tweak some of the songs accordingly which have ended up on Spires.
“That was really good,” Adam said of The Push’s initiative. “It was interesting to see what the really accomplished guys thought, what they are hearing and where they see it going. The positivity they have is really refreshing too.”

romeokinghts2One of the songs Kurzel placed a lot of time, thought and energy into was the acoustic-based track Little League Colts, which merges the exploration of childhood friendship with a real life tragedy.
“The song started out as a vague idea about when you are younger and you have friends at the time at  school or your neighbourhood,” explains Kurzel. “It took me back to the film Stand By Me and a line at the end. I think it was Richard Dreyfuss character who says, ‘I never have friends like I had when I was ten, jesus does anyone’. I don’t know why I remembered that phrase but it led me to think about one of my old friends, which is loosely what it is about. He used to live around the corner from me and was a really talented footballer. I played football against him and with him. He lived with his dad, his mum had passed away at an early age. I was reading the paper 10 or 15 years ago and I saw this picture in it, it just looked familiar. I looked harder and looked at the name and back at the photo and thought, shit … that’s him. The story was that he was living in New York. He’d been over there doing some acting and was working at a restaurant that I think a couple of Australians owned. They were really happy with him and his work and they sent him away on holiday to Panama or somewhere in Central America. He was followed home one night to his hotel, where was staying on his own and was found murdered the next day in his room. They found the suspects but it sounded like there was a massive struggle that had happened. He was a strong bloke and it sounded quite horrific but he was a super nice guy. So I was a bit taken aback by discovering that and it was incredibly sad. With that song, I felt like I somehow wanted to encapsulate a bit of a feeling about that and those early days. The first time I met him was at a footy thing, I don’t know if it was called Auskick back then but it was little league football and that’s where the title of the song came from.”

Spires was recorded over an eighteen month period, beginning in early 2016. The band would have preferred to have had it done and dusted much earlier but as with many independent bands, life tends to get in the way. “I think I heard Chris Cheney say that an album is never finished, you just run out of time and money,” laughs Kurzel as he reflected on the album’s journey. “We’re happy with the way it came out. It sounds how we expected it to sound but also a little bit different, which is a good thing.” The band is currently discussing the logistics of taking the album on the road with a regional tour soon and possible east coast tour later on in the year. In the meantime they have begun writing for the next album, one they hope to be able to produce within a shorter period of time.

Spires is available now through MGM

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