Luke Yeoward is happy to be home. Not just because he's able to enjoy the simple comforts of said home after recently returning from an intense tour of Germany, but because the idea of comfort altogether has been a long time coming for Yeoward. “I'm just at my home in Melbourne, which is nice," admits the vocalist/guitarist of locals King Cannons, "But it's unusual.”
As the leader of the soul-infused punk rockers, Yeoward takes every opportunity to soak up his new surroundings. He speaks in an affable tone, and reflects on the tour of Germany as something of a turning point for the rollicking six-piece.
“We were playing to sold out rooms every night, cruising in a big sleeper van every night. It was fucking amazing,” he says in earnest. Yeoward admits that the intensity and openness of the crowd certainly didn't hurt.
“They’re just keen; they’re up for it. They’re not too cool to have a good time. They’re not there to display their latest wardrobe or be seen. All the crowds were there to hear the music and be part of it.”
With the release of The Brightest Light, their debut full-length, Yeoward has managed to put something into the world that he hopes fans can indeed be a part of; after a disturbing upbringing, The Brightest Light sees Yeoward coming clean and coming to terms with his demons, and with a pretty uplifting soundtrack to boot.
“It’s been a long time coming," he says with a long sigh. Yeoward quit school at the age of 13 and took a job with his father at the mill. Yet punk music provided Yeoward with an outlet. Pressed on how strong ideas of redemption litter The Brightest Light, Yeoward opens up further.
"I spent all of my teenage years angry and messed up. I was a punk and I just didn’t give a fuck. I hated everybody around me; the only thing I wanted to do was drink and do drugs and be an arsehole to everyone around me. But eventually, you realise you need to change. And when I did change, King Cannons was a result of that change. [The band] had been working at for almost five years now. I was in a good place in my life; I’d gotten married, found a little house in Melbourne and there were tons of opportunities coming my way. Being in that positive spot after years and years of shit allowed me to tell the stories of my past. For the first record, I wanted to wear my heart on my sleeve so that people would know who I was and who we are as a band. That ended up being the theme of the record.
“I had to get it all off my chest," he continues. "Now I’ve got all these other avenues to travel down, in terms of songwriting. But for this first one, it was take it or leave it.”
While 'take it or leave it' can be a polarising position to take, Yeoward believes he's played his chips well. A remarkably assured debut, King Cannons invigorating mix of punk aesthetics and soulful harmonies is akin to other such rousing contemporaries as Against Me! and The Hold Steady. It's much to raise your fists to. And while Yeoward is proud of his work on The Brightest Light, he admits that involving himself with that kind of introspection and self-realisation that was necessary to write the record wasn't always smooth sailing.
“Sitting in a room alone writing for a few months, you figure out some pretty interesting stuff about yourself," he says. "Most of the songs that made it on the record left me pretty surprised while I was writing them. It’s something that I really believe in though, because you’ve got to have the truth in soul.”
Truthful as it may be, how did the other five members of King Cannons feel about associating themselves with such an outwardly extroverted approach?
“We’re all really good mates and they’re keen to tell me if I’m barking up the wrong tree. With the five years we’ve been together, we’ve had a lot of time to grow.”
Though the members of King Cannons had run in the same circles for some time, it was a chance meeting at a screening of The Future Is Unwritten, the Joe Strummer documentary that made the future of King Cannons very clear. And it's fitting, considering how intense an influence The Clash has had on both Yeoward and the overall approach of King Cannons.
“That film came out around the same time I was going through some changes," says Yeoward. "Meeting those guys at the film – though I’d known them for awhile before seeing them at the cinema – it was like the spirit of Joe Strummer was speaking to me, saying, ‘Yes, what you’re doing is correct!’ And seeing them, with all of us being at the same point in our lives, if felt right. We saw that something positive could come out of it.”
Yeoward and King Cannons continue to see themselves as the underdogs, an attitude that he's incredibly comfortable with. The band has had to fight for nearly everything they've been given, and their resolve can be heard in spades on The Brightest Light. But being a band that relies so heavily on the live experience as part of their approach, Yeoward admits there were difficulties when attempting to capture their live sound on record.
"It’s one of those things that you learn through trial and error. We’re very much a live band, because the music we make isn’t reinventing a genre or anything. It’s not brain surgery. It’s soul music, it’s rock'n'roll. And it has to be played with 110% passion and conviction otherwise it won’t translate. When we go into a recording studio, we have to set up together in the same room, look each other in the eyes and believe in what we’re doing. You’ve got to be your heart into things if you want results. You also need an engineer that can capture that sound. We’ve tried a bunch of different ways in the past; we’ve laid down vocals, drums, all of it at different times, but it just ends up sounding like a stale piece of shit. We want something with some soul and some spark. I think we achieved it; I’m too close to tell right now.”
With The Brightest Light set for release, Yeoward knows the only option he has is to share the music of King Cannons. He'll be sharing his story too, one song at a time. And then, with the help of crowds everywhere, Yeoward will find true happiness.
“We've got a bunch of album launch shows coming up. And we’d like to get to some of the smaller towns in Australia as well.
We always get excited by walking through neighbourhoods that are a little harder. Where I’m from, we had to drive three hours to see any live music. People in those towns, they approach it with a lot of enthusiasm. They work hard and they’re there to have a good time.”
BY JOSHUA KLOKE
KING CANNONS launch The Brightest Light at The Toff in Town on Thursday June 21. The album is released the next day, Friday June 22, through EMI.