Wow! I have to confess, I got it into my head this lot would be over-the-top exhibitionist glam-rockers (or something like that)…..how humungously wrong can you be!! Kimono Drag Queens are a psychedelic/World Music seven-piece with musical influences spanning continents, decades, genres…you name it. With a focus on great rhythmic syncopation linked to intricate arrangements, they’ve generated a style that blends elements of psych rock, 60’s US West Coast, cinematic soundscapes and noirish lyricism that just totally defies comparison!
Imagine a kaleidoscope of colours drying on a large canvas – you can see it all there, only it’s not quite ready. That’s what it was like for Sydney psych-rock band Kimono Drag Queens and their debut album Songs of Worship. It’s taken the band two years to record but as of November 6th the album’s six tracks, which were produced by Phan Sjarif at Parliament Studios, will be unleashed unto the world. And although a bit light on length, the mesmeric quality makes it well worth the wait.
Formed in 2016, in between a handful of East Coast Australian tours, the band have released a string of singles, three of which (Hunters, Wild Animals and Willy’s World) all feature on this record. So their recorded output ain’t phenomenally productive, but the quality more than makes up for this!
Kimono Drag Queens are: Harry Webber – vocals, guitar. Kellie Banyai – vocals, keys. Will Coleman – vocals, guitar. Zeppelin Hamilton – guitar. Amy Yoshiko – percussion. Billy Minett – drums. William Wood – bass guitar.
The album kicks off with the psychedelic blues rock of Song Of Worship. Delicate acoustic guitar introduces it, the track then builds and builds to a crescendo. “Stream of consciousness” is a phrase often bandied about, but it would seem to fit KDQ’s fluid style of songwriting. The track is hypnotic as it weaves a spell around you, pulling you into the rhythm.
Hunters In The Snow was a single a little while ago. It features a mesmerising, pounding percussive performance, and even without the video (below) it has that widescreen cinematic quality sometimes linked to Western US bands – but this is 100% Oz.
Delilah starts off like The Byrds, The Mamas and The Papas or Scott Mckenzie (“If you’re going to San Francisco…”), it’s so soaked in that 60s vibe. But it’s a richly layered melody, cleverly arranged, it morphs from the 60’s stuff in and out of an altogether darker, more contemporary Australian soundscape. I’ve not had the benefit of seeing the lyrics and the time of writing so its hard to fully envisage the story, but whatever, it works!
Wild Animals is the current single, another gentle tuneful guitar lick introducing it, underpinned by tribal-sounding drums, soft vocals and again an intriguingly organic arrangment, building on and working around the basic pounding rhythm. Another hypnotic track!
Evil Desires has a different vibe, almost Caribbean, those hazy vocals again floating above a gradually building rhythm. This band – and their producers – are very skilful songwriters and arrangers. It’s only 3 minutes 41 seconds long but it still has a sense of a small, fully-formed epic!
Willy’s World is the albums closer, and as with the others the arrangement is complex and layered, it reminds me hugely of Richard Ashcroft and The Verve’s best work, the way it organically develops a wall of sound that’s never overpowering but is hypnotising, guitars and percussion blending so effortlessly. It starts with various instruments playing softly before a hefty beat thuds in, soaring vocals but then some restrained but meaty guitar work, a chorus line shimmering in the background. Halfway through, a complete change of pace and timbre socks you and those orchestrated layers of guitar, synth and much else besides weave into your brain. I am genuinely intrigued as to how this band write, refine and record their songs, there’s real skill at work here, and I love it!
I like these guys! They genuinely transcend boundaries, but if pushed I would offer snippets of 60’s stuff like The Byrds and Jefferson Airplane; fused with Manchester’s The Charlatans and especially those shoegazers Ride, with hints of REM in their hippyish folky moments, and Richard Ashcroft’s compositional flair – the common thread being great percussive arrangements, jangly guitar work and softly spoken, quite delicate vocal harmonies, all woven into standalone, complete pieces. I do believe each and every one of you could listen to Songs Of Worship and hear different influences emerging, and that’s the magic ingredient – so try it, they deserve a wider audience, and I really do hope they get across to the UK sometime!
And as for the intriguing band name, it occurs to me this might just be a mischievous aural play on Komodo Dragons – Alexa has no chance with this one!