Michael Kilbey

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Every Monday we will be bringing you an unsigned singer or band as part of our Independent Music Monday feature. This week, we caught up with Michael Kilbey find out more about him…

Hi Michael, can you tell us where are you from and how did you first get into music?
I was born in Hertfordshire, just north of London and aside from some short-term forays into other parts of the world, I continue to live here. I first got into music by singing along to my mother’s cassette tapes of Chris Rea and Fine Young Cannibals as a 4/5 year old kid strapped in the back seat of the car. I then took recorder classes at school, then the oboe, and picked up an acoustic guitar age 11 as I simply couldn’t bear to go any longer without being able to play along to my favourite songs of the time.

We love Lucid Dream, what was the influence behind it?
Lucid Dream was written in April this year. I had told myself I was spending too long promoting my music and getting distracted from the most important thing of all – continuing to write! So I woke up one morning and set myself the challenge of going into my little make-shift home studio and recording a full song before breakfast. As I was headed downstairs, I noticed there was a horse in our front garden chewing on the tree that stands proudly in the centre of the front lawn. It turns out the horse had ejected it’s rider after being scared by the big cement lorries at the neighbour’s house next door. One of the builders had tamed the horse and was just holding onto it while it munched on our grass. It was a peculiar sight and not one you expect when you first wake up in the morning. Having checked everyone was ok, I headed into the studio and began messing around on my electric guitar. I always like to just completely mess about until something happens that pricks my ears up. After ten minutes or so the riff to Lucid Dream was born. I hit record, looped the riff about 100 times and then layered on top of it. I gave as little mental thought to it as I could, and just let instinct take over. 3 hours later, and after some heavy editing and chopping out wrong notes, piano runs that didn’t work, and extra guitar lines that crowded the vocal I had a fully fledged new song! I couldn’t quite believe it, and I can’t say the process is something that happens at will, but that was a special morning. Looping the riff as I had done also forced me to write within very simple constraints – the song is just two chords all the way through. But such simplicity can still breed powerful and adventurous of songs it seems and I think on this occasion it benefited it. The result – a universal, unusually upbeat song. I had the melody for the chorus but only made the link to the lead lyric ‘Lucid Dream’ after my 3rd or 4th vocal take, at which point the morning’s events in the garden and my own stream of consciousness came together in the name of art. Wow that sounds pretentious.

Who were your musical influences when you were growing up and who are your influences now?
I didn’t begin writing until about the age of 20, when it was sort of thrust upon me by emotions I could no longer control. But as a teenager I loved 90s melodic rock bands on both sides of the pond. My Vitriol, King Adora, Radiohead, Idlewild, Feeder, Shed Seven, Oasis on this side and US bands Nirvana, Foo Fighters, REM and Smashing Pumpkins on the other. In more recent times my influences have taken on a retrospective sense, in that I discovered the beauty and simplicity of The Smiths who are probably my biggest influence of all time. Also Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, America, Nick Drake and many more.

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How would you describe your sound?
To be honest, I find it impossible to be fenced in by genre and have found it difficult to ‘group’ my songs or pin down exactly what genre I represent. They range from acoustic ballads, to indie rock to more psychedelic alternative rock, but I would say the prevailing theme is one of darkness, introspection and expansiveness. Music and the imagination is a lethal combination and can take us to some far off places! Further than any physical human invention (as I like to say). I have always been most passionate about rock music, so despite the tenderness in some songs, and to answer your question in a nutshell, let’s settle for ‘alternative rock’. I’d like to think that with my music you will always get deep lyrics and original melodies.

What’s your local music scene like?
Non-existent. I live in a village. Actually, that’s not true as there is a monthly open mic at a pub a couple of miles away. But generally, I only really play in London (30 minute train ride from where I live in the outskirts). We all know London is one of the music hubs of the world, but given its vastness and saturation it can be difficult to build a following in the same way that I imagine bands do in smaller, tight knit communities e.g. northern towns or down south in Brighton. I’m hoping that with the first pro produced EP on the horizon and a growing online fanbase, I’ll be travelling further afield next year!

What do you have planned for the next 12 months? Any albums or festivals?
On September 11th I play the biggest show of my life on the huge main stage of On Blackheath festival. My supporters voted and promoted hard for me to reach the top 5 of the competition and the judging panel selected me to perform on the day. I’m sharing the stage with Belle and Sebastian and James – two other 90s bands I grew up listening to, and with it being London’s largest Summer music festival with a giant stage and big screens it will be without doubt the pinnacle of my career so far. Then 2 weeks later I’m headed into the studio with producer Matt Lawrence to record my first professionally produced EP. Yes, everything I’ve created to date has been made on limited resources in a bedroom!

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Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
Radiohead, Morrissey, Dave Grohl. Generally though, I find music incredibly personal and find it difficult to let other people in to that process.

Any funny stories surrounding your live performances?
Can’t think of too many, aside from age 15 doing an acoustic cover of Goo Goo Dolls to the whole school with my flies undone. Hmm what else. Trying to genuinely thank people between songs and somehow ending up sounding really sarcastic. Normally by final song ‘The Wild’, adrenaline is so high that I send the lead guitarist tumbling over, or he almost loses his balance. Not deliberately. This is always quite funny to watch back if captured on video! At least he seems to think so. Actually I think this only happened once haha.

What is the one thing that you want readers to know about you?
I am incredibly passionate about restoring alternative music to what I consider its ‘glory days’ and inspiring our younger generation in the same way I was so deeply inspired, when growing up. I’m also incredibly shy and insecure.

You can find out more about Michael at his website or via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (MichaelKilbey), Soundcloud, Spotify, Twitter or YouTube.