After profiling bands for the past couple of weeks, this week I wanted to change things and instead focus on someone who is digging into an exciting solo project. Kieran Campbell is the guitarist in The Stallers, another young band who have made an impression before on the local circuit scene, and are actually doing joint shows with previously spotlighted group Project Redshift this autumn. Kieran went to record his third solo song, but his first officially released track, the other week and before he went to the recording studio, I caught up with him on a scorching hot Saturday…
If you want to listen to his music straight away and read the interview later, or whilst you are checking out his songs, there’s a link to his music below the interview.
This and the featured image taken by Dani Mills.
Q = denotes a question asked.
G = my replies to Kieran, which were not part of my planned questions.
Q: How has your time been so far being part of the band The Stallers?
Kieran: It’s been alright, it’s been alright. We started in like (pauses)…2012.
G: That’s quite a while!
Kieran: We only did it for about a year, then we split up, then we got back together fairly recently actually. Then we had about a four-year break, was it four year? We got back together only in the last year.
G: Why did you decide to get back together?
Kieran: Well, at the time we did break up, we all had different jobs. Obviously, time was quite hard, but now we can, well drive or are learning to drive, and we have set times now when we can do it. It originally started me and Oli (the bass player) – we were just going to go to the studio in Louth and just record some weird stuff. I can play the drums but not as well as the actual drummer Jake, so we called him up on a whim and asked him if he fancied featuring on this thing with us. He was like ‘yeah yeah’, so he came down and suddenly it turned into this thing and we were just playing loads of random songs. A lot of Sum 41 and Blink 182.
G: Yeah, they’re great bands!
Kieran: Two of my favourite bands, actually. And then it was like, ‘do you fancy seeing where this is going?’ and I was like ‘yeah’. It’s a bit strange.
G: So if you’re inspired by the sounds of bands such as Blink 182, Linkin Park, is your music kind of punk rock?
Kieran: I wouldn’t say Linkin Park because they’re more nu metal – their old stuff was, but they’re very poppy now!
G: I guess it’s the old Linkin Park that influences your sound, rather than their new era.
Kieran: No, it’s more The Clash, Sex Pistols, Green Day…
G: Oh, so it’s the old school punk that inspires your sound!
Kieran: …Anti-Flag – I’m actually good friends with the bass player! It’s more 90s punk as well as a bit of 70s and 80s; it’s more very old punk stuff.
G: I feel like people call bands like All Time Low punk music…
Kieran: They call them pop punk, although I call it power pop.
G: Yeah, I view punk music as more rebellious, and that was started by bands like The Clash…
Kieran: The Clash is one of the most influential bands ever, because they write about real stuff, same with the Sex Pistols. The Ramones didn’t – if you play four chords, you can play most of the Ramones songs. Then you’ve got bands such as Suicidal Tendencies, from the 90s America who was hardcore punk. Then there are bands like Fall Out Boy who are very post-punk.
G: Now Fall Out Boy is definitely power pop now!
Kieran: They’re not even power pop, they’re just pop now. They just make music for the charts. Bands like Blink 182, they’re not punk, they’re just pop punk. Pop punk is a genre in a way; it’s a horrible genre…Green Day’s old stuff was pop punk, but now with their new stuff…
G: I went off them…I liked Green Day quite a while back.
Kieran: I’ve bought every single album of theirs…including the new one. The new album is so good – they’ve gone back to their roots.
G: Do you mean like the sound they burst onto the scene with in the 90s, tracks like ‘Dookie’?
Kieran: Yeah, they’ve done ‘Dookie’ meets ‘American Idiot’, their two best albums. Then their new album Revolution Radio came out, and it’s all about the Donald Trump regime.
G: I love American music at the moment because a lot of it is protesting against his (Donald’s) ways…I don’t know how he got into power! I feel a lot more modern music now has political undertones, like British bands including Sisteray, BlackWaters, they carry political messages.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to pursue a solo project? You’ve said before it’s been something you’ve always been interested in doing?
Kieran: Yeah – technically it started around ten years ago. I bought an acoustic guitar and I started doing that, then I didn’t play gigs for ages until I was about 13 and I started doing gigs. I was doing them before I got into a band, and the solo stuff stopped for a bit. Then it started up again, so it’s always been on and off but now it is something which I am actually doing properly. I seem to be getting more recognition from it than I am doing in the band.
G: I did look at the Facebook page for The Stallers and there has not been much content posted on there recently – I know that you have got your gigs coming up in the autumn but aside from that…
Kieran: We don’t really post much on social media because we don’t tend to use it that much – we will share things and we have 300, one or two likes (to date, the page now stands at 311 likes). People will consider this a lot but it’s only Facebook, and it’s not important that.
G: Yeah, I feel you can get too tied up in that. Looking at other bands and thinking ‘they’ve got 1000 likes, they must be better than them’.
Kieran: A lot of radio stations and venues look at them – a lot of venues won’t have you perform unless you have over a thousand likes.
G: That’s so bad because when are these bands going to have a chance to break – it’s so judgemental.
Kieran: You’ll find that a lot of people judge the older generation, and it’s the older generation who come out and see the bands.
G: Exactly, and they’re not going to be wasting their time liking band pages, they’ll just tune into the band’s progress sometimes I guess, and find out about a band when they can.
Kieran: What they’ll do is they’ll go to a gig, they won’t know who the band are but they’ll go and listen to their music and socialise with their mates whilst they’re listening to the band. That’s how it used to be back in the day before we were born!
G: That’s what I do, to be honest; I go to gigs, I hear the support acts out and I end up liking them, but I would never have known who they were if I hadn’t have seen them play live.
Kieran: That’s what I mean, it’s like a lot of the generation, our generation, prefer to go out to the clubs – there’s nothing wrong with that and that’s been going on for years but they don’t appreciate actual musicians, they appreciate a lot more commercially generated stuff, so it’s more like…I’m not going to say they’re not proper musicians because they are…they can sing, and some of them can play instruments, like Ed Sheeran can, he’s an alright lad.
G: I haven’t really got into his new stuff, and I know I’m in the minority there…
Kieran: I’m not really keen on him.
G: His stuff is just basic – he could sing anything now and sell it!
Kieran: His lyrics used to have meaning but they don’t now.
G: Yeah, they’re all about going to a club, finding love, but people like Ben Howard, I prefer him over Ed Sheeran! (Since I watched Ed’s performance on Glastonbury, I’ve completely u-turned my opinion of him).
Kieran: I’ve never actually listened to him, I don’t listen to anything on the charts…
G: Only his albums have got into the charts.
Kieran: Well, what I mean by the charts are the pop charts and I refuse to listen to them, and anything that is new on the radio, I refuse to listen to it, because it’s generated that much.
G: I don’t listen to who’s Number 1 anymore.
Kieran: You’ll find out that if you break down the songs properly, they all actually use about four chords.
G: Yeah, they nick other parts of other songs; my Dad and I are always saying ‘that’s a bassline’ ‘that’s a melody’ that they’ve taken from a song in the 70s.
Kieran: A lot of musicians do it, and it’s very bad.
G: I feel like indie, alternative, music had its heyday in the mid-00s – with bands like Kaiser Chiefs, Keane, Franz Ferdinand.
Kieran: Kaiser Chiefs are so bad live – they were supporting Green Day; I was thinking ‘you should be privileged to be supporting Green Day’. I went to watch All Time Low and they were so annoying! They’re so whiny.
G: I used to love All Time Low a few years back.
Kieran: There’s a lot of bands like All Time Low and the Waterparks which are just so whiney. They all sing about the same things, they all sound the same.
G: Do you like Neck Deep?
G: I quite like Neck Deep – they’re a crossover between pop punk and more rock.
Kieran: To me, they’re like a crossover of New Found Glory and this other band who I can’t remember. Their bass player is actually from Lincoln…
G: Wow, I had no idea!
Kieran: If you go on his Instagram or Facebook page, it’ll say he’s from Lincoln. Have you heard the song ‘Can’t Kick Up The Roots?’
G: I might have – I don’t know all their songs by name but I’ve tuned in and out of them.
Kieran: Well in the video for that it shows the band around their home times, and you can see Lincoln sometimes. You can tell by the guitar parlour, I go in there that much you can tell it’s that guitar shop. You know where the Burger King is in Lincoln…
G: In Waterside right?
Kieran: Yeah, they’re near there, where all the boats are and that.
G: If it’s near where the old bus station is, then I do know where that is.
Q: What are some of the themes of the songs you have written so far?
Kieran: Recently, well the one I’m recording today is a political, anti-society thing. I need to actually look at it now (opens up his guitar case).
G: Do you know the name of it?
Kieran: There isn’t actually a name for it yet…I wrote it last night in about ten minutes! It took me ten minutes to write!
G: The best songs are written and composed really quickly – I think ‘Thriller’ was written in around 15-30 minutes.
Kieran: It was written in around 25, 30 minutes. I know that because I’m actually a Michael Jackson fan.
G: I like Michael Jackson too!
Kieran: I wouldn’t go out and buy his records, but I don’t mind him, he’s alright.
G: I have Off The Wall and Thriller on vinyl!
Kieran: I have one of his singles – I think it’s ‘Beat It’. It was a special edition of it.
(Kieran brings out a book from his bag and turns through pages to find the song)
Kieran: Here it is…I think it’s kind of about angst and being stuck in the same place and you just want to leave.
G: I know the feeling!
Kieran: Because of society…I wouldn’t say all society, but a lot of politics, this country is giving everyone anxiety.
G: Especially now with talk of a potential coalition between the DUP and Tories – there’s so much uncertainty there and the DUP, they’re just monsters they are!
Kieran: When I voted…the only reason I voted Labour was for the off chance that you like the sound of someone; barely any politician is going to do what they say.
G: I find it hard to trust a word of what some politicians say.
Kieran: I vote in case on the off chance, they’re going to do what they actually say. So that’s why it’s important to vote, in case they carry out what they’re actually saying. You’ve got to pick what benefits you and your family, you’ve got to pick wisely. Did you vote?
G: Yeah, there is a lot of pressure sometimes I feel what to vote for, but I went for Labour in the end. I like ideas from all parties though and I listen to them all.
Kieran: You can’t just go for one party, you should listen to them all – even if you don’t like the idea of them at first, there may be something there you do really like.
G: I didn’t even mind some of the ideas of Lib Dems, not that I would have voted for them. They said all these promises about tuition fees and although their party voted against them, it still went through under their government.
Kieran: The problem is a lot of the people now are brainwashed – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram is probably the only one that isn’t political. Instagram is my safe zone.
G: I did see some political posts on my Instagram feed though!
Kieran: The only reason people vote Tory, or this party, that party, it’s going to sound bad but they believe that they will make a change, like about foreigners. They’ll say ‘oh we’ve had enough of these foreigners so I’m going to vote Tory’ and it’s like…
G: Admittedly I did vote for Brexit and I was one of the few people my age who voted that way, my reasons for voting were mainly to do with the current legal system and wanting changes in that, rather than for the other reasons other people voted for it. I feel like it’s weird that in prehistoric times you could roam the world as you wished, it’s weird that now most of Earth’s land is owned by countries and it’s nice that people can travel around the world and explore it as they wish. I’ve gone off on such a tangent there!
Q: You said that politics is one theme in your music – what other themes have you explored?
Kieran: Teenage angst in a way, that’s explored in there.
G: I wish I was still a teenager!
Kieran: Well, I’m 20 this year.
G: I’m turning 21 in November! Teenage angst is a good topic to touch upon.
Kieran: Yeah, so it’s like that and then just…a lot of is about – there is a song which is going to be on the album called ‘Love, Life & Redemption’. There’s going to be and someone else in it who I’m not allowed to name yet! He’s from a very, well I wouldn’t say a very high background of music, but he’s from a very good background and he’s played at the 02!
G: That’s cool.
Kieran: But it’s weird, because of my first guitar teacher when I was just starting, he played at the 02 a couple of months back! I was thinking ‘you’ve done well haven’t you’! Yeah well, the track is a Bob Dylan influenced style track, the sound is my kind of thing but the lyrics are in a Bob Dylan style. I’ve also written a song about someone else who’s going through a tragic time – I don’t write about myself going through a tragic time because I don’t really go through a tragic time, which touch wood I never do.
G: Now you’ve said that…you know what it’s like! You say something and then it happens! I’m always thinking that I haven’t been ill in a while…
Kieran: Then you’re ill.
G: Next day, then you’ll have a cold!
Kieran: Yeah, it’s the same sort of thing, it’s like they want the perfect life, so I write about them wanting the perfect life which they don’t have because they stop themselves from having that perfect life. Either they’re not confident enough, they keep themselves to themselves and there’s nothing wrong with doing that, that’s what I try to do. But yeah it’s a lot of that sort of thing. I’m not writing about going to clubs and sleeping with people; I hate the fact that a lot of people write about the same sort of stuff.
G: It’s cliché isn’t it, and really generic. There’s only so many songs you can hear which say the same thing. It’s why I like grime music, artists like Skepta, JME, Wiley…
G: Exactly, they all write about real life issues, Bugzy Malone is another one, they write songs about personal loss…
Kieran: I tell you what, I will admit, I don’t like Stormzy but he seems like a decent guy. I do listen to one type of rap music.
Q: How is working as a solo artist different from working in a band?
Kieran: Well obviously in the band, I’m going to state the obvious here: I’m working with two other guys and it’s not as flexible as you’ve got to work with everyone else. As a solo artist, it’s simple: you just pick up and go. You’re your own manager, and you can just go and do your own thing.
G: I guess when you’re in a band you’ve got to make decisions with the other two members, and you can’t be spontaneous either!
Kieran: We’re all in the band, so we all have to make decisions together. When you’re a solo artist you can do what you’re happy with, and there’s no one there to say ‘I don’t really like that’.
Q: I’m going to ask the last question I had written down now because it ties in better. In the future, do you reckon you will focus more on the band or your solo material?
Kieran: At the moment, probably my solo stuff. Obviously, I still do gigs with the band and that, but we haven’t practised for about two weeks now. I know it’s only been two weeks but…
G: That’s still a lot, in terms of band time.
Kieran: Saying that, we have a gig in July, at the start of July.
G: Where is that at?
Kieran: It’s at Utterby; it’s some fundraiser thing for the school. But then, the cool thing about doing the solo stuff as well is if the band can’t do it (make it), then I’ll just do it solo, with the acoustic, I can do my own stuff. So at least I get a gig out of it anyway! But no, I think to be honest the older you get, although I’m still only 19, the more you want to do your own thing. You don’t want to be, I mean I don’t want to say you want to leave your mates and that, we might stay as a band you never know…
G: You kind of want to find yourself in a way and that can only be done through…
Kieran: They’re more committed to their actual lives, which is great that they are, like our bass player Oli has just bought his own flat recently, it shows that he is doing well. That sort of thing.
Q: How are you feeling about recording your first solo tracks?
Kieran: Well, they’re not actually my first! This is like my third – they’re the first this year, so yeah, we’ll say first.
G: I’m interested – what were the other two before them?
Kieran: They’re things that never got released.
G: That’s why I presumed that this would be your first solo material, as I hadn’t seen anything.
Kieran: Well I posted them on SoundCloud, and that’s sort of dead, and I am doing for one of the tracks that I am recording today, a music video that will come out in the next month, like a proper professional video. That’s going to be on YouTube; I like posting on YouTube…
G: Yes, I think that’s good – people our age watch videos on there, people older than us will watch it – it’s a very accessible way to get your music across. I feel this is a bit off point, but I feel YouTube resulted in Top of the Pops never coming back, and it’s a shame because it’s one of my favourite shows. I always watch the old episodes!
Kieran: They always mime though! They do it now, a lot of performers mime.
G: Do they still mime now?
Kieran: Well, not on Top of the Pops as it’s not going anymore, but when they’re on television they mime.
G: Like on the Graham Norton Show, and Jools Holland – they’re the only shows I can really think of.
Kieran: Graham Norton’s cool though – it’s a good chat show.
G: It is true though, a lot of them do mime. Do you have your own YouTube Channel already then?
Kieran: Yeah, it hasn’t been used in a while, it probably has dust on it – I posted on it at the start of last year, so it’s just been over a year since I last used it. I might start it again.
G: Yeah you should! Are you going to use any of The Stallers’ social media accounts to promote your own work?
Kieran: I try not to.
G: I think it’s good that you do that.
Kieran: I don’t try to because I don’t want the band to think you know, that the solo stuff is more important. So I try and avoid using the band’s account for any of the solo stuff, as it’s not fair on the other guys.
G: Exactly, you don’t want to steal any of the limelight either, and on there is the project you guys have as a collective.
Kieran: You know I wouldn’t even say a limelight is there – at one point we were getting a name for ourselves, then we stopped, and now this time music has moved on and there are already other bands out there who are getting a decent name for themselves and are in the limelight. The limelight will come round again if we keep going, but it’s not as simple as ‘oh we’ve played a few gigs and now we’re getting somewhere’. You’ve got to play loads of gigs…
G: Yeah you’ve got to really go for it for a while. There’s this band called Blaenavon; they were big in 2012/2013 and then they had to stop because of their A Levels and they lost almost all of the momentum which they had. Now they’ve come back and they’ve literally just supported alt-J at the 02. They’re great.
Q: You’ve already sort of touched on this – are there any particular musicians who inspire your sound?
Kieran: At the moment, because it changes, obviously like you’ve said Bob Dylan, I love him, he’s great.
(the interview temporarily pauses as some dogs walk past us, and we both were overly excited about this!)
Kieran: Yeah Bob Dylan, he’s been inspiring me at the moment, but to be honest I can’t really think of much else. Bruce Springsteen has actually.
G: Oh my dad loves him!
Kieran: He has been inspiring me recently, a few of his songs. So has David Bowie. He’s great.
G: He was so ahead of his time, wasn’t he. All the different guises he had, like Ziggy Stardust…
Kieran: He had the Duke of something, the Rebel, Ziggy.
G: Then he had that film didn’t he, The Man Who Fell To Earth.
Kieran: And he was also in a film called Labyrinth – that’s a great film.
G: I really need to watch that! Have you seen The Man Who Fell To Earth?
G: Haha, it’s a good film, but it’s very weird!
Kieran: But yeah, it’s mainly just them three. Mainly Bob Dylan though.
G: Do you like Jake Bugg? I think he’s inspired by Bob Dylan.
Kieran: Not really. He’s like, I don’t want to say he’s too modern, but yeah he’s too modern.
G: Do you not listen to much modern music then? Admittedly, I listen to mostly 80s stuff, and 90s.
Kieran: Yeah, sort of. It depends. When it comes to people like Bob Dylan, the only reason I listen to him is because his music is like from the 50s onwards. I also listen to a lot of rockabilly too.
G: Yes I love that, I love Buddy Holly!
Kieran: …apart from Buddy Holly! My brother listens to him though! But no, it’s more songs, I don’t know them by name as much. Like there’s a song called ‘The Wanderer’. I bet you’ve never even heard of that.
Q: When do you next intend to perform solo?
Kieran: I’ve got a gig on the 4th August; I’m playing this festival in Lincoln, it’s called Wild Festival. It’s a three-day event and it’s very awkward because I’m playing that. No, wait, the first one I’m playing is on the 27th, the last Sunday of July. I’m in Scunthorpe; that’s more solo stuff. Then on the 5th August, I’m in Winchester.
G: Wow, that’s quite a way!
Kieran: I’m playing two festivals in two days.
G: How did you end up doing the one in Winchester? Do you know other people around there?
Kieran: No, a man just got in touch with me; he’d seen me post online and that. See, online is great for certain things so, like, advertising. So he got in touch with me and asked ‘any chance?’ because I said on there that I’d travel wherever, if you just pay me petrol or travel money, I don’t mind. And then he got in touch with me. It’s near London, isn’t it?
G: Yeah, so I’m going to London on the 30th June to watch The Maccabees’ farewell tour, and then I’ve got Community Festival on the 1st (July). So that’s when I’m next going there, really excited! It’s only two weeks away so I keep mentioning it because I’m really excited!
Q: Do you ever feel nervous before you play solo? Do you get more nervous for those gigs than when you’re playing with the band, as when you’re playing solo you’re on your own; you can’t really hide as much!
Kieran: I prefer playing solo because I don’t have to worry about any of the guys messing up, or me messing up and then that ruining their day. You don’t have to worry about timings, well I do and I don’t; I obviously have to worry about timings, but like I don’t have to make sure the others are doing as well as me or having to work together. So it’s less stressful. I mean it’s not stressful anyway, but there’s always going to be that bit of stress there. You’ve got to set up, you’ve got to do a sound check, but acoustic you don’t really need much. It’s a lot easier and a lot better to play solo.
Q: I just have a few quick fire questions left – what’s been your favourite local venue to play in?
Kieran: Favourite local venue? I actually played two songs in Off The Beaten Track (the record shop in my town) – there was no one there watching, even though it wasn’t officially a gig, it was still my favourite place to play in because Mark (the owner) is just ace.
G: He’s so cool! And he’s very knowledgeable as well.
Kieran: But Off The Beaten Track, definitely there.
Q: For an official gig, where would you say?
Kieran: I mean, we’re playing in the town hall in September, and that’s apparently quite big.
G: Ah yes, isn’t there a music night going on there or something in September?
Kieran: Yeah, it’s Louth Rocks something at the Town Hall…
G: Yeah, I’d like to go to that.
Kieran: That’s my band (The Stallers) playing, as well as another band called UK Skunk and another called Ophira – the singer is Jasmine Beeson and the guitarist is Rowan. Officially, my favourite place to play was probably The Kings Head.
G: It’s a nice atmosphere in there – I’ve gone to watch the football there with my brother.
Kieran: It’s just a nice pub in general.
Q: And finally, what’s the most memorable gig you’ve played in Lincolnshire? I’m guessing although it was unofficial, it was when you played at Off The Beaten Track?
Kieran: No, I’d say my most memorable one was actually playing at the British Legion for Louth Later, as I got everyone to do the Mexican Wave!
G: Awesome, did you see that video of Theresa May doing the Mexican Wave?
Kieran: Haha yes, but it wasn’t as good as her running through wheat was it!
G: I think if you’re born in Lincolnshire, you’ll have run through a field of wheat quite a few times in your life!
Kieran: It’s not the worst thing you’ve ever done though haha. But yes, it was at the British Legion, the Mexican Wave was funny. It was a nice night, there was a lot of people there, biggest crowd I’ve ever had. The room was packed, must’ve been around a 100 people there. You’d say something to the crowd, and they’d repeat everything back.
You can hear Kieran’s spin on the classic Bob Dylan track ‘Mr Tamborine Man’, as well as original track ‘Passing Through’ here.