Interview: Kyle Craft

Few records hit you square between the eyes like ‘Full Circle Nightmare‘ the wonderful new album from Portland-based Kyle Craft. A veritable beast of a record drawing influences from the likes of Bowie, Lennon – christ, I can even hear Steve Harley – ‘Full Circle Nightmare‘ is a strident, swaggering and utterly brilliant take on a broken heart and one that leaves the heart racing and the mind alive.  Recorded in Portland with The Decemberist’s Chris Funk in the producer hot seat, Craft has left behind the simplicity and straight-ahead nature of his debut and delivered something altogether more bold and fresh.   Released on Sub Pop ahead of Craft’s first UK shows later this month, AUK caught up with the singer-songwriter.

Thanks for your time, Kyle, I really do love this album. It’s one hell of a step on in terms of ‘size’ and scope from the debut. Was that the plan from the offset? Or did it just develop that way? 
I’m happy you dig the record!  I had a rough idea about how I wanted the album to pan out. I’d been demoing those songs for a while before ever talking about hitting the studio and when we finally arrived at that point, the attitude and structure shifted compared to my initial vision, which happens. The sequence of things changed a great deal and some tunes were scrapped… given to the ether!

What was it like working with Chris Funk? What did he bring to the party? Is he a hands on or hands off kind of producer?
Funk is a good pal of mine and we’d been hanging out long before the “let’s make an album” talk happened. He’s wonderful to work with and (for me) took a pretty understanding and hands-off approach, which I believe is what he knew I was wanting out of the experience. He let me do my thing and was never overbearing.  The best thing he “brought to the party” was his wonderful Chicago boy charm.

You describe the album as a ‘a closure for you in a lot of ways’. It does feel like you have opened a new door with this album, both sonically and lyrically?
I think I made a few steps in a different direction, but nothing close to a departure. I feel like we’re just a rock ‘n’ roll band and that’s the music I love making. I can’t imagine me diving into anything sonically/lyrically different at the moment. I’d be cheating myself out of what I enjoy. I don’t mind sticking to my guns when it comes to influences.

I truly love the swagger and rawness of this album. It reminds me of so many great things I love – Bowie, Exile, even Steve Harley! – but still very much fresh and current. It kicks off with ‘Fever Dream Girl’ that, I gotta say, had me hooked straight in! Tell me a bit about that song and ‘Heartbreak Junky.’  This is a personal record but strangely one that’s really easy to get right into. Universal themes, maybe?
I think most music is pretty universal. You’d think the more personal lyrics you cram into a verse, the harder it might be for people to relate, but I think it might be very much the opposite. I relate more to ‘Visions of Johanna’ or Patti Smith’s ‘Land’ than I do say… Lennon’s ‘Mind Games’ even though I’m in love with that song too.  ‘Fever Dream’ and ‘Full Circle Nightmare’ (the song) are supposed to be listened to together. One‘s the question, the other is the answer. ‘Heartbreak Junky’ is me bad mouthing myself for being so infatuated with this lady I thought I was in love with for a long while.

The closer, ’Gold Calf Moan,’ seems to sum up this record beautifully. These are songs that are structured, wonderfully put together, and, in the case of GCM, almost cinematic in scope. Am I over reading this? Clearly there is a lot of thought that goes into lyrics and composition, Kyle? Let alone the killer arrangements of these songs! A ‘turning point’ rarely sounded so interesting!
Gold Calf Moan’ was never meant to be the closer.  It just happened to work that way; however, I do spend most of my time trying to convey the story or feeling as best I can through my lyricism.

What’s on the record player at the moment? Anything I need to be hearing?
Rare Birds’ by Jonathan Wilson, Dick Stusso, and mostly just old stuff. Last record on my player was a great compilation I picked up at Mississippi records in Portland called ‘Soul City New Orleans.’

Given you have ‘closed the door and starting life in a new crazier hallway,’ any idea where that is going to take you? Could be anywhere I guess?
You are absolutely right!  I suppose right now it’s taking me to Europe!

Are you looking forward to coming to the U.K. to play the shows? Do you dig the touring side of things?
I am looking forward to it. I’ve never visited! I like driving… I fancy myself a decent driver, so touring is a lot of me behind the wheel. Now whether or not the shows are a fun time, that depends on the city, but these days it’s been pretty groovy all around.

Where do you live? How has that city shaped your sound, if at all?
Portland, OR. I don’t think the city has had much to do with my “sound”. I’m from Louisiana and did all of my growing up there, so I think that has always influenced my sound more than anything.

Best of luck with the album and tour, Kyle, it really is one of my real faves of 2018 so far.
You’re too kind!  Come hang out with us!

May UK Dates:

Fri 25 May, Manchester, UK – Dot To Dot Festival
Sat 26 May, Bristol, UK – Dot To Dot Festival
Sun 27 May, Nottingham, UK – Dot To Dot Festival
Tue 29 May, London, UK – The Borderline

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