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Interview with Kyros
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Shelby: Much the same as Charlie, I got into music through my parents. There was always music around and my dad is big into the likes of Camel, Genesis and IQ so through osmosis these all soaked into my little kid brain one way or another. When it came to creating music, even as a toddler I remember making up little melodies in my head. I’d come up with new vocal melodies and hooks for existing songs and sing them on top. Something about doing that was really satisfying. If I wasn’t doing music, I’d genuinely have no idea what I’d be doing with my life.
Charlie: I started getting into bands at a young age - through my parents and from watching films - and immediately knew I wanted to be a professional musician, before even having touched an instrument. If I hadn’t become a musician, I likely would have ended up in another creative medium, such as prose or comic book writing.
Joey: I genuinely can’t recall why I wanted to learn guitar in the first place. No one in my family is a musician, and I didn’t have any kind of prodigious knack for it. The best accomplishment I had was learning the chords for La Bamba to show my grandparents. What I do know is the moment I decided to take it seriously. A school friend took me and a few others up to his room to show how he learned the main riff to Crazy Train. I had never heard this song, or any Ozzy Osbourne song for that matter, but seeing him play that riff was soooo cooool. I asked him to teach it to me, and the little punk said “no.” So I went home and learned the whole song out of spite and revenge. After doing that, I decided music was actually pretty cool and rad.
Robin: Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason was the first drummer I was ever aware of as a kid, so I would say it was him who first inspired me to start playing drums. I actually got to tell him that when I met him a few years ago, which was pretty great! My parents were definitely an inspiration too. My dad didn’t play an instrument but he was always very passionate about music which definitely had an effect on me growing up. And my mum is very musically talented - she has been into choral singing for most of her life. In fact, she told me when she was pregnant with me, she actually sung Carmina Burana in a concert. For those who don’t know, that piece has a lot of loud, dramatic percussion. So who knows, maybe it can all be blamed on that!
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Charlie: I love keeping things low-key: reading books/comics, watching films, playing video games, preferably with my partner. She’s a comic artist - which is a medium I particularly enjoy - and have learnt a lot from her about taking careful consideration of what you’re trying to say/express with your work, which isn’t something that’s often taught in music schools.
Shelby: If I’m not playing music or writing music, then I enjoy working on other people’s music. Running a recording studio has its challenges but it’s incredibly rewarding and helping other people realise their musical ideas and get them out of their heads into the real world is always a magical experience with each song. Plus, I really believe that there is a lot of value in working with different styles of music and collaborating with people from all walks of life. So many of my clients are creating such incredible music and they’re all inspiring and influential to me in one way or another.
Joey: I’m a big fan of animation and movies. I like Super Smash Bros. Melee for the Nintendo Gamecube. I try to keep my musical inspiration sources as non-music as I possibly can, which necessitates keeping an eye on what’s going on around me with the world and with the people in my life, etc.
Robin: I like to go running, go on walks, watch movies, see friends. Some people are outdoor types and some not - I would say I’m a real in-between kind of person, so I like a pretty wide variety of activities without necessarily having one overriding hobby in particular. Though since covid, I have really been focussed on my career more than ever and am honestly now enjoying it more than ever. So I can’t say there really is that much time when I’m not involving myself in something to do with music but right now, that’s the way I feel it should be.
How long has your band been together?
Shelby: In one way or another, Kyros has been together since 2013 which effectively means that we are in our tenth year! Obviously, some people come and go and recently our new bassist Charlie has stepped in to breathe new life into the band and begin a new chapter for us and that’s super exciting for everyone involved.
Robin: There are genuinely several different answers to that question at this point! I would say the official answer is since 2012 as that’s when the project was formed as Synaesthesia. But another answer could be 2009, as that’s when Shelby first started writing music that would become part of the debut album. Another answer could be 2013 as that was when it became a full band which was able to play live - as a matter of fact, it was my 10 year anniversary of joining the band just a week ago as of this interview! Then another answer could be 2015, as that’s when we changed our name to Kyros. And of course, the current lineup of the band has only been together for about a month so far, so that sort of counts as another answer too! So there you go, 5 answers!
Where are you based and how did that influence your music?
Charlie: I grew up in East London, in a very multicultural area. When I was learning guitar in secondary school, I was given the opportunity to learn sitar, which led to me developing an appreciation for Indian Classical music. This curiosity spread out to include music from across the world, and the diversity of London allowed me to explore and study these influences actively, which massively altered my perspective on music for the better.
Shelby: I grew up in South West London. And let me tell you this - it’s boring as heck. It’s nice - don’t get me wrong. But it’s just not that inspiring as a musician and a creative. I thrive on urbanism and living in the city and when I moved deeper into central London over to the Islington/Hackney area in 2018 that really created a huge shift in my brain with regards to how songs were manifesting. This part of London on the whole is way more packed with creative people and musicians are everywhere around here and I think that lead me to feel like I was part of something bigger.
Joey: I grew up in South Florida, and I can genuinely say that that fact has played virtually no part in my musical upbringing. My core moments were Florida-specific: my best friend introducing me to Billy Joel, playing hours of Guitar Hero at home/with the Crazy Train kid, and my guitar teacher bringing me the tabs for Limelight by Rush. All others were between me and the internet.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Shelby: Some of my most memorable shows include our support show for IQ at the Boerderij in the Netherlands in 2014 where I proposed to my partner onstage. We’ve been married for coming up to 4 years now! Our very first Rosfest show in the states back in 2015 where this was our first time setting foot in the USA as a band which lead onto us growing a following there. And then more recently, our show in Veruno, Italy for the 2Days+1 Fest. We were absolutely spoiled when it came to tasty Italian catering and amazing weather. Good vibes all around!
Robin: The Live in London show at the 229 back in 2021 for me is one of our most memorable gigs we’ve done because the audience that night was so enthusiastic. Luckily the whole event was filmed and can now be found on YouTube. I’m definitely glad that moment in time was captured, as it was an important one for us, especially after coming back after covid.
Charlie: Having not played any Kyros shows to date, the three I’d pick would be The London Palladium with Anathema, Queen Elizabeth Hall with The Anchoress, and the Alphabet Business Convention with Lost Crowns, which is where I met my partner.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Charlie: I’ve a sentimental attachment to The Lexington, London, having played multiple sold-out shows there with Knifeworld. It’s a great venue, in spite of the difficult load-in, and disco changeover. I’d love to play the Royal Albert Hall, or The Barbican Centre.
Shelby: My favourite venue in the whole wide world is the Boerderij in Zoetermeer, Netherlands. Everything about that place is glorious. So many core memories established there - including our very first show. Easy peasy load in, insanely good catering, incredible staff and the audiences are always so receptive and supportive. I would also love to play the Royal Albert Hall one day. That’s a proper bucket list one, that is.
Robin: The Boerderij has it all, can’t go wrong with that venue!
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Charlie: Magma, Koenjihyakkei, Secret Chiefs 3, John Zorn, Cardiacs.
Shelby: Magdalena Bay, half-alive, Dirty Loops, St Lucia, White Lies
Joey: KYROS Evening With, 3hr set.
Robin: I know it’s a predictable answer but supporting Muse would definitely be a dream come true for me!
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
Charlie: If you can help it, try not to get tied up too much playing one style of music. Take opportunities to play in different types of bands, learn new skills/instruments, and experience music you wouldn’t necessarily have expected when you started. You’ll be a more interesting person and musician as a result.
Shelby: Be patient but never stop and never rest. It will be hard work. But every moment counts. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things. Always entertain new ideas, even if at first they seem stupid or impossible to visualise.
Joey: Bands are made of people, pick those people well. You’ll never do what you want to do if you skimp on this step.
Robin: My advice here might sound incredibly drummer-centric but in my experience, it applies to all musicians. Work on your sense of time! Don’t just rely on the drummer to keep good time - everyone in the band should be able to do it. Yes. Even the singer.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Charlie: Don’t be afraid to turn things down when they don’t offer anything creatively or financially; or try to please other people to your own detriment. Burnout is real and dangerous, and should be avoided at all costs. Music requires inspiration, and being arbitrarily wrapped up in work will dull that enthusiasm.
Shelby: I was going to say basically what Charlie has already said. I’ve been twisted up in all sorts of work that ended up not being inspiring or paying me anywhere near enough for my time. But every experience is a learning experience and sometimes these experiences do lead onto bigger and better things so who knows? Ultimately my bottom line now is to be more careful and be more selective with work and everyone should know their worth. Don’t undersell yourself.
Joey: A lot of headaches would be saved if I could tell myself to just learn everything immediately. Learn your instrument, learn what the other instruments do, learn theory, learn DAW’s, learn business, learn how to record yourself, learn how to set up your space for recording, learn gear, learn everything. I had a lot of preconceived ideas about what “my role” as a musician was, and what it wasn’t. Sure, you can get lucky and find another person who perfectly covers your deficiencies as you do theirs, but you can’t bank on that, and why wouldn’t you want to be a more competent person anyway? You’re doing music because you love it, right? So be interested in all of it.
Robin: Don’t base your career decisions on pleasing other people, even if they are people you admire and have a lot of respect for. I think, like a lot of young musicians, I fell into that trap slightly in my late teens and early 20s. You have to do the thing that gives you a sense of vitality and purpose. Sometimes people have other ideas about what they feel you should be doing and try to impose those ideas, often with the best intentions. But ultimately, you have to be the one steering the ship and if you’re studying music, I think the ability to engage critical thinking becomes crucial.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Shelby: Fear of Fear is an important one especially as it details some of the feelings I was going through regarding my personal identity a few years ago. It feels like a real milestone of a song, documenting a very specific moment in my life.
Joey: Hard to say at the moment, because the ones I want to talk about are not released yet. I tend to dissociate from my own work very quickly, so it’s hard for me to drum up sentimentality for any of the old stuff. I’m still proud of the work, but it doesn’t feel like the person that worked on it was me.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Charlie: I’m particularly looking forward to playing ‘Illusions Inside’, the second single from the new Kyros album. It’s got an addictive groove, and loads of great bass moments, courtesy of my predecessor Peter Episcopo.
Shelby: In Vantablack is one of my favourites and is equally one that gets requested a lot. I can only assume that people like it for it’s twists and turns. It goes places, and then to other places, and then to more places. And that’s kinda cool. From the on-stage perspective it’s a fun one to play and sing - I guess equally because of how much of a journey it is.
Joey: I really enjoy playing In Motion, any of the Four of Fear songs,
Robin: In Motion is great fun to play, mostly because of the extended arrangement we do when we play it live. It’s very percussion heavy!
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Shelby: Either myself or Joey basically throw entire song ideas into the writing pool and we then go through them as a band with a fine-tooth comb and suggest tweaks, rearrangements, trimmings etc. Sometimes the adjustments are subtle and the original demo practically makes it through to the album unchanged, and other times the final song is almost unrecognisable from the original demo.
In terms of what inspires me - it’s an outlet and a chance to express whatever the heck is going onside my brain in a way that makes air wiggle.
Joey: What Shelby said in terms of process. As far as inspiration, I have a personal rule that I can’t use another piece of music as the core idea seed, I have to pull from life in some way, otherwise it’s like musical incest in a weird way. I want music to be the medium to express the world, not just itself.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Shelby: A lot of my lyrics tend to revolve around the mind and mental health. But I also like to touch on identity and themes that revolve around what it means to be human in the 21st century. Whether that is in the context of how technology affects our modern lifestyle or how people interact with one another and how this has rapidly evolved through the decades.
Joey: If you find a consistent, overarching theme or preoccupation in our work, my next action will be to contradict you with the next song.
Robin: I don’t know if we’re the kind of band that likes to put specific messages in our songs, at least not in a preachy way. We certainly love to write about things that interest us, emotionally or otherwise. Technology is definitely something that seems to come up regularly for us - both its positive and negative effects. So no doubt it will continue to be a theme for us in the future.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Shelby: I think every band has disagreements from time to time. But what is important is how you get past them. Sometimes things have to be veto’d and a lot of the time compromises have to be met and that’s totally okay. None of us have massive egos that enforce a sense of authoritarianism. Sometimes our ideas our precious, but that just means it takes a little longer to open up our brains to new concepts. Communication is by far the most important aspect our our band dynamic and being friends that get alone regardless of how we work as a band is super important.
Joey: What shelby said.
Robin: What Joey said.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Shelby: Phew, what can I say? Lots of new music and a new album on the way. Right? It’s going to be a good time to be a Kyros fan.
Joey: Just more. More everything.
Robin: We have a new album on the way. Followed by gigs and then hopefully more gigs!