The Kamals

The Kamals Interview & Gallery

The Interview

The Kamals Interview

Five-piece fuzz rock out­fit the Kamals (minus guitarist/​backup vocal­ist Brad Nance) dropped by the Bureau in , fol­low­ing their resched­uled appear­ance at Opolis in Norman. Described as a blend of hard rock, stoner rock, heavy psych, fuzz rock and psy­che­delic rock styles, [Sidenote: Goodman, Bill. Introducing … the Kamals. The Soda Shop. Web. .] with the ocas­sional foray into boo­gie rock and acoustic coun­try-blues, the band’s sound is not of this era.

Indeed, it’s not of this cen­tury, as it draws heav­ily on the sounds of bands like the Allman Brothers, Captain Beyond, Little Feat, pre-Michael McDonald Doobie Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the ill-fated super­group Rhinoceros. Their usual modus operandi is heavy, dis­torted gui­tar licks with lots of fuzz pedal, cou­pled with the nat­u­rally dis­torted sound of the Fender Rhodes elec­tric piano (which blends acoustic mech­a­nisms with elec­tric pick­ups, not unlike an elec­tric gui­tar). Top it all off with soul­ful har­mony singing and the ocas­sional wail of a mouth harp and you’ve got some­thing pretty groovy.

Bespectacled and sport­ing a neatly trimmed goa­tee and short dread­locks, gui­tarist Zachary “Zak” Kaczka sings lead in a rich, warm bari­tone. Bassist Trey Allen pro­vides back­ing vocals, while key­boardist Loren Williams ocas­sion­ally takes the lead vocal. Filling out the rhythm sec­tion is drum­mer River Myers, who remained mostly quiet dur­ing the inter­view, in con­trast to his cho­sen instru­ment. River was accom­pa­nied by his girl­friendMadi. The group arrived at the cock­tail hour, so after drinks [Sidenote: CYA: No alco­hol was served to minors.] , we got down to business.

The Kamals (I)
The Kamals (I) — The Kamals Interview

Mercury Photo BureauTell me about the band’s name.

Trey AllenYeah, it’s just kind of a thing we came up with. It hap­pens to be an acronym of [our initials].

Mercury Photo BureauIs it pro­nounced /ˈkæ-m&#601lz/ or /kə-ˈmɔ:lz/?

EveryoneIt’s /kə-ˈmɔ:lz/.

MPBPlease tell me your names, ages, and instru­ments — includ­ing you, Madi. [laugh­ter]

River MyersAlright, I’m River Myers; I play drums and I’m 20.

MadiI’m Madi — River’s girl­friend. I’m 18.

Loren WilliamsI’m Loren Williams; I play keys, mainly a [Fender] Rhodes and an organ; I’m 23.

Zac (VI)
Zac (VI) — The Show That Almost Wasn’t, But Now Is, feat. the Kamals

Zak KaczkaI’m Zak; I play gui­tar, and I’m 22.

MPBAnd you also sing. Loren sings too, right?

LorenYes.

TreyI’m Trey; I’m 22; I play bass.

ZakYou also sing.

LorenTrey and Brad are the backups.

MadiBrad Nance; he’s the other gui­tar player.

MPBHow’d the band form?

RiverMe and Loren were in a band, Plaid Rabbit.

TreyPlus Brad, too; […] for 3 years […]. Before that, me, Zak and a cou­ple of other friends of ours in high school had a band —

ZakBarn band.

LorenWe never did name it, but we ended up call­ing it barn band stuff because we recorded a lit­tle bit and we needed some­thing to call it. Back in high school, we had a [hang­out] that our friend’s mom let us [use. It was a sheet metal barn].

TreyI think some­one used to work on cars in it […]. 

LorenWe would hang out there after school and on weekends.

ZakI played in the barn band, and then after [that], when Plaid Rabbit formed, I was in a band with my friends, Matt and Bill, and we played in Vultures of Culture. We only played a few shows; then that fiz­zled away, and then 2 or 3 years passed, and we got a house, called Old Dog. [Sidenote: Old Dog Records, a record­ing stu­dio in Oklahoma City.] And then the Kamals formed, and it was f*ckin’ awesome.

TreyI played in a few bands, here and there, and I played by myself a lot. I played gui­tar, and then I picked up bass for the Kamals. I actu­ally like play­ing bass.

MPBOkay, how did you actu­ally meet these guys?

TreyAh, that was the barn.

LorenWe’ve all known each other, some of us, since mid­dle school, some of us, since high school.

Madi7 years.

MPBWhen did you 1st pick up an instru­ment or become involved in music?

River (II)
River (II) — The Show That Almost Wasn’t, But Now Is, feat. the Kamals

RiverI was 12 or 13, and right after I’d get out of school, they had all this musi­cal equip­ment at the barn, so I’d go play Loren’s drums after school.

MPBAre you self-taught?

RiverYeah; I tried to take lessons, but [they didn’t take].

LorenMy dad, [Edmund,] played gui­tar since he was 16; [he] accu­mu­lated a lot of equip­ment, so it was always around. He was in a lot of cover bands […]. I just picked up a gui­tar 1 day […]; he saw that I was inter­ested and […] he showed me a cou­ple [of] things. And then when I wanted to get seri­ous about it, he handed me a music the­ory book and a dia­gram of a C major scale, and said, That’s all you need to know. […]

ZakI started right around when I was 13, and I was gonna get a bass for Christmas. I’ve got an older brother, and I was like, Man, I can’t wait to get a bass for Christmas, and he was like, I’m get­ting a bass for Christmas! and I was like, Man, I’m get­ting a gui­tar. That’s how I wound up with a guitar.

MPBMost peo­ple would have just gone for the gui­tar in the 1st place.

ZakI don’t know what it is I like about the bass; I guess I just like the big clunk­i­ness of it.

TreyI used to skate and [be] really active. When I was 13, I cut my kneecap open, and, on my birth­day, I asked for a gui­tar, because I was kind of laid up. I took 1 les­son, and that didn’t really work out, so I just [looked up gui­tar] tabs on the inter­net and kind of jammed around. I didn’t really get good […] until I got to the barn, when I was 15. And then I picked up bass […].

MPBDoes any­one have a favorite instru­ment? [Sidenote: The ques­tion was meant to elicit an answer about a spe­cific favorite instru­ment, e.g., a hol­low body Gretsch named ‘Daisy’ that I pried from a dead man’s fin­gers, but Loren mis­con­strued.]

Loren (I)
Loren (I) — The Show That Almost Wasn’t, But Now Is, feat. the Kamals

LorenDrums. They’re really pri­mal; you don’t need no music the­ory, although it helps as far as rhyth­mic pat­terns. You learn your 8 beats, 16 beats, stuff like that. It’s very easy to pick up and it’s a full body expression.

MPBHow did you wind up being a key­board player, then?

LorenWell, I played gui­tar in Plaid Rabbit […], [and I had] played piano at my grandma’s house when I was a lit­tle kid, so I had a basic under­stand­ing, and then, at the barn, there was a lit­tle piano there that I used to mess around with […]. [When we formed the Kamals after Vultures of Culture broke up,] they were assign­ing instru­ments, and I got piano.

MPBYou got the short straw.

LorenYeah.

ZakBullsh*t! That Rhodes is f*ckin’ awesome!.

LorenIt’s awe­some; it’s really sweet, but I wasn’t entirely com­fort­able with it. But I knew I could work some­thing out with it, so it was like, Oh, yeah, that’s fine.

MPBTell me about the Fender Rhodes. It’s not an instru­ment you hear much any­more; its hey­day was in the late ’60s through the mid-’80s, mostly in the mid­dle of the period. It’s got a really dis­tinc­tive sound, but it’s big and heavy; it’s like car­ry­ing a Hammond B3 [organ] to shows. What gives it that sound, and how’d you wind up with it?

LorenThe Rhodes is Zak’s.

ZakI’m a gear­head; I like buy­ing sh*t. It’s bad.

LorenEver since [high school,] like, he had a cus­tom cab, like a sh*tty amp sort of — I don’t know, the cus­tom wasn’t that bad —

ZakIt was ter­ri­ble; that’s why I got a [Fender] Bassman.

LorenSo he always sold his stuff to get bet­ter things, and saved up his money […]. So any­way, [he got] the Rhodes, and we were all decid­ing what we were going to play […], and I was like, What am I going to play? and he was like, I’ve got this Rhodes; you wanna play piano? Yeah, sure, I’ll play that.

It’s kind of like elec­tric gui­tar, a lit­tle bit, you know, you can dis­tort the amp. And there’s guys like, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, who make the Rhodes have a cer­tain style, like how [Jimi Hendrix does with a Fender or like Dick Dale does with a Stratocaster].

MPBOn the open­ing track from your EP, Tell Me, you’ve got what sounds like a Moog synth break. It reminds me of the intro to Steve Miller’s Fly Like an Eagle. What is that?

LorenThat’s Brad’s flanger pedal.

ZakMad sci­en­tist Brad.

TreyThat’s a cus­tom pedal he had made. He got it from 1 of his brother’s friends who made ped­als; he was [hav­ing him test them out] and he even­tu­ally just let Brad keep ’em […].

MPBLet’s talk about Hands in the Water. It’s over 15 min­utes long; it’s made up of 2 acoustic vocal num­bers book­end­ing 2 acoustic instru­men­tals with long silences sep­a­rat­ing them.

ZakThat prob­a­bly would have worked bet­ter if we’d had a vinyl release, because on the track list­ing, we could have just had Hands in the Water, but then the record would have kept spinning […].

MPBSo, you were think­ing bonus tracks; it’s not meant as a suite?

LorenI mean, we had the songs, we kind of — the last 1, Zak recorded that song shortly before the Kamals.

MPBThe 1 with the dog chained in the yard?

LorenYeah, and then the other 2, we recorded kind of fast and on the spot because we wanted to put them on [the EP]; we’re really huge fans of hid­den tracks.

MPBThe rea­son I was con­fused is because, usu­ally when you have a hid­den track, it’s at the end of the album and it’s only a sin­gle track.

LorenOn the [phys­i­cal] CD list­ing, it is at the end.

ZakWe kind of moved them around [for the dig­i­tal download].

LorenWe do a lot of dig­i­tal down­loads, and it kept get­ting skipped [, so we rearranged them so peo­ple would down­load it. But the pre­ferred run­ning order is the 1 from the CD].

MPBHands in the Water seems to be about repen­tence, mak­ing amends for a transgression?

LorenLittle bit. Just try­ing to for­give your­self for some­thing you did in the past, that I turned into a story about a convict.

MPBSo, you actu­ally had a pretty con­crete story for the lyric?

LorenI’m not really good at telling sto­ries, and that song took a long time to get together […].

MPBWho writes the lyrics?

ZakWe both do. [ges­tures at Loren]

The Kamals (II)
The Kamals (II) — The Kamals Interview

MPBWhat about the musi­cal composition?

Loren[It varies]. Whoever has a good idea; I mean, someone’s good idea might get trumped by somenone’s bet­ter idea and no one gets upset about it.

MPBI thought that Hands in the Water sounded a lot like early Doobie Brothers. Are they an influence?

LorenYeah, I like them before Michael McDonald.

MPBDescribe the band’s sound in 30 sec­onds: the clas­sic ele­va­tor pitch to an A&R man (or woman).

ZakOtis Redding meets Black Sabbath meets Pink Floyd meets Jimi Hendrix. Done!

MPBAnything else?

TreyThe term heavy soul was being [tossed around] for a while. Not just because of the Black Keys song. It felt good, sayin’ it.

LorenMainly because of the Otis Redding and Black Sabbath thing.

MPBCare to name any other influences?

TreyQueens of the Stone Age, […] Led Zeppelin.

ZakFor me, it changes from month to month. I’m on a big ZZ Top kick. Even ’though I don’t really lis­ten to that much ZZ Top, I’ve got this idea of what [they] would do, you know, Da da da da da da da da. [plays air gui­tar ver­sion of riff from La Grange.]

MPBYeah, except that riff actu­ally came from John Lee Hooker and Slim Harpo.

ZakOld blues, for sure. I guess it’s the sta­catto, straight-and-to-the-point gui­tar. I like that a lot; I like psy­che­delic music —

MPBAnd by that, you mean 1960s to early ’70s psy­che­delic, not Flaming Lips psychedelic.

ZakYeah, I mean, they don’t influ­ence my writ­ing, but I don’t dis­like the Flaming Lips. Then [I like] soul music — any­thing from Stax Records; I [also like] Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Skip James, Robert Johnson. And I like some new stuff, like Zero 7; spacey, elec­tronic music; […] Air is cool; Portishead; the Gorrilaz. I like a lot of dif­fer­ent types of music.

LorenI like very cre­ative chord pro­gres­sions, as well as old Leadbelly, Charlie Patton, “Blind” Willie McTell; things like that. My dad was all into the New Jack [Swing] and stuff like that, Boyz 2 Men; if you can get over the whole “boy band” thing, the writ­ers behind it wrote really cool chord pro­gres­sions. Even Seal was a big influ­ence [on me].

Say, you’ve got 2 sec­tions of a song that don’t fit together at all, there’s always some weird bridge that tran­si­tions really well, and [that’s] always been really promi­nent to [the way I hear].

MPBThere’s a pretty audi­ble 60 Hz hum on Between the Tides; was that delib­er­ate, or did it just hap­pen in the studio?

ZakIt just hap­pened. We’re not shoot­ing for per­fec­tion; we just want to get the point across.

MPBA cou­ple of the songs felt like demos, pro­duc­tion-wise. I’m think­ing of the 2 acoustic bonus tracks; you’ve got some stu­dio chat­ter in there.

TreyWe’re big on ana­logue, too; it’s kinda nice, hav­ing a big, healthy hum on there.

MPBAnything in the works?

ZakWe’ve got a new album com­ing out. It’s gonna be so awe­some, I’m really excited. It’s called Dwellers; it’s a full length [album]. [We’ve got] 8 [tracks] so far; then if we can scrounge up another 1, there’ll be 9, but 8 for sure. Hopefully we can fin­ish all the mix­ing and the track­ing by Wednesday.

MPBAre they all pop sin­gle length, or do you have any epic-length pieces on the album?

LorenWe’ve got some sur­prises in store.

ZakThere’s some epic-ness.

MPBHow often do you perform?

ZakWe play at least 2 shows a month on aver­age, but it ranges from no shows to 7 shows a month.

TreyRecently, we played in my buddy’s field; we set up some gen­er­a­tors [and just had a party]. […] Soon as we get this album out, it’s gonna be full-on again.

MPBAny tour plans?

Trey (II)
Trey (II) — The Show That Almost Wasn’t, But Now Is, feat. the Kamals

TreyWe’d love too. [But,] we’re all really blue col­lar — we all work together, actu­ally, at the same ware­house, so it’s kind of hard for us to just […] take off like that. We’re really gonna need some rocket fuel to get there. […] We’ve all worked for every­thing we have.

MPBRedeem a song: pick a song that you like, a guilty plea­sure, and tell me why it’s actu­ally great and why I should like it.

TreyPretty much, the whole Eagles cat­a­logue. [But] I really like Lyin’ Eyes. […] Anything Don Henley influ­enced. But, uh, prob­a­bly New York Minute; my dad used to sing that song all the time […]. He really loves the Eagles; [they’re not a guilty plea­sure] for him, but they are for me […].

LorenI’m not really embar­rassed by what I lis­ten to.

TreyWhat about some­thing you wouldn’t want any­one to hear you sin­gin’ in the shower?

LorenWell, like, Brian McNight? — or Seal: Kiss from a Rose. Certain songs evoke emo­tions, and, I think, in music, that’s where it gets […] where peo­ple have their own opin­ions […]; the Strokes or Linkin Park might bring out cer­tain emo­tions […] that I wouldn’t feel; I can’t expect every­body to feel a Seal song.

ZakArctic Monkeys, Brianstorm. It’s not Brainstorm; it’s Brianstorm. It starts out, it’s just like, toms, crazy tom rolls, 2 or 3 bars; and then […] it stops, and then there’s just a sin­gle gui­tar line, really fast; the whole song’s really fast. It’s got really cool breaks in it; the guy [Sidenote: Zak is refer­ring to Alex Turner] can sing really well[; he’s] a really great lyri­cist. They’ve got cool changes; it’s not nec­es­sar­ily what you’d expect, but when they do go to those changes, it makes you feel good […].

Brad (II)
Brad (II) — The Show That Almost Wasn’t, But Now Is, feat. the Kamals

MPBSince Brad couldn’t make the inter­view, could you tell me about him?

TreyBrad’s a right­eous dude.

LorenBrad is a good soul. In fact, he’s such a good soul, [the rea­son] he couldn’t make this inter­view [was so he could] spend time with his dad.

TreyHe’s a really good gui­tarist, too.

ZakHe would’ve made this inter­view 10 times better.

MPBWhat’s in the Kamals’s future?

LorenTouring; writ­ing more; we really want to make this our life’s work. This is our pas­sion; this is what we all love […], and there’s no rea­son not to go full-on with this […].

The Kamals (III)
The Kamals (III) — The Kamals Interview

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About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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