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,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 drinksCYA: 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.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?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 guyZak 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 […].

— Chris J. Zähller

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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