Rivalry can sometimes create a healthy dynamic. Just ask Kensington, the hard-working band that placed conflict at the centre of ‘Rivals’.
Recorded in Berlin, ‘Rivals’ is in many ways the next step in this promising band’s evolution. What singer Eloi finds the most pleasing is how the album thematically follows on from its predecessor ‘Vultures’, whilst also being its complete opposite. Eloi explains: “It was about the rivalry with the people around me, whom I sometimes criticize. On ‘Rivals’ I asked the question: can I now criticize myself?” He found he could, and it makes for some intriguing listening. The songs are introvert in nature, whilst also possessing a majestic sound. The opening track ‘Streets’ is a prime example, with its anthem-like quality, meant for a heart-warming sing-along, and impossible to get out of your head after just one listen. Similarly, ‘War’, despite its title, has a sunny vibe that could bring any festival ground or large venue to boiling point.
Rivalry may well be the theme for this album, but don’t think for a minute that these four young musicians insist on travelling in separate tour buses. They do occasionally quarrel over a drumbeat or guitar riff though, confesses drummer Niles: “When you write songs with four people, it always causes tension of a good variety. The rivalry helps us create something together which, in the end, is the very essence of Kensington.”
Mixed by the Grammy Award-winning Tom Lord-Alge (Rolling Stones, The Cure, No Doubt) Kensington sculpted a big, dynamic soundscape. Guitarist Casper reveals why Lord-Alge was the right man for the job. “We wanted to hear the power and energy of our live gigs on this album.” Eloi continues: “We really went the extra mile, especially in the production. We know what we want and how to achieve it. We thought things through more and didn’t quit until we were completely satisfied.”
The moods of the ten tracks shift effortlessly between solemn and jubilant, often within seconds. Eloi’s distinctive voice personifies autumn itself at times, contrasting surprisingly with the often summery guitar sounds and upbeat rhythms. “At the same time, some of the songs are louder”, thinks bassist Jan. “We’ve really set ourselves no limits to what we can do.” Indeed, ‘Rivals’ harbours huge commercial potential without ever losing its artistic integrity. It’s the result of a band reaching maturity, after years of sold-out club tours, massive festival gigs, chart successes and countless accolades, including an MTV Award.
Some of the band’s experiences have left their marks on Eloi’s lyrics, again fitting in with the album’s theme. “The rivalry I sing about is the conflict within yourself. It’s about the stark contrast of playing in front of 20,000 people one day, and wanting to be just by myself the next, not talking to anyone.” Moods such as these don’t last long though. The band is always looking forward to the next gig, always striving to get better, says the singer. “What’s most important is whether this is going to work out for us. All the side issues, like the temptations of the road, will never overshadow our work ethic.” He laughs: “The other day we were even too tired to go out and celebrate the gold record for our single ‘Streets’.”
Kensington think of themselves as a new generation band, according to Eloi. “Album sales don’t speak for themselves anymore. You have to work really hard to make a living in this business nowadays, and that is exactly what we do.” He recounts how the band borrowed money from Casper’s mother to finance Vultures. “If that album had failed, we’d be in deep trouble, with no money, no education and with a huge debt. We really jumped in at the deep end: a testament to how much we believe in this thing.”