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Burn the junk your past selves left behind
King Krule the swagged-out musical visionary on wearing cool clothes, hoarder recovery, “say no” mindset, his great new LP & more
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King Krule, a.k.a. Archy Marshall — he’s a swagged-out musical visionary.
The voice… growling but tender. The chord progressions … punk & jazzy in novel, lightly worn ways. The ambiance … smoky. The attitude … cutting, playful, insouciant, sometimes belligerent — yet winning !! Archy broke through with the 2010 song “Out Getting Ribs” when he was still a Southeast London teenager. By 2017’s sprawling, enthralling The OOZ he’d ensconced himself in the uppermost reaches of the Spyplane “Modern Chune God” Pantheon — a spot he consolidated with 2020’s Man Alive! Listen to the churning “Dum Surfer” next to the narcotized lullaby “Czech One” and tell us who else has range, wit, & “sonic sauce” quite like bruv.
The new King Krule album is called Space Heavy, it comes out next week, and we love it. In a way that’s hard to account for, given that the s**t is musically off-kilter and at times extremely dark, it strikes us as his sweetest, softest, most-soothing album. The fact that the video for the beautiful lead single “Seaforth” is about two dogs scampering around town being very good boys doesn’t hurt.
Also Archy looks great in clothes and gets off fits !! So the other day I (Jonah) was stoked to hop on an encrypted SpySatellite call with him to talk about preserving the joy of “personal sauce” when people send you free clothes, hosting a cool movie club and awkwardly watching sex scenes with your broski, setting fire to old junk you’re tempted to hoard, and more unbeatable topics —
Blackbird Spyplane: The new album’s so good — the songs have a softness and prettiness to them that I wasn’t expecting. Like woozy lullabies. You gave an interview a couple years ago where you talked about writing children’s songs for your daughter, and I was wondering if some of that had seeped into King Krule — whether making up songs for her had changed or revealed something to you about how you want your other songs to feel.
Archy Marshall: “I don’t think so — I don’t put too much direction or intention before a song’s created. Writing this album I did feel a bit carefree, though, because a lot of it is just C Major. It’s stupid but, before in my life, there were times I might’ve been, like, ‘Are people going to get on to me because this record’s in the easiest tune or whatever?’ But I said, Ah f**k it, I’m going to write most of it in that, because it feels good.”
Blackbird Spyplane: From the start of your career, you said no to tons of stuff. You’ve talked about turning down magazine covers, turning down Kanye collaborations, turning down sync offers to put yr songs in commercials. People say that “selling out” is a dead, Gen-X concept, so I’m curious where your willingness to say no came from.
Archy Marshall: “It came from having no desire for any of that. I have very, very, very simple pleasures, and some things don’t excite me. I definitely made bad decisions where I should have said no, and I probably made bad decisions where I should have said yes. It’s getting harder now, because I have to support my daughter, so I’m considering doing things I haven’t done because I want her to be comfortable. But yeah, a lot of it comes from the ethos of not wanting to sell out and put a f**king brand on my name.”
Blackbird Spyplane: You started writing Space Heavy in 2020, during the thick of Covid, and there’s these recurring metaphors across the album about unbridgeable gaps between people. What do you think the pandemic did to the collective psyche, and to the way we relate to each other?
Archy Marshall: “There’s lots to say, but one thing that just popped into my head was, mid-lockdown, when things were half open, I was in a cab, speaking with the cab driver about politics and stuff. And I said, Have you had the vaccine? And he said, I’m gonna stop you there, and ask why you think that’s a comfortable question to ask a stranger? We talked about it, and about how casual everyone had become talking about quite personal, quite private things. He said, Look what’s happening: We find it more comfortable to ask — and expect to find out — deeply personal information about someone, casually. And that’s reflected so many other places: In data collection, in cookies, in how AI can find personal meaning about you through cookies. So that guy’s take was interesting, and I agreed with him — it became super casual, and no one gives it a thought.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Let me ask you about clothes — you rock cool s**t, you play around with proportion, you layer, you wear weird sunglasses. I remembering seeing you live wearing a big button-up with big cropped pants, white socks and black shoes, years before that look was “in,” and beyond that it just seems like you’re having fun when you put together an outfit.
Archy Marshall: “Yeah, I like clothes, and I’ve really liked the ankle swinger look all my life. I don’t do it as much anymore; right now I’m really into tight up here and quite baggy and loose down here. It warps my body and my posture.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Are you a big thrift shop / eBay type dude?
Archy Marshall: “No, to be honest, now I get given a lot of stuff, so I just wear that. My friend Daniel created a line called Yardsale, and it’s good quality, and I don’t have to think about it, so I just wear it. But it’s embarrassing because I’ll meet up with him and I’m just dressed in his s**t head-to-toe.”
Blackbird Spyplane: He gave you one less thing to think about.
Archy Marshall: “I guess so. There’s that thing when they went into Erik Satie’s house when he died and found 7 of the exact same suit, because he didn’t want to spend time thinking about what he had to wear. But I actually do like thinking about what I wear.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Yeah there’s a certain type of person who sees the creative decisions that go into clothes-rocking as a chore — couldn’t be me, player! That’s the fun part of life.
Archy Marshall: “It is. And having a kid is great because you get to see her pick what she wants to wear, too — it’s pure expression.”
Blackbird Spyplane: You’re heavy into movies, and you helped run a film club a few years ago in London. What are some things you screened that f**ked people up, in a good way?
Archy Marshall: “I ran it with another guy, Ray. He’s maybe in his 60s, and he looks like David Lynch, with the big white hair, but he’s Malaysian. We bonded over Lynch and stuff like that at this pub that was local to my mom’s house, about 7 years ago, and we ended up doing a film club there. We showed stuff like Audition, the Japanese ‘90s horror film, and Salaam Bombay!, which I thought was amazing. He put on more challenging films, and I wanted to put on more entertaining films, like Wild at Heart — things that would get a reaction but wouldn’t put people off for life. It was good but it’s long stopped. It had to be private because of licensing issues, so sometimes it would just be me and Ray watching films, and no one would turn up. Which is kind of strange. It could be awkward, like when sex scenes happen and it’s just you two sat there. It’s nighttime and someone walks past the window: ‘What are those two doing?’”
Blackbird Spyplane: I asked you to tell Spy Nation about a special cherished possession, and you chose a few sketchbooks and journals — what’s the story with these?
Archy Marshall: “The bigger one I sent you, that was pretty much the whole of Space Heavy and the live album I put out: There’s lyrics and storyboards in there, and lyrics to songs that are yet to come out that won’t be King Krule things. And there’s a lot of poetry in there, and diaries, and drawings. It’s full — there’s no space for anything anymore. Also I dropped it in a puddle a few times so there are some mushed-up pages. But I take pride in making the world, and when you open the cover, there’s the world. So if I ever lost that, I’d probably jump out the window, because I love it so much.
“The other one, it’ll probably be full by the summer because it’s quite small and I write like an oaf. It’s got drawings, and storyboards for the ‘Seaforth’ video. On the cover is a Polaroid of the view from my place in Liverpool. You can see the North Dock and the new Anfield stadium.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Have you been filling books like this all your life, or is it a King Krule thing?
Archy Marshall: “I’ve probably got 20 of them — it predates King Krule — but I’ve gotten more committed to filling them with time. The old ones have, like, really important lyrics and then tons of blank pages.”
Blackbird Spyplane: It’s cool to have that kind of record of who you’ve been & what’s been banging around your head at different points. How often do you look back at the early ones?
Archy Marshall: “Never. I’m not proud of them. They’re self indulgent, I was young and had a bigger ego, and I think a lot of my writing then was really angry, so I find it really hard to get into. A lot of it came from a very low, dark place, of me not really understanding why I was being heralded for my music. So I’d probably prefer to burn all of them than look at them again.”
Blackbird Spyplane: You used to hear about novelists burning manuscripts they couldn’t get right, or painters burning canvases they hated — setting fire to these reflections of themselves that came to feel repulsively untrue. But not so much anymore. Maybe it’s time to bring back burning s**t rather than just reflexively archiving everything…
Archy Marshall: “I’ve spent a lot of my life hoarding. I’ve gotten better about it, but I’d hoard receipts, bits of paper, tickets, just piles and piles, and old musical equipment and radios I kept with the idea of fixing them. My mom’s helped me throw out stuff, and I’ve moved so much, too — when I get to a new place it feels good because it’s empty, so I’m trying to hone that and realize I don’t need to keep everything.”
Blackbird Spyplane: I lean the same way. The trick is trying to figure out what’s really a worthwhile talisman, and what’s trash.
Archy Marshall: “Yes, it’s hard to define what’s meaningful, because for me it’s about seeing meaning in everything, and memories in everything, and being sentimental about everything. Because the world is a meaningful, sentimental place!”
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