The Brighton six-piece talk their writing process, Otley run costumes, and the necessary evil of social media. Leeds sub-editor Maddie Player caught up with them before their Live at Leeds set.
After frantically scrambling around the venue, armed only with a last-minute text confirming an interview the hour before their set at Brudenell, I was finally led to the band milling around the side of the building after a member of their party took pity on me. All six members of the jazz/funk/punk outfit huddle around the circular picnic benches at the front of the venue, an array of pints scattered in front of them. A limited number of benches are occupied, with many paying heed to winter’s first warnings as a blustery wind tugs at the leather jackets of my company. Chill aside, the ever-comforting thumping of music in the background assures Brudenell Social Club is in its natural state. “I would actually say that this is one of my favourite venues in the country” frontman Angus Rogers confesses, “In the world!” they joke. Opus Kink are all smiles and seem giddy in the lead-up to their set.
In a happy twist of fate, I stumbled upon the band when they supported Walt Disco at the Sebright Arms in 2021, making them the first live act I saw post-lockdown. They keenly reminisce the show, “Oh yeah, that was a really good gig!” saxophonist Jed Morgans says. Jazz Pope (the keys player, not to be confused with some form of pious sub-genre) adds ‘that’s when people could first go a bit nuts’ and we agree there was a sense of euphoria rippling among the sticky floor-starved attendees of the day. And people did go nuts; the same can be said for their Live at Leeds set (which I review here).
Their sound is slippery, not quite jazz and not quite punk. Bassist Sam Abbo describes their process as “a matter of stripping back, like throwing everything at it and it’s a bit of a cluster fuck, then you take things away”. In keeping with the jazz genre, they acknowledge the roots of their music often lies in the drums and bass, “we’ll just start with a beat and a bassline and it will… hopefully grow and not stagnate” says Rogers. Pope adds that they “usually [work] around the groove”. The integrity of the groove is evident in their musical identity, with their primary focus generating movement from their audience. Opus Kink possess the ability to harness the energy of any crowd; a rare gift that ensures even if they play songs never heard beyond the realms of their band, the audience will still pledge devotion.
The passions they inspire claw at them beyond the confines of a gig venue, and Rogers acknowledges that social media is a great way to connect with fans of their music. “People are very kind and let us know things on there” Rogers states, “or tell us to fuck off”. This polarisation is mirrored in the tragicomedy nature of Rogers’ lyrics in latest EP ‘Til The Stream Runs Dry. “When I’m pissing in the rain (I love you baby) / When I’m scrubbing out the stain (I love you baby)” is funny in an absurdist way, Rogers delivering in full growling conviction on track I love you Baby. This Train’s lyrics arm the song with both an epic and modern spirit, referencing historical heavyweights “Caligula’s in the cognac / Rasputin’s in the rum”. But the drinking context erodes any sense of dominion, neatly encapsulating younger generations’ appetite for irony and a preference to reduce powerful figures to parody. Rogers is modest about his lyrics; “The historical thing, I wasn’t really consciously doing it and lots of people have picked up on that, so I was like oh shit, am I just kind of writing a history class?”. Their dry sense of humour can also be found dwelling in their social media pages, with hyperbolic language evoking a medieval knight given free rein on Instagram. “We have fun with the Instagram” Abbo says; their approach is refreshing, given rock music’s reluctance to bend the knee to the tyranny that is social media. They are less fond of twitter and have avoided TikTok thus far, Rogers acknowledging “we do twitter sometimes, but it’s a bit of a necessary evil”. I suggest that the principles of social media go against the philosophy of rock and roll, finding it difficult to imagine previous bands posting a reel. Rogers goes “no, but they fucking would’ve done! Mick Jagger would’ve definitely run The Stones’ Instagram, he would’ve been all over it”. This statement immediately sparks a debate over which rock legends would’ve been most into social media, with a reminder that Paul McCartney is in fact on TikTok. And it’s strangely easy to imagine a young Jagger relishing in the glamour of the influencer lifestyle, but it seems any aspiring band must participate in the circus if they want to give themselves a good chance to get on the stage. Keen to take advantage of the Live at Leeds setting, I familiarise them with the premise of the Otley run and ask what costumes they would go for. “Worms!” “Orks!” “I’d be a slug” “Angus would go as fucking Smeagle” “or Gollum” “that’s the same person?” “Something wormy” Rogers summarises “something with a soft underbelly. We’d be wiggling through town”. I remark that they have opted for an admirably original concept and round off enquiring what drink would see them through to the end. Once again, they do not shy away from the unconventional. Pope says “Guinness and tequila” without missing a beat, whilst Rogers opts for an elaborate Mexican michelada (which I am not convinced would be met with enthusiasm from the Packhorse bartenders, let alone power someone through 15 pubs…). Drummer Fin Abbo opts to keep things simple with “a neck oil”, which is swiftly mocked by Pope. This sends them down a rabbit hole discussing drinks, from black velvet, to flasks of ‘strategic’ spirits that I’m not sure would be necessary. “We just love drinks!”. I am curious about whether they tend to bounce off of the music made by their contemporaries, or if they draw more from the past. Rogers says “more the past, I have to admit” with a hint of remorse. “There’s good things that are going on now -” he seems to reconsider this “- not a lot”. The rest of them laugh and protest “there is, come on, there’s loads of good stuff!”. He backtracks a bit but gives off an impression of mild despair, or a lack of enthusiasm. “It’s kind of the miserly spirit that I’ve just exhibited there, of being a miserable cunt.” As if to one-up him Abbo goes “everyone is shit” and Morgans chimes in “especially us” in good-humoured self-deprecation. “Going on the road makes it easier to appreciate other bands. We probably do subconsciously steal loads of stuff from other bands we see” Rogers admits, with agreement around the table. In a landscape which tends to be unforgiving for new bands, I get the impression that interactions with each other – whether supportive or competitive – can energise an act for the better. Rogers reflects “everyone gees each other up or slags each other off, which are both driving forces.” Opus Kink play Belgrave’s Dark Arts event tomorrow (29/10/22). ‘Til the Stream Runs Dry is available to stream now.
Words: Maddie Player
Image credit: © Bernhard Deckert