Kingsley Flood Reaches Their Goal of Headlining the Paradise Rock Club
They’ve made it.
This Saturday, Kingsley Flood is headlining the Paradise Rock Club—a career milestone for any Boston-based band.
“The Paradise has always been the goal,” said bassist Nick Balkin, chatting with frontman Naseem Khuri over beers at the Brick & Mortar in Cambridge earlier this week. “This is the culmination of a lot of work and a lot of time, and we’re really excited about it.”
Balkin recalled dreaming about headlining the popular club after Kingsley Flood opened for Angus & Julia Stone there three years ago. Meanwhile, Khuri, a Westwood native, recalled frequenting the Paradise as a show-goer while growing up.
“I grew up going to the Paradise. I remember when there was a huge controversy when [former Patriots quarterback] Drew Bledsoe jumped off the stage and broke someone’s arm and there was all this hoopla. I remember seeing Andrew W.K. playing there in a wheelchair after breaking his foot the night before,” said Khuri. “The Paradise just has so many stories to it.”
But for Khuri, Balkin, and the other band members of Kingsley Flood—Jenée Morgan Force (violin, saxophone, vocals), Chris Barrett (trumpet, keys, percussion, vocals), George Hall (lead guitar, vocals), and Travis Richter (drums, percussion)—excitement over the upcoming show isn’t warranted only by the venue, but also by the anticipated crowd.
“There’s nothing like a hometown crowd. We feel like a lot of people coming Saturday will have been there from the very start. We want to support them, they want to support us—we rise together,” said Khuri. “And we feel totally comfortable. We can be ourselves and dance around and hop around awkwardly and whatever. [A hometown crowd] is forgiving.”
It’s been a busy year for the band, with nonstop shows (including a sold-out performance at Brighton Music Hall in May and an acoustic Sofar Sounds gig in Philadelphia), an appearance on the main stage of the Newport Folk Festival, and an upcoming tour with Lucius.
But even with so many shows—and balancing day jobs in the meantime (Khuri works as a consultant in Washington, D.C., and Balkin works in external affairs at Berklee College of Music)—the band members treat each performance as if it’s their last.
“We just feel like we’re getting tighter and tighter. The live show is becoming more of a thing, more of an entity of its own. And with each one, we’re trying to leave it all on stage and pretend like it’s our last night on Earth and just bust our ass on stage,” said Khuri. “I remember Bono one time said something about Springsteen where he was like, ‘When Springsteen is playing a show, it feels like he’s in the crowd with you, rooting himself on.’ At the end of the day, we want to put on a live show that we ourselves would want to soak in and absorb in every way possible.”
The band tackles making records with a similar approach.
“We’re trying to write something that’s urgent, something that has big hooks and big melodies, something that connects, something that jumps out of the speakers and grabs you,” said Khuri.
“We’re trying to take you somewhere,” said Balkin. “With the best music, I think, you feel very different at the end of an album than you did at the beginning. You’ve gone on a roller coaster—it’s almost cinematic.”
For Khuri, who writes the lyrics, taking the audience on a journey means coming up with an overarching concept for the entire album.
“I’ll have a certain idea—a thesis—and I tend to write lyrically from different perspectives. I’m a big fan of vignettes and short stories,” said Khuri, who lists American short story writer Raymond Carver among his influences. “It’s really hard to tell a story in one song. The greatest writers can do it, but I tell a story better over the course of an album than I do in one song.”
In addition to literature, Khuri finds a lot of influence in current events, which translates into his songwriting.
“I’m a news junkie. I live in D.C., where there was a high-speed car chase last week. A guy lit himself on fire, there’s a government shutdown,” he said. “Wild shit is happening and I very much absorb that.”
With plenty of ideas in mind, the band hopes to begin recording a third album shortly after their tour with Lucius. They recorded their second album, Battles, in a studio in rural Maine, and they hope to “hole [themselves] up somewhere” to record the next one as well.
One thing the band is keeping in mind as they enter another round of creating an album is an effort to translate their “leave it all on stage and pretend like it’s our last night on Earth” attitude onto the record.
“We’re told that we have a lot of energy on stage when we play a live show. I think one challenge is to capture that on the record, too,” said Khuri.
With everything they do, Kingsley Flood wants to keep it urgent.
“There’s a lot to distract people nowadays. It’s so much fun to stay at home, where there’s an endless amount of entertainment right at your fingertips,” said Balkin. “Nobody has any obligation to see you play or listen to your music, so you have to put it all out there. That’s the whole idea of leaving everything on the stage—if you’re going to do this, you might as well go for it every night.”
Kingsley Flood will headline the Paradise Rock Club at 967 Commonwealth Avenue on Saturday, October 12, with supporting acts Toy Soldiers and Grace & Tony. Tickets can be purchased for $15 on ticketmaster.com or at the venue’s box office.
Below, check out an exclusive video of the band performing their song “Blind”: