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Animal Kingdom

Alternative and Indie

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About Animal Kingdom

"All you want is a rainbow," offers the refrain to Animal Kingdom's dreamy, elegiac album opener ‘Chalk Stars'. "And all you get is the rain." It's a contrast that also offers an insight into the London-based quartet's brand of melancholy music that counters pop hooks with unpredictable arrangements and a dark, reflective soul.

Although Animal Kingdom's members enjoy a long shared history, the band has operated as a serious prospect for the past two years. Initially acoustically focused ("Everyone talks over an acoustic set," explains bassist Hamish Crombie. "So we just started writing louder songs to balance things out"), Animal Kingdom have relentlessly honed their craft to the stage where the strange beauty of their sound provoked deals with management titans Q Prime

"They said, ‘You guys hand your notices in, we'll make an album,'" recalls vocalist/guitarist Richard Sauberlich. Astonished by the news, the band headed back to their hotel in a daze at the day's life-affirming events. "It was one of those days that changes your life," declares Crombie with an air of disbelief still evident.

Just a few months later, the quartet departed their Crouch End studio (a converted church used exclusively for the band's recording and rehearsal sessions) and headed for Seattle to record their debut album at Electrokitty Studios with producer Phil Ek (The Shins, Fleet Foxes, Les Savy Fav).

"It was an incredible experience," glows guitarist Wayne Yardley, himself a teenage fan of Seattle luminaries such as Soundgarden and Mudhoney. "It's a really beautiful city and we had this incredible apartment on the top of Capitol Hill, looking down on the skyscrapers and the mountains that surround the city." The Animal Kingdom experience of Seattle contrasts vastly with the common perception of the city as a gloomy, rain-soaked environ dogged by a particularly heavy local suicide rate.

The band's already euphoric mood was heightened by an offer to borrow whatever vintage equipment they liked from the home of Built To Spill's ..., a long-term friend of Ek. "We'd brought all of our own equipment out and didn't use any of it," chuckles Sauberlich. This development proved to be a vital contribution to the rich tapestry of sounds captured across the band's self-titled debut album that will be released later in 2009.

Developed over a six week period during which the band were living together, the debut album ranges from delicately crafted, emotive pop of the first limited edition single ‘Chalk Stars', the dreamy, infectious hook that gives the lovelorn ‘Tin Man' an otherworldly atmosphere and the eerie flow of ‘Two By Two' that features Sauberlich's vocals floating in the air like the voice of an imaginary friend. But the album is also rich on versatility; the likes of ‘Good Morning Mr. Magpie', ‘Silence Summons You' and ‘Into The Sea' share a cohesive, cinematic atmosphere but each song represents a unique statement. Animal Kingdom could be loosely compared to the likes of Mercury Rev, The Cure, The Flaming Lips, Smashing Pumpkins and Grandaddy, but they remain a proposition in which their own individual sound shines through.

Animal Kingdom's songwriting emerges as a base from the hand of Sauberlich but the group's collective enables the songs to evolve and deviate into a unified work. "We tend to slide towards a lot of dark material," considers Crombie. Sauberlich smiles self-deprecatingly as he adds, "I naturally like stuff that has that kind of melancholy ache to it. I probably write four of them for every one ‘up' song."

That's not to say that Animal Kingdom's music is heavy on the gloom or that the quartet are downbeat personalities. Their dark anthems possess a surfeit of uplifting positivity that compliments their melancholic nature, while the band's four personalities resonate with enthusiasm and a love for their craft. When drummer Geoff Lea completed his drum parts for the album, he took advantage of Seattle's close proximity to mountain ranges to indulge in a little skiing.  A controlled avalanche left him stuck away from the band, a situation made all the worse by subsequent road closures heading into the city. "That's when we redid the drum parts," deadpans Crombie with a mischievous smirk.

Animal Kingdom are a band with a diverse array of intriguing stories and outside interests. They've enjoyed sessions with famously abrasive producer Steve Albini while staying at his warehouse studio ("When you look at his CV of bands, we're not a natural fit," concludes Crombie), Yardley has a background as well a real passion for filming documentaries and shorts that he hopes he can utilise in Animal Kingdom's future.

But for Animal Kingdom, the music does the talking - as anyone who has witnessed their shows with Band of Horses, Vampire Weekend and Camera Obscure can testify to, not to mention those who have discovered them on the festival circuit at V, Latitude and Secret Garden Party. "It would be nice to be a band with longevity and to get a body of records out and not just be a two album band. I think that's our biggest ambition, to be an eight or ten album band," summarises Crombie.

Sauberlich's aim is admirably succinct: "We just want to make emotionally honest music."