You’ve been quoted as saying that the title King Con is based on the idea that an Elvis impersonator is the ultimate con, something that came to you while promoting the ‘Velvet Elvis’ single. Are you a superfan of the King?
Just to clarify, I don’t really think that an Elvis impersonator is the ultimate con! The name King Con was actually inspired by the con artist Steven Russell, who was notorious for his prison escapes and his money laundering scams [and is the subject of the 2009 movie 'I Love You Philip Morris']. It was sort of an afterthought when I realised that I was walking around in this crazy Elvis suit for the ‘Velvet Elvis’ promo feeling like a complete phony, a fake king. And now it’s funny because everyone (understandably) thinks that I’m Elvis obsessed. Elvis was incredible but if we are talking early rock and roll heros, Chuck Berry is my #1.
Everyday con men, cult leaders and sham preachers all figure on the album, though it has a rather joyful sound. Would you say there’s a certain pleasure to be had in celebrating the art of trickery and deception?
I’m not necessarily trying to celebrate con men and cult leaders; they might be clever, but they are pretty heartless. I do, however, like to pair energetic lighthearted sounds with more sinister lyrics. I look at it sort of like a rotten candy apple or something – saccharine sweet but pretty fucking ugly on the inside, which I think resembles a lot of these characters.
‘Velvet Elvis’ was inspired objectum sexuality, “a pronounced emotional and often romantic desire towards developing significant relationships with particular inanimate objects”. Is this something you or someone you know have had any personal experience with?
I myself am not an objectum sexual. Obviously we all have cherished items that we’d never want to give up. For me, it’s my first guitar that my dad gave me on my seventh birthday; I love it more than anything, but at the end of the day it’s still just an object. So when I saw the documentary ‘Married To The Eiffel Tower‘ I was really quite blown away by the relationships that these people developed with their most prized possessions. The thing that really struck me about objectum sexuality was that it wasn’t just fetish-based: these people truly were in love in a very real, very sweet way.
Your mini-album Sister Wife was recorded on GarageBand but for King Con you stepped up production, going into a studio with Charlie Hugall and Bjorn Yttling. Were you nervous about expanding your repertoire of tools and helpers, or did you leap into it with zeal?
Ha! You make it sound so glamorous! But yes, it was really cool to be in a studio where I could really experiment with different sounds. I wasn’t limited to the confines of my Apple! The Knocks and Charlie have been friends of mine for years now, and we’ve worked together before the record, so it was really comfortable collaborating with them. Bjorn is great as well.
Do you have a favourite song on King Con, and if so, why does it stand out for you?
My favourite song has to be ‘Guts’. It’s a very personal song for me. I wrote the bulk of the record a year ago and most of it was based around other people. I felt like so much had happened in my own life that it was just very cathartic to write that song. I ended up going back to Detroit with Charlie and recording it the day before the album had to go to print.
On ‘Run Rumspringa’ you give a nod to rumspringa, the condoned acts of adolescent rebellion in the Amish church. What has been your own biggest act of rebellion to date?
I was never really a rebellious teen. I kind of knew I wanted to do this music thing and that was always my main focus. I guess I’d consider my move to New York to be my rumspringa. I decided to leave Detroit on a bit of a whim. I just knew that I felt creatively stunted and I had exhausted most of my resources, so I had to try something a bit new and a bit scary. I haven’t regretted it yet.
Come back later in the week for more from Alex on the documentaries that inspired the songs of King Con.
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