Rant ‘N’ Roll: Animal Kingdom

(By Sean Hieter with Mike Greenblatt)

“..And if the looking it gets too much, well you can just tune out

And if the mirror reflects too much, well you can just tune out

And if the picture it gets too sharp, well you can just tune out

And if you ever regret your part, well you can just tune out”

—“The Art Of Tuning Out”

Without a doubt, the Mercury Lounge in New York City, located on Houston near Katz’s Deli, is the highlight of any upcoming band’s career. Over the past five years, I have seen Snow Patrol, Puressence and Boxer Rebellion there. All three were mind-blowing experiences. On my most recent trip, my skull was crushed again with a performance from UK band, Animal Kingdom. Their sound is celestial yet tranquil with very mellow overtones. They had a tough act to follow as The Royal Teeth from New Orleans was a killer opener with hooks, harmonies and a percussion team ending in almost fireworks. A must-see.

Animal Kingdom bring emotion and what seems like a decade of experience, as their songwriting is superb.

I was quite impressed with their onstage use of samples and loops to build the sound. Formerly a four-piece and now a trio (singer/guitarist/pianist Richard Sauberlich, bassist Hamish Crombie and drummer Geoff Lea), their sound is still full and as ambient as ever, with killer beats provided by Lea, who had all the ladies drooling in front of the stage.

Their recent single, “Strange Attractor,” off their second album, The Looking Way (Mom + Pop Records/Boombox Recordings) is getting some play during prime time on Sirius XM’s Alt Nation. This was, of course, the final tune, but it came too soon, as the set was shorter than anyone would have liked (45 minutes). Songs like “Get Away With It” and “Tin Man” off their 2009 Signs And Wonders debut album (recorded in Seattle) spiced up the set considerably. The debut, although only released digitally in the States, became a critical favorite, as the band toured incessantly in England and throughout Europe. The new album is a result of writing 30+ songs and rehearsing in an old church in North London for almost a year. It was worth the wait.

I had the opportunity to interview Sauberlich in the dingy basement of the club with my buddies and a few shots of Jameson.

How has the music changed from the debut to the follow-up CD?

We have such a library of songs that the music hasn’t changed that much at all as far as style.

Who does the writing?

I write the bones of the music and lyrics but we email parts to each other all the time and make good use of Pro Tools and virtual writing.

What are the songs about?

How life is just a musical hopscotch that seems routine, however, the chalk is never permanent.

How are the U.S. crowds treating you?

Fucking amazing. We are shocked to see how many people want to hear more songs from our first album so we will be adding “Silence Summons You” to the set and a few others.

The Mercury Lounge show was show number two of a 23-city tour. How would you rank the show, crowd and experience combined on a scale of one-to-five with five being the highest?
Geoff Lea:
A definite four! We are having fun but there is always room for improvement.

These guys are perfectionists and I truly give them a five, as they were tight, climatic and moving. They have a huge career ahead of them.