The flamboyant sextet take on the Wild West, armed only with lighter fluid and a rip-roaring new groove.
Words: Laura Pegler | Photo: Sean Hawkey
Whoever came up with the glass half empty saying, ‘it’s all been done before’ can’t have had the pleasure of submerging their ears into the filth-tinged sounds of Opus Kink. Each time you think you’ve got them sussed, in walks the six-piece drenched in jazz-funk-punk-blues with frontman Angus Rogers shouting out his lungs to tell you otherwise. With buzz band after buzz band sounding exactly like the previous buzz band, the Brighton boys are a refreshing injection of something that for once – you won’t have heard before. We caught up with Angus and bassist Sam Abbo to discuss the Wild West revival, recording with Tim Burgess and a ‘fake it till you make it’ mentality.
The act of belonging may be a fundamental desire of human nature, yet it seems that Opus turn their back on such primitive concerns. Both assured in their distinctive voice and thriving in diversity, Angus explains: “I don’t think we feel like we do or want to belong to any particular scene. That’s not to disparage them either, it’s just where we find ourselves. Actually, to be able to nick from everywhere and dip our toes in many different places, that’s what works for us.” He continues, “We love a lot of the capital’s jazz that’s going on at the moment and are friends with lots of bands in the South East London scene, but I think it’s good to keep these things at arm’s length whilst you try your own stick out.”
“IT’S LIKE BEING SHOWN YOUR OWN MORTALITY. HAVING SOMETHING SNATCHED AWAY FROM YOU WILL MAKE YOU GO HELL FOR LEATHER WHEN YOU HAVE IT BACK AGAIN.”
– Angus Rogers
Doing their own thing and with each other for good company, it comes as no surprise that the band find their success in the unspoken language of sonic experimentation. Never underestimate the power of a decent jam sesh. Expelling inhibitions and making way for creativity, Angus shares: “The songwriting process always starts in the studio or a practise room. Opus Kink is the band, it’s the music and the lyrics come later… almost secondary. There are different ways that they come about, but the ways in which they become one of our songs is always the same – through experimenting and hashing it out in a windowless room.” Sam adds, “The lyrics often seem to come to you after you hear a certain song, the music starts and then you get an idea of what the song’s about.”
You could also attribute the Brightonian’s intangible output to their input of influences and collective age range spanning two decades. That’s one heck of a lot of ‘popular’ genres to get through. Angus comments: “I think any kind of difference in experience – or as much as there can be between six white males – is a good thing. Johnny (trumpet) grew up with firsthand experience of a lot of bands that we’ve had secondhand exposure to and are influenced by. So much dance music, like Talking Heads, and a lot of the African and Latin music as well – he got there first. It’s good to have a wise old wizard such as Johnny in the band. He’s ageless.”
With a distinctive sound in check and a lockdown EP under the belt (cue ‘Requiem For A Quarantine’), March saw the release of the band’s latest single Wild Bill. A homage to the humble country western, the track is a vibrant outburst of bright-eyed horns, frenzied chants and cantering percussion. Add sound bending synths for that signature Opus spin and you’ve got one hell of an alternative campfire singalong.
Angus shares: “I’ve been lost in a haze of cowboy hats for so long now that you kind of forget. Don’t worry it’s just a phase. The sound and beat of Wild Bill was like galloping. I love my western films and books, like Cormac McCarthy and the Coen brothers – that cinematic pastiche. In a way, frontier America was quite ridiculous and simplistic whilst old testament violent as well. It’s juicy stuff to get into! We took that frontier western thing and really ran with it. And now we’re completely lost in it.” Sam adds, “To the point where we’re just running round playing cowboys in the woods”.
Turning up the ‘lost boys’ theme to full-throttle, the song’s accompanying music video is nothing short of a high-octane celluloid experience condensed into a whip-smart 3mins 26secs. Directed by Kyle McCarthy, the video features scenes of cultish worship, chases on foot and a healthy dose of cold-blooded killing.
Perhaps not quite as glamourous behind the scenes as the video would suggest, Angus divulges: “We were all completely learning on the job and shooting blind – no pun intended. We were just playing dress up and showing off really, that’s all there is to show business. We just went out, learnt on the job, lit some fires.” He continues, “We had those tiny bottles of lighter fluid and spent about 45mins drizzling it around. Everyone was getting really worried about whether there’d be a fireball. Then, when we came to film that specific scene and flicked a match on it, we all dived back into the bushes and it went.. pfffft. So, we actually had to just gradually build it with kindling over about an hour.”
Having recorded the single at the coveted Rockfield Studios in Wales with Tim Burgess (The Charlatans) on production, it’s safe to say that Wild Bill was in good hands. The sextet essentially found themselves on a PGL trip for over-18’s rockers to a residential studio, for want of a better phrase, ‘living the dream’. Angus shares: “Rockfield was incredible to visit because it’s hallowed ground. Tim’s techniques are singular, very calming. It was a really smooth experience. We just played the songs and there was no brutal hashing it out of ‘this is cut, this is in, this is out’. He had a very spiritual vibe.” He adds, “We also worked with the sound engineer Tim Lewis. He’s a seasoned pro himself and was a joy to work with because he encouraged a lot of weirdness and wacky sounds.”
Released via Nice Swan Records, the single is part of a compilation series Nice Swan Introduces Volume 1 set for a 12” vinyl release on 30th August. Sitting pretty next to the likes of Courting, Malady and Sprints, the collection is certainly worth getting your mitts on. On getting involved in the series, Angus explains: “This was one of those don’t ask don’t get scenarios, because we literally got the masters back and thought we could do with some backing. We emailed Nice Swan and it went from there. If you’re ever in doubt just send your music out and say ‘what do you reckon’ because sometimes it works. You should always be reaching for it, always punching above your station.”
Proving the catalyst for what is set to be an eventful year in the Opus camp, Wild Bill is just a glimpse of what’s in store on the bands recording schedule. With talks of a debut EP in the works and audio-visual projects already in the mix, they are certainly looking to the tail end of 2021 with a positive outlook.
Taking this optimism thoroughly in their stride, Angus explains their constructive mindset when thinking about life after Covid. “There’ll be such an emphasis on community, DIY and favours for favours between promoters and performers. It’s like being shown your own mortality. Having something snatched away from you will make you go hell for leather when you have it back again. I’m quaking in anticipation for how it’s going to be because it’ll be completely different. Taking the sad losses that we’ve had with venues, promotions companies and even bands and artists into consideration, that loss will be even more of a drive to make something new. There’s so much shit to wade through but the thing is – we will!”
At a time when uncertainty and cancellations have become part and parcel of everyday life, it would be easy to down tools, put on the autotuned UK top 40 and scream ‘I’ve had enough’. Instead, Opus Kink have honed their craft, found productivity amid inactivity and had a thoroughly good time in the process. It’s safe to say that we could all do with a breath of fresh air right now, and Wild Bill could well provide this much needed solace. Find the band on Spotify here.