Kites are a passionate four-piece who mix synths, guitars and lyrical drama in their amazing live shows. The rising stars have been dubbed the UK’s hottest unsigned act, featured in Q magazine, and been booked for major festivals this year. With echoes of New Order, Patrick Wolf and Talking Heads, they have supported everyone from Jarvis Cocker to Kevin Rowland, Gary Numan to The Mystery Jets.

Led by dandy-ish pop-poet Matthew who calls his guitar Ophelia, the band features electronics whizz and collector Richard, demon drummer Eddie (ex The Holloways), and blues-influenced Jasper also on guitar. Their latest tracks are ‘Brother’ and ‘Art Tastes Better Blind’, one of Q Magazine’s Essential Downloads. Check out Sanfernando Sound’s storming remix of their track ‘The Disappearance of Becky Sharp’.


Matthew talks songs and guitar

Matthew is on a mission - to grab the audience from the word go.

Our sound is very visceral, quite aggressive when on stage, and it has quite a heavyweight electronic underbelly with smatterings and garnishings of guitar. It’s quite provocative and confrontational I hope.

I think that music without passion is pointless, superfluous, so everything that we do as a band is basically trying to deliver our passion on stage and trying to translate it in a very honest way. I think if we fail to do that convincingly then we’re failing in our mission as a musical collective.

I am the front man and I take the role of the kind of dandyish front man far too seriously but I think it makes for a more exciting stage presence. I see myself as a songwriter and lyricist primarily.

That passion has won over audiences across the world, and Matthew confesses there’s a fair bit of punk in their attitude.

A lot of electronic acts are basically playing through exclusively electronic devices whereas what we have is we play with a live drummer and play with live guitars as well. So we garnish the music with these kind of raw visceral elements. I think that’s what gives it that added texture and aggression and which make the shows much more akin to watching a kind of well-dressed punk outfit than just seeing a laid-back electronic act and that’s definitely something we’re trying to develop as we progress the band.

We were surprised to hear him use the word punk, and wanted to know if he had any direct punk influences.

Aesthetically no, or at least I hope not, but in terms of how we are on stage and how we try and project ourselves to the audience and the fact that we don’t kind of use our microphones as props to hide behind but more as like weapons of warfare, I think in that sense in the way that we approach the gig it definitely has certain punk sensibilities, or sensibilities that I attribute to punk.

Matthew plays guitar for some songs in the live shows, and loves the Fender Telecaster sound.

I play a 60s re-issue Telecaster which I adore. I’ve played guitar and Fenders for as long as I can remember, so from about the age of 11. I treat my guitar with a kind of fond disrespect like an older brother might treat their little sister or something like that. I play it very vigorously and I really pour all my energy all my physicality into the instrument, it really allows me to express myself on stage, in a way that feels natural to me.

The sound of the Telecaster in particular is such that it has quite a raw aggressive sound, it only has two pickups in combination - the Stratocaster has three - and this just makes for something that’s a little bit punchier and less clean. Ultimately the sound isn’t as evolved as the Stratocaster but I like things to be a bit more dirty and real and life like.

My Telecaster is called Ophelia because I am immature enough to name my guitars. I bought it when I was a penniless student, even more penniless than I am now, and it was half price in the shop because the guy who was selling it to me said ‘it’s stood on the shelf so long that it looks secondhand’ so I got a very very good deal on it, and I’ve been playing it ever since. I adore it.

He’s got also strong opinions on pedals – what he likes, and what he doesn’t!

I use a series of basic Boss effects primarily, which I find reliable. I use delay and I use a blue compressor box (Compression Sustainer CS3) in combination with a Blues Driver pedal which give the sound a vivid quality and just give it that edge when I’m playing on stage. I don’t use chorus effects at any cost because they change guitar sounds so much and make it sound like keyboard or something that isn’t real. I think the whole point of me playing guitar is to really convey the fact that it’s a stringed instrument.

And when it come to vocals, he likes to keep things simple – it’s the best way of showing what he’s got.

I like the vocals to have a richness to them, to have that Jim Morrison reverb, that haunting quality about them. I’m liable to try and turn up my vocals far too loud in any given scenario. I like well-defined reverb without kind of overplaying it, and perhaps with a slight delay.

I want it to bring out the richness of my voice. I’ve got quite a kind of baritone, low tenor voice which functions well if it is projected in the right way. I’m quite lucky because my voice is quite full-bodied naturally.

So that means vocal pedals are out, he’s in the sound engineer’s hands.

I get the effects from the desk. Every vocalist or every actor I know has little techniques to keep their voice and to maintain that voice. So we all kind of chew on these special tablets and drink these abhorrent liquids to keep our throats and voices tip top, but really they’re probably not making any difference but we go on stage feeling better about ourselves.

Matthew likes to play with emotion when he is writing songs, and often with literary ideas. He hits his peak the morning after!

They’re usually very human themes and I usually write quite satirical narratives about people I know, people I’ve encountered. They can often be quite dark but a little bit humorous as well at the same time.

I write songs best when I’m hung-over, feeling really emotionally delicate and fragile. So I can wake up quite creative on a Friday or Saturday morning and I can sit down at the piano or with a guitar or whatever. I just let things kind of happen quite organically, quite naturally. But it’s good to be in an emotionally fragile state I think.

I’m influenced by a lot of literature and by modern satire. In the case of Becky Sharp, Becky Sharp is the anti-heroine of Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair and she is basically a manipulative female who goes through life with her wits and manages to exploit individuals around her to enhance her own ends. She does this in a very humorous fashion, but what I quite like doing is redefining archaic themes. We still have these roles adopted by people in modern society and I know thousands of males and females who operate very much like Becky Sharp, but using a character like Becky Sharp brings more colour to the character I think than just talking about someone like you would hear Heat magazine talk about them.

The remix (by Sanfernando sound) has been exciting because it’s like a bonus it’s not something we expected. Our songs seem to have resonated with certain people and they wanted to remix them and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results of that.

He embraces being a front man – and the theatricality of the role.

I grew up as a small child, even smaller than I am now, listening to a lot of Jim Morrison records around the house, a lot of early Beatles records. Then when I was going through my teens I encountered things like Kraftwerk, but also great lyricists and front men like Bowie, who played a pivotal role all my life.

I’m inspired by a whole raft of different people whether that be musicians or writers or figures throughout history. Musicians that I find particularly inspiring are pop chameleons like Bowie and Patrick Wolf. They are able to redefine themselves at a moment’s notice, and approach the stage very much how you approach the stage of a theatre where you are an actor and have to reinvent yourself. I also like their androgyny and the fact that they are difficult to compartmentalise as characters and as individuals, and I find that exciting.

He’s a guitar-player through and through though, since pre-teen days.

My first ever instrument was the guitar, which my choirmaster at the time was quite disappointed with. He wanted me to learn the violin or the tuba. I was 11 when I picked it up and I haven’t really put it down ever since.

But he had to make to with a borrowed instrument for the first few years.

I wasn’t allowed to have my own guitar, my parents wanted to make sure that I had the right attitude and approach towards playing a musical instrument. I think their fear was that I’d pick up an instrument on a whim, because I’m a changeable character and play it for about two weeks before casting it to one side in favour of something apparently more exciting, but it stuck with me.