Simple Kid #1 to release 1
Irish-born Ciaran McFeely (aka Simple Kid) was about 10 years old when he strolled home with a copy of Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet" to the great shock of his brother.
Artist: Simple Kid
Release date: 06/15/04
Label: Vector Recordings
Buy at: Amazon
McFeely's hipper, older sibling immediately took him upstairs, tossed the disc out the window and said, "Here's Led Zeppelin." So began McFeely's love affair with the classics-Zeppelin, Neil Young, Bowie. As Jon and the boys hit the pavement and Zeppelin skinsman John Bonham pumped out his monstrous low-end march, the roots of Simple Kid were planted.
And those roots are an integral part of a sound that has won Simple Kid the admiration of both his peers and critics. But 13 years later, the music coming out of McFeely shows as much affection for those rock giants as it does for the big beats and trancey melodies shaking and floating through U.K. dance clubs. On 1, he plays everything from a sloppy folkie falling somewhere between Bowie and Beck to an avant-pop singer who could front the Beta Band.
"I record straight onto this old 8-track, straight onto cassette tape," says McFeely, who was born in Cork, Ireland, but now lives in London. "And then I feed that song into the computer and then chop it up. I'll write my own song, like an acoustic song and then take it and cut it up and treat it like I'm sampling some old record, sort of in the way Fatboy Slim would take an old record and put beats behind it. I sort of like doing that, chopping up choruses and putting them the wrong way around, sort of having no regard for the song in a way and treating them really badly, and sort of screwing around with it." Strewn across those tracks are lyrics largely inspired by the works of such authors as Charles Bukowski. His literate songs have helped him draw the praise of the British press, who've even called him a modern-day Dylan.
They tell the stories of mascara-coated, tiger-eyed tramps, on-the-edge officer workers who dream of drug-filled weekends and kids who couldn't be bothered by such things as war or social injustice. A smart, clever lyricist, he bemoans the birth of his pot belly, before yearning for a hooker with a heart of gold and rightly noting that he's anything but average.
His live performances reveal the same versatility. Under the umbrella of his Simple Club concept, he assumes a variety of personae, including Sample Kid, wherein he remixes his own material with the aid of a laptop; Skiffle Kid, his country alter-ego that reveals his admiration for the likes of Johnny Cash and Arlo Guthrie; and Simple Kid Brother, in which his older brother and mentor joins him on stage.
He's earned a heap of rave reviews in the U.K. as well as opening slots on tours by Travis, the Thrills, Ocean Colour Scene and Suede. The support of Suede frontman Brett Anderson proved particularly pivotal in the rise of Simple Kid. It was during a gig on Simple Kid's trek with Suede that McFeely caught the eye of an A&R woman for U.K. label 2M.
At that point, McFeely had already issued two Simple Kid singles (partly financed by himself) through a tiny British indie. While he was hoping to score a record deal, he had already become quite weary of the record industry by that point. At 17, McFeely signed to a major as a member of the Young Offenders, a pseudo glam-rock band he formed with friends in Ireland. After struggles over creative control, and failing to get the group's album released in America, he quit music for a while.
Leaving his guitar at home, he moved in with his girlfriend in San Francisco, only to break up with her and in effect wind up homeless three days later. Of the break-up, he says with a laugh, "In sort of a proud moment, I kind of flew out the door, and she's like, 'Where you gonna stay?' And I was like"-[taking on a bitter tone]-'You don't have to worry about where I'm gonna stay.'" He spent the next six months broke and traveling up and down the California coast, spending weeks in Santa Cruz, San Diego, Monterey and even darting east to Las Vegas, sometimes hitchhiking his way from city to city.
Remembering a particularly unnerving ride with strangers through the California desert to Vegas, he says, "I was so sick of life at that point. It was kind of like, 'Bring it on. Test me. I don't care. Let's do it.' It definitely had kind of a Wild West kind of feel."
It was in Santa Cruz that he came up with the moniker with which his career would be reborn: "I befriended this homeless guy and he's a very sort of maniac, intensely intellectual guy, and he was into philosophy. One day we were having this philosophical conversation, which I was bluffing furiously. He caught straight away that I was bluffing and talking shit basically and he sort of sarcastically called me the simple kid after that and never kind of let me off the hook again. I knew him for about two weeks and he used to say, 'Here comes the simple kid,' and I actually thought it was quite a good name, really, 'cos it sort of referred to my whole new attitude of keeping everything really basic and doing artwork myself, and doing the recording and producing myself, keeping it all simple."
While he has little in common with them musically, McFeely's earlier experiences with the music biz mirror those of the likes of David Gray and fellow Irishman Damien Rice: All three got frustrated with the music biz, stepped away from it, and wound up making the best music of their careers when left to their own devices and removed from any high-stakes, pressure-filled situations. For the Stateside release of his acclaimed debut, McFeely has signed with Vector Recordings, the new independent label that helped launch Rice's career in the U.S. Vector will release Simple Kid 1 June 8th.
Ciaran says, "It's much more pleasurable this time around. I remember when I was 17, I placed all this pressure on myself. I sort of thought I was the next big thing and I couldn't let anyone down. These days, I often go onstage and kind of go up there and try something out. It might suck, but, ya know, it's like, 'Let's give it a go.' There's a lot of that sort of attitude to a lot of what I'm doing at that moment, and people seem to really enjoy that kind of honesty."
2. Truck On
3. Staring At The Sun
4. Average Man
7. Love's An Enigma
8. Supertramps & Superstars
9. Kids Don't Care
11. No News (Plus Hidden Track)
"1" by Simple Kid - release date: 06/15/04..