The Cover Story

Kid Kapichi: “Things might get worse before they get better – but they will get better”

Emerging from one of the murkiest periods in modern politics, Kid Kapichi’s brand of in-your-face social realism has electrified listeners with its unbowed attitude and punchy clarity of purpose. On third album There Goes The Neighbourhood, the Hastings quartet underline that, as we face a lacklustre election year, real power will always lie with the people...

Kid Kapichi: “Things might get worse before they get better – but they will get better”
Sam Law
Chris Georghiou

Kid Kapichi have nuclear swagger. It burns through every second of music the Hastings lads have dropped over the last six years. It drips from festival stages and hand-picked support slots for legends like The Specials at Margate’s Dreamland and Liam Gallagher at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Even at nine o’clock on a chill Saturday morning, it crackles around the table as co-frontmen Jack Wilson (switchblade sharp) and Ben Beetham (handsomely shaggy) bump shoulders and trade banter. Breakfast time is an odd moment to slot into the schedule of Britrock’s fastest rising stars, but they’re quick to assure they’d be awake for band practice anyway, and it’s impetus to get the day’s work done before tonight’s launch of their new custom brew: Keg Kapichi.

“How did we end up with our own beer?” begins Jack with a broad grin. “Through drinking beer! I was out with some friends one day when I ran into a guy I hadn’t seen since school. He told me he was working on Bad Boy Brewing Co. and I was drunkenly like, ‘Let’s do something together!’ When I saw him again a couple of weeks later, he was like, ‘Do you remember that?!’ Basically, he did all the hard work and we did nothing, but now we’ve got a delicious lager we’re going to sell!”

“He brought a beer tap to band practice last night,” Ben licks his lips with glee. “It was like a grown-up version of someone bringing tinnies. We basically had our own pub going on in there.”

Jack rubs his bleary eyes with feigned regret. “That might have been a bad idea…”

Even if they’d never formed a band, chances are that the core quartet of Kid Kapichi – completed by old friends Eddie Lewis (bass) and George MacDonald (drums) – wouldn’t be too far from the hungover spot they’re in this morning. While other emerging talents would’ve flocked to main hubs like London or Brighton, these boys kept faith in their hometown, feeding its transformation from top of the list of toilet touring stops in Anti-Nowhere League’s 1981 classic So What? to a bustling musical destination that’s now home to Nashville songwriters, award-winning blues singers and Kerrang! favourites Nova Twins. As artists who always preach about the power of grassroots community, collaborating on a beer with an old pal from school is very on-brand.

“We’re a product of our environment,” nods Jack. “We operate as a band in the same way that Hastings operates as a town. It’s a place with a punk ethos, where people are quite, ‘Fuck you!’ and like to do the opposite of what they’re told, but where we still look out for each other and care about community. It wasn’t always a nice place to be, but that’s why we’re proud of it. It’s like the naughty school kid you helped raise who’s now an astrophysicist. The members of this band are brothers more than anything, and we dragged ourselves through that mud to where we are now. The time we spent making music together before we had any real money or success – not that there’s a lot of money now – is testament to how we work together, as people and as friends!”

“Right from when we started out, people would comment about how other bands were quick to slag off the place they come from,” underlines Ben, “but we were always flying the Hastings flag.”

“It’s about the billionaires and arms of government who have taken control but aren’t interested in helping regular people”

Jack Wilson on the meaning behind the title There Goes The Neighbourhood

That context adds weight to the title of cracking third album There Goes The Neighbourhood. With striking yellow, black and white artwork riffing on the UK’s classic 1980s Neighbourhood Watch logo, it’d be easy to imagine a commentary on the decline of intimate community values in the face of modernisation: the dark side of gentrification; global corporations crushing the life out of historic high streets; greater digital connection coinciding with real-world division. Instead, Kid Kapichi bypass the symptoms of such societal breakdown to take aim directly at the cause: a callous ruling class and dispassionate politicians willing to sell out our values to the highest bidder.

“It’s less about the micro scale of the neighbourhoods that we actually live in,” continues Jack, “and more about the macro scale of the UK at large. Traditionally, when people have said things like, ‘There goes the neighbourhood!’ they’re talking about undesirables moving into an area and ruining it. Instead, we’re referring to the billionaires and arms of government who have taken control but don’t seem interested in doing anything to help regular people. In 2021, we called our first record This Time Next Year. After COVID, that was a phrase that we seemed to be hearing all the time, and it held a sense of hope. In 2022, we released Here’s What You Could Have Won, which dealt with the feeling of missed opportunity and regret. There Goes The Neighbourhood tackles the more sombre sense that the damage is already done and now we’re seeing the results.”

Ben rolls his shoulders and fixes our gaze. “It’s about the collapse of Britain, basically…”

Despite such firm words, Kid Kapichi rankle a little at the suggestion that they’re a ‘political’ band. There’s not much overlap with Britain’s Billy Bragg-style troubadours, in fairness, who set out with little more than a message and an acoustic guitar. Nor are they of the righteously caustic breed of punks like Crass or Napalm Death. Truthfully, they’re not even really into the same kind of agitprop rabble-rousing as contemporaries like Bob Vylan or Enter Shikari. Rather, they use the language and “yobbish” attitude of the working class to communicate a tongue-in-cheek, wryly realist worldview.

“We’re a band who deal in social commentary,” expands Jack. “But the experience of living in the UK right now is inherently political. As we said, we’re a product of our environment, but that environment feels very hostile right now. We are political in that we’re not afraid to be. And while there’s always a danger of coming across as preachy, I think we succeed in avoiding that.

“I love the ‘British’ storytelling of people like The Streets’ Mike Skinner and Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner. And The Clash are probably still my favourite band. But, if I had to compare our approach to politics to anyone else, The Specials would be my go-to. Songs like Ghost Town and Friday Night, Saturday Morning aren’t specifically political, but they do paint a bleak portrait of England. And those songs still feel as relevant – if not more so – today as they did back then.”

The two-tone ska influence is writ large on There Goes The Neighbourhood. Work on mega-single Zombie Nation – with its brilliant, Buckfast and Cornetto-laden, Shaun Of The Dead-influenced music video – started on December 18, 2022, the day Specials lead singer Terry Hall died, and features vocals from “the other big dog of that genre”: Madness frontman Graham ‘Suggs’ McPherson.

“We’d already been working on that song as a sort-of pastiche of the sounds of that era,” unpacks Jack. “So when our label Spinefarm asked who we’d want to work with on this record if we could pick absolutely anyone, we immediately told them that we’d want Suggs for Zombie Nation.”

“It turned out that they knew his manager!” laughs Ben.

“I remember him calling us back from Italy weeks later, just gassin’ the song,” grins Jack, “and having to pretend like it wasn’t the greatest thing that had ever happened. We were right about to record the song when he came back to us and the other guys had started to say, ‘Maybe we should move away from this Madness vibe…’ then I came in like, ‘Okay, so Suggs is doing it.’”

Elsewhere, though, the politics get more pointed. The crunching 999 rolls in on a wave of barely-sublimated fury, calling out the racism, misogyny and misdeeds in the UK police system, inspired particularly by the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard by off-duty Metropolitan Police constable Wayne Couzens. All-guns-blazing opener Artillery, meanwhile, is a call to arms in the face of stagnating government, escalating subjugation of the most vulnerable in society and imposition of alarming limitations on our right to dissent.

“We’ve been under a Conservative government for our whole adult lives,” explains Ben. “Year-upon-year, the frustration and anger, a lack of accountability and 24-hour news cycles have created this growing need to hold power to account. It feels like even if you plaster the most scandalous thing you can think of over the front of a newspaper nothing will ever happen about it. You get to the point where you want to take a more French attitude to protest.”

“Politically, it’s been the darkest time I’ve ever experienced,” Jack goes on. “Right now we’re seeing people being arrested for speaking out against a genocide. It’s felt like there were so many opportunities for the right thing to happen, but the wrong thing happened again and again. I started to feel like I couldn’t be arsed anymore. That’s the scariest thing that can happen.”

“You get to the point where you want to take a more French attitude to protest”

Ben Beetham on the current state of British politics

Staving off apathy feels depressingly relevant as we roll into an uninspiring UK election year. Countering far-right populism, the ruling Tory party have become more conservative, with the traditionally leftist Labour moving to occupy a centrist middle-ground that’s deflatingly Tory-lite.

“This election can be summed up in two words,” says Jack. “‘Damage. Limitation.’ There is no real opposition. This Labour party doesn't really represent any of the traditional Labour values. And even if they do get into power, they could easily become a scapegoat for everything that’s going wrong: people in four years saying, ‘Well, we gave them a chance, and they didn’t do anything…’”

“We talk amongst ourselves about what it must be like if you’re 18 or 19 staring down the barrel of a situation where there’s no real promise of meaningful change,” sighs Ben. “The political message is always, ‘Tories out!’ That’s about countering the disregard for people’s safety and acknowledging the need for a decent standard of living. It’s about stopping the oppression and exploitation of the most vulnerable in society. But in terms of really creating change, I’m not sure what to do other than protest a whole political system where the cracks are beginning to show.”

More than that, it’s about unplugging from the influences that perpetuate the vicious cycle. The insidious reach of the monied ruling classes runs well beyond the walls of Westminster, stoking disinformation, xenophobia and discord, misinforming voters to work against their own wellbeing. It is the duty of decent artists to counterbalance that, empowering people to think for themselves.

“Our government understands that the more difficulty you create for people, the easier they are to divide,” Ben says. “Social media burrows deep within the weakest parts of their natures, creating a situation where we can be controlled on a deeply personal level. Art is about encouraging unity.”

“People are angry because they’re living shit lives,” agrees Jack. “They can’t afford anything. If you work a full-time job you should be able to live a full life. Simple as that. But people can’t. We generally look upwards for help. But we need to start looking within ourselves and our grassroots communities. The more you wait for the hand of God to come down, the more it’s not going to.”

“And if it does,” Ben quips, “it’s just to slap you round the face!”

Three albums in two-and-a-half-years is a hell of a rate of creative turnover in the 21st century. Challenged on their prolific output, however, Kid Kapichi explain that it's far less about unbound creativity or chasing streaming numbers than staying relevant. Comparing themselves to the makers of cult animation South Park, they understand that cleaving tight to the ebb and flow of current affairs allows their songwriting to land with all the vitriol and bitingly comedic impact intended. Even if, right now, the block on progress has made a to-the-minute approach somewhat redundant.

“It’s easy at the moment,” Jack shrugs. “You could write a song about government being shit, then release it three years later, and guess what? Government is still shit. You write about problems with the police and, what a surprise, they’re still there. People talk about shows like The Simpsons and South Park even predicting the future. We had that when we wrote the song Young, Angry & Violent [which is unreleased, but available online] which had the line, ‘London Bridge is falling down and everybody’s got this new disease!’ right before COVID kicked off. Everyone was like, ‘Woah!’ While we do keep our finger on the pulse, that pulse is unfortunately very easy to predict nowadays.”

Rather than just a blistering musical newsreel, Kid Kapichi’s work has a timelessness about it, too. The sheer standard of their earworm compositions, built from George’s groovy drum beats up, is a huge part of that. “We make sure that we’ve got the toast,” Ben gestures, “before we start to spread the margarine on top.” More so, however, is their willingness to flesh out a three-dimensional picture of the everyday lives in which big-picture politics so cruelly interferes.

Get Down, for instance, is a gloriously energised banger that weaves threads of socio-economic discontent (‘5am and five per cent / And I don't dare look at my bank account / How the hell am I gonna pay my rent?!’) around a vivid portrait of a Friday night on the town. Tamagotchi, named after the digital ‘pets’ so ubiquitous for ’90s kids, is a bittersweet nostalgic head-rush (‘Cat Deeley, SMTV, shouting bogies, doing wheelies’) dedicated to any listeners ‘staring down the barrel of the big three-oh’. Playful standout Subaru delivers absurdist lyrical fireworks, ‘Her brother drives a Subaru / Her dad’s a master in kung fu.’ Grungy, weirdo love-song Angeline sort of sounds like Soundgarden marinated in the salt air of England’s south coast, rather than the United States’ Pacific Northwest.

“Ben and I fell in love over The Libertines,” offers Jack. “We loved how they could have punk songs, ballads, heavier songs, whatever… We don’t want to be going at 100mph from the first track to the last. It’s important to have respite, not just for the listener but for us as writers and performers.”

“We’ve got the dark, intense edge,” nods Ben. “But we want the best parts of the other side, too.”

True to that, Can EU Hear Me? feels like the most positive response possible to the UK’s disastrous departure from the European Union, acknowledging the universality of their message for overseas audiences while also delivering an arms-aloft chorus – ‘Hallo! Bonjor! Ça va! / Adios! Au revoir! / Auf Wiedersehen mon frère / Enchanté! Ciao! Take care!’ – designed to be sung on the continent.

Gorgeous acoustic closer Jimi is a touching ode to their friend, The Riddles frontman and Hastings legend Jimi Riddle who died on February 12, 2012, and has received a statue in their hometown.

“He would have loved and hated that,” reckons Jack, fondly. “Well, he would have pretended to hate it. He was a geezer. I’ll always remember meeting him at a house party when I was 15. He came in five-foot-nothing with a six-pack, pork pie hat, skinny jeans and blunt fringe before getting out an ironing board, jumping on it and singing Surfin’ U.S.A. I was just like, ‘Who is this guy?!’ From then on, we were great friends. He was a beautiful character, but also a troubled guy who could never get everything to work at the same time, like someone not quite built for a planet like this.”

“He burned incredibly bright,” Ben adds. “He could really fill a room with his energy and spirit.”

Ultimately, that unapologetic energy and outsider spirit is key to what Kid Kapichi are doing today. Their metrics for success range from shamelessly sticking it to the powers that be (“As we were writing, we were thinking, ‘Is this too much?’” grimaces Jack at one point. “Now, it feels like it’s not enough!”) to reaching the venues they’ve always dreamed of (“In footballing terms, you’re always looking to the next game, and the next game is Brixton Academy…”) but it all comes back to reaching the people most in need of connection – from the front rows of shows to their ‘Club Kapichi’ fan-run online community – and helping inspire them to trigger real, meaningful change.

“Things might get worse before they get better,” concludes Jack. “But they will get better. Someone asked the other day if we’d like this album to be the spark of a revolution. I mean, of course. But we don’t really believe that will happen. What we do believe is that this music can bring together like-minded people. Maybe those people have never had these conversations. Maybe they’re scared to because their parents have always voted Tory. But just uniting them in a different light and showing them that there’s a whole world beyond their small town is such a beautiful thing.

“For me, that is a revolution in itself.”

There Goes The Neighbourhood is out March 15 via Spinefarm. Kid Kapichi are on tour in the UK from March 22.

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