She was discovered by Trent Reznor when she was just 17 years old, and after a decade of refining and developing her sound, 2015 was the year Carré Callaway finally cemented a full-time line-up for her band Queen Kwong.
The quartet – rounded off by Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit), Fred Sablan (Marliyn Manson) and Hayden Scott (Awolnation) – did a handful of free shows in London in February, before returning to play Brighton’s Great Escape festival and support Failure back in London in May. They then went out on tour in the US with Failure, and came back to the UK in August for Reading and Leeds festival. That month also saw the release of the band’s debut album Can I Get a Witness?
After that Carré and Wes moved from their west coast home in LA to east coast Detroit, where they filmed the renovation of their newly bought property for a home improvement show on the DIY Network. Then they headed back to the UK one final time for their first proper headline tour of the country. To say that 2015 has been an eventful 12 months would be the understatement of, ahem, the year.
We sat down with Carré before Queen Kwong’s first show of said tour in London, to hear all about her rollercoaster year…
So how has 2015 been for you?
Carré: “2015 was a really difficult year, actually. It was one of the busiest, most stressful years I’ve pretty much ever had. A ton of great things happened at lightning speed, which is awesome, but it’s also hard to stay energised and healthy whilst doing all this stuff: we did a ton of shows and we were on tour all the time. So it’s been really tiring, but also really exciting and I feel like a lot of progress was made.”
Tell us some more about those shows; from your US tour supporting Failure to your UK headline gigs and festival appearances…
“We didn’t really know any of these things would come up. It was all so last minute. So having all those people turn up to the free shows we did in London back in February was a huge surprise, because we had no idea so many people would show up. Right then and there we got the Reading and Leeds offer, and all this other great stuff got set up. Then we found out Failure was in town and we were asked to open up for them, and from there we were invited out to go out and tour the US with them. It was all so non-stop and last minute. Unfortunately the record wasn’t out in time for that tour, which was kind of frustrating because we picked a lot of new fans along the way, but there was no record to give them. It was a huge opportunity though. And every musician always dreams of playing Reading festival. It’s a real milestone, and I didn’t think I’d ever be playing it, let alone this soon: at that point this line-up of the band hadn’t even been together for a year.”
And how did it feel to finally release your debut album Can I Get a Witness?
“It felt like a huge relief, because I’d been sitting on it for so long and I really wanted it to just come out. I was so ready for so long for it to come out. So it was a huge weight off my shoulders to finally have that accomplishment of getting the record out there. And the response to it was great. So although it’s been a very stressful year, it’s ultimately been a very good year.”
Perhaps it wasn’t the best time to move across the country and renovate a house…
“That probably wasn’t the best decision I’ve ever made in my life, no. That was actually the only time we had off this year, and we decided to move across the country and spend 10 straight weeks filming this TV show. It was miserable. I feel like I aged five years, and I still feel tired even now. I’m only just starting to get my colour back.”
Do you think 2015 has been a good year for music generally?
“I really loved The Weeknd’s record [Beauty Behind the Madness]. I really liked The Weeknd years ago, and I was googling and trying to find videos of his, and you couldn’t find anything from him. Absolutely nobody knew or cared about him. And now he’s like the biggest thing in the world. I really like his new record. It kind of lacked what I thought was special about him to begin with, but I think he’s super talented and I really liked a lot of those songs: I played them to death and it drove Wes crazy.”
Do you have a favourite movie of 2015?
“Wes and I went to see It Follows and we loved it. It’s a super-natural horror film. It was filmed in Detroit, too. We’ve seen it like three times now. It’s great.”
Do you have a favourite book of the year?
“Right now I’m reading Jonathan Franzen’s new book Purity. I can’t say it’s going to be my favourite this year for sure, but I’m liking it so far.”
So what’s on Carré Callaway’s Christmas list this year?
“I’d like a vacation. But then I don’t even want to go to the airport. I haven’t even thought about Christmas yet. But I’d like something really nice from Wes. The pressures on!”
And how do you see 2016 panning out for Queen Kwong?
“There’s plans to record an EP for release in the spring, and another full length album that we hope to release in the fall. We plan to do lots more touring too, although we probably won’t be back in the UK for a bit because we want to explore other territories. It’d be nice to join up with some cool bands and open up for them as well. And we have a wedding planned. So it’s going to be another really busy year…”