Track-By-Track: Queen Kwong – Get A Witness

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With this record I was really trying to stay true to myself and do what I wanted to do. I wanted to make a record that represented me: my energy and my emotions, and how they all come out during the live shows. I haven’t been able to properly capture that in any kind of recording until now, and in order to do that Joe [Cardamone, producer and The Icarus Line frontman] and I decided to improvise everything.

We showed up to the studio every day with nothing planned, and just recorded a new song every day. We didn’t really think too much about any kind of format or how anything was going to sound. It was just sit down, record a song in a couple takes, and that was it.

That approach kept the energy up in the studio, and it definitely kept us on our toes. Basically, the process ended up being that Joe would jump on drums and I would get on bass, and we’d jam for about 20-30 minutes figuring out parts, and then when we had some kind of structure we’d start putting guitars down. And then, finally, I’d do the vocals.

All the lyrics were freestyled. I’d listen to the songs as the instruments were tracked, and just sing along to them with words that I made up on the spot. Then I’d write around the lines that I liked to create something more solid, and the second take would be what’s on the record now. And that was it.

We approached a new song every day, and we decided to not spend any time going back or over thinking it. Everything just kind of came out, so I can’t say exactly what was going on in my head at the time of writing a lot of these songs. There was no processing at that point, in terms of meaning. But all the lyrics came out incredibly personal, without any hesitation.

Ultimately, what I really like about the album is that it’s a really polarising record, and I think that’s really good for a debut. It sets the listener up for who I am…

**1. COLD DAGGERS
**This was the second song we recorded for the album, and we decided to kick off the record with Cold Daggers because it made huge statement. It makes an introduction to the record that is not subtle. It’s like, this is what you’re getting yourself in to, and if you don’t like this then you better turn back right now.

**2. NEWT
**This one is actually one of my favourite songs to play live. It’s become a lot heavier, whereas on the record I think it’s mellower. I remember I had a really hard time singing this one, as melodically I wasn’t able to figure out what I was doing the first time around. I ended up being inspired by the latest Swans record, and I think Newt is the one song where you can really hear the Swans influence.

**3. GET A WITNESS
**I don’t really know why this song became the title track for the record. *Get A Witness *ended up being one of the last songs we recorded, but it became something that really represented the record as a whole. There’s aspects of this song that ring throughout the album, in terms of the instrumentation and the lyrics, so I think it just felt right because of that.

**4. LOVE ME (COVER)
**I don’t remember why we recorded this Elvis Presley cover, but Love Me is probably my favourite Elvis song. I had a really hard time playing organ and singing at the same time though – I can remember that. We’ve only done it live once, but it actually went off really well so maybe we’ll play it more. It was really just one of those things that we did for fun, and I liked so much I decided we should keep it on the record.

Queen Kwong and right, the album artwork for 'Get A Witness'

Queen Kwong and right, the album artwork for 'Get A Witness'
(Image: © Derek Bremner)

**5. RED DEVIL
**This is a really personal, emotional song for me, and the lyrics really mean a lot. It represents a time in my life where I was coming out of an eight-year relationship, and if there’s any song on the record that really touches on that subject then it would be Red Devil. A lot of those emotions are in this record, but especially this song.

**6. BELLS ON
**I think Bells On is what inspired the entire record. It was recorded months before the rest of the album. I had recorded the song with Joe, and when it came time to thinking about getting into the studio to record a full-length record, I thought about the various ways in which we could achieve the best results. I was really happy with the way we’d recorded Bells On, so I suggested we made the entire record in that free-form kind of a way. So Bells On determined the whole process, really. And it was a crazy song to make. There was a really violent, volatile atmosphere whilst we were doing the recording, and Joe was trying really hard to make me angry so that he could get something special out of me. What you hear is exactly what was going on in the studio. It was a really intense song, and it set the precedent for every other song on the record.

**7. MEDICATED
**This was probably the song that I struggled with the most out of all of them. I loved what we had done musically, so much so that I wanted it to just be an instrumental. I wanted to keep it super simple and try really hard to not make it about my vocals, so I just sang where I thought was appropriate and tried to follow the lead of what was going on with the music.

**8. PURRFICTION
**Joe actually titled this song before we recorded it. It’s another one of my favourite songs to play live, and much like *Newt *it’s totally different now compared to the way we recorded it on the album. This is the only song where any of the lyrics have anything to do with the title, and that’s because I knew Joe had called it Purrfiction, so that inspired me to sing, ‘I’m purrfect / I’m purrfect’ at the end of the song. And it’s no secret that I love cats. Those are all my cats and dogs on the album cover. Meow!

Carré Callaway was talking to Matt Stocks. Get A Witness is out now through Dissention Records. The band have announced details of a UK tour in December. Tickets are on sale now.