Photos and Article by Melanie Macpherson
Kit Langfield's debut solo album, Restless may seem, at first listen, to be a chaotic collection of musical styles and subject matter. I mean, how often do you find distorted guitars and frenetic drums hanging out on the same album with lap steel, banjo and a mandolin? With a diverse range of influences that includes country, bluegrass, punk and hard rock, Restless has a little bit of everything. What makes it work is the incredible storytelling. The album feels like a journey, and every song is a stop along the way.
From the first track, "Ladybird", we are plunged into a world of loneliness, life on the road and the bittersweet memories of a life not meant to be. The more musically upbeat “Goodbye Clementine” brings a ‘sleep when you’re dead’ manic energy to the journey. "Devil's Son", a high-energy rock song that wouldn't be out of place on a Foo Fighters album, brings some adrenaline.
“No Surprise” was a surprise for me, as the more traditional country sound might normally send me running. The song is an emotionally raw and brutally honest take on dealing with the shit end of the stick life sometimes hands out, and I can’t stop listening to it. “Belt Loops” brings the rock back with a song about chafing at limitations and longing for more.
“Nevada” walks us down a more traditional country road, with a serious tug at the heart-strings with a song about a companion loved and lost. Langfield revs it up with “Reaching Out” where hard edged harmonies and gritty riffs give me Lynyrd Skynyrd vibes.
“Estrella” is an indulgent trip into new love, and is apparently the source of a running debate over whether that new love is a woman, a drug, or something else less obvious (my vote is for a guitar). Whichever answer it is, Langfield is holding the real story close to the vest.
“Stitches” transports me to a world of space cowboys, a fallen hero in a brown coat, pretty floral bonnets, and aiming to misbehave (if you get it, you get it). We’ve all been stuck at some point in our lives, and “Big, Bad, Broken” sums up the feeling with a somewhat self-deprecating song.
The title track "Restless" captures the feeling of longing for home and realizing that home might not be a physical location. Langfield recently released a music video for the song that he says references his constant wandering and search for somewhere to call home. The imagery in the video is stark and dramatic and inspired by The Dark Tower, a series of novels by Stephen King.
Langfield has obviously put his heart and soul into this project, but he had a lot of help from his friends to bring the album to life. Aspen Beveridge of Skullcreek Studios both produced and played on the album, and his touch can be felt throughout the record. Also featured on the album are Bruce Rawling, Will Ardell, David Wickstrom, Paul Kuzbik, Rebecca Beveridge, and Nevada Eaglespeaker. Album artwork was done by Harrison Hall and the CDs were printed by Joel Gaudet at Moosefest Entertainment.
The album release party for Restless was held at The Capitol Music Club in Saskatoon on April 13. The evening was kicked off by Vanessa Gauvin, an up and coming folk rock artist with a powerful yet smoky voice. I had wanted to see her play ever since I found a couple of her songs on a Skullcreek playlist on Spotify, and she didn’t disappoint. Her set was fantastic, and she charmed the audience with her easy smile and playful banter.
Next up was Chesterfield, who brought an eclectic mix of psychedelic rock, blues, surf pop, and punk to the stage. One of Saskatoon’s best kept secrets, Chesterfield is always a guaranteed good time. Their performance was energetic and fun, getting the room moving and setting the stage for Kit's headlining debut.
Langfield brought us home with a performance that was both entertaining and heartfelt. The Brothers G, an alternative country band from Hafford, Saskatchewan, played as Kit's backup band, and their unique blend of rock, country, and blues was a perfect match for his songwriting. I’ve seen Langfield play solo and it was great. I’ve seen The Brothers G play their own set and it was great. But there is something about the musicality that The Brothers G bring, mixed with Langfield's dynamic stage performance, that is just fucking magic. The whole night was incredibly enjoyable, with amazing music, an intimate atmosphere, and an air of family coming together for a celebration. It felt like coming home.
About a week after the show, I spoke to Langfield about his experiences writing and performing the album. I could write two complete articles on just that conversation alone, so you, dear readers, just get the highlights.
Langfield described moving to Canada from West Africa at a young age, and discovering a whole new world of music. “All of a sudden I had access to every single thing I could ever want musically, and so I was just exploring and trying and hearing all these things that I didn't even know were possible. And you know, it just kind of took hold. I was into skateboarding as well and the culture of skateboarding and music go hand in hand, and it just took a few of the right bands to pretty much let me know that I wanted to play guitar and eventually from that it led to a desire to start writing my own songs.”
We talked about the song writing process, and how he typically starts from lyrics and crafts a song around the story. He talked about certain songs coming out of nowhere like a radio transmission, “And you don't even know where these words are coming from. You're just doing everything you can to get them on paper as quickly as possible before they disappear because it's kind of like bubbles floating through the air and once they pop, you're never getting them back.”
From releasing the album under his own name, to the subject matter in the songs, to the album artwork itself, Restless comes across as very personal to me and he agreed. “It’s a deeply personal album… a lot of the time, my songwriting is pretty honest. And it's a good way to convey things that I'm going through or things I've experienced, or that I'm feeling… this album is definitely a window into me, at least for this period of my life, and everything that I've gone through within the last couple of years.”
“The scariest part of it all wasn't writing things down or putting these songs out. It was literally just doing it under my own name. Because I've always felt like I wanted to be in a band. There's something that's so forgiving about being under a band name where it's not, you know, you. You kind of get that little bit of security. There's still a little bit of a veil where you're not necessarily hiding behind a different name, but it allows you a certain freedom…it presents you as a team, as a unit, not an individual. So to come out with this, and literally just go ‘nope, this is me’ Like or love it, take it or leave it; this is all me. That was the scary part.”
I asked him if he had a favorite song off of the album, because apparently I’m a closet sadist. “There's no way I can pick one and even then there's different categories of favoritism. There's my favorite one to play live, my favorite electric one, my favorite acoustic one, there's absolutely no way I can pick just one…I think my favorite one to play live, that’s the most fun with a band, would be ‘Belt Loops’. The Brothers G backed me at the CD release party, and they are just some of the most consummate professionals I've ever met in my entire life. They're incredible at what they do, and it's just so much fun to play with them. And that song, I’m calling it a trashcan song, because the whole time you're basically just like animal from the Muppets just like beating the shit out of everything. And it's like a barnburner, like a freight train going through hell; you're just holding on for dear life and it's so exhilarating."
I know I enjoyed the show, but I was curious how it felt from his side of the stage. “I had a blast. Colin (Klassen) did such a good job with the sound… people turned up and that's really all I can ask for. I had a fantastic time. It'll be a memory that I have for the rest of my life and I'm so glad because I feel that kind of sets the tone for everything to come from there… I really don't think it could have gotten much better than it did and I'm super grateful for everyone that came out to support.”
Langfield looked amazing on stage in a custom made jacket that would have looked at home on a stage in vegas. “The suit jacket is definitely styled after the old nudie suits… but it's still got a little bit of punk rock to it. Something that a few people threw out and I love this comparison to death, they said (the jacket looks like) ‘Punk Rock Tom Petty’... A friend of mine named Nikita, she goes by Stitch Witch on Instagram and she does a lot of my clothes… I kind of mentioned that I wanted to have something a little flashy. And she said that she'd always wanted to do something like that. So we collaborated on it and she put, I don't know how many hours labor into it, but it looks incredible. I'm going to treasure that thing forever.”
He’s playing acoustic gigs May 12 at The Longbranch in Saskatoon and June 2 at Lucky Charlie's in Swift Current. He’ll be at Dog Patch Music Festival July 23. If you want to see the full set with The Brothers G, then Moosefest on August 5 is your best bet. I’ll be there! Langfield also has some media coming out in the next little while, including a Skullcreek Session, and some video of his album release party filmed by Prehistoric Productions and Harrison Hall, so check those out. Everything Kit Langfield can be found at his website.
Listen to Restless, and if you get a chance to see him live, take it! You won’t regret it. Just like the tattoos Langfield creates, this album is going to leave its mark on you.