Spotlight On... King Wine

Ahead of their debut album release, Glasgow's King Wine talk to us about video game electronica, the joy of embarrassment and let us in on a special first listen of the album

Feature by Niamh Carey | 25 Aug 2022
  • King Wine

King Wine have been on the go for almost ten years now, bringing bucketfuls of charisma and video game nostalgia to many a dingy Glasgow basement bar. Part electro-pop, part Mario soundtrack, the duo’s instrument of choice is a Nintendo Game Boy, programmed by Craig Wilson to accompany Ruthie Kennedy’s bubblegum vocals about teenage escapades. They make a charming duo that, in this writer’s opinion, are one of Glasgow’s best kept secrets.

King Wine’s live shows are the stuff of legend: sporting orange jerseys, exercise shorts and a CBBC-style hypemanship, the duo earnestly shake their bodies while singing about attractive TV broadcasters and riding their bikes in the summer. There’s a lot going on all at once, and in the wrong hands it could easily slip into something naff. But instead the duo craft a magic combination of teenage nostalgia and comic electronica that leaves audiences feeling both confused and overjoyed.

The enduring charm of King Wine’s shows is soon coming to those not immersed in Glasgow’s live scene, thanks to the release of their self-titled debut album this month, which we're delighted to be bringing you a first listen of in the below SoundCloud player (click here if it's not displaying correctly). Ahead of the album's full release, we catch up with the pair to find out more.

The Skinny:
You’ve been delighting unsuspecting audiences with your live shows since 2013. What made you decide to release your first record now?
Craig Wilson: We’ve been sitting on these songs for so long, and it’s tempting to keep writing new ones, but then I ask myself ‘Why do you keep writing songs if you don’t even put out the first ones that you think are good enough to put out?’ Plus there was the pandemic – that delayed things.

As Glasgow's finest Game Boy-produced band, can you talk a bit about your production process? 
Ruthie Kennedy: Craig writes the backing tracks on a music production programme called LSDj (Little Sound Dj) on a Game Boy cartridge, which he sends to me. I write the lyrics and the vocal melody, and then we kind of workshop it from there. I would say it’s definitely been a separate but together process, although I’ve been learning LSDj and Craig’s been doing a lot of writing. I’m excited to switch it up for our new music.

King Wine’s lyrics are punchy, honest and playful. Are there any particular themes you enjoy exploring?
RK: I think I’m trying to reclaim teenage emotional intensity for myself. Trying to be anti-embarrassment… or actually, pro-embarrassment. I’m very up for embarrassing myself with overly earnest, heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics.
CW: Life’s too short.
RK: Life’s too short! I want to allow people to express themselves freely. That’s my only goal: to be as honest as possible, and if it’s cheesy then that’s good! Everyone needs a bit of cheese in their lives. 
CW: It ain’t easy being cheesy.
RK: That’s for damn sure.

Your live shows are pretty unique – one part kids TV show, one part choreographed bedroom dancing, plus a little gymnastics sprinkled in for good measure. What do you hope people get out of watching your shows?
CW: I think it’s what Ruthie said before, about not feeling embarrassed. The mantra that I had when we started the band was: 'If you see someone enjoying themselves on stage, then you’ll enjoy yourself as well'. All my favourite bands do that. There’s nothing wrong with going up and being totally serious, but we want people to see that we’re daft, we’re having a good time. We’re the focal point of the room which gives the audience permission to go daft as well. 
RK: I think it’s fair to say that we’re both quite anxious, high-strung people, so it’s a moment of release for us. That sense of release is definitely something I want to give to other people as well. 
CW: When I go up there, I don’t have to worry, because I’m not me, I’m Craig from King Wine. He can do whatever he likes, there’s no consequences for him.
RK: I think it’s really interesting that you say that, because for me, I don’t feel like I become someone else, I feel like I become more myself.
CW: Maybe not someone else, but it’s like a part of myself I’m allowed to reveal.
RK: Yeah, I think that should bleed more into everyone’s real lives. I think everyone should be more weird – the weirdest, truest version of themselves.

What’s next for King Wine?
RK: Our debut album is coming out on 27 August! And we’ll be doing a show at The Hug and Pint, one of our favourite venues. We have some exciting shows coming up that we can’t wait to announce.
CW:: We’d like to do a big tour, that’d be fun.
RK: And obviously writing new music…
CW: Releasing the four other albums we’ve written.
RK: Next year: tenth anniversary tour.
CW: Special box set. Live DVD.
RK: Global fame.

King Wine is released on 27 Aug - presave the album here; King Wine play The Hug & Pint, Glasgow, 27 Aug