When Kingsley Flood surfaced with its debut in 2010, it quickly gained a reputation around town as a Boston band primed for bigger and better things. A little bit country, a little bit rock ’n’ roll, the group put on blistering live shows that made you think you were hip to a secret that was about to be revealed.
Three years later, the way we think of Kingsley Flood is about to change. “Battles,” the group’s sophomore album to be released on Tuesday, underlines the difference between a local band ascending to a national stage and one that’s finally ready for and deserving of it.
“It’s the album that I had wanted to make for a long time, and finally we had everything in place,” says Naseem Khuri, who fronts Kingsley Flood as its singer, songwriter, and guitarist. “We had a producer whose sound we loved and a band that had been together long enough to jell. With everything we had done previously, one of those factors wasn’t there.”
The album’s release, which the group will celebrate with a show at Brighton Music Hall on Saturday, caps an impressive few months for Kingsley. In December, the band picked up the Boston Music Award for Americana act of the year. Rolling Stone magazine recently debuted a new song, “Down,” online, and American Songwriter followed suit by premiering “The Fire Inside.” MTV Buzzworthy debuted yet another song, “Pick Your Battles.”
Such activity speaks to the broad appeal of “Battles,” which the band financed with fan funding through a PledgeMusic campaign that raised $20,000. You want rowdy and propulsive? Kingsley can rip up the floor with “Down” and “Sun’s Gonna Let Me Shine.” Something more intimate and close to the bone? “Habit” and “This Will Not Be Easy” reel it in for a quieter intensity. Those shifts — between loud and soft, bruising and heartfelt — are what make Kingsley so compelling.
“We all have this collective vision around wanting a lot of dynamics,” Khuri says, adding that Joe Strummer and the Kinks were touchstones for “Battles.” “We wanted to make a record that you could turn on and listen to the whole way through. I wanted to tell stories from different perspectives and suck people into that world and take them along. I write in terms of concepts. I write albums, not singles.”
“Battles” marked “the first time we had a producer as part of the band, picking apart every song and working with us in rehearsals and really messing with the structures of the songs,” Khuri says.
They enlisted Sam Kassirer, who has worked with Josh Ritter, David Wax Museum, and Lake Street Dive and recorded the album at Great North Sound Society, Kassirer’s studio in Parsonsfield, Maine.
“This may sound somewhat dumb, but one of the main things I wanted to come across on the record was the rock element,” Kassirer says. “I knew and believed in the songwriting, and I didn’t have any fear that it wouldn’t come across. Especially in terms of their live performance, they wanted to rock out more. I really wanted them to have a body of songs that were immediately enjoyable and didn’t require a lot of listens to enjoy it.”
More than the band’s debut, “Dust Windows,” and a follow-up EP, “Battles” comes closest to capturing Kingsley’s raucous live performances. But Khuri says it’s not that simple. “I think it’s all in how you interpret it. I know there’s a lot of stuff on the album that we couldn’t do in the live show and a lot of stuff in the live show we couldn’t do on the album. We treat them as different beasts.”
Khuri, a Westwood native, moved to Washington, D.C., in 2009 “for a girl,” not knowing if Kingsley would pan out. The rest of the band — which includes Nick Balkin (bass), Chris Barrett (keys, brass, percussion), George Hall (lead guitar), Jenée Morgan (violin, tenor sax), and Travis Richter (drums) — is in the Boston area.
That wasn’t Kingsley’s initial lineup when Khuri first put the band together, but it’s the one that solidified to make “Battles” as strong as it is.
“We had needed to spend a lot of time on the road, to play to a lot of empty rooms and big rooms, to spend way too many hours in a van together. We needed to grow,” Khuri says. “It’s taken us a few years to get to this lineup, and this just feels right.”