Interview: Kids in Glass Houses

“We were just like, fuck it. If we're gonna do it, well we'll do it properly!”

Interview: Kids in Glass Houses

By Thomas Forrester

Sep 27, 2023 14:00

"There we are. Yeah. Yeah. All good man!" grins the affable man at the other end of our Zoom call. Aled Phillips is a busy man, gearing up for an even busier couple of months. His band, Kids In Glass Houses, are about to hit the road for their first headline tour in almost a decade. Despite this - and despite of the late summer heatwave - Phillips comes across as cheerful and relaxed.

Forming in 2004, Kids In Glass Houses saw the career trajectory that most young bands could only dream of. Being heavily featured on Kerrang! and the BBC before they’d even signed a record deal, the band quickly built a devoted fanbase.

After four records, 11 years, countless tours, and even a Christmas single, the band decided to call it a day in 2014.

But for a band who counted Glassjaw as an influence yet found mainstream exposure on Radio 1 playing songs with emo lyrics, indie-pop instrumentation and punk rock sensibilities; it’d be foolish to take anything for granted.

So, 15 years after the release of their debut record ‘Smart Casual’ and nine years since they last played a show, the band have made a triumphant return. Two electric sets at Slum Dunk, a revisit (well, remix & remaster) of their formative album, and a UK-wide October tour – it’s fair to say the rumours of Kids In Glass Houses demise were very much exaggerated.


As it happens, the seeds for the reunion were sown almost immediately after the band parted ways. With Slam Dunk Festival famous for hosting at least one high-profile reunion every year, Director Ben Ray had lined up the band as a marquee return. Within the smoking area of the Kerrang! Awards, Ben’s campaign began in earnest.

Although Ray pestered the band for many years, the idea was always laughed off. That is, until the opportunity to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of ‘Smart Casual’ was mooted. It then went from the pipe-dream of fans and festival directors to something more concrete. “I feel like the band felt like enough time had passed and enough space, and everyone was kind of in a good enough place in their lives and personal lives to be like, yeah, do you know what? Let’s just do it” explains Phillips.

Coincidentally, it wasn’t only Kids In Glass Houses and Ben Ray who felt the time was ripe for another look at ‘Smart Casual’. In a moment of serendipity, Romesh Dodangoda – longtime Kids In Glass Houses record producer and collaborator – was thinking something similar. Dodangoda revisited the original masters of ‘Smart Casual’, and wanted to breathe new life into the songs that started it all. This tinkering soon snowballed into a full remix of the album, which in turn progressed into a full re-release.

With the band on the same page, and a ‘new’ record to promote, the only logical way to proceed was a full, headlining tour. “We were just like, fuck it. If we’re gonna do it, well we’ll do it properly!”

Wanting to do this properly is admirable indeed, but nine years is a long time in the music industry. For Kids In Glass Houses, a band that had a cult following in their heyday, how would their reunion sets be received?

This question certainly crossed the band’s mind, but Ray had a hunch that he was onto something big. “We saw Ben before we played and he was like ‘We kind of expect you to have like one of the biggest crowds of the weekend’ and we were like, are you sure? I think you may be wrong!” Laughs Phillips.

As it turned out, Ray couldn’t have been more right. At Slam Dunk South, the band’s first live set in almost a decade, they drew a crowd that was as vast as it was raucous. The videos of this set are incredible, and show a love for this band that hasn’t ebbed in their years away. A response that Phillips couldn’t have predicted. “I think after all that time, you don’t expect people to sort of still care. You think they’ve kind of moved on. So, it was really kind of humbling. It was nice.”

The Slam Dunk sets were an undeniable success. Yet, the band couldn’t rest on their laurels, and attention soon turned to the re-release of ‘Smart Casual’, and in the years since Kids In Glass Houses’ final release, vinyl has seen a real boom in popularity. Nowadays, it’s common to see many different versions of albums released on vinyl. The demand of fans to own a band’s back catalogue has increased dramatically over the last 10 years.  This wasn’t the case in 2008, when the band released ‘Smart Casual’, yet the first pressing were limited to 300 copies, and sold out in a matter of hours.

This led to copies being traded for hundreds of pounds, something that didn’t sit well with Phillips and the rest of the band. “We all love collecting vinyl and stuff…  and they were just reselling for so much money and we were like, ‘oh, this is shit’. Like, we don’t want people spending hundreds on ‘Smart Casual’!”

With Dodangoda’s remastered version of ‘Smart Casual’ waiting in the wings, an opportunity arose to re-release the album on a larger scale. In doing so, giving fans the chance to own the record without breaking the bank.

This re-release, combined with the renaissance that guitar music is seeing in popular culture, could be seen as a good opportunity to win over a new generation of fans. While this is something that Phillips acknowledges, it’s very much secondary to rewarding the loyalty of long-term fans. “Fundamentally, this is kind of a bit of fan service for people who were there at the time, but the idea of us being able to win over a new generation and get some new ears on it is also sort of super exciting for us.”

With the vinyl orders in, attention turns to the band’s upcoming tour. For a band who built their reputation on the frequency and intensity of their live shows, touring is a vital part of their legacy, and it’s clear that Phillips is excited to be getting back out on the road. “It was always our favourite bit.”

While the band very much embodied the spirit of rock’n’roll in their youth, for Phillips, this tour is much more about rebuilding connections. “It’s just gonna be that hanging out element for us. Because even as a band we weren’t particularly ‘in touch’ to be honest, for a few years in the middle there. Which is obviously a shame, but, you know, people have kids and stuff, so that’s a big part. But we’re really gonna love that.”

It’s an opportunity that the band are relishing. Rather than experiencing pre-tour jitters, the band love this part of the job the most. “Slam Dunk was amazing, but it’s not necessarily always your fans, and there’s a bit of like stress and pressure that comes with that. So, there’s a bit more comfort when you’re playing a headline show, you know. People are there to see your songs and your band.”

When asked if there’s anything that the band aren’t looking forward to when it comes to the tour, Phillips is hard pressed to find any downside. Indeed, the negative, if there is any, is the pressure in preparing for the tour, and all the logistical work that goes into making it a success. Phillips handles the merch design, as well as taking the time to do press work to promote the tour. Despite his responsibilities, he is keen to emphasise that it’ll all be worth it, once the tour rolls around. “It’s kind of the cherry on the cake of what’s been like a pretty unexpected and kind of unbelievable year for us. So, no, it’s pretty much all excitement on our side!”

The centrepiece of this tour will be ‘Smart Casual’ played in full. As with any band, with each album release, there are more favourites to fit into set-lists. Inevitably, some older tracks have to be shelved to make room. The band play singles such as ‘Easy Tiger’ and ‘Give Me what I Want’ at pretty much every show. But deeper cuts were lying dormant before the band went on hiatus, and these dates give the band the chance to dust off some of the album tracks; something that Phillips is looking forward to. ‘Girls’ is an up-tempo number which will be fun to play live, even if it’s not without potential pitfalls “I was like, fuck, I’m not 20 years old anymore, and it’s difficult to sing so high!” he laughs.

Conversely, ‘Pillow Talk’ is a slower number, which remains a source of pride to Phillips to this day. “It’s a slower song, but it’s a song that I still listen to now, and I’m quite proud of it lyrically and musically.” He also admits that it gives him the opportunity to catch his breath between faster numbers!

Ultimately, Phillips, and the band are grateful for the chance to play these songs to fans again, and are grateful that those fans are still desperate to hear them. “It’s really cool that those songs, they weren’t on Kerrang! TV or any of that. They’re just songs that people hold dearly. It’s always quite a nice moment when those kinds of songs land with the crowd.”

When pushed if the set will have any surprises – once ‘Smart Casual’ is out of the way – Phillips is understandably elusive in his response. “There’ll definitely be a few surprises. I don’t want to ruin it!” but also adds “Don’t miss it – just go and find out!”

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that this reunion has happened at all. Is this is a one-and-done, or something more permanent? For now, Phillips admits that the band are enjoying being back together, without getting too far ahead of themselves. “We’ll do the tour, we’ll see how happy people are… or how sad!” He jokes, “We’re back in some capacity, but we’re shaping that at the moment.”

He is, however, firm that this isn’t a short-term return by any means. “There will be other stuff happening, we’re not gonna just do this and disappear.”

A band that has always done things their own way looks set to make a return as unique as their first act. With less than a month to go until the ‘Smart Casual’ tour, it very much seems like this is the beginning of something special for Kids In Glass Houses. To paraphrase one of their biggest hits, this will give the fans exactly what they want.

Kids in Glass Houses tour the UK on the following dates:
October 15 – Glasgow SWG3
October 16 – Manchester O2 Ritz
October 17 – Birmingham O2 Institute
October 18 – London O2 Forum Kentish Town
October 20 – Bristol O2 Academy Bristol
October 21 – Cardiff Cardiff University Great Hall