Music interview: King Zepha

King Zepha
King Zepha
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“I’m influenced by old Jamaican stuff and all the American 50s and 60s rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues stuff as well,” says Sam Thornton, founder of the Leeds-based ska, rocksteady and jump blues band King Zepha.

Since the release of their debut double album Introducing...King Zepha & The Bluebeat Renaissance the group have been busy touring. This month they’re in Belgium, Holland and Germany as well as playing at a few UK festivals.

The good-time grooves of songs such as I’ll Be Home (When the Drink’s Worn Off) and Lazy Man seem tailor-made for a festival audience that covers a wide breadth of ages. “It’s quite old-fashioned the style of music we play but it is lively and it is danceable and we try and keep it that way.”

Without a label behind them, the band have been “selling the CDs ourselves at gigs and online as well”.

“That’s nice in a way because it gives us the freedom to do that and we’re getting money back from it,” says Thornton, who’s also a member of jump blues cover band Louis Louis Louis.

The band’s line-up “varies between a five-piece and I think the most we’ve had onstage has been a nine-piece”.

Thornton, a one-time student at Leeds College of Music, has assembled several of his players from his former alma mater.

“I studied there, so did the bass player and the piano player from our band, although that’s not how we met, we were all on different courses at different times, but we all got involved in the local music scene through those courses and Leeds College of Music.

“There’s a lot of Leeds musicians still around from that course. It seems to be quite an incestuous scene, in a way, and that’s good. When I go further afield I sometimes bump into people who’ve been at Leeds as well.”

King Zepha can be seen at Al’s Dime Bar in Bradford on September 4; at Moortown Social Club on September 25 and at Unity Works in Wakefield on October 9.

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Louis Louis Louis play at Chapel Allerton Arts Festival on September 6. Visit for more information.