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QUEEN KWONG

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ABOUT QUEEN KWONG AND COUPLES ONLY

A few years ago, Carré Kwong Callaway—aka Queen Kwong—was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and told she may only have a decade left to live. As a result of the condition, she’s prone to episodes where her lungs fill up with blood and she’s literally drowning. If that wasn’t bad enough, two months after her diagnosis, her husband jumped ship—to put it nicely. Within the year, everything else—her security and stability, her home and home studio, her cats—had also gone. This gave Carré no option but to leave Detroit, where they had bought a house, with nothing but one suitcase and two guitars. “I was homeless for nearly a year, just living on friends’ sofas, and I’m still in the process of rebuilding my life," she says, “but it’s reassuring that we can survive things that feel unsurvivable.”


On the surface, then, Couples Only could be described as a divorce record, but, really, it's much more than that. It’s an outpouring of pure feeling and visceral thought that captures every emotion that comes with both the grieving and recovery process. It's a fearless account of facing the worst betrayals and accepting the deepest losses. It's the realization of one's mortality and the impermanence of everything we know and cherish. But, ultimately, it’s a testament to the endurance of the human spirit. Because while this record is unashamedly about the darkest period of Carré’s life, it doesn’t wallow. It can be accusatory and violent, but there's no time wasted on self-pity. “It’s not a fun record," Carré admits, "but, at times, it’s a funny one."


Indeed, there’s levity here. Just ask her what song title EMDR ATM stands for. Even the album title itself is a tongue-in-cheek dig at herself. It seems as though losing everything ultimately liberated Carré—perhaps because, as she says, "it makes you realize what truly matters, and the things that don't matter end up meaning even less. It frees you from a lot of bullshit."
 

Needless to say, Couples Only is Carré setting the record straight, and across these 11 songs, she takes no prisoners. 

 

As with every Queen Kwong album, Couples Only was entirely improvised and recorded on the spot—nothing was pre-written lyrically or musically. For three weeks, Carré and longtime producer Joe Cardamone (The Icarus Line/Skeleton Joe) crafted about one song a day, which would eventually be whittled down to the final 11 songs. The pair would usually begin with a drumbeat Joe programmed, followed by Carré tracking guitar and bass lines that she would then freestyle lyrics and vocals over. Interestingly, Carré hadn’t picked up an instrument for nearly a year before going into the studio. Instead, she was filling her time with other projects—after graduating from university with honors, she founded an all-natural skincare line, co-starred in  American Primitive film series Quarentina, launched the immensely entertaining music podcast Never Meet Your Idols, and is nearly finished with her first collection of sculptural artwork scheduled to show next year. Despite being so preoccupied, however, Carré found herself needing the cathartic purging that only music has been able to offer her. As she explains: "I don't play music because it's fun. It's a coping mechanism. It's for survival. I have to keep playing music because it’s my way of allowing myself to feel.” 

 

It's the maelstrom of those raw feelings recorded in real-time that serve as the common denominator on a record that spans multiple musical genres, refusing to settle for just one style. Opener, I Know Who You Are heavily throbs like Swans, while Sad Man, an ode to the music industry and LA “fuck-boy-clowns,” is reminiscent of Blur's 13 and showcases Carré's effortlessly cool and noisy guitar style, as well as her biting lyrics. On The Run has elements of traditional doo-wop, and the album's closer, Without You, Whatever, can easily be defined as a pop track circa David Bowie's Hunky Dory. And due to the improvisational nature of the record, most of the vocals and lyrics feel like laidback, almost jazzy, Beat poetry-esque ruminations. Dig deep enough and you may hear surprising influences from Carré, a rock musician who admits “I hardly listen to music but when I do, I prefer hip hop.”

 

Indeed, The Biggest Mistake was initially written as a rap song, but then morphed into the wonderfully sleazy, penultimate track on which Carré fiercely throws her cards down on the table. Yet as much as the song is about her break-up, it’s also a caustic indictment of the culture of fame, of celebrities and the sycophants that hang around them. That’s something Carré has been on the periphery of for a long time, ever since Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor discovered her when she was 17.
“I've never been interested in fame, despite being around it,” she says. “However, I also never understood how profoundly flimsy and cowardly it makes people until my divorce...How quickly people will forgo integrity just to avoid burning a bridge. I'm calling out those fuckers. I'm not afraid of burning bridges by telling the truth. I'll happily sacrifice the Instagram likes and fake friends to keep my spine intact.” 


For all that fury, though, there’s also vulnerability. Possibly the most heartbreaking song on the record is Stanley RIP, which was recorded in a single take while Joe was taking a smoke break. The studio doors were open to Joe's backyard, resulting in outside noise and birds chirping in the background being captured on tape. Then there’s The Mourning Song, a stinging but humorous clap-back at her ex-husband that becomes an almost uplifting, breezy singalong. It tells, very bluntly, the story of how she lost everything but how she kept going anyway. 

 

The finished record features guest appearances from some of Carré's closest friends and longtime supporters, including The Cure's Roger O'Donnell playing keys on On The Run, Swans' Kristof Hahn playing lap steel guitar on EMDR ATM, and Blood Red Shoes' Laura-Mary Carter singing backing vocals on No Rules. Queen Kwong’s touring bassist Drew Rollo played the final bass tracks and drummer Devon Ashley, who was drafted in for a day of recording, provided live drums. Those people were chosen very carefully—Carré wanted to include her friends and touring band members on this particular release as a way to credit them for their overall support and loyalty during her darkest hours.
“I’ve always been a bit of a misanthrope,” she says, “but the people who came through for me and had my back these last couple of years are the ones to thank for this record…and perhaps even my survival. They gave me hope and perspective and, most importantly, they reminded me who I am.”

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"Striking, horrifying, and beautiful - a bloody mess of physical, psychological, and emotional reckoning" - Coffee and Sugar

Streaming everywhere rad music streams:
https://ffm.to/couplesonly

QUEEN KWONG

SRR007 COUPLES ONLY

Released July 12, 2022 on Limited Edition 180 gram vinyl, Digital and Streaming 

Carré Kwong Callaway aka Queen Kwong returns for her third and most fiercely visceral album to date. Produced by Joe Cardamone (The Icarus Line / Skeleton Joe) and featuring performances by members of The Cure, Swans, and Blood Red Shoes, Couples Only is a truly defiant statement. From the razor sharp midnight swagger of “I Know Who You Are” to the post modern doo-wop of “On The Run” and the Lynch-ian pop hooks of closer “Without You, Whatever”, the album is a fearless testament of endurance and survival in the face of betrayal, loss, and mortality.

Tracklist:

I Know Who You Are

EMDR ATM

Sad Man

Death In Reverse

The Mourning Song

No Rules

Stanley (RIP)

On The Run

Biggest Mistake

Giver Taker Faker

Without You, Whatever

Lyrics written by Carré Kwong Callaway.

All music written by Carré Kwong Callaway & Joe Cardamone except Stanley RIP, written by Carré Kwong Callaway. 

Produced by Joe Cardamone.

Written & recorded at Elephant in Los Angeles, CA. 

Mixed by Tchad Blake. Additional mixing by Joe Cardamone.

Mastered by Jim Kissling. Mastered for vinyl by Dave Gardner at Infrasonic Mastering. 

Design and layout by Drew Rollo & Carré Kwong Callaway.

Photography by Laura-Mary Carter.


Carré Kwong Callaway: vocals, electric guitar, piano, keys. Bass on "The Mourning Song";

Joe Cardamone: drum programming, synths, percussion. Backing vocals on Sad Man, and additional guitars on "The Mourning Song" & "On The Run".

Drew Rollo: bass, tape loops on "On The Run", additional guitars on "Biggest Mistake".

Roger O’Donnell: additional synths and keys on "On The Run".

Kristof Hahn: lap steel guitar on "EMDR ATM".

Devon Ashley: live drums.

Elise Poirier: acoustic guitar on "Without You, Whatever".

Darian Zahedi: addtional guitars on "Without You, Whatever".

Laura-Mary Carter: backing vocals on "No Rules".

Briana Lane: backing vocals on "Without You, Whatever" & "Sad Man".

Mike Musmanno: drum editing & engineering.

Additional noise/chaos provided by, Ginger, Rocky, and Zeus the studio dogs, Lux the cat, and the backyard birds choir. 

℗ © 2022 Queen Kwong all rights reserved under exclusive license to Sonic Ritual, an Eternal Music Group LLC company

"...if the brooding first single “I Know Who You Are” is any indication (Check out the disturbing video above, inspired by Andrzej Żuławski’s 1981 horror classic Possession), Callaway is clearly channeling her recent physical and mental traumas, resulting in what sounds (and looks to be) her most visceral work yet. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Surprisingly, there are luminous moments of levity, such as the shimmery and upbeat synth-pop single that is “Without You, Whatever.” - AV Club (excerpt from '14 Albums You Should Listen to in July')  

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“There’s something purely magical about Queen Kwong’s new single “Without You, Whatever,” an enchanting dose of lush dream-pop that sees light of day today (June 9) via its Mimi Supernova-directed video. It’s also one of the best tracks of 2022 we’ve heard so far, possessing a dream-like art-pop quality that allows us to swandive into repeated listens without ever feeling smothered.” - Vanyaland

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"Like pouring gasoline on a fire, its volatility is enough reason alone to captivate you... capturing such a fraught state is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and she makes no concessions with no filter. Because after a life has been torn apart in the way hers was as depicted in the music, whose feelings are there left to protect? If anyone tried to stop her, she probably just ended up making fun of them on this album anyways" - Spectrum Culture

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"From the dark and industrial-tinted opening notes of 'I Know Who You Are,' it’s clear that Queen Kwong‘s new album comes from a place that’s intensely personal and equally powerful. Throughout eleven tracks, Queen Kwong (née Carré Kwong Callaway) unleashes a visceral howl of pain, rage, grief, sorrow, and ultimately, closure. It’s the soundtrack to the longest night of your life, the one that continues to motivate you forward until the first glint of the dawn you never thought would come... Couples Only is a stirring experience from start to finish and one that will resonate with anyone who has been cut, scraped, bruised, or beaten (metaphorically or literally) during their journey in life." - Hollywood Life

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Physical Distribution: Republic of Music (UK/EU), Fat Beats (Domestic and Rest Of World)
Digital Distribution: Republic of Music (UK/EU), Symphonic (Domestic and Rest Of World)
Press: Reybee Inc

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