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 studio, her cats - had also gone. This gave Carré no option but to leave Detroit with nothing but one suitcase and two guitars. On the surface then, her new album Couples Only could be described as a divorce record, but, really, it's much more than that. It’s an outpouring of the pure feeling and visceral 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.
As with every Queen Kwong album, nothing was pre-written lyrically or musically and Couples Only was entirely improvised and recorded on the spot. 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: graduating from university with honors, founding an all-natural skincare line, co-starring in the film series QUARENTINA, launching the podcast Never Meet Your Idols, and working on her first collection of sculptural artwork scheduled to show next year. Despite being so preoccupied, 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.”
Genre: Alternative / Indie Rock
RIYL: Autolux, PJ Harvey, Blonde Redhead, Fiona Apple, The Raveonettes, Sonic Youth
QUEEN KWONG "COUPLES ONLY"
I Know Who You Are
Death In Reverse
The Mourning Song
On The Run
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.
"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,” says Carré Kwong Callaway—aka Queen Kwong about her new album Couples Onlywhich will be released on July 12, 2022 via Sonic Ritual. The first single “I Know Who You Are” is released today and is, at once, a revelation of the ugly truth as it is a triumphant separation of toxicity between intimates.
Pelted with blasts of chugging rhythms and blasts of searing guitars, “I Know Who You Are” features Carré’s viscerally raw and accusatory vocals, swinging with a razor sharp midnight swagger. Couples Only is an outpouring of pure feeling and visceral thought that not only captures every emotion that comes with both the grieving and recovery process, but also looks at the hourglass of existence with a shorter shelf life than most. Mere weeks after her divorce, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and told she may only have a decade left to live.
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 album," Carré admits, "but, at times, it’s a funny one.”
Assembling a notable cadre of contributing musician friends including The Cure’s Roger O’Donnell (keyboards), Swans’ Kristof Hahn (lap steel) and Blood Red Shoes’ Laura-Mary Carter (backing vocals) who appear on assorted tracks on the upcoming LP, Carré worked closely with friends and allies, including Joe Cardamone of The Icarus Line, and Tchad Blake (Arctic Monkeys, Elvis Costello, Fiona Apple), who mixed the record.
As with every Queen Kwong release, all music for the upcoming album was entirely improvised and recorded on the spot—nothing was pre-written lyrically or musically. A primal scream of freestyled lyrics that contain the anger, fury, frustration and sadness that was dealt to her in a quick succession of events that started with a diagnosis of cystic fibrosis in 2018, the dissolution of her marriage two months later that left her exiled with nothing but a 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.” Unleashing this pent-up energy for the album has been purgative for her.
From the stinging but breezy singalong “The Mourning Song” (which also serves as a humorous clap-back at her ex-husband) that tells, very bluntly, the story of how she lost everything but how she kept going anyway, to the unabashedly poppy and chiming “Without You, Whatever” that recalls Hunky Dory-era Bowie. There’s also the meandering doo wop R&B shuffle of “On the Run. Couples Only is a fascinating journey through the darkest reaches of her experiences in the last few years with vitriolic spittle and sarcasm with a snide smirk. "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," she snickers.
Queen Kwong has been making music since 2005 when she was discovered by Trent Reznorwho invited her to open Nine Inch Nails’ With Teeth tour (2005), and again in 2009 and 2018. She has released two albums (Get a Witness in 2015 and Love Me to Death in 2018) and two EPs (2013’s Bad Lieutenant and 2019’s Oh Well).
Needless to say, Couples Only is Carré setting the record straight, and across these 11 songs, she takes no prisoners.
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