At its core, Couples Only, the new album from LA-based artist Queen Kwong, is an incredibly therapeutic album. The album is the product of a tumultuous few years for Carré Kwong Callaway, in which she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and told she may only have a decade left to live before going through a divorce. It’s a powerful, personal, honest release, but through all of its darkness and challenges, there is still some light and humor to be found in the songs, as well.
Carré pulled out all of the stops on the album, which was improvised and recorded entirely on the spot. Appearing on assorted tracks on the album are The Cure’s Roger O’Donnell (keyboards), Swans’ Kristof Hahn (lap steel) and Blood Red Shoes’ Laura-Mary Carter (backing vocals), while Carré also recruited Joe Cardamone of The Icarus Line, and Tchad Blake (Arctic Monkeys, Elvis Costello, Fiona Apple), who mixed the record. With Couples Only out now, Carré is looking toward the future, which includes some live shows and new videos to accompany the album. Read more about Couples Only and listen to it now below.
Prelude Press: You kicked off 2022 with the release of a handful of new singles. What are some of your favorite things about the songs you’ve released so far?
Queen Kwong: That they’re so personal and honest. I feel really exposed by them and that’s liberating. I don’t think they could represent who I am as a person or as an artist any better. I really am proud of that.
All three songs are taken from your new album, Couples Only, out now! What are you most excited for fans to hear on the album?
I’m excited for fans to hear all of it! There’s such a range of sound and emotion on the record and I’m hoping people will be able to connect with a lot of it.
Can you tell us a little bit about your single, “Without You, Whatever”? What inspired it?
That song was an afterthought, to be honest. It wasn’t even supposed to make it onto the final record. It was more of an experiment to see how poppy I could go and how high I could sing. Haha. But the lyrics make the song fit in with the rest of the tracks. They tie everything together.
Couples Only is a very personal and vulnerable release for you – was it cathartic to work on these songs?
Yes. Writing and playing music is always cathartic and the only way I’ve found to effectively communicate what I’m feeling. But, Couples Only took that to the next level. Every song is so deeply personal and emotional so it was like a massive purge of so many emotions. I definitely needed to make this record so that I could close a dark chapter of my life on a high note.
The album was also improvised and recorded entirely on the spot – what did that process look like in the moment? Did you ever go into the studio with an idea of what you wanted to accomplish, or were recording days mostly similar to jam sessions?
Similar to jam sessions, I guess. Everyday we started with a new programmed drum beat and built from there. Joe would program drums, I would start playing guitar, then he would maybe add a synth hook and then I’d start free styling vocals. By the end of the day we’d have a new song. Not all of them were good —we wrote/recorded 18 songs in 21 days and the best 11 made it on the record.
Did you have any major goals in mind when you set out to work on Couples Only?
No, I never really approach music with pre planned goals or anything. I just try to make stuff that pushes me and isn’t “middle of the road.”
You also worked with a ton of other musicians on the album, including Roger O’Donnell, Kristof Hahn and Laura-Mary Carter. What did you learn from each other when working together?
To be totally honest, I can’t say we learned much from each other because everything was done remotely and the elements they added were added after I was finished with the songs. Because of COVID and time constraints, we weren’t working in real time, in person together. But it was really cool to get the tracks back and be surprised by the direction they went in. Sometimes it’s hard to not get defensive and have knee jerk reactions when you’re used to hearing your songs only one way and then suddenly someone else adds something that changes the vibe. But I just kept an open mind and I think everything Roger, Laura-Mary, Kristof and Tchad Blake (mixer) added only elevated the tracks.
What would you like for fans to take away from the album?
I want people to feel something. Anything. I just want the songs to make an impression and stir an emotion. I think brutal honesty resonates with people so I hope that’s the case with Couples Only.
Do you have any other big plans for 2022?
A couple of shows are in the works and a few more pretty insane music videos are coming soon.