April 6, 2023
DJ, multi-instrumentalist, composer, all-round multimedia storyteller Kid Koala is about to release his new album Creatures of the Late Afternoon, a mixed genre ode to turntablism that is accompanied by a full board game that is built into the record’s gatefold sleeve.
We sat down with Kid Koala to discuss Creatures of the Late Afternoon, the process of building a board game and engaging multi-generational audiences.
Where did the idea of creating a board game from a record come from?
The board game component came during the pandemic when I was playing a lot of board games with my family. When I wasn’t in the studio, I was painting these creatures with my younger daughter and watching a lot of nature shows.
I started painting the creatures with musical instruments and they began to appear in the record – as the spirit animals for certain songs on the album.
Could you explain the premise of the board game?
You travel in your touring van around the board. There are apartment parties, where you meet different musical instrument-playing creatures and what you’re trying to do is put a band together, essentially.
So you need to find a creature that plays bass, a creature that sings, a creature that plays the drums, and then you go to the flea market and pick up bits of recording equipment and musical instruments and whatnot. Then you collect a set of cards, including studio time. There are moments on the board that set you back a bit, but then you get some life experience.
That life experience inspires a genre of song that you might write. Once you’ve collected enough cards for a song, then you just try to complete the song. The goal of the game is actually to just write different songs and different genres. The subplot is that it’s endangered animals that are running around trying to save the Natural History Museum through the power of music.
The whole idea for me was just to make it more interactive with the vinyl. It’s not just a format for storing the songs, it’s something you use during the game. On each side, you have album tracks, but after that, there’s a locked groove. After the locked groove, there are board game tracks that score different moments in the game, like a Jeopardy timer, only funkier.
Is there a reason you opted for the characters to be endangered species?
People have been asking me what Creatures Of The Late Afternoon could mean–it’s several things. Most musicians I know or DJs and producers have pretty late schedules.
I know personally; I keep nothing I record that’s recorded before midnight. I think after hours something unlocks, and that’s where the real creativity begins. Even if I wake up early in the morning, I don’t feel like I’m fully activated until the late afternoon.
Another part of it comes from watching these beautiful nature documentaries with my daughter. We’d be following the lifecycle of some of these creatures and be so entranced by them. Then, without fail, at the end of every episode, there would be an endangered species warning. It was just depressing. I don’t know; I had to speak to that in my own way and shed some light on it.
Were there any limitations put on the game because of vinyl production costs?
At first, we wanted to package it with actual dice, which would have needed a board game box and we also considered printing larger playing cards. We might do a deluxe edition eventually, but I wanted something that could fit on a record shelf and provide another element to the vinyl experience.
For the dice, we initially considered spinners, but there were issues where stuff might cause a bump in the package or damage the vinyl, so my wife Corinne designed several prototypes of dice that could roll and still be folded out from card. There was a lot of engineering!
I’ve always had a little extra in my records – with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome over 20 years ago, I had a comic book and on 12 Bit Blues I had a gramophone kit you could build and use to play a flexi-disc. This was me bringing it to a new, fun place again.
There are sections of the record that are specifically for integration with the board game. Could you talk me through those?
Normally in a board game, you might have a little egg timer or an actual clock that ticks, so I thought “Oh, well, we could just use the tracks as a timer if there’s a 92-second track”. That relationship brings up that sort of adrenaline rush for that moment in the game.
Does the music hold a similar storyline to the board game?
The album itself will be the soundtrack to our next production. We’ve been doing these live films, multi-camera with a string quartet, turntable, puppetry, miniature set films, and live on stage.
Currently, we’re on tour with The Storyville Mosquito and a lot of the musical pieces I was working on started becoming musical cues for the forthcoming production. The production is, in genre, an action film. Many of the tracks are meant to score certain moments in the film. For example, “Highs, Lows and Highways” is for a motorcycle chase scene. “When You Say Love” is a date montage between the two protagonists. The songs largely stem from that production.
What are the plans for that production?
At the moment, we’re just in initial prototype designs for sets and puppets with it. Obviously, the characters exist already in painted form as part of the board game. Right now, we’re prototyping how they’ll move and how to engineer them to do what they need to do. That premiere is still a long way away because we are on tour with The Storyville Mosquito for the next two years.
After that, Creatures of the Late Afternoon will premiere and I like that people can get acquainted with the music before they see the show and there’s already that familiarity.
One thing that struck me about the board game was that it could be a cool way for a parent or someone with younger relatives to bond, even if the child is too young to be interested in the idea of a vinyl release. Was that part of the plan?
Absolutely. For me, a multi-generational audience has been an aim for me ever since I was I knew about entertainment and show business. When I was six, my mom showed me Charlie Chaplin films. I watched them with my grandparents, my sisters and my parents and we were all laughing. It’s one of a handful of times when all three generations of my family were enjoying the same thing. I didn’t even really understand what was happening in the film or how it was made, but the feeling was still created.
Whether it’s a concert or a board game, a board game or a video game, hopefully, we can help people connect in a fun way.
Creatures Of The Late Afternoon is set for release on April 14. Pre-order it now.