Third time’s a charm for ‘Kings of None’
“Static,” the newest album by local rock band “Kings of None,” is a triple-crown effort—and might just be the breakthrough recording they’ve been looking for.
“I think we’re getting better. We’re getting to what we want to sound like,” said Tyler Gagne (lead guitar), who comprises “Kings of None” along with Dave Byrnes (vocals/guitar), Ted DeBenetti (bass), and Todd “Wrolly” Wrolstad (drums/percussion).
“I don’t know if that necessarily means a popular sound, but I definitely think we’re becoming better songwriters.”
“I think we got a little too cute, arrangement-wise, on the last album [2010’s ‘Red Eyed Angels’],” admitted Wrolstad.
“Some of the songs were seven minutes.
“This time, I don’t think we have a song over four and-a-half [minutes],” he noted.
“You leave them wanting more,” Wrolstad reasoned. “Those are how the great songs are—if it’s really good, you hit rewind and listen to it again.”
“I think there’s a happy medium there,” agreed Byrnes. “If you write songs people gravitate to right away, on the first listen, then those songs tend to fizzle out fairly quick.
“But if you listen to a song two or three times, and it tends to grow on you, those are the ones that we strive to write.
“We want something that you’re going to want to put in the CD player a year from now or two years from now,” he said.
Gagne said he was looking at the cover of “Static” and it made him think of an old LP, which people used to listen to as a whole, not like with digital media today where listeners pick and choose tracks.
“In a subconscious way, maybe that’s what this is—an album that you can put on from beginning to end and it kind of tells a story,” he remarked.
While the band’s 2007 self-titled album came together piecemeal, “Red Eyed Angels” saw more collaboration between band members.
“Static,” however, represents a more mature approach to song crafting and attempts to reach a broader audience.
“I think at the end of the day, we’re all getting older and some of the heaviness [of the music] is starting to back off,” said Byrnes.
“I think we’re looking more at putting out songs like ‘Slide’ and ‘City Lights,’” he noted. “We sat down with those songs with radio play in mind.
“You have to get out to the masses,” Byrnes stressed. “Nowadays with the Internet, you can tour right from home—and a lot of bands are doing it.
“You can sell individual songs,” he remarked. “You can have people buying your music in Mexico or wherever.”
“There’s a song on it for everyone,” echoed Gagne. “If you’re into country, you’re going to dig ‘Slide’ or ‘Bartender.’
“If you’re into heavy stuff, ‘Home’ or ‘Static.’”
The six-song album’s first track, “Static,” kicks open the door without knocking as if to say, “We’re back!”
Clocking in at an economical two-and-a-half minutes, the title track is a short, sharp shock that hooks you in; easily the heaviest tune on the album.
But the album really starts to shine with the second track, “City Lights,” a polished, melodic hard rock tune which demonstrates the confidence and talent of the quartet at this point in time.
Boasting multiple layers of guitars that chime and soar in equal measure, as well as showing off the driving and dynamic rhythm section, “City Lights” is proof of the band’s sound it has honed for the new album.
Wrolstad said “City Lights” is his favourite track.
“The feel of it and the production—it’s probably the best song we’ve ever made,” he remarked.
“It sounds full, it’s got a cool groove to it,” added Wrolstad. “It’s not crazy heavy, it’s not mellow, either—it sits right in that AC/DC kind of rock.
Just when you think you know where the album is going, “Slide” slips into the mix—presenting the listener with an easy-going, acoustic number.
An incisive look at the rough patches in relationships, “Slide” also provides a showcase for a much more nuanced performance from all band members, with even a little harmonica thrown in for good measure.
Byrnes said “Slide” is his top pick on “Static.”
“It’s something we’d had put away in the bag for a couple of years,” he remarked. “It just took the right stars to get aligned.
“And once we got it going, we were happy with it so it got to stay—it made the disc and not the cutting room floor.”
DeBenetti said the song is a great example of band members working to foster each others’ styles.
“Davey is ‘Slide.’ He’s in the pocket there,” DeBenetti stressed. “He loves playing stuff like that, so we’ve got to work with him to help him fulfil his needs as songwriter and musician.”
Danette McIntyre also sings harmony on “Slide”—her beautiful voice adding another hue to the band’s sonic palette.
Byrnes tipped his hat to McIntyre, recalling she walked into the studio with a rough version of the track he had given her beforehand and was there less than an hour.
“She made three passes through the song while the studio was up and running, and knocked it clean out of the park,” he lauded.
“She is a true professional, and we were happy to have her come and help us out.
“We’ll be definitely trying to get her back,” Byrnes added. “Our town is saturated with great musicians, so you never know who will end up coming in for a guest spot.
“But she is definitely top of the list.”
“Still Running” gets back to basics. Building tension with a quiet opening, the band then explodes with a no-nonsense, three-minute rocker that doesn’t let up.
Simple and raw, the song is instantly memorable.
“Bartender,” meanwhile, is bound to become an all-time classic for the band during its live gigs.
In this laid-back, southern-tinged number, Byrnes, “on behalf of all the broken men that lost,” shares his thanks to the bartender who is always there to lend an ear.
But it’s Gagne who intoxicates here—opening with a riff that pours smooth, like scotch over ice, and then continues to order rounds all night long with each and every note.
“It was the last one [written for the album],” recalled Gagne, who ranks it as his album fave.
“It was an 11th-hour song and I loved it.
“The guitar part at the beginning just kind of happened and everybody was, ‘That’s it!’” he enthused.
“It’s just one of those that fell together,” Gagne reasoned. “Lightning in a bottle. We lucked out.”
DeBenetti agreed, noting that although he loves playing the punchier bass lines on “Static” and “City Lights,” the “creeper” song amongst the album tracks was “Bartender.”
“It just kind of came out of the blue,” he noted. “I had only played it a couple times, and then the next thing you know, we’re listening to it, we’re practising it, and I’m thinking, ‘This is a pretty cool tune!’”
The sixth and final track, “Home,” switches gears again. A straightforward hard rock song with a gas tank full of heavy metal licks, it wraps up the album with an appropriately loud exclamation point.
All songs on “Static” were written, performed, and produced by the band.
It was recorded using the band’s own custom-built recording studio (located at DeBenetti’s business, A Buck or Two), with Wrolstad, who went to college for music production and recording engineering, mixing it in his own home studio.
Wrolstad noted this was the first set of recordings where all of them were done “live off the floor,” meaning the band played together at the same time, instead of individually or in pairs with tracks put together afterwards.
Despite their responsibilities as employed dads approaching middle age, the bandmates make an effort to spend an average of two-three hours a week practising, writing, and recording.
They also play three or four gigs a year at local venues, where all their practice pays off—delivering performances that replicate the high quality of their recordings, although sometimes with improvements and improvisations.
But with “Static,” Byrnes said the band might learn some songs acoustically and perform “unplugged” performances at From the Grind Up or La Place Rendez-Vous here, for instance.
“Just get out there and play. We’re learning new material steadily and a lot of old stuff,” he added.
“Everybody came from a cover band so you’ll never know what you’ll hear when you come through the door.”
The band also plans to get together with collaborator Tom Foley of Jadmart Video Services to shoot more music videos
“Static” is available now for $6 on iTunes and online independent music store, CD Baby (just search for “Kings of None”).
It also is available from any of the band members, and will be sold at all of their live gigs.
The band urges fans to follow them on Facebook, as well as check out their videos on YouTube.