Comprised of founding members Kasi “KC” Nunes (vocals) Matt Kato (drums) and Jasio Savio (guitar) with Tim Corker (bass), Ken Lykes (keys) and DJ Packo, the Honolulu, HI-based sextet Kings Of Spade can trace their origins back to when Nunes, a self-described “somber, closeted queer kid, who felt soul and blues music,” was bartending at Honolulu’s Anna Bananas and was pulled up on the stage to sing. “They started playing ‘Sweet Child O’Mine,” Nunes says in press notes. “I started singing and was like ‘Hey, I sound pretty good.”
Interestingly, Jasio Savio frequently sat in with the bar’s house band. “He wasn’t old enough to drink,” Nunes recalls. “But he would start and rip these Johnny Cash tunes.” As the story goes, they were both impressed by each other. “You feel this energy when she sings,” Savio says. “My first thought was ‘Damn, she’s going to be famous.’” Nunes approached Savio and suggested they start a band. They recruited Matt Kato, a local punk rock drummer and played with a revolving door of bassists until they found Tim Corker. As a quartet that played power chord-based blues riff rock, they didn’t find their hometown to be very receptive to their sound — although Nunes took it upon herself to book club shows that featured the band alongside local DJs, artists and other bands. After amassing a decent local following, the band relocated to Southern California in 2006 to chase their dreams. But as Nunes and Kato quickly found out, the big city isn’t very welcoming; in fact, they were barely scraping by — and they were forced to sell their blood for cash. “Everyone at the clinic looked down-on-their-luck,” Nunes remembers. “I was hooked up to a plasma machine, reading the self-help books. This was the lowest point in my life.”
After three years of crushing let-downs and disappointment, Nunes, Savio and Kato quit their jobs and gave up their shared apartment in preparation for a lengthy tour that was just booked by their new manager; however, he disappeared once they figured out that there wasn’t an actual tour. They returned home to Hawaii, and ironically enough, upon their return, they finally began to have much better fortune. Several years later, the band played at SXSW, where former Headbanger’s Ball host and MTV VJ Riki Rachtman caught them — and after catching them, he booked them to play a show commemorating the 30th anniversary of his old metal club, The Cathouse, best known for giving rise to Guns N’ Roses. Around the same time, they met Sue Damon, the ex-wife of The Beach Boys‘ Mike Love. “She was a huge supporter of ours, bought us a new drum set. She was a total free spirit, who could party all of us under under the table. She ended up passing away. But all of us have her initials tattooed on us.”
The band’s self-titled Dave Cobb-produced full-length was recorded in Nashville over the course of two weeks. “He produced a band I like, Rival Sons, which had this old-school sound with modern energy—like, analog-tape soul built into it,” Jesse says, admiringly. t Album single “Bottom’s Up,” was a swaggering and stomping bluesy ripper and party anthem inspired by their late friend and patron Sue Damon, and their own experiences partying ridiculously hard that sounds as though it were influenced by Highway to Hell-era AC/DC, Electric Blue Watermelon-era North Mississippi All Stars and The Black Keys — all while further cementing their reputation for boozy, power chord centered, riff-based rock. Released in time for National Coming Out Day, the album’s latest single “Strange Bird,” is a anthemic song centered around Led Zeppelin-like power chords and Nunes’ own experiences coming out, that proudly says “go out there and march to the beat of your own drum because life is short!” May this song be a call for arms for anyone, who’s struggling to find themselves in an unforgiving world. As Nunes says in press notes about the song, “‘Strange Bird’ is my big queer anthem – a song about being true to who your are no matter what it costs. It’s about self-love and growing into a person who is proud to be different. I always tell my coming out story before we play this song at a live show. It starts off so tragic I end up going back in the closet until way later in life. The beauty is coming around so far that I can tell the story on stage in front of a crowd of people cheering me on for it. After every show there is always people who share their own strange bird stories with me. That connection is everything. It’s why I play music and love being in a band.”
Directed by Vincent Ricafort, the recently released video draws from Nunes’ own experience as a young person, feeling forced to hide who she really was, before finding the courage to defiantly and proudly be the person she needs to be, finding herself and making connections through music. Additionally, the video suggests that music has always been a way for the strange and uncompromisingly individual to find comfort, as well.