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.'” As the story goes 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 scarping 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 fell into some good 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.”
Interestingly, 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. Interestingly, the album’s latest single, the swaggering and stomping, bluesy ripper “Bottom’s Up” is raucous, party anthem that’s 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.
Earlier this month, I wrote about the up-and-coming London-based, up-and-coming shoegaze quintet Cosmic Strip, and as you may recall, the band, which is fronted by primary songwriter and creative mastermind, Camella Agabalyan, has described their work as “music to watch girls by, music to move the stars,” and with EP title track “Heavenly,” off the band’s recently released debut EP, the band seems to specialize in shimmering and soaring shoegaze that brought Wolf Alice and Lightfoils to my mind. The EP’s latest single “Sugar Rush” is a decidedly 120 Minutes MTV-era bit of shoegaze, centered around squalling and towering feedback, shimmering guitar chords, ethereal vocals, soaring hooks and an alternating quiet, loud, quiet song structure that immediately brings Slowdive and A Storm in Heaven-era The Verve to mind, complete with a lysergic haze.
“I wanted to write a song about the feeling of addiction whether it’s sugar, love, a drug, whatever your vice is”, Camella Agbalyan says in press notes about the new single. “I personally really connect to dreamy, druggy songs like Air, My Bloody Valentine, Beach Fossils, Slowdive, The Jesus & The Mary Chain, etc., so I wanted to inspire myself from that feeling but also show the darker side of addiction that you might not always get from those types of songs”.
Earlier this summer, I wrote about Glasgow, Scotland-based synth pop act Free Love, and as you may recall since their formation under the name Happy Meals back in 2014, the duo comprised of Suzanne Rodden and Lewis Cook quickly established themselves as one of their homeland’s most acclaimed dance pop acts. Their 2015 full-length debut Apero was nominated for Scottish Album of the Year. Adding to a growing profile, the duo opened for Liars and The Flaming Lips, and played sets at festivals in Austin, TX, Moscow, and Bangalore.
With the release of “Synchronicity,” a track that may remind some listeners of Nu Shooz‘s “I Can’t Wait,” and New Order‘s “Blue Monday” and “Bizarre Love Triangle, the duo further cemented their reputation for crafting utopian-leaning and brainy dance pop centered around shimmering analog synths; in fact, as the duo explained in press notes, the song is about breaking free fro the binds of culturally dictated self-limitation, coupled with the vertigo of complete freedom. After playing at The Great Escape Festival, the duo have sets lineup at Bestival and will be supporting Django Django at the Edinburgh International Festival later this month; but in the meantime, the duo have released two new singles — the ecstatic, Giorgio Moroder and 80s New Wave-like “Pushing Too Hard,” which is centered around arpeggiated, analog synths and thumping beats, over which Rodden sings lyrics in an ethereal yet sultry French. “July,” on the other hand takes its cues from acid house, centered around distorted synths, explosive blasts of hi hat, thumping beats — and in some way the track reminds me of Come With Us-era Chemical Brothers and Tweekend-era Crystal Method.
The decidedly DIY visuals for “Pushing Too Hard” and “July” manage to nod at Andy Warhol and The Factory, as well as 80s-era MTV as it’s a weird yet successful balance of insouciance, brooding, coquettishness and surrealism.
JOVM pays tribute to MTV on its 37th birthday.
Last month, I wrote about the Denton, TX-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Claire Morales, and as you may recall, Morales was born into a family of artists and musicians — and unsurprisingly, she began to play music […]
Over the first couple of months of this year, I wrote about the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock trio Moaning, and as you may recall, the band comprised of Sean Solomon, Pascal Stevenson and Andrew MacKelvie have spent the past few years crafting and refining a moody and angular post-punk sound that manages to draw influence equally from shoegaze and slacker rock. During that same period of time, the band has received attention both nationally and internationally from a number of major media outlets including The Fader, The Guardian, DIY Magazine,Stereogum, and others.
The trio’s highly-anticipated, self-titled, full-length debut was released earlier this year through Sub Pop Records, and album singles like the Joy Division/Interpol/Preoccupations-like “Artificial” and the moody and shimmering “Tired,” further cemented their reputation for moody post-punk with enormous, arena rock-like hooks. Unsurprisingly, the mid-tempo ballad “Misheard” continues in a similar vein, as it features angular guitar chords and enormous hooks but finds the band decidedly pushing their sound towards shoegaze and 120 Minutes MTV-era alt rock, centered around lyrics that vacillate between self-loathing, confusion and regret — all familiar emotions that are engendered in the aftermath of an equally confusing and embittering relationship.
Directed by Steve Smith, the recently released video for “Misheard” continues the band’s string of accompanying their songs with surreal visuals — this time with some amorphous, neon-colored imagery that’s like a Dada-esque nightmare.
Since their formation back in 2014, the Tuscon, AZ-based quartet Mute Swan, comprised of Mike Barnett, Prabjit Virdee, Thomas Sloane and Roger Reed, have developed a reputation for crafting swirling, densely layered psych rock that’s been described by some as a less jittery Of Montreal and compared to Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips, and although that may be arguable, their latest single “Enough Fun” is a hazy, power chord driven song that should remind you (if you’re old enough) of 120 Minutes-era MTV — in particular, Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins, Melvins and others, with an uncanny pairing of melody with enormous, crowd-pleasing hooks. However, as the band’s frontman Mike Barnett explains, “America is having a meltdown. This song is about that. With fuzz.” And as a result, the song find the band carefully walking a tightrope between ethereal and summery guitar pop and furious, sociopolitically charged rock, expressing frustration at the unchecked greed and power of the wealthy elite.
The recently released is shot in a grainy VHS style, reminiscent of home videos from the 80s and follows a group of one-percenters cruising around aimlessly in a Mercedes, burning money with a religious cult-like figure. It’s trippy and pretty fucking surreal but all too fitting.