Santa Barbara's Kings of Spain Play South by Southwest
Will Loomis is sitting at the rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of the final table in the World Championship of Poker tournament, holding pocket aces, hunkering down behind a stack of chips that could fill the Grand Canyon. And he’s having a difficult time trying to keep his poker face. His band, Kings of Spain, underwent a minor makeover during the past couple months and to say they have landed on their feet would be an understatement. The Kings have established themselves as a regular fixture at Los Angeles’ Whiskey a GoGo, landed themselves a gig performing with alterna-darlings Fall Out Boy, and somehow managed to get booked into a premier slot at the Austin, Texas, South by Southwest (SXSW) music and film fest this weekend.
Though the Kings of Spain have struggled to find an ideal venue to showcase their Rolling Stones-style brand of phunk rock in Santa Barbara, they have succeeded in the wide-open L.A. rock ‘n’ roll landscape and will fit in perfectly at one of Austin’s primetime blues venues, Antone’s. “It’s a relief to be playing Antone’s because we’ve played so many punk, metal, and emo places,” said lead vocalist/guitarist Loomis. “We are closer to roots music than most of our contemporaries, so we’ll feel right at home there.”
The Kings are opening for headliner Robert Randolph and The Family Band, a group that has earned a solid reputation and a dedicated following in the blues-rock camp. Randolph, who Loomis said “plays a mean pedal steel,” recently made an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, so the Kings of Spain will be in very good company when they hit the Antone’s stage on March 16.
Perhaps only Loomis and longtime bandmates Thomas Masker (guitar) and Adam Reiber (bass) knew the Kings would manage to take the throne so quickly after losing their founding drummer just a few months ago. But the guys added organist Jeremy Berushka and virtuoso drummer Nick Scozzaro-both Santa Barbara High School students-and never lost a beat. In addition to keeping the music going, it hasn’t hurt to have a PR genius going to bat for them, either. Derek Power, who manages the likes of Police drummer Stewart Copeland, has been, well, instrumental in helping the Kings land the SXSW gig.
Having a guy like Power on their side is indicative of the Kings’ perseverance. Power is not the type to throw a bone to a band he doesn’t think absolutely has a chance to make waves in the music industry. The SXSW fest is the perfect place for the band to prove him right. “From what I hear, SXSW is the musical equivalent of the Sundance Film Festival,” Loomis said. “There are tons of music industry people crawling around, scoping out new bands [to add to their labels.]” It’s true there literally will be hundreds of bands performing in the week-long festival, but the fact that the Kings are playing in front of one of the headlining bands, in one of Austin’s best venues, is sure to land them some excellent exposure. The possibilities are endless.
Regardless of what happens in Austin, the Kings are already poised to make more waves once they come back to California. The band is scheduled to play a show in Santa Barbara at Velvet Jones on April 13, and on May 2 they are slated for a gig with MTV and radio faves Fall Out Boy at the Whiskey in Los Angeles. Though musically it seems like an odd pairing-the Kings’ sound is more blues-funk-rock, whereas Fall Out Boy is more mainstream alterna-punk-the Kings of Spain are excited to play the show. It will be yet another prime opportunity to show off their chops in front of a diverse crowd and possibly some more industry folks itching for the next big thing. If those big wigs happen to be at the Whiskey on May 2, they will definitely find it when the Kings of Spain take the stage.
Though the SXSW performance will be filmed and televised by the main sponsor-Al Gore’s Current TV-the station is not available in Santa Barbara. As soon as clips become available, the Kings of Spain will post them for your viewing pleasure on their Web site, myspace.com/thekingsofspain. For more on the South by Southwest festival, visit 2007.sxsw.com.