Southern California hard rock group Kyng — singer/songwriter Eddie Veliz, bassist Tony Castaneda and drummer Pepe Clarke Magana — was formed in 2008, but the members had worked together in previous bands. Seeking likeminded musicians with a passion for classic rock and an understanding of contemporary techniques, their goal was to create a power trio that brings together the best of both worlds.
Kyng will release their debut album, Trampled Sun, on September 27. In advance of that date, the band is on the road, introducing new music to audiences who may or may not be familiar with the first two singles, “Falling Down” and “Trails in Veins.” This presents some challenges, but according to Tony Castaneda, the key components to success are Kyng’s solid live shows and taking time to meet and develop a fan base one handshake at a time.
This has to be tough: You’re on tour without an album and there are four bands on the bill. How do you win people over?
It is definitely tough, it is challenging, and the way we try to win them over is through our live performance. People sometimes don’t know how to react to a band they never heard of, and they’re there to see the band that they’re there to see and sometimes no one else, so it’s all about the performance, the music and them getting it. I think we’ve been doing fairly well, given the circumstances of having no music out. We have a few songs on satellite radio, which is Sirius XM Liquid Metal, the heavy metal station, and Octane, the hard rock station, so that has helped us out a lot. Aside from that, yes, we definitely play for a lot of people who have never heard of us. People have heard of all these other bands you’re playing with, and they’re there to buy their music and watch them play live, so for them to leave and not have anything to take home aside from a shirt, which chances are they won’t buy because they want music before that — it’s difficult, but the live performances have gotten us past, and also our personalities We really like to connect with the fans onstage and offstage. We try to make as many friends as possible, hang out, have a good time and show them that we’re good dudes.
There’s a quote in your bio: “After years of working off and on with each other on various projects … [they] … decided to propagate the idea of a band that would closer fulfill their musical desires.” What were those desires? What was missing before and why was it so difficult to find?
It’s difficult to find people that feel the same way about the music that you love and love to play. So our music, our influences, are pretty much on the same page. Pepe and I have toured in the past in another band, and Eddie and I have also played in another band, and we’re all pretty much cut from the same cloth. We like the same type of music, a variety of classic rock bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy, and our heavy metal influences, like Pantera, and pretty much the rock music that’s out there as well, like Alice In Chains and Soundgarden. The fact that we’re all fans of that type of music and we’ve played in bands together made it very easy to write our music.
Another quote: “I think we’re doing stuff, or a combination of stuff that has been done before, in a way that has never been done before.” Explain.
We’re mixing styles together and playing very vintage-sounding rock with heavy metal blast beats. That’s one thing. And the heaviness that comes from the music, along with Eddie’s vocals and sometimes the harmonies that we do, is a breath of fresh air, according to many people who have heard our music and seen us play live.
Obviously, you have ’70s influences, and that music continues to survive and thrive. Do you think that today’s music will be as influential years from now?
Yes, I do. There are bands that came out in the ’90s that are now considered classics. We really appreciate them. As far as the pioneers, all the classic rock, if you’re into rock music, period, whether it’s heavy metal or rock or alternative, if you asked any of your influences or idols who their influences are, they will take you back to those bands, the classics. What this band is trying to do musically is show people that it still exists, it’s still alive, and we’re doing it in a modern way.
When did you discover the classic bands?
When I was in the second grade, an uncle of mine got me into Creedence Clearwater Revival and I thought they were so awesome. I got curious and started to research. The whole time, I thought they were from the bayou, and come to find out that they were from San Francisco. I thought to myself, Here you’ve got guys from California doing something that sounds nothing like what people from California produce. It totally opened my eyes to music. Then I started listening to Pink Floyd. Dark Side of the Moon changed my life. I felt they were my band; that’s just the feeling that they gave me. When I turned 21, I picked up the bass guitar and it was all due to Black Sabbath. Geezer Butler, to me, is the ultimate bass player, and every time I would see their performances and hear their music, I would focus on the bass. It inspired me so much. For people who know a lot about music and the classics, if they see us live or listen to our music, I hope that they hear that in my playing.
You picked up the bass at a later age. Did you play any instruments before that?
When I was about 5 years old, my father bought me a small organ at a garage sale and I would pitter patter around and play little things here and there. In fourth grade, he tried to get me into music class by playing violin. That didn’t last too long, but I did get the gist of it. I knew there was a lot of hand-eye coordination and being ambidextrous, and when I would listen to music after that, I already had this vision in my mind of where I needed to be on the frets and on the neck to play the notes. When I turned 21, I picked up the bass and told myself I really wanted to learn how to play this. I did it all by ear because I don’t know how to read any music books to save my life, so it’s all about the music for me.
Was a three-piece the original intent or did it happen by default?
It happened by default. I always wanted a second guitar player because I’m a big fan of guitar harmonies, but Eddie would always insist that we remain a three-piece because it makes it much more powerful. The hard part about it is that it’s easier for the band to make mistakes and for those mistakes to be brought to the surface because there’s only three of us! We have to make it work. But if you listen to four-piece bands with a vocalist, it’s really three-piece bands with one guy singing who doesn’t play an instrument. Not to take anything away from the vocalist, because of course being a frontman is amazing and it’s the best that it should be in a band, but in our case, with Eddie having such a big voice and being a guitar player, he insisted on making it a three-piece and we made it work. It forces me to play notes that I wouldn’t normally play behind a guitar player. It forces me to do more intricate things.
Where does the bass sit in a three-piece?
It’s the standard pocket with the drummer, but at times I have to get in the pocket with Eddie because Pepe plays from a heavy metal background, so sometimes he goes off on his own and it’s up to Eddie and me to stay locked in together. Most of the time, I’m focused on what Pepe’s doing, but in certain parts of the music, I go off and Eddie and I lock in.
Has that changed your playing style?
I don’t know if it has changed my perspective on the bass. I focus on making it sound a little more interesting. Going back to Geezer Butler, if you listen to the song “Fairies Wear Boots,” he and Tony Iommi are doing something very different that somehow coincides with each other and it’s very cohesive. So, I guess as cliché as it sounds, I think to myself, What would Geezer do, and I just take it from there.
“WWGD: What Would Geezer Do?” You should get a bumper sticker for your case, or a T-shirt.
Exactly, right! A T-shirt sounds even cooler!
Who is the tie-breaker?
Definitely Eddie because he writes a lot of the music, but we’re all part of the process. When we brought this band together, Eddie was sitting on a bunch of music that he had written over the years. When I left to go on the road with the other band that I was in with Pepe, Eddie kept writing, and when we got together he had a bunch of songs ready to roll. It’s a great writing process, and a lot of it is “majority rules.” If we don’t like riffs, we vote on it and just move forward. It’s working very well so far. We’re all excited about this band, we’re happy to be a part of it, we feel we have something special to show the world and we’re very confident that we’re going to do so.
Did the archived songs change much from original arrangements to what’s on the album?
There were a few that weren’t at all what we were going for, but at the same time, we’ve had the same vision for many years, so a lot of the songs were kept the same.
How important is jamming in the writing process?
Very important. It sets the mood. We can’t just get together and say, “We’re going to write a heavy song.” It doesn’t work that way. We get into the studio, plug in and it’s all about jamming and getting the vibe.
Have bands have lost that process?
Definitely. There are a lot of great bands out there staying true to that art, but so many have fallen by the wayside and made it more about the glamour and the glitz than the actual feeling behind it. To us, the most important thing is the feeling behind the music. We hope that our music speaks to a new generation about the pioneers who started it all. We’re spreading the word through our music.
People cheer for you onstage, but offstage, some of those people, not knowing who you are, are likely to look at you and make comments …
We all come from Latin backgrounds. I’m Mexican American; my parents are from Mexico and I was born in Los Angeles. Pepe was born in El Paso and raised in Juarez, Mexico. Eddie was raised in Los Angeles and he is half Mexican and half Cuban. But out of all three of us, I’m the only one who actually looks Mexican. Eddie looks Caucasian, which is to our advantage, and Pepe looks Caucasian as well, so I’m pretty much the only one who looks like hired help to folks that are ignorant. People are the way they are, and if we were to get angry every time something like that were to happen … there’s no point in joining them in that anger and that negativity, because at the end of the day, we don’t know how they were brought up; we don’t know what’s in their life. I believe every human being on this earth is going through a struggle, and if you get your rocks off by being ignorant toward other people, then hey, that’s what gets your rocks off. Luckily, we haven’t had negative things said about us, at least to our faces, so we haven’t really experienced that. If we do, it would suck, but we’re definitely not ones to be like, “Hey, F you.” We just won’t take it there because there’s really no point.