We Are Kings & Queens add a real emotional spark into the L.A music scene with their deep cutting ambient sound and heartfelt vocals. Their latest EP Rise & Fall is a true goose bump raiser which overflows with strong feeling and effective storytelling. The EP is available for your listening pleasure on the band’s main website.
In our following chat, Jonathan Mahan (vocals, guitar, piano) tells us what inspired him to pick the title for the band, plus we talk music making process, inspiration behind the lyric writing. live shows and so on.
Eva: We Are Kings & Queens, what a grand name for a band. What made you choose this title?
Jonathan: Choosing a name is a strange process. You never know when the inspiration will hit you. For me, I was splitting a deck of cards and I happened to unfold a King and a Queen looking at each other. It hit me then. The perfect name. What is all of this all about anyways? Boys and girls, men and women, Kings and Queens. It seemed the most fitting for the depth of the music. It is also in line with our philosophy that royalty is within each of us. Not just those who are born in a certain bloodline or circumstance. We’ve been rockin’ the name ever since.
So how long have you been making music together?
It’s been about a year now. It started off with just me, then along came Ben, then Vincenzo, and Andrew was the final piece of the puzzle. We’ve covered so much ground in one year I can’t wait to see where we are in another.
When it comes to the sound, what are your main targets when creating a track?
Natural, inspired, big. Oftentimes for me music comes through the waves without a real connection. It sounds big, it’s well produced, it’s upbeat but something is missing. We aim for a personal connection. To tell a real story and let the music tap into our emotions. That’s really one of the only guides for us as a group. Authenticity.
How about lyrics? Who writes them and what inspires the song stories?
I’ve written all of the lyrics so far. I’m definitely open to everyone contributing and really hope that happens in the near future. For inspiration, my god there is enough all around. From the birth of my baby boy 6 months ago to the recent (today) passing of my best friend’s mother. These are the moments I capture. My hope is that as time goes by, our fans will continue to get new meaning in the music. As new experiences happen. Both happy and sad. I’m definitely in tune with the dichotomy of life so I think you’ll always hear a bit of sad in with the happy or vice versa.
Tell us about your EP Rise & Fall and how it came together…
Rise & Fall was quite the experience. Without all of the juicy details… I had just come out of one of the most heartbreaking and catastrophic experiences of my life. I lost friends. I let people down. My community was broken. My heart was broken. I was so vulnerable and raw. I had just built a new studio and no one was around to share it. So I sat alone and came to a decision. It was the proverbial fork in the road. I made my mind up, then and there, to pursue music with everything I had. So I started going through some scratch recordings I had made and ran across some piano takes from another session at Mutato Muzika. I had tracked the pianos to what later became “The Sound”. The sound of the piano and the haunting melodies were exactly how I felt. That was the first song I recorded and the rest unfolded beautifully.
Who would you class as your main musical influences?
This is always a tough question. It’s a pretty wide range from folk to rock to shoegaze. Off the top of my head, Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch, David Gray, Radiohead, Coldplay, Catherine Wheel, Sigur Ros, My Bloody Valentine, Ryan Adams. Obviously there are countless others but these are probably the most mainstream influences. I guess I’m always a fan of good songwriting. Growing up in Nashville, TN you really learn to love a well written song. Country music can have some of the most poignant and real lyrics of any genre.
What’s the music scene like in Los Angeles at the moment and how do you think your sound fits in?
The music scene is huge. There is anything and everything happening at the same time. From Rap to Garage Rock to EDM to Dance Pop and even Jazz. We’ve had such a great reaction to our shows and they keep getting bigger and bigger. Our sound is a nice mix of rock and pop – and it seems like people still love a great band. There are so many shows now that have 2 guys and a computer running a ton of tracks. That’s not what we’re really about. To us, the real dream is being a band that can really perform the parts live and pull off an amazing show. I think that’s becoming more and more rare. And I get it. It’s a hell of a lot more work!
Regarding live shows, what’s the most memorable gig you’ve played up to date?
I think it’s gotta be our EP release at Timewarp Music. We played with our friends Addison Scott, Lucky and Nickey Davey. The ambience was incredible and our fans really came out to support us. The walls are lined floor to ceiling with every kind of guitar imaginable. We had my favorite lighting guy, Ryan Alexander, who absolutely killed it. It felt so secretive and intimate. Truly an amazing experience.
If you had a chance to tour the world with one established band, who would it be?
Radiohead for sure. I have so much respect for the musicianship and creativity of that group. They are masters of their craft.
So what’s the main aim for We Are Kings & Queens?
To share great music with the world. And to live a happy fulfilled life while doing it.