It’s always with trepidation that I listen to a song written by a high school-age band. They usually fall into one of two camps: ‘enthusiastic with a bit of promise, but not that great’ or ‘wow, are you sure they’re kids?!’
Hailing from Aukland, New Zealand, The King and His Friends are a four-piece indie-rock act who are placed firmly in the latter category. With a poppy indie-rock vibe, and influences ranging from folk to funk and everything in between, The King and His Friends’ sound is engaging and memorable. Formed in early 2012, they show an ability way beyond their years, and have recently released their debut single.
Guitarist Alex Jonhston was one of the driving forces behind the band getting together, and although it was a lengthy process, has turned out just as he’d hoped: “Being in a band had always been an aim of mine, ever since watching the movie School of Rock!
“Will [King] and I had wanted to form a band for a while, and we finally got started when I managed to get him and Chris [Moses] round to meet my cousin Angus [Grainger]. We have a national high school band competition over here called Rockquest, and that gave us something to work towards.”
The Rockquest competition proved to be quite an important platform for the band: throwing themselves in at the deep end, they played a song that they had barely rehearsed, for their first ever gig. It’s the kind of move that either makes or breaks a young band, but luckily the risk paid off.
Alex remembers it all as if it were yesterday: “We got to play one song, and it had to be original, so I quickly showed the guys a song I had written. We played it after just three run-throughs at practice. I remember Will forgot some of the words, and we sped up heaps, but we seemed to do all right. We got through to the regional final, and we played much better!”
It has been competitions in general, it seems, that have helped provide the defining moments so far in The King and His Friends’ career. Taking part in the Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition, and placing favourably, allowed them to record their debut single, Kelsey, to be featured on an album of New Zealand’s best high school songwriters.
It’s an incredibly accomplished song, and its driving rhythm and catchy hooks show a great talent for both songwriting and musicianship. The band’s many influences bubble under the surface of the track – a disco-rock bassline even sneaks its way into the solo-laden breakdown – but it never feels derivative.
Alex said of the recording experience: “We got to go into York Street Studios, the best studio in New Zealand, and work with an engineer who has recorded with artists like No Doubt and The Black Eyed Peas. It was like living the dream for one day, and we think the song turned out great!”
Following their early successes, The King and His Friends don’t plan to rest on their laurels: with aims to gig more, record an EP, and make it to the national final of next year’s Rockquest, they have a busy time ahead of them. But if their debut is anything to go by, they should be able to take it all in their stride.
Look out New Zealand: The King and His Friends are coming.
Find out more about The King and His Friends on Facebook.