Sept 12 Feature – Rachel and The Kings

Rachel and the Kings-Interview

by Jenn Cohen


Rachel and the Kings, Rachel and the Kings. I’ve been hearing about this supposed band for months, but there’s not much information about them online. So why does the name keep coming up? Who is Rachel? Who are her Kings? How many Kings does she have, and where can the rest of us find Kings of our own?

The band is comprised of front woman, Rachel James, both lovely, and lucky to be in a proverbial castle surrounded by Ian Short (violin), Noah Matthews (bass), and former Tickle Me Pink heartthrobs Joey Barba (guitar) and Stefan Runstrom (drums); lucky queen, that Rachel.

“We didn’t form as a band until five months ago, that’s why nobody knows who we are,” says James. “People are like, ‘who are you guys, what’s going on?’  We really are that new, but we have such great chemistry.” A testament to that great chemistry? Winning FORD’s Gimme the Gig after just meeting. “Gimme the Gig was in July,” says James. “I was playing as Rachel James around town, uploaded a video to play Gimme the Gig, and got chosen to play that show with my old band, which Ian was in. We made it to the top 12 (out of 2500), which, I didn’t realize we were even still in the competition, and oddly that was at the same time we were thinking of being a band, so we, literally, practiced four times. It was really scary.”

Adds Runstrom, “We won the competition, and as a result, we got to work with Don Was (producer for Rolling Stones, John Mayer), super cool dude. They aired the pilot episode of Gimme the Gig a couple weeks back on KTLA.” The band was chastised for what they were wearing for the video—er, what Short was wearing . . . jorts. Says Short, “Noah woke me up five minutes before we were supposed to leave, and I thought we were just going to breakfast, not the video shoot. I tried to relieve the stress with the jorts, but it backfired.”

The camaraderie among the royal newcomers was apparent as soon as we sat down at the Denver Beer Company to chat about who the heck they are. For only being together about five months, the brethren, bantered back and forth like long-lost best friends. Whether it was endless jokes about Short’s fondness of “jorts,” or James’ “appalling shoes,” I felt like I was sitting with a family who was lucky enough to pick each other.

James is the primary writer, but a lot of their debut album, Tonic, (set to release this fall) was co-written with Barba. “All the songs started from stuff I was playing out before,” says James. “But I have to say, this group of musicians–you have to come see a show, they are the best. Everybody is so good, it’s freaky.”

I asked them to describe their sound, because at the time of the interview, I hadn’t heard their music. James replies, “We kinda decided live, we’re like Florence and the Machine meets Alanis Morissette. But the album is—there’s a lot of Florence elements to it, and there’s a lot of R&B elements to it.” Adds Ian, “Every song is a different personality.”

“Every song on this album is unique, which I intentioned,” says James. “We’ve got some songs with horns–I don’t like listening to the same song ten times. I think the familiarity comes in with the style of everyone’s playing, and a lot of the commentary is my vocals that tie it all together. There’s a definite style running through, but these songs, even from a song-writing perspective, are very unique. We did that on purpose, and I like it. I think it takes you on a journey.

“I think, lyrically, the majority of the album was a lot of what I’ve gone through in the last few years, divorce, and losing everything. Losing everything I thought I was going to be. I used to be in real estate development, so I’m in a different world. A lot of the album and lyrics are about that journey. Then there are a few fun little pop songs that lighten it up.”

“I’ve been doing music forever,” says Barba. “For me, it was wanting to get back to doing something that was 100% why I got into music in the first place. It sounds cliché, but no label telling you what to do, or writing a song for radio, or this or that. Just doing what felt right, trying to be as creative as possible. I remember when we were pre-producing these songs; Rachel would send me a piano/vocal scratch of a song–pretty much every song on the record started off with a drumbeat. I would sit in my room and tap out a drum beat, but I would try to find the right groove first, because I feel like that’s what people vibe off of—not that they’re even hearing the beat, but that’s what you feel. I think that’s why the songs all feel different from each other.

“Rachel’s voice,” Barba continues, “I feel, is really that glue over everything that makes it work, and the players too. Noah has style, his groove on the bass is really inherent, and Ian’s melodies on the violin, and obviously, the way Stefan plays, you know. There’s a chemistry that’s taken on its own thing. Originally, it was a solo record, and there was no band. She was going to be a solo artist, and I was just producing it. As things formed and people got involved, it turned into this thing, and the chemistry just evolved on its own.”

Most of CMB’s regular readers agree that we have a pretty amazing music scene in Denver, and RATK concur. “I think Denver has a great music scene,” says Matthews. “When I was in L.A., it seemed like people would come out for one band—their friend’s band. They came right at that time, and then left. It seems like in Denver, people are more willing to give bands a try. They’ll come at the beginning of the show, or maybe half way through a set, and they’ll stay through the whole thing, so the crowd grows.”

“I also think that Denver is a really eclectic music scene,” adds James. “We’re not all competing to be pop bands, we’re not all competing to be folk bands. There are a lot of different sounds going on, and that’s one of the comments I’ve gotten back from both Nashville and L.A., that the stuff that’s coming out of Denver is unique. There’s so many different sounds here, that it doesn’t feel like we’re competing, it feels like we can all just enjoy each other.” Short adds, “There are different levels of competition, and that forces all these bands to grow. And it doesn’t have to be musical talent, it could be song writing, it could be promotion, when people find a good idea, they will latch on to it.” James agrees, “If you’re doing what you do, really, really well, there’s room for you. If you want to do well in this, and you work at it, there’s a place for you.”

Check out RATK’s video release for “Not Giving Up” and single release, “Slo Mo” on October 6 at the Gothic as they join Denver faves Bop Skizzum for their CD Release.

“The album is very edgy, very cool,” says Runstrom. “I think it will surprise a lot of people. We plan on performing a lot in and around the area once the record is finished.” Says James of Runstrom, “Stefan is so incredible, he’s ridiculous.” And of Barba, “He knows an insane amount. He’s more than just beautiful hair.”

Look for “Slo Mo” and “Not Giving Up” on the Colorado Music Buzz Facebook page
















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