LA based trio, Crash Kings, are putting their own unique spin on the three-man-band concept. Fusing keyboard-born compositions with agressive layers of rock, their crafty tunes are accomplished without the hint of a guitar. Incorporating a clavinet (a keyboard with guitar strings) outfitted through a distortion pedal, the result is an arsenal of innovative and rich sound.
With their self-titled debut now available courtesy of Linda Perry’s Custard Records, the brothers Beliveau (Tom on vocals/keyboard and Mike on bass) and drummer Jason Morris recently opened for Mason Jennings on his September tour. Glide recently had a chance to crash up Tom for some quick question.
Your sound is most distinct because it is comprised of keyboards, bass and drums which is more common for a jazz based trio verse a rock trio. What does this keyboard up front set-up give to your sound verse a guitar based trio?
People aren’t used to hearing a pianist rock out thick chords. The piano can sound bigger than two guitars at times and my bass is distorted enough to get as heavy as Jason’s feet and hands. Also we added a whammy bar hot rodded clavinet that Tony stumbled upon which is basically a guitar inside (strings & pickups) that plays like a
piano. No guitar needed.
I watched a youtube clip of you guys jamming on Hendrix, Sabbath, AC/DC, Queen and Zeppelin – songs known for their timeless guitar riffs – it rocked real hard. Good stuff! Is it difficult transferring that sound to a clavinet trio or does it come naturally?
It depends on the song but it always ends up sounding unique and still rocks hard.
Did you ever consider adding a guitar to the mix? Why the clavinet?
When we formed the band Mike had the idea of dropping the bass for some songs and playing guitar. When we started playing we realized everything we wanted to do could be done without guitar by distorting the bass.
What artists would you describe as your primary influences?
Here’s a short answer without listing our entire iTunes library:Classic rock (Queen, Zeppelin, Beatles); 90’s Grunge rock (Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam); Jazz (Herbie, Miles, Buddy Rich, Mingus). Each other and our friends and past bandmates.
The band is still relatively young, what have the highlights been so far and what have been the biggest struggles for a band whose debut album has just been released?
We’ve been very fortunate as a young band. We made our record with influental producer Dave Sardy at the legendary Sunset Sound Recording Studio (Zeppelin, Doors, Prince), our first tour was opening for Chris Cornell and he came onstage with us to sing Sabbath’s War Pigs at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. We’re really enjoying our current tour with David Cook connecting with new fans.
We had a soft release so we’re having to build it from the ground up ourselves instead of relying on a ton of media buildup. We’re enjoying connecting with our fans on a personal level
What does each band member bring to the band in terms of musicianship and songwriting? Was the chemistry immediately there the first time the three of you played together or did you have to earn it over time?
We operate a lot like a garage band where we all write our own parts and contribute to the arrangements. A lot of the songs originate from Tony but end up as a band creation in the end. We had perfect chemistry from the very beginning.
You’ve been compared often to other bands including The White Stripes and Cold War Kids. How does that resonate with you?
Ah comparisons… We love hearing them because it’s interesting how people try to pin your sound and how it fits in the musical world. All musicians end up sounding like their heros eventually. Many current artists probably share the same ones.
What is it like for a young band trying to carve its niche in a city like LA where there is such a diverse pool of bands? What bands have you felt the most sense of community with and what venues in the city have felt most like home?
Los Angeles has welcomed Crash Kings with open arms and we’ve been lucky to have had such a positive experience playing for the city’s music lovers. One band that we’ve really connected with is Nico Vega. It’s great to play a show with such an energetic band to feed off of. Nico Vega really connects with their audience and pour themselves into their performance. Our favorite venues in LA are The Roxy Theatre, Silverlake Lounge, Bordello and the Viper Room.