Orange County post metallers Speaking the Kings are the newest faces on the Nuclear Blast roster, with the release of their first full length album Carousel. Guitarist Justin Boch spoke about being part of a youth movement on a Nuclear Blast roster and sounding a bit from left field than most of the current acts they have out.
“It’s funny. This is probably the least metal or heavy band we’ve done to this point. In the same breath it’s also the thing we’ve most proud of and it’s like what you said earlier that we’re on a huge label with all of these huge metal bands that we all like so much. We’re extreme fortunate that they believe in us enough to give us a chance to be that band. We’re stoked that a band from the UK called Bury Tomorrow that’s closer to what we’re doing. Just possibly being able to carry the flag for this genre and this music on a label like this has been nothing but a blessing for us and we’re super stoked on that.”
“I think they see the potential in this genre. They’ve been around for 30 years and they have almost every single kind of metal you can think of, from rock to black metal to thrash metal. But they don’t have their hands tapped into this kind of popcore genre that we’ve undertaken. It’s cool because they’re making a move to push for this style,” added guitarist Mike Entin.
“They just signed For Today, which is similar type of band and will find on Warped Tour, but they’re also making some moves for the future that are really big and exciting and can’t wait to get shit happening. I think they see our potential and they want to be part of this while it does grow.”
They spoke about being signed to a label like Nuclear Blast and when the reality of being labelmates with bands such as Slayer and Machine Head sunk in. Entin shared his thoughts on the matter.
“It immediately sunk in! It’s funny because one of the first things I learned on guitar was ‘Raining Blood’ and now we’re on the same label as Slayer. I remember I met Kerry King and I couldn’t even talk to him because I was so starstruck and that’s not usually my thing. It was crazy to me that we’re on the same label as Slayer, Suicide Silence and Meshuggah – all of these amazing bands. It’s just crazy.”
“I’m not an amazing guitar player or anything but it’s awesome that Nuclear [Blast] sees the potential in me and trusts us and wants us to be their flagship band of the genre.”
On the subject of which label mates they would each like to tour with, each member had a different candidate.
“Suicide Silence. They’re friends and local band and they’re killer dudes with a killer lineup,” said drummer Will Peacock.
“I would say Bury Tomorrow because I would really like to go to Europe and I think that we’re all into their music and they would be super cool to go out with someone from there and show us around and see someone you normally wouldn’t see,” said Boch.
Entin added, “Bury Tomorrow would be cool because they’re Nuclear Blast family and they’ve been carrying the torch over there. Maybe they’ll show a little love to us and take us under their wing. Then they could get the most out of us for Nuclear Blast. And of course there’s Slayer.”
Being a new face on a record label with a storied history like Nuclear Blast Records can be a daunting task for any band. For the members of Speaking The King’s, they became one of the label’s newest faces that spearheaded a breed of youth based punk driven metal.
The band completed their full length album Carousel and is excited to share it with the world. The public got their first taste of the band with their debut EP (2013’s Here To Stay), and since then they began growing into their sound by experimenting with a variety of styles and crafting songs that reached a variety of listeners.
“We worked real hard on the EP but we were trying to figure out which direction we wanted to go – if we wanted to go wider, heavier. We wanted to see what we could do. So one of the things we really loved and really wanted to exploit was Bobby’s [Burap, lead vocals] great voice so we figured let’s focus on a lot of using that element that he has and getting that into our songs,” said guitarist Mike Entin.
“When we were writing the full length, it was a lot of basing off of the choruses opposed to who can write the biggest breakdowns. Now granted there are plenty of breakdowns and plenty of heavy parts on the new CD, it does have something for everybody. It’s a much longer roller coaster.”
Taking the name from a familiar film, guitarist Justin Bock talked about how this hit them enough to name the band after this.
“There was a scene in the movie Inglorious Bastards and it’s actually exactly what you said – it’s a shorthand of speaking the king’s English. It’s the scene where an English soldier first sees a German soldier in the basement of a bar and is captured by one of the actual German soldiers. He basically realizes that it’s the end of the line and there’s really no way out of this. So he’s going up to this place and we just felt like we’re just going to take over this place and we’re just gonna throw everything we’ve got into it and just hope for the best and see where it takes us. So that really struck a chord with us and we grabbed the name and the rest is history.”
On Carousel, they enlisted veteran producer Steve Evetts to man the recording sessions. While soliciting producers to work on their record, they found a connection with him over some of his past producing projects was some of their favorite records and ones that helped shape the band’s sound.
“On this one, we were lucky enough to work with Steve Evetts. Nuclear Blast gave us the opportunity and we couldn’t have been more thrilled. There was a point where we got the list of producers on board and we were writing down the list of CDs they did. We wanted to work with Steve Evetts but let’s put him on here and the reason why was, is because he worked on one of our favorite albums – The Here and Now by Architects, and a lot of our favorite CDs in the past ten years.”
“When we got a call a few days later from Nuclear Blast, they said ‘hey we’re meeting Steve Evetts. OK later.’ We just dropped our jaw and said ‘did that just happen?’ Steve Evetts is an amazing producer. He did a wonderful job and we’re beyond stoked on this,” said Entin.
Bock explained their songwriting process and how they approach their vast string of songs they have written. He said they took more chances on the new record that they did not on the EP.
“Typically Mike or I will come up with riffs or chorus parts. We build from there. It’s become a more closed process than it has in the past. I think with the full length there’s much more variety. We feel we put in a little bit more than we did on the EP where it was more straight ahead heavy. We took a little more risks on this one. I think it paid off huge for us.”
“It usually starts off with Mike or I will write and then we put drums to it and then we put the basic idea structure wise. Then Bobby puts the vocals and then we wait and make it fit the way it is. It’s usually small changes and sometimes big ones and it turns into songs.”
They spoke about the variety of styles on Carousel, ranging from heavier mosh songs to more melodic tunes with sing a long parts, which gives listeners an assortment of songs to choose from.
“It’s funny because what we do is when we put the set together, we will try to knock off a little of everything. We try to make sure to play something for the kids with the breakdowns, and we’ll also play something back to back that the girls want to sing along. The other thing that we also do is that all of our biggest fans say that they like it and they have so much fun and they’re involved. We don’t make it seem like we’re not down on anyone and they wanted to listen to it. I think that’s one of our awesome qualities that we like to win people over. We’re trying to get them involved – even if it’s not a genre that you like, you won’t feel like you’re lost in the crowd. We want you to sing along with us. I think that stuff shows how much we like to put into making this more of a band than just a band’s show,” said Entin.
Having Evetts manning the recording sessions helped Speaking The King’s elevate their sound to the next level. They explained how his past experience helped them grow as a band and working hands on with the band made them a better band overall
“With Steve we gave him a much more complete product. When we did the EP, the band and I just recorded. We didn’t have a singer at that point. So it was like doing two halves and it was the EP. With this record, everything was finished and ready to go when Steve came up and spent a week with us at our rehearsal space just going through everything and song structure – change the kick pattern to this and change the guitar chord to this – little things that help make all the songs into something maybe bigger than we had imagined it being.”
“He’s a master at his craft and was one of the single biggest learning experiences of my life, which was spending that one month with him and learning more than I have than all of the records I’ve made combined. It was really cool just picking his brain and letting him show us how he makes records with real sound the whole time. It’s not all that programmed drums. It’s all real live natural feeling and I think to me those records seem to last. We were super fortunate to be able to meet with him and then to work with him and make a record that way with somebody like that that’s done so many records we have so much respect for,” said Bock.
“One thing that he did actually that we all experienced as musicians he broke us down. He made us work until we had the perfect take. He only strives for the best and we all loved that. It made us better musicians as growing musicians. It was hard love but it was awesome because he got a lot out of you. I think that’s one thing that all of us got after we got out of the studio,” said Entin.
“For me, he made me play so much that there were so many drumheads that we had to switch. I even broke one of his cymbals. He made me play so much and so hard to get the recording correct and perfect. I’ve never sweated so much in my life,” added drummer Will Peacock.
At what point did the members of Speaking the King’s realize that Evetts was the same guy who produced records for such artists as Hatebreed and Dillinger Escape Plan?
“I think for me we kind of had an idea of a lot of that stuff when we went in there. For me specifically, I found out during the process that he actually produced a lot of the records I’ve listened to for a long time that I had no idea he did. Bands that whenever certainly I’m thinking about pitching to who was producing one, I found three or four records that were some of my favorites that he had done and had no idea. We went in there awestruck and left there even more awestruck. It’s really cool,” explained Bock.
While the band are still a new face on the music scene, they are learning the ins and outs of how to maneuver in many situations. They shared some of their experiences from their brief time on the road and playing with other touring artists.
“We’ve learned that there’s all kinds of people that know what we do in there. It’s cool the variety of people who come together for music. We also learned that the sound guy is your best friend in the world. We played a festival out here with Emmure and their sound guy mixed for us for the show. There was an incredible difference. We played at The Grove in Anaheim, CA and it’s a pretty good sized venue. It was a night and day difference between what we had with him and what somebody in the band had with the house guy or whatever. Each venue is different and so when you get a good sound guy, make sure you thank him for that,” said Bock.
Peacock concluded, “Another good aspect is keep it simple. Don’t complicate things with your rigs with everything that you’re using. You’re making it in and out on the road 24-7 for 28 shows out of 30 days. You want to keep it simple because it will have a lot of wear on it and take care of yourself.”
Speaking The King’s describe themselves as ‘for fans of Of Mice & Men, We Came As Romans & A Day To Remember’. When their own description of themselves purely mentions their similarities to other bands, it is hard for new listeners to expect anything unique from their latest album Carousel (Nuclear Blast). The California-based quartet are certainly one of the least heavy bands on the Nuclear Blast roster and if you are expecting anything ‘brutal’ you definitely have the wrong band.
One of the most surprising things about Speaking The King’s latest release is the addition of an almost pop-punk sound. Although they have been described as a post-hardcore band it is difficult to hear that element in most of the tracks. It is almost impossible to call ‘Shipwrecked’ anything but pop-punk due to its happy-go-lucky guitar riffs and exaggerated nautical lyrics.
There are various points in the album where Speaking The King’s manage to build up the listener’s expectations, just to let them fall back down again. One clear example of this is ‘Caught In The Middle’: the group vocals and fast-paced riffs build up anticipation, only for the so-called breakdown to barely make an impact. The repetitive lyrics are far from catchy, especially the overuse of the phrase ‘oh no’. Oh no, indeed.
Carousel is another one of those ‘in-between’ albums: it is not awful, but at the same time there is nothing truly original about it. There is certainly something lacking about Speaking The King’s new release and it is hard to fully engage with the lyrical content. It is almost as if they released something which they thought would their listeners would want, rather than what they wanted to make. Carousel is an easy album to put on in the background, but it is also easily forgettable.