Interview with King Friday
- by Dawn Reed
The Deli: How did the band start?
Alex Folkerth and Matt Sweeney defined themselves by liking and playing old music and also because it was fun. They decided to record one song in high school before actually deciding to become a band with a name and all that. It's called "Known It All Along" and is featured on their debut, "Enter The King" . They realized that they had enough talent between the two of them to be a real band, so they played to their strengths and kept working together. It was fun!
They both went to Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington to study unmarketable and pretentious things (rhetoric and history), to have fun, and to make music. They recorded their debut ["Enter The King"] their freshman year in the basement of the residence hall, much to the dismay of their studios fellows. Some people listened and enjoyed it.
Their second record ["Heavy Lies The Crown" 2011] took considerably longer (two to as many as five years depending on who's counting) and was considerably longer winded. "Heavy" has been described as more confusing, cluttered, inaccessible, and maddening than two different "Yes" records played simultaneously.
After college, they stripped down, wised up, got jobs (Alex Folkerth is a Paralegal, Alex Lindner is a Barista, Matt Sweeney is a Flight Attendant) and stopped trying so hard to make complicated masterpieces. They instantly started having way more fun.
Their folkier albums "Absurdity Loves Company" [Sept. 2012], "Let Him Eat Cake (Songs Of Birds)" [Nov. 2012], and "This Is Supposed to be Fun" [March 2013] featured Sweeney alone with very stripped down, intimate production. They got compared to Paul Simon in every review, which was generous of the reviewers and flattering to the musicians. Alex Lindner, a buddy from high school, started writing songs with them. It continued to be fun.
Their sixth album, "I Wanna Hold Your Gland" [May 2013], is their most recent release. It combines the simpler aesthetic of the folky years with a full band approach to production, and was arranged, performed, recorded, mixed, mastered and released in about a week (Folkerth even called in sick for work to find time for the recording). It was easily the most fun.
What's the story behind the band name?
We are named after the tyrant from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood because it's silly and we didn't immediately hate it like most of our other ideas.
What are your biggest musical influences?
Matt: Harry Nilsson, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Elton John, and Lennon/McCartney. Hearing those people sing their tunes is life changing and affirming every single time. I'm deeply addicted to them and filled with awe. Strangely, I become inspired to write songs mostly when they make me feel like a grossly inadequate and uncreative person.
Alex: Definitely a lot of the people Matt mentioned (we did grow up listening to music together, after all), but I would have to add Neil Young, George Harrison, the Band and Beck. There's also this band I've loved since I was 12 that nobody has heard who has been very influential on me - Myracle Brah, from somewhere on the east coast. Great stuff.
What artists (local, national and/or international) are you currently listening to?
In terms of current artists, we dig the Dirty Projectors, Fleet Foxes, Father John Misty, Spoon, and Vampire Weekend. Dr. Dog is also really good, especially their older albums like Easy Beat.
What's the first concert that you ever attended and first album that you ever bought?
Matt: My dad took me to Gordon Lightfoot when I was six. The first album I bought with my own money was "The Doors."
Alex: I saw the Who when Entwistle was still alive - I was ten. I grew up mostly listening to my mom's and my dad's music, so buying my own albums isn't really a big thing for me - the first albums I really remember falling in love with were "Life on Planet Eartsnop" by Myracle Brah and "London Calling" by the Clash.
What do you love about Seattle's music scene?
No matter what, if you're having fun playing in a bar, other people will have fun listening.
What would you like to see change in the local music scene?
This sounds reactionary, but less 1's and 0's. Computers generally make more unappealing noises than people. And DJ's should not exist.
What are your plans for the upcoming year?
Record more. Eight songs are done for our next one. Also, try to make more people smile and sing along when they hear us. Also, to this end, try to get more people to hear us without trying to hard.
What was your most memorable live show?
In college - we were playing a kegger in a basement. It was a good show, and Alex's mom was in town so he was chatting with her afterwards. A less than sober student walked up to him and said "Alex! I wanna show you my tits!"
Then she flashed him in front of his mother. True story.
Is there someone who has helped your band grow through support?
Literally anyone who has told us that we are good and that we should keep at it, even when we were less than good. Musicians are a generally insecure bunch. People that are kind and selfless enough to lend an ear for two minutes and affirm the value of a song are amazing. It sounds cliche, but we truly aren't trying to make music for a living. That's not our deal. We wanna make those amazing people smile and sing. It makes us feel good just thinking about it.
Is there a piece of equipment you couldn't live without and why?
Matt: I used to get bronchitis pretty much every month. This also sounds cliche, but nothing made me feel lousier than knowing my voice was gone.
Alex: There's no specific piece of equipment I need all the time, but if there's not something around that I can make music with I tend to go a little insane after a while.