Interview: Queens & Kings + New Release

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Full Interview with Queens & Kings

“In the past, people were born royal.  Nowadays, royalty comes from what you do.” – Gianni Versace

We spoke with Queen Alissa Klug (drums/vocals) and King Brendan Albert (guitar/vocals).  

What they do it straight up rock’n’roll, pure and simple.  Picture the White Stripes meets Queens of the Stone Age, sprinkled with some July Talk.  

“We trade places, we both take turns” adds Alissa. 

“What crown do you want to wear today?” chimes in Brendan.

Queens and Kings are multi-instrumentalists who are known for trading roles, or should we say crown, during their explosive & intense live gigs.

Origin Story

For Alissa, her first concert experience was B.B. King.  “I started appreciating music at a very young age.  I was obsessed with it very early on.”  

At around 10 years old, while watching a kids’ show, she wrote her first song.  

The real spark came at an audition, where she sang a mellow Lana Del Rey like version of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”  That’s when her superpower kicked in.

“When I started to sing, people stopped talking.” 

At that moment, she knew what her life course would be.

It seems to be in the genes as her nephew wanted a Tuba, for his 3rd birthday, an instrument that would be bigger than him at the time.

Brendan first heard his mom singing Opera in the womb, the best seat in the house.   She was also an “amazing piano player.”   

It was his older sister’s music collection that would awaken the passion in him.  Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.  Deep Purple was the heaviest of the bunch, so we could call their tolerance “Light” Purple.

Their basement just screamed for a drum kit, according to Bonham influenced Brendan.  The choice before him was either one part of the drum kit at a time, or a guitar.  He chose the latter.

His guitar was soon joined by a drum kit, and little Brendan was playing along to Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath at the time.  

His method: “Brute force, figuring what to do.”  

A few years later, he was exposed to Joe Satriani & Jimi Hendrix and “I lost my mind.  I’m in for the long haul.”

Guitar tipped the scales, but his love of the drums never left him.

Band Name Origin

Apart from the royal order, what is important for the band is the Ampersand.  

“We do love it better than the “and”” exclaims Brendan.

First of all, Ampersand has nothing to do with Amps, nor sand.  Glad we can clear that up.

The Ampersand was once the 27th letter of the Alphabet in the 1800s.  People would say …X Y Z and per se and.  Per se meaning “by itself”, so X Y Z and by itself and.  It was eventually removed.

Alissa explains that for them, the Ampersand is “kind of the representation of a heart.”  Even the icon of the dagger with the blood going through the Ampersand represent “the blood, sweat and tears that go into what we do, and who we are with each other”, explains Alissa.  

Band Dynamic

The band dynamic has always been an “alpha tug of war…push and pull” one, admits Alissa.  

“Strong visions”, adds Brendan.  

Two kingdoms at “battle with one another”, Alissa continues, but an alliance when it comes to the music.

“Language can change thought” ponders Alissa.  Even friends of the band will sometimes call them Kings & Queens by mistake.  “We are programmed on how we speak, and how we speak reflects how we see the world.”

It’s not all about female power.  “It’s not like we are about flipping everything on its head.  Look…everything is equal, divisible, flippable.  The guy doesn’t always have to come first”, adds Brendan.

Relationship

Both play an equal role in the band, yet the Ampersand took on a new meaning when Alissa and Brendan went from being a couple, to simply being bandmates.  

“We are in the midst of that process”, admits Brendan.

“It’s not always easy, us working together”, confides Alissa.  

The nature of the relationship relates back to the name, a “dichotomy…push and pull…love and hate kind of thing.”  

The couple would break up quarterly, but within days be back together again.  This time, it seems the relationship is focused on doubling down on the band.  

If we go deeper into the couple’s collaboration, there is a favorite memory of Brendan.  A day before a gig at the legendary El Mocambo with Alissa’s Reggae project RudeBoy RudeGirl, a missing guitarist meant that Brendan would need to fill in and learn Reggae.  

While only having to learn three chords, Brendan explains that it’s really “a million percent about the feel and subtleties.”  

He ignored the nerves, got the job done and pulled it off. 

In the end, both Alissa and Brendan have this fiery passion that simply can’t be extinguished.

Music Therapy

“When we play on stage, it’s my therapy session” explains Brendan.  

In normal therapy, one would usually sit alone, on a couch, but when it comes to being in a band, that therapy is shared with countless others who are listening in on the session.

Health issues, relationship and financial stress…all fade into the background when Brendan is on stage.  

“That’s the time when you get to feel the power of the guitar, the amps and the drums.”

As only a band can understand, at a certain point, you know the songs so well that you can “channel that energy without any friction.” 

“We really feel it.  Our emotions are exploding out of us”, describes Brendan of the live experience.  

Alissa admits that much effort and hope goes into making it in this industry, but the band is ignoring that aspect and creating music for themselves first.  “We let go…nothing is contrived, and we will never compromise our vision.”   

“Our sound is very big and thick and there is only two of us.  With the way she smashes the kit, and the way I have my pedals, amps and the way I play very “hooky” and riff based, we lock in a lot and it comes out solid”, explains Brendan.  

Being a drummer, Brendan also plays the guitar in step with the drums, and not filling in the notes in between, like many other bands. 

He will be playing the guitar and realize it’s “literally a paradiddle”, a basic drum pattern.

“Groove is the center everything I do.  It has to flow, it has to groove, it has to be mathematically divisable in a way”, continues Brendan, “feeling, emotion, rhythm, groove and timing.”   

The recipe for him was starting with drums, and then moving to guitar where he could fuse those two skills together.

Percussions, “interlocking polyrhythms” is also the foundation for Alissa’s solo project:  Alissa Vox Raw

Going Through Hell

The band’s latest release is Going Through Hell. 

At first, applied to the stormy relationship, but now taking on new meaning as we look back that past 365 days of this Pandemic.

Alissa had the intuition from the get-go of the pandemic, that “there goes the next two years of my life.”  

As an introvert, she was mentally prepared for the challenge ahead.  “I can be in my apartment and never get bored, as long as I have musical instruments, my imagination and technology.”

All song were recorded before the Pandemic, so to finish the album remotely was a reality. 

Playing Live

What they miss the most is playing live.  

After all this time, their first live gig will probably start with Walk Straight.  

“This is a slap to the face, the second the chord hits”, explains Brendan with a slapping motion.

It may be one of the new songs, as the band likes to feel the moment.

One thing for sure, it will be an explosive moment for the band and audience, as that passion is unleashed after such a long pause.

Pandemic Activity

The band has no lack of unfinished riffs and songs in the works.  Because most of the videos were shot pre-pandemic, with a few sessions to fill in the gaps, we can expect more videos to come.

Fantasy Rock Band

When asked about creating the ultimate rock band, Alissa starts.

Alissa

Singer Holy Trinity:  Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), PJ Harvey, Alison Mossheart.

Runner ups:  Siouxsie Sioux, Billie Holiday, Jehnny Beth and Bessie Smith.

Final Answer:  PJ Harvey

Guitar:  <none yet chosen>

Bass:  Charles Mingus

Drums:  Max Roach, Joey Castillo (QOTSA), Stewart Copeland

Analysis:  Old time jazz meets alternative rock.

Brendan

Singer:  Chris Cornell

Guitar:  Jimi Hendrix

Bass:  John Paul Jones

Drums:  John Bonham

Analysis:  70s Rock meets grunge.

Conclusion

You can hear the Fantasy Rock Band influences in their music as 70s Rock, Grunge and Jazz collide.  

We can’t wait for the Montreal Coronation of live music.  Long live the Queen & King.


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Writer: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube. His Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their days jobs with out of the box advice from Ted Talk speakers, best selling authors and other interesting entrepreneurs and creatives.

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