King Brothers

King Brothers

Rock ’n’ roll, demolished, and not put back together again


Originally published on on February 2013

If America’s Jon Spencer and Japan’s Guitar Wolf took roots rock ’n’ roll and deconstructed it, then Nishinomiya’s King Brothers threw it against a wall and left it there bleeding.

Their take on ’50s rock is so bruised and battered, it’s a victim of domestic violence. The eardrum begins to hemorrhage merely by contemplating the prospect of attending one of their high-decibel, high-octane concerts. It’s a style that’s been called “hardcore blues.”

“I have absolutely no idea what that term means—as far as I’m concerned we’re simply playing rock and roll,” guitarist and “screamer” Marya tells Metropolis. “One of us may have said that at some point,” admits fellow guitarist and singer Keizo. “It pretty much sums up what we do.”

The quartet came together in 1997 and has surprisingly proved one of Japan’s most durable rock outfits, backing the likes of Jon Spencer, the White Stripes and Strokes in their tours of the country.

This despite the band’s ever-evolving lineup, which has seen the original members completely replaced over the years. “I really don’t want to compare the current lineup to previous incarnations,” says Marya when prodded on the matter. “The current lineup is the best, but then again so was the previous. But really the good and bad points all come down to Keizo and I.”

“We’ve never changed members intentionally,” Keizo chips in. “Everybody had different things going on in their lives that might have made them need to leave the band. As for me, I felt like I couldn’t leave without first achieving something.”

And achieve they have. After several years serving time in the indie underground, The King Brothers made their major label debut on Toshiba EMI in 2001. Issuing three albums, they then retreated for another stint in the indie scene. Yet their continued draw as a live act saw them return to the majors for 2011’s Kill Your Idol on Victor. This is definitely a band that’s paid its dues.

“More than evolving, you could say that we’ve reached a point where we feel pretty complete,” Marya reflects. “I want people to hear the King Brothers of the present instead of looking to the past. We need to keep writing and opening our hearts through our music.”

Their brand-new Mach Club makes no concessions to commercial demands, delivering a sonic punch to the gut that might take some time to recover from. The album sees them going cross-country on a “Blood & Soul” tour that is their biggest yet, with a headlining gig at Liquidroom.

What can punters expect at the show? “For example, will we do an acoustic live set with just one guitar? No, I don’t think so,” snorts Keizo. “King Brothers’ concerts demonstrate each member’s abilities. I hope our audience can appreciate each one of us, and that we’ll just continue to get more and more solid.”

Adds Marya: “I’m just gonna make my guitar scream like hell and wreck everything completely—I guarantee it.”

For a band that’s endured and achieved rather a lot, they remain humble, crediting the aforementioned Spencer, who has produced their albums, and Guitar Wolf, who helped birth the band, as the godfathers of their sound. Where will they be in another decade?

“I really try not to think about the future,” answers Marya, pondering the question. “We’ll just keep on rolling until we disappear. Ten years seems like a long time and I’ll practically be an old man. But I hope we won’t remain a bunch of small-timers—planning actually turns out to be really important.”

Liquidroom, Mar 20