Jim Rose’s priceless, cursed shrunken head was “stolen” in 1993. The Jim Rose Circus had performed at the second stage at Lollapalooza in 1992 and, after some prime-time news headlines about the missing head, eventually went on to tour the world and release a video, which became a cult classic. His secret? Create a buzz.
In 2012, Rose picked up the phone to bestow this advice Salt Lake City pop-rock band King Niko after hearing their tunes. He heard a band that was on the verge of success. King Niko has been to the brink of fame in the past; they hope that their fourth album, Oh, Hey, will create a buzz—or at least be chosen by girls for blasting on car speakers with the windows rolled down.
King Niko’s first big moment came in 2009 at the X96 Nightmare Before Xmas show, when they were a brand-new band. Just over a year later, the five-piece won the 2011 City Weekly Music Awards. Then, national press came when vocalist Ransom Wydner sang with Panic! At the Disco at X96’s Big Ass Show.
But the attention petered out, and the subsequent big break never materialized. “[Making it big] is always so close, but the main thing is to get out there and do it,” Wydner says.
Doing it and, more so, having fun, serve as King Niko’s mantra. From tinkering around with their producer’s gear to writing food parodies, the band members—Wydner, Ben Moffat (guitar), Reid Laitinen (keyboard), Tim Rawcliffe (bass) and new addition Nate Leslie (drums)—make sure not to take themselves too seriously. The result: an energetic sound that’s part The Killers, with a dash of Nine Inch Nails; the rest is dance rock.
This year, their aim is to “reinvent our sound a little bit,” Moffat says. With tracks like “Sex Nightmare,” Oh, Hey is filled with King Niko’s envisioned “disco-y, polished and refined guitar sounds,” while still keeping an edge. Laitinen’s futuristic-sounding riffs are also vital to songs such as “Boss Fight.”
“Every synthesizer sound on there is specifically crafted,” Wydner says. “It’s not, ‘Let’s find a bell sound,’ it’s, ‘I’ll make a bell sound.’”
Creating buzz aside, the band’s one true goal isn’t success—it’s sticking together. Moffat’s former guitar teacher’s advice has stuck with him: “Get into a band with people you’re friends with.” It helps when your friends are proficient musicians, too. “We’re a fun-loving band,” Wydner says. “There’s a lot of serious music, and that’s fine. But that’s not our forte. This is an album that we want chicks to listen to in their car, like, ‘We’re going on a road trip, put on King Niko!’”
KING NIKO CD RELEASE SHOW
w/ Hang Time, Cathy Foy CD Release Show
The Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East
Saturday, March 16, 9 p.m.