King Niko can do porn shops, but not street fights. Within their rock & roll lifestyles, there are lines the 2011 City Weekly Music Awards winners won’t cross.
“No, we are definitely lovers, not fighters,” says vocalist Ransom Wydner regarding a post-gig bar brawl in San Francisco. Parlors of porn—like the Vivid Entertainment headquarters near their North Hollywood hotel the day before that fight—aren’t exactly lover territory, but the point is clear; plus, it’s a different variety of love, a brotherly love, with this five-piece pop-rock band.
“We’re a band that relies more on feel, friendships and connections as dudes than technical modal skills,” guitarist Ben Moffat says.
Having odd experiences together strengthens those connections, and this shows in the music. “We were loading gear in the U-Haul, so we all got in and pulled down the door to hide,” Moffat says with a laugh. “There was this buff bouncer, and he said, ‘Get your crazy asses inside. What are you doin’?’”
When asked what their crazy asses did with the $2,000 purse they won after besting 24 bands in the 2011 CWMA showcase, they say every penny went toward their first out-of-state tour in June 2011.
“We put that money to gooood use. We lived it up and felt like a real struggling, young rock band,” Wydner says. Rather than choosing to record a new album, which might be quantifiable by return on investment, King Niko paid for a rock & roll experience. But it actually did paid off.
“It was like in Rocky IV, when Rocky goes up to the Arctic and trains, then comes back to fight Dolph Lundgren. It was like this montage of toughening up,” Moffat says.
Mateo Coletti, sound engineer and producer, witnessed some specifics, though: “There was an amazing change with their performance onstage, before and after: They set up quicker and had a more professional sound.”
Coletti has been like the band’s sixth member, they all agree. He is here at Metcom Studios—where the band breaks from tracking for this interview—to produce, mix and master the new single, “Guns Up,” released Jan. 24.
In April and May, Coletti did work on “Intentions,” a radio-ready single that won X96’s Xposed for several concurrent weeks in summer 2011.
Aside from the tour, and because of the single’s success, King Niko has played several interesting gigs this year. Their top highlight—their first we-are-now-rock-stars moment—was the Utah Arts Festival. “It went off! In front of the stage, there were aerial dancers hanging with sparklers on their feet, and they spelled ‘King Niko’ somehow. It was incredible,” Wydner says.
The band’s name, at times, was said alongside things like funnel cakes and fried Snickers when they played three Utah State Fair sets—some right after a juggler or a magician. “People were loving them, and then we got on, and [the audience] were like …” Wydner covers his ears and frowns. “Old people immediately left.”
After playing X96’s Big Ass Show, national attention—from Billboard.com, AltPress.com and AmpMagazine.com—poured in, thanks to Wydner being given the opportunity to sing with Panic! At the Disco because frontman Brendon Urie was ill.
“I guess we’ve reached an isotope of local exposure,” says keyboardist Reid Laitinen.
“As a young band, we took absolutely anything we could, like playing coffee shops and a bowling alley in St. George,” says Tim Rawcliffe, who holds the rhythm section together with drummer Zach Sloan. Now, King Niko has the luxury of turning down gigs, or even taking time off.
“I think, over the past year, we’ve been a performing band—mini-tramp jumps and pyrotechnics and all. Any good band needs to hunker down and write, as well,” Moffat says, adding that they will take their first break in three years this winter to write material for an upcoming album, to be released summer/fall 2012.
King Niko is in Phase Two of being a band, they say. What’s Phase Three? “Holographs, gorillas, anima-tronics,” Laitinen says.
“Really, Phase Three is Neon Trees [the 2009 CWMA winners] status: an internationally known band with a branded BMW fleet who plays Leno one week and goes to Beijing the next,” Wydner says.
“That’s publicly. Personally, I want to write some awesome, happy, poppy rock & roll songs,” Moffat says.
Those are the sort of songs that achieve their overarching goal: to make chicks dance. “I don’t think anybody has ever quoted it correctly. The worst was, ‘Make young girls dance,’ which was just gross,” Wydner says. “That motto is the heart of it all. That will never change.”