Today’s Feature – October 18-19: King Lewen

October 21, 2008 at 2:37 am (Today's Feature)

Without hesitation, we here at PEV can honestly say we’ve never featured a band like King Lewman before. They’re different to say the least – a group that doesn’t actively try to avoid labels, but nonetheless only cater to a genre that is all their own. They’re the definition of flexible; they say out of necessity, “We play acoustically, and we play electrically according to the concert setting. We play house parties, coffeehouses, concerts, festivals, fairs and the occasional special pub… even performing as a trio, a quartet, or a six piece full ensemble.” The crew is fronted by the principle song writers, Kristan King and Lance Lewman, the heart and soul of the band. Specifically in Lewman’s case, he’s come a long way since penning “Hoofprints Cross My Heart” back in high school.

Their latest work can be heard on the new record, “Going Somewhere,” a collection of songs that are anything but trendy, something the band says comes off as both retro and current. It was produced by Spencer Capier via a unique digital exchange between himself and the group. Each member of King Lewman has their own take on the music; Lewman says “all of the songs are about trying to obtain something that’s just out of reach,” and vocalist Marv Egolf says “it still has the variety of sounds and instruments and harmonies that mark a King Lewman work… King Lewman music is a genre blender or bender.”

The group breaks a lot of the “rules” with their live show, saying it’s not going to be loud, soft, or happy… but very real. Definitely show up with an open mind willing to get lost in the sounds – it’s the best way to enjoy the show. You’ll probably be hearing more and more King Lewman as their music starts popping up in television and film, so check the schedule and get out to a show. Dive into the XXQ’s for a whole lot more.

XXQs: King Lewman

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell us about how you first jumped into becoming King Lewman? Was it an instant connection for the band?

Marv: It was instant for Lance and Kristan. But that’s their story.

Lance: Actually we started out as “Rescue”, and our first album reflects that. It’s called “Living In Skin” by Rescue, and it is currently only available on cassette. Back then we played out with Danny Junk as Nobody’s Bizness; but when it came time to package our first CD, Danny said every band in Florida was called Nobody’s Bizness, so we spent an evening throwing around band names. There’s a hilarious way to spend an evening – and in the end, we settled on the principal songwriters’ last names: Kristan KING and Lance LEWMAN – KING LEWMAN.

Marv: I think “jumped in” and “instant connection” both apply to my joining KL. I joined later into the KL life cycle in July 2004 on a trial by fire basis. I was at a friend’s birthday party in Silver Spring, MD in July. In a conversation with one of the attendees, my wife heard someone (Lance Lewman) say, “We’re looking for a bass player.” She mentioned that I was a bass player. Still am, in fact. Our host, Jim Hild, the birthday boy, reinforced to Lance that I was a “great bass player” because Jim and I had performed together in the group, Tommy Roberts & The Tristeros, in the ‘80’s. You can find them (us) on MySpace. Lance approached me later in the party; and several beers and many steamed crabs later, we agreed that I should play for the CD release party for Full Circle, the second CD, which was to be held in September of 2004. At issue was the fact that Dan Junk had played bass on the recordings, yet Dan also played guitar, mandolin, saxophone, and flute as well on the tunes. He’s great, but he can only play one instrument at a time. So over the following two months, I learned their entire repertoire, we rehearsed a few times, there were fist fights, and we had a fantastic first concert in Clarksville, MD in an outdoor, natural amphitheatre of sorts. Oh, I’m just kidding about the rehearsals.

PEV: Individually, what kind of music was each of the members listening to growing up? Do you argue on different kinds of music? What was the first concert you attended?

Lance – I listened to The Beatles, The Eagles, Dan Fogelberg, James Taylor, America, Billy Joel, Elton John, Barry Manilow, Three Dog Night, Led Zepplin, Toto, Men At Work, The Who, ZZ Top, Jethro Tull, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Boston, Yes… The stuff on the radio in the 70’s, but I also liked earlier music like Peter Paul and Mary and The Everly Brothers; I liked a lot of tight vocal harmonies. We don’t argue much at all. I think we’re all like minded in that we see music not in compartments but as good music and bad music. Good music has structure, melody, hooks, and hopefully it stays in your head in a good way. My very first concert was David Cassidy… yes, it was.

Marv: Early on I was listening to true country (Hank Williams, Johnny Cash), rock & roll (Elvis, Jerry Lee), and gospel. I also was especially fond of the Liberace TV show. We never argue. We do what Mama says in rehearsal. Mama is Kristan. Onstage I do what I can remember.

My first concerts were teen dances at Our Lady of Fatima CYO. In many regards, my first true concerts were Sunday services in southern Baptist churches in North Carolina. I would just get lost in the singing. I heard God more than I saw God. I think officially my first concert was at the Baltimore Civic Center when I was 16. I paid $5 to see The Moody Blues, Cream, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and a local group named Procreation: all in one show.

PEV: Tell us about your creative process… What kind of environment do you have to be in to write music?

Kristan – Songs just come… from personal experiences or from the relationships around me. The words always come with a melody, and I usually get the chorus first. I never know when the muse will visit. Sometimes I dream songs, like Save Me on this new CD.

Lance – I can get inspired anywhere to write a song. Usually I have to be alone though. At least for me, to start a song. If someone brings me an idea, and it excites me, I can go into writing mode. Sometimes it starts with music and sometimes with words… you never know.

Marv: I do what Mama says. Lance and Kristan are the song writers. Where needed, I help with the live conveyance, whether it be as a trio or a full ensemble. As the number of players and types of players line up for a given performance, I work my parts accordingly. Size (of the group) does matter as far as what I play on bass. And whether I play electric or acoustic bass.

I can create just about in any environment. I can work with a preconceived idea and meet it or beat it. When rehearsing, and at a crossroads for arrangements, I’m a “let’s do it and see what happens” player at times. I’m typically more creative in the group formation rather than alone. As far as with KL, I have referenced past arrangements for previous material, kept what was just fine, and enhanced where I feel it’s worthwhile. Sometimes it’s scary, inspiring or amazing, when we free associate together. Then we remember we forgot to turn on the recorder. Don’t ask about bowling balls? Or bathroom walls?

PEV: Having performed together for quite some time, what can fans expect from a live King Lewman show?

Kristan – Good music and lots of variety.

Lance – Melodies, hooks, tight vocal harmonies, and a lot of great fun!

Marv: Original music. And violations of all the “rules”. As Courtney Moon, one of our guitarists, says “it’s like a blues riff, but broken”. Also everything is not gonna be loud, nor soft, nor happy. But it is very real. We run the range of human experience. We strive to be at our best technically; but more importantly, we aim to convey the story and the emotion, the mood, the dynamics of a composition. Much of the music is evocative, rather than being dance tunes. We’re a concert ensemble, more than a bar band. Nothing wrong with bar bands, mind you. I play in one also. But KL is not interested in playing above the conversation and noise. We encourage audience attention and interaction.

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance as a band. How have you changed since that first show to where you are now?

Lance – That first show, at an open mic in a bar in historic Ellicott City MD, was nerve wracking! I didn’t believe we were ready to play out yet, but Danny Junk said we’re ready. I guess, from the audience’s response, he was right.

Kristan – I don’t remember the 1st one. We change every time because our band changes depending on which core members are available.

Marv: As I mentioned, I came later. My first performance with KL was an outdoors show for the debut of the Full Circle CD and commemorating September 11. We performed on a stage in an open field before a slope where the audience was positioned. We had lights and a sound system to accommodate the environment. During the show, with the lights, and the enveloping darkness, it felt as though we were performing on a raft adrift at sea. That sounds unpleasant maybe, but it actually was rather inspiring. We were engaged as one. We couldn’t really see the audience. Sometimes we forgot they were there. We heard them between songs, thankfully, offering yells, applause, and congenial heckling.

Have we changed? We try to get along better. No, all seriousness aside, we play the songs better. We understand them better. One of our guiding principles is: “Just because we wrote these songs, that doesn’t mean we know how to play them.” A huge objective for us is to create the dynamics on the stage and to trust the sound engineer to envelope the sound and convey it into the room, into the audience. Maybe we don’t blare it out so much anymore. We get smarter, more relaxed over time. We don’t wear spandex anymore.

PEV: What can fans expect from your new album, “Going Somewhere”? What was the collaborative process for this album?

Kristan – They can expect crisper production and cleaner sound on the same consistently ageless tunes.

Lance – The best sounding KING LEWMAN album yet. Spencer Capier, a ridiculously brilliant musician and producer, who we met about five years ago, produced this CD. I had co-produced all our albums before; and though I liked them, I wanted them to sound better. I shared this with Spencer, and he agreed and said he could make the next KING LEWMAN album sound better. He produced it from Vancouver by sending digital files via ftp sites back and forth.

Marv: This CD is a whole new approach. But it still has the variety of sounds and instruments and harmonies that mark a KING LEWMAN work.

PEV: How is this album different from others out right now?

Marv: Frankly I don’t consider what’s in the market when I work on originals. KING LEWMAN music is a genre blender or bender. In some ways, we do to a song what Steely Dan would do. Take a simple progression and dress it up. Make it more interesting. Or in reverse contrast, take two chords and layer lyrical and vocal streams on top.

Kristan – We don’t write trendy songs. This album is retro and current sounding at the same time.

Lance – It actually has more of a through-line from the beginning to the end. It’s called “Going Somewhere,” and all of the songs are about trying to obtain something that’s just out of reach. We sent Spencer 60 songs to consider for this next album, and he cut them down to 22. We had to cut nine more ourselves, and we went into production with thirteen songs… we dropped the last one right before we started to arrange it.

PEV: How would you describe the sound of King Lewman? How do you plan to stand out above the other musicians in your genre?

Kristan – We have a genre?

Lance – As Spencer puts it, “Oh, you’re acoustic pop…folk…rock…country…jazz…”

Marv: Back to the blender bender. I am hesitant to describe our sound. Talking or writing about music is like tap dancing about sculpture. That may sound like an evasion, but these days, I say check us out on MySpace or Static Chain or SonicBids or SoundClick. I guess my point is really that any one song does not define our total sound. I suppose Spencer said it best.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of KING LEWMAN?

Lance – My first concert was David Cassidy.

Marv: My first crush was David Cassidy. No, not really, nor was it Liberace. Emmylou Harris? She’s another story altogether. People who don’t know us are surprised we haven’t jumped on the bus, gone on tour, play all the time. We have children to whom we are devoted. We are nurturing them to leave the nest. We’ve been family first, which is another reason, performing music is not our career… yet. That’s why it’s important to come to the next performance you hear about because we’re not out there every weekend. In a few years, load up the bio-diesel and the Twinkies, and we’re outta here!

Kristan – That we are old enough to have twins going to college next year.

Marv: That I have a son who’s 38 and a daughter who’s 16? Is that me creaking? Or you?

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

Lance – When I was a senior in High School and wrote my first song, “Hoofprints Cross My Heart.” Once I had brought something into the world that didn’t exist before I created it I was hooked. I knew music would always be a major part of my life from then on… 300 songs later… here we are.

Kristan – I always knew music would be a big part of my life ever since I started writing songs with my brothers Kim and Kevin. I ended up going to NCSA for acting, but I never stopped writing songs.

Marv: No, I’m still waiting for that point. It’s not a career yet. But maybe it is. I have always done other things, “the day job”, to keep allowing me the chance to create and perform. Actually I lived off of music for about a year and a half in the ’80’s.

It was a different market in the mid-Atlantic then. Now it’s a global market in cyberspace. I first learned that I could earn some money with music when I was 15. A friend, a sax player for a Motown/Stax/R&B band, said they needed a singer. I offered to try, and they kept asking me back. I fronted a ten-piece blue-eyed soul band and made more money in a few hours that I made working at the library for a week. And more girls talked to me. I realize it’s a career when anybody asks you to come back or to play an encore.

PEV: What one word best describes the KING LEWMAN band?

Lance & Kristan (together)- Prolific.

Marv: I’d say OYHKLYWTHM. Actually the two words that best describe the band are KING LEWMAN. Kristan and Lance are the core lyrically and vocally. Now, can I have some more pudding, sir? Tapioca?

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Best and worst parts?

Lance – We’re not really “on the road” yet.

Marv: As far as the road, KL is in stealth mode, family mode, right now; and we’ll be “getting on the bus”, as Lance and Kristan put it, in a few years, when the youngin’s are away at college. We’re are home, but we’re spreading across the planet via the Internet. So the best “cyber road” story is a recent simple message a YouTube visitor offered: “KING LEWMAN rocks!” When I traveled, the best was having total strangers scream for more, especially for original tunes. The worst was rooming at a place that had one shower stall for the hall, and there was no floor in the shower stall. You had to balance on the floor joists. KL will do better than that when we roll down the asphalt.

PEV: In all your travels, which has been your favorite city to play (US or International)?

Lance – No major tours at this point, but we did play Oberschmien, Germany. That was lovely. They were very enthusiastic considering most of them didn’t speak English. I prefer US at present.

Marv: I’ve traveled with other bands and events. Domestically it’s a toss up between San Francisco and old New Orleans. I hope New Orleans can rise again. Outside the US, I enjoyed Marsh Harbour on Abaco Island in the Bahamas. There’s a great happy “hour” on Wednesday at Wally’s when all the boaters come in for supplies.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your success?

Kristan – Your family and friends are the last people to define your success by! By the way, is there a big check in the mail that I don’t know about?

Lance – “Success” is a relative term. They were thrilled at first, now they’re all critics.

Marv: True. A “relative” term? I think the greatest reaction is that they see and hear that it’s still just us individually, but the combined group, the collaboration, is something that’s growing, worthwhile and powerful. Friends and family, and especially past musical colleagues, being there, showing up time and again: that is the success. And it’s cool that people ask for certain tunes repeatedly. It’s satisfying that comments they make show they are really listening in spite of what Paul Simon quips. They have been very supportive, and they’ve come to understand this is not a stage “we’ll grow out of” because it’s obvious that creativity is what we’re about and what we do…. in many ways, in many genres, and in many media. I enjoy that folks who keep coming to the concerts and buying the CDs bring others, offer feedback. Actually, strangers define success: when people buy your tunes, come to your shows, that says something.

PEV: What can we find the members of the band doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

Lance – Acting in movies, TV shows, and theatre. Lots of Voice Over and Narration work.

Kristan – Doing radio and TV spots, looking at colleges for my daughters, helping my son with homework and acting. I had a nice little scene with Dominic West on The Wire this past season.

Marv: Keeping the world safe for democracy. Creating digital musical archives. Gardening and landscaping.

PEV: Which artist would be your dream collaboration? Why?

Lance – I’d love to work with Billy Joel because I’ve written a song called “Life Is A Billy Joel Lyric,” and it would be so cool to have him play piano on it and really make it his own.

Kristan – I’d like to sing back up for Marc Cohn, Billy Joel or Rob Thomas.

Marv: Emmylou Harris. I had a dream once…. Or Sting, Bruce Cockburn, Ann Marie Calhoun, or Lin McEwan.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

Kristan – Yeah, King Lewman!

Lance – Carolyn Arends. She’s amazing.

Marv: Lin McEwan or Mofro.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music, what would the members of the band most likely be doing for a career?

Kristan – What we’re doing now.

Lance – Acting, V/O work, and Narration.

Marv: Inventing, gardening, writing, reviewing. I like to watch…

PEV: Ten years down the road, where will KING LEWMAN be?

Lance – Still playing music somewhere.

Marv: On the charts and in jukeboxes. Doing enough to get Dan Junk living in Maryland again.

Kristan – We’ll have numerous songs on TV and Film, namely Grey’s Anatomy. And a couple of hits, either on our own or with another artist recording them.

PEV: So, what is next for King Lewman?

Lance – We’re going to do a second release concert in Winston Salem, NC. We’re also working very hard to get the music from this CD out there, and hopefully in TV and film as well.

Kristan – Selling this album and selling individual songs to TV and Film. Oh, and a Christmas album, some originals and some traditional.

Marv: Some live recording of concerts and remastering Living In Skin to CD.

For more information on King Lewman, check out: www.kinglewman.com

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