LA-based band Crash Kings (Tony Beliveau on vocals, keys, clavinet, Mike Beliveau on bass and Jason Morris on drums) released their first self-titled album last May, thrilling critics and rock fans alike. Piano-heavy rock often feels flat and like it should be on a “Grey’s Anatomy” episode, but Crash Kings hit hard with heavy bass, drums, piano, and a vintage clavinet to create full, fist-pumping rock with thoughtful lyrics.
The Crash Kings album is rounded out with some sweet, but not syrupy ballads, uplifting piano-heavy bridges, and clavinet-produced guitar solos that make you feel like you’re at an arena show for early Metallica. Tony’s soaring vocals lift the songs to a soul-searing height.
Spending much of the last year on the road in support of their album, the band recently announced that they will be touring with alt-rockers JET.
The band sat down with us to talk about their album, their music video, footie pajamas, and ninjas.
Interviewed by Sally Feller | February 2010
Your song “Mountain Man” has been getting a lot of airplay here in Boston. Who chose this song as the single?
Jason: We all did. Everyone agreed. We did. Our producer. It was very easy to pick that song as the first single. It was one of the newer songs that we’d written, plus it had clavinet. The guitar solo is in there, but you know we wanted to just ease that in as one of the first songs. Plus, it’s one of the more soulful songs that we had to push out as the first single. It gave us an idea of what we wanted to do in the future as well. It’s got a little bit of everything, you know?
Speaking of the clavinet, I have to say that I’d never heard of it before. Tony, how did you discover the instrument?
Tony: I got really lucky and there was a guy who was trying to hook me up with a synthesizer and he couldn’t find it; it [the clavinet] was lying around and he’d had it for about ten years. It was all kind of messed up, so he told me I could take it and I went it and tested it out and started making some sounds with it.
Had you played it before?
You’re the only band I know of that has a clavinet. It’s a guitar in a box, essentially, right?
Tony: More or less, yeah.
What inspired you to write the song “Mountain Man?” And can you give us some hints about what the song’s about?
Tony: It was July 4th of July weekend and I was on a 3 day solo trek out at Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy to be exact, and I remember sitting on top of a mountain, looking out into the sun and the clouds. I had this really strong feeling of security, peace, and overall serenity. I remember thinking, “this is where I want to be when I die”. When I came home, I wrote “Mountain Man” as an overall reflection of that weekend. It’s about savoring the best moments, separating yourself from the masses to discover your personal identity, and of course some drunk girl, who hasn’t quite figured out what this song really means yet.
In your song “Saving Grace” you put a classic hard rock sound to some pretty sweet ballad-style lyrics. Can you tell us how this came together?
Tony: Saving Grace is a song about the conflict that takes place in my head when I think about my relationships. The song is heavy, then lighter, then heavy again because it’s a reflection of my frustration, as well as my understanding.
You have quite a range of styles in your songs on your debut album: there’s some hard rock, some piano-driven ballads, and even a bit of traditional jazz stylings hidden in there. Can you talk a little about how these genres found their way onto your album?
Tony: There are so many styles of music that have influenced me over the years. I didn’t play too much classical piano growing up, more rock and jazz. Dave Sardy pretty much picked the songs on our record (out of around 23), and we agreed with his choices. We wanted to make a record that could show the dynamics of our sound, while trying to maintain a certain level of consistency throughout.
What’s your personal favorite song on the album?
Jason: I like “14 Arms” a lot.
Mike: There’s a lot of them I like.
Tony: I like “Saving Grace,” I think.
Mike: Yeah, I agree with those two. They’re tied.
You just finished touring with “Rooney.” So how was the tour? Good crowds?
Jason: Yeah, definitely. Great crowds.
And you also toured with Chris Cornell. How was that?
Jason: Yeah, that was our first. It was big.
I checked out the official music video for “Mountain Man” and I need to know where I can find an adult-sized plaid onesie pajamas.
Mike: Oh man, I’m not gonna remember the name of it.
Tony: Yeah, it was an online company.
Mike: skiersonly.com (laughter)
Did you do all the tricks in the video yourselves?
Mike: I wish I could remember [the company with the plaid footie pajamas] because he gave us his company to use.
He really wanted you to promote his company. Like…right now.
Mike: Yeah. I will find out. I’ll get back to you. (Mike, if you discover the site, leave it in the com box!)
Jason: I wasn’t skiing in the video.
Where were you?
Jason: I was just chillin.
Drinking hot cocoa in the lodge?
Jason: (laughs) Yeah.
Who’s your favorite up and coming band?
Jason: What about up and re-coming? Ok Go.
Tony: Ok Go, Dungen.
Favorite band of all time?
Tony: Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles
Jason: We’ve been touring too much.
If you got to be a pirate, a ninja, a cowboy, or a spy, which would you choose?
Tony: (instantly) Ninja.
Tony: They’re badass. (laughs)
Jason: I’d probably be a spy. I like gadgets and fast cars and suits.
Mike: I would say spy. It combines all those. You might find yourself on a boat. Or you might find yourself gun-slinging. Or you might find yourself kung-fu fighting. So it encompasses all the others.
Has the constant touring you’ve been at for the past year or so brought you any wisdom that you plan to carry into the creation of your next album?
Tony: Possibly, if anything, lyrically more than musically. When we are touring, I barely have a moment to write anything on the piano. So whenever I’m at home in LA, I’m writing like a mad man.
In parting, anything to say to our TWRY readers out there?
Tony: Check out: www.crashkingsmusic.com
Jason: They gotta come see a show to get the full experience.
Tony: I’m pretty sure we’ll be at the Paradise in March.
Jason: We’re going to tour with JET, so it should be rad.
Bostonians, take note: we’re talking March 9 at the Paradise. And don’t buy up all the tickets before I can get a couple. Or I’ll find you. And set Mike, the all-encompassing-ninja-cowboy-pirate-spy on your ass.
Catch Crash Kings live on their tour with JET!
Feb 11, 2010 Cain’s Ballroom Tulsa, OK
Feb 13, 2010 The Midland Kansas City, MO
Feb 14, 2010 The Rave Milwaukee, WI
Feb 26, 2010 Mountain High Wrightwood, CA
Mar 2, 2010 The Waiting Room Omaha, NE
Mar 5, 2010 Opera House with Jet Toronto, ON, Canada
Mar 6, 2010 Northern Lights Clifton Park, NY
Mar 7, 2010 Starland Ballroom with JET Sayreville, NJ
Mar 9, 2010 Paradise Rock Club Boston, MA
Mar 11, 2010 The Hat Factory with JET Richmond, VA
Mar 15, 2010 The Village w/ JET Little Rock, AR
Mar 16, 2010 The Varsity Theatre w/ JET Baton Rouge, LA
Mar 23, 2010 Showbox at the Market w/ JET Seattle, WA
Mar 29, 2010 The Belly Up w/ JET Aspen, CO
Mar 30, 2010 The Black Sheep w/ JET Colorado Springs, CO
Apr 2, 2010 Brat Stop w/ JET Kenosha, WI