The members of Martin Luther and the Kings are recovering from a long night of partying, performing and drinking. Guitarist and vocalist “Hellcat” Matt Smith, bassist Aaron “Bogie” Bogren and drummer Jimmy “Jims” Snowden are sitting at a table with pints of Guinness, hot wings and sunglasses, all within reach.
While the boys may be feeling the effects of the night before, this 7-year-old Northern Kentucky-based Punk band has a lot to celebrate, like the progress they’ve made on their second full-length, their unhinged live shows and just the fact that they’ve managed to stick around for so long at all.
“We were losing drummers before we even started playing shows,” Smith says. “It was a revolving door for a minute. … Jimmy came in on drums in 2010.”
Because of their many early lineup changes, the Kings have gone in many musical directions based on the preferences of members, current and previous, which have helped create what they write today. The Kings take old-school Rockabilly, Punk and classic Rock & Roll and mash them together into one explosive package. Bogren dubbed it “Kablam Rock.”
The Kings bring this explosiveness to the stage, with much of their earlier work sounding tailor-made for a Punk Rock house party. Song titles like “Get Fucked Up,” “Janitor Rock” and the band name itself all point to the trio’s sense of humor. These boys know how to have fun and get a laugh, whether it’s drinking a bottle of wine out of a pilsner glass to add some class to rehearsals or performing a whole set blackout drunk and never missing a note.
The songs are played loud, fast and loose; the emphasis is on the passion, not perfection.
When writing, Smith brings most of the music and lyrics to the table. His writing recently has transitioned from fun, party anthems to something a bit more personal.
“I’ve definitely been running into real-life problems and writing about them now more than the silly ‘get fucked up’ songs,” Smith says. “But we’ve still got some fun stuff.”
Smith’s writing is an integral coping mechanism for him, often taking precedence over other parts of his life, like his college studies.
“A lot of times it comes from when I’m bored in class,” he says. “I’ll start writing a song because I don’t give a shit about what this crazy guy with a beard is talking about in algebra. I’ll just take it from there, start with some lyrics, start with a riff. It’s gotten to the point where I kind of need to. That’s the fun part about it, but there’s also a need. (The need to write) just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s like an itch that just gets more annoying till you scratch it.”
When Smith presents a song to Bogren and Snowden, the two immediately begin constructing their parts to fit with what Smith has presented. This enables the song to evolve and mutate into a cohesive creation.
“Matt comes in with it 99 percent put together, then Jimmy and I will make minute tweaks here and there,” Bogren says. “Matt’s definitely the main songwriter, Jimmy and I just give it a little spit shine.”
While Smith may walk in with the majority of a song written, what comes out is undeniably a Kings creation. Snowden’s cymbal work has the feverish excitement of a kid who discovered Pixy Stix and drumsticks on the same day and Bogren’s bass adds a rumble to the floor that gets feet moving and hips swaying when the band plays live.
This is especially evident in the songs the band has been working on for The Man Behind the Flask, the forthcoming follow-up to its self-titled debut album (a release date has yet to be determined). The songs still have the edge and humor that typify the trio’s sound, though they’re (slightly) more grown-up and refined.
For a band that has been playing for so long and has been pivotal in Greater Cincinnati’s Punk Rock scene, the Kings have finally found themselves at their most stable and engaging. Armed with a songwriter who still has a hunger for creating, a rhythm section that more than keeps pace and a live show that knocks fans off their barstools faster than a double shot of Jameson, the Kings better make room for some more Guinness and buffalo wings. Kablam Rock rests for no hangover.
MARTIN LUTHER AND THE KINGS play Southgate House Revival on July 10.