Artist of the day: Mike Dunn and the Kings of New England
Winter Park's Mike Dunn and the Kings of New England play a sparkly, twangy, style of pop that recalls Gram Parsons when he played with the Byrds, but rougher and more rocking.
A familiar presence around Tampa Bay, Dunn has three shows in town this weekend. He performs solo at 8 p.m. Friday at Fubar in St. Petersburg, and at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Hub in Tampa. He’ll be joined by his bandmates in the Kings of New England -- guitarist C.J. Mask, bassist Jacob Kaplan and drummer Jon Kraft -- at 8 p.m. Saturday at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa.
After the jump, get Julie Garisto's full profile of the band, including why they say they're from New England when they're actually from outside Orlando ...
New Englanders: Mike Dunn, vocals and guitar; C.J. Mask, lead guitar; Jacob Kaplan, bass, and Jon Kraft, drums. They’re are from Winter Park and play a sparkly, twangy style of pop that recalls Gram Parsons when he played with the Byrds, but rougher and more rocking.
Friends first, then bandmates? “The guys in the Kings of New England have been my best friends for the past 5 or 6 years,” Dunn said. “We have all played in a ton of bands of varying success from punk rock, to hardcore, to ska, to glam rock and ’70s pop — the whole deal.”
Vintage look of the current CD: “Our graphic designer Brian Manley is mainly to thank for the artwork on our new disc Sundowner,” Dunn said. “His concept was to go for an old Blue Note Jazz record feel and we worked together to make that work with our style. I’m very proud of how the art came out and hopefully it’s something that will stand the test of time. We wanted that feeling about our music reflected in the artwork, that it can be both classic and new.”
Dunn’s boss guitar: “I’ve always loved Fender guitars, but I play a Telecaster because Bruce Springsteen plays a Telecaster. When I was a teenager I would watch anything that had to do with music, even if I didn’t like the band. I was addicted to VH1’s Behind the Music. It was almost like there was a handbook laid out for you: 'Here’s how these regular looking guys made it.’ When I first saw a Springsteen concert I knew that those were the feelings I wanted to evoke as well, and the Telecaster was the first thing I needed. I don’t know whether it’s the sound or look of the guitar, but something about it is whatever rock ’n’ roll is. It just feels right.”
If Dunn could pick an artist to pay tribute to: “It would probably be Warren Zevon. I think he ranks up there with the best of his generation but he had such a great dark sense of humor in his lyrics that I really admire. Same with Paul Westerberg. I think about this interview that Zevon did on David Letterman before he passed away — and I think about it pretty often — he said this really simple thing: 'Enjoy every sandwich.’”
How they got their name: “A couple years ago we all lived in a cheap old apartment on New England Avenue in Winter Park,” Dunn said. “Rent was cheap and there was a 7-Eleven right around the corner, it didn’t take too much to live comfortably. Almost everyone who lived there was an artist in some form, a photographer, videographer, traditional artist or musician. We wrote a lot of songs there, more than anywhere else I’ve been. We would hang on the porch at night, drink too much and call ourselves the kings of New England. It was really a joke but the sentiment of it kind of stuck around and after we recorded the first record we decided it was a name we could live with.
“Plus it’s really long, so we get a lot more space on posters. It’s all part of our genius master plan.”
Hear them: Dunn performs solo at 8 p.m. Friday at Fubar in St. Petersburg, and at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Hub in Tampa. He’ll be joined by the Kings of New England at 8 p.m. Saturday at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa.
-- Julie Garisto, tbt*