King of Spain: Tampa's indie-pop monarchy grows by one
(All this week, we’re spotlighting tbt*’s 2010 Ultimate Local Artists on Soundcheck. Today: King of Spain.)
King of Spain’s experimental-pop armada has sailed to the forefront of the local scene, catching the attention of local media outlets and some national ones, too.
For two years in a row, the solo-act-turned-duo gained entry into South by Southwest, this year in a more legit capacity, performing with New Granada’s official showcase at the Austin festival. In the past the act has been featured on NPR’s All Songs Considered and several online publications.
Reviews have been mostly favorable, recognizing how effectively King of Spain wraps a cozy blanket of traditional song structure around its strange and beautiful sounds.
In other words, singer/multi-instrumentalist Matt Slate and bassist Daniel Wainright (My Winter at Sea and Spacious International) don’t just twiddle knobs and sample babies crying. They make music you want to listen to, music that’s warm and resonant and gets into your bones. The instruments they use, ranging from melodicas to xylophones to synths, go beyond the trappings of the typical guitar-based or electronic act. It’s both and then some.
Once ruled by Slate with occasional guest collaborators, King of Spain went from a monarchy to diarchy late last year. In the ’90s, Slate had performed in local bands Chester, Pohgoh and the Maccabees and had a five-year hiatus the first half of the decade, following some heavy-duty life changes — divorce, illness and death of close family members.
Among them was his grandfather, Robert G. Slate Sr., who left Slate an inheritance with the wish that he use the money to make his own music. Slate built his own 16-track home studio, where he recorded his 2007 CD Entropy, which he dedicated to his “Pop-Pop.” The music makes the most of Matt’s melodic and out-there predilections.
“My music tastes, to this day, are riddled with pop sensibilities — not so much in the 'on the radio and MTV every 5 minutes’ way, but certainly of the 'This song is so catchy I can’t get it out of my head’ sort. My love for these earworms has always seemed to seep into my songwriting in some way or another. I suppose you could say that I’m still trying to find new and interesting ways to write pop songs, without them sounding like, well, pop songs.”
Slate always welcomed other musicians to record and play live and got several to appear on Entropy. He said he’s wanted to add another permanent member for a while. “When the time came, Daniel’s name was at the top of my list,” he said.
“It seems as if we have quite effortlessly been on the same page during the songwriting process, which has been amazing. Having a bass player definitely creates a fuller sound in a live sense, but I think the overall feel of the music has a similar aesthetic to my solo performances. Honestly, I think it is a testament to how seamlessly Daniel fits into the picture. It’s a perfect match.”
The band as a duo has just started working on new material. Until recently, Slate had spent practice time teaching Wainright the existing material. The Peek EP will debut soon, and on the band’s return from SXSW, they will start working on getting the next full-length together.
“I like the minimalism that Matt conveys and I try to respect that in my bass playing,” Wainright says. “I’ve always tried to play between the lines and King of Spain’s music affords me that luxury. I think the major difference to the music now is that there is more of a groove at the bottom end. That’s the thing I enjoy the most, being able take what is already amazing music and adding the subtlest accents.”
-- Julie Garisto, tbt*. Photo by Luis Santana, tbt*.