The guitars sound like water; The drums sound like attitude; The songs are prophesies.
Look up the definition for "tripgrass" in the dictionary and you won't find anything. But one listen to The Kingdom of Leisure's music and you will understand the meaning immediately. You will see why the band had to create their own sub-genre for this original, experimental sound.
"It is thick, it is raw, it is deliberate, it is haunting. There is a certain texture that transcends the surface - substance. Vulnerability. There are no accidents."
In concert, Ty Hardaway (drums) and Rich Walkling (guitars, banjo, harmonica) leave you without a doubt of their talent. Without a bass guitar to pound the beat into your chest, Walkling leads the audience down a leisurely stroll along a musical trail. He plays only acoustic instruments chosen for their warm rich tones. If you close your eyes you can hear his guitars speak to you in the voice of a great story teller around a campfire. The drums providing the pops and crackling of the fire. Not the steady beat of a pop concert, but the sharp biting sounds that contrast Walkling's guitar. The use of guitar effects accenting the sound keeps the whole concert fresh with anticipation of what you are going to hear next.
Hardaway grew up in Los Angeles, California. He started playing drums when he was in the seventh grade.
"It was during the very first Jr. High counselling session that I was asked if I wanted to play music. I answered, "Yes, trumpet." I guess I changed my mind."
Hardaway's influences include his percussion inspiration, teacher and mentor Dr. Ralph Hardimon, the incredible Frank Lenz and Mr. Dave Martin Gary Jr. His parents supported his music through high school and college and encouraged him to go the music school. Unfortunately, his mother never got to see his talent so beautifully expressed in tKoL.
"We formed tKoL after my mom died, so she missed the whole thing. She'd be confused. My dad said of the album, "I don't know what you guys are playing, but you're playing your asses off!" That was a huge compliment"
Walkling grew up in eastern Pennsylvania. He started playing the banjo when he was 17.
"I can't remember why. The next year I picked up the guitar while living in a cabin in New Mexico. Not much else to do at the time."
Walkling's lyrics are reminiscent of another Pennsylvania transplant, Edward Abbey and are heavily influenced by such diverse artists as John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, Daniel Paige and Ween. When asked about the influence his parents had on his music, Walkling replied, "I grew up with headphones, you know."
Hardaway and Walkling's divergent roots converge on a single philosophy for The Kingdom: to rule. To make great music.
Two guys from opposite ends of the country, with very different backgrounds. How did this seemingly unlikely pair get together? According to Hardaway, they worked for the same company for a short time.
"Our research areas were in the same building. We both knew something was up with the other. You know, I knew that he was one of those "special" people, he knew I was as well. It's like a big secret club. We never did anything together, but we both, from afar, checked out the other's scene. Our references, so to speak, checked-out. We played on the same softball team. We started playing albums for each other and drinking tea. One day Rich sez, "I've been writing songs for about a year and playing them in to the phone answering machine. I don't play them for people, I don't perform in public. The guy that moved out of my house [group house] left a set of drums." I said, "Oh yeah?"
Walkling adds that they were friends long before they started playing together.
"I have a fierce neurosis about playing with other musicians. Ty was really the first person to come along in about 5 years with whom I felt comfortable playing and creating. Since then I have opened up and have been able perform with other musicians like Hoffman and The Loose Duke."
TKoL existed before the band was even a consideration. It's all about good friends and in Walkling's words, "It has to do with appreciating what you have, and making the most of it."
"When I first got to know Ty, his days consisted of getting up, sitting on his back porch, writing a screenplay, and restoring old bikes. I would stop by in the middle of the day and he would be barefoot and lounging around sipping tea and eating sandwiches and I realized that he was the King of Leisure. Well, every King needs a Kingdom and this is his. So when we started playing, the whole concept of the Kingdom of Leisure was already in place."
All of TKoL's songs seem to escape definition by their incisive double-meanings, rabid sense of humor, and bitter sarcasm - all within the parameters of technically proficient music structure, improvisation and execution. The songs on their recently released debut album "This is the New America" are no exception, from the lovely and well-written Blessedly Sin to the hilarious Oy!ster Dehli Polka Parade (maybe you had to be there).
"It's an album!" It resurrects a forgotten art for a generation with the dreaded attention deficit disorder. The sequence is as crucial to the message as the songs themselves. It is entirely deliberate from the opening note of Across-the-Bow through it's bookend ending, Insult -to-Injury. Every tempo, every dynamic change, every rest, breath and cut is painstakingly considered and executed."
Check out more of their music at
The Kingdom of Leisure RealAudio clips at superSonicBoom.com
"This is The New America. Slip into some headphones and you'll understand."
You can hear tKoL regularly on free-form radio WRNR. And if you are awake during the 30-60 minutes that the other radio stations devote to local music, you may even hear them then. They are also getting airplay on the west coast and in Italy, Sweden and New Zealand!
"Knowing that someone on the other side of the planet is listening to tKoL is a real head-trip at times."
The Kingdom of Leisure is living their philosophy - they rule and they make great music.
Catch them live and in concert as soon as you can.
You will see an exceptional display where talent is not replaced by volume. Trip-grass.
For more information, visit the
TKoL website at
Look for the CD "This
is the New America" at Barnes & Noble in Bethesda, Alexendria, Falls
Church, White Marsh & Rockville -
DCCD in Adams-Morgan - Olssen's everywhere - Tower (some locations) - House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park, MD -
CD Now (soon) - SuperSonic Boom!
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