Posted May 2020
As readers of Boomerocity already know, we love letting you know about great artists and bands that are not yet “known” and are flying below the publicity radar.
Such is the case with a New York City band that recently appeared on the Boomerocity radar: Gideon King and City Blog. Think Steely Dan. Think Sade. Think Chicago. Then, you’ll have a very good idea of what kind of great band I’m talking about.
I wanted to chat with the band’s namesake after I heard the great music of the band so I recently reached out to Gideon King at his NYC area studio. The call took place a couple of weeks ago in the midst of the CORONA-19 crisis. I asked how it was affecting him.
“Well, you know, it's amazing. I grew up in New York City and I've seen a lot. New York City has seen riots and has seen blackouts and crime waves and economic booms, economic busts. But this is just incredible. It's like the whole damn city is just totally shut down. I'd like to see us all get back up and running again, but that's up to the geniuses who run our government.”
At the time of our call, I hadn’t known anyone who had the virus. I asked Gideon if he did.
“I got it. I had it. Yeah, I did. I was real sick. But you know what, man? I wasn't that sick. Like, I had really weird symptoms and symptoms I'd never had before in my life. But there was no point in time when I felt like my life was threatened. I was really out of breath or anything like that - which is the case for the vast majority of people. I mean, our press tends to exaggerate things for them. For most people, you just get some fever, which I had, but I'm pretty much back to normal now. But there were a few nights that were pretty f*****-up - for lack of a better expression. My rib cage was, like, freezing. My eyes hurt. I did lose my sense of taste. But it's all comeback and I don't have any fever now or anything like that. So, I'm actually pretty much all the way back. There is pressure in the chest. I had a positive diagnosis - 100% certain percent I had it. But, you know, honestly, not that big of a deal, really.
“The flu is probably more dangerous than this and affected fatality rates and confirmed fatality rates and stuff like that. This is a whole other discussion. I've done a lot of research into it. I do believe we've gone a little too far, shutting the economy down may have more serious and grave health consequences, both mental and otherwise, than the virus itself. I think we've gone too f***ing far. I'm not sure. That's an interview for another time.”
Shifting to the business at hand, I asked King to share his band’s story.
“When we walk on stage, it's eight people. It's three vocalists, Caleb Hawley, Alita Moses, and Sonny Step - three unbelievable vocalists with successful solo careers themselves. We have an incredible drummer, Jake Goldbas, and another drummer - they switch off drums and percussion – a guy named Zach Mullings. We have a piano/keys/synth guy, Bryan Reeder, the bass player, Jeff Hanley, and another bass player, Nathan Peck. This an interesting band. I mean, these are incredible musicians and are all trained jazz musicians. They're also really good pop musicians.
“The concept of the band really originally was inspired by my biggest influence, which was Steely Dan. They're probably my favorite band of all time, actually. I have - on and off - had members of Steely Dan in my band. Carol Lenhart and other people. So, our band is eight people when we walk on stage. I write the music; I write the lyrics. But I do bring that music and lyrics to rehearsal and that's when the tune really starts to take shape. Then all the cooks in the kitchen start sort of experimenting with things, different grooves, and different concepts and three-part harmonies. You have a musical director of the band whose name is Bryan Reeder. He sort of is the glue that holds everything together in terms of charting things and helping to write three-part harmonies. He's also a fabulous mother***er of a jazz pianist and classical pianist and pop musician as well.
“So, I write the music, I write the lyrics and I bring them to the band and we shape each tune together. I started as a studio band. Gideon King and City blog was a studio concept totally like Steely Dan, with a rotating group of musicians. I mean, everybody from John Scofield to Donny McCaslin to Marc Broussard to Greg Lamore' to James Genus, they're all on my CD. And it was just an unbelievable studio band.
“After my first C.D., Gideon King and City Blog, which got some pretty good reviews, I put out another C.D. and started to sort of toying with the idea of going live with this thing. That was about two and a half, three years ago. So, I started to hold auditions and conversations with different musicians. It took a while to sort of weed out the bullshit artists and get to the people who are killer musicians who came to rehearsal and came to gigs like professionals and were smart, funny, nice people. That process was a distillation process if you will. That's where we're at now, where we really have a very tight group of band members. We're friends. We hang out together. We drink together. We play tennis together. We take social distancing walks together in New York City. It's an unbelievable group. They're all technically trained. They can all read music. They can all write music. They're unbelievable musicians.
“I started going live about two years ago. We started with really small clubs. Places like the Bitter End. Places like Lockwood. Then, as we wrote more songs, we began to get a lot of traction. We started to get better lists on Spotify. We’re on the editorial playlist on Spotify now and some of the tunes have a lot of streams. We started to pick up a greater sort of New York presence. This is a very New York City-centric band. We were playing at the Blue Note. We did some sold-out shows at Joe's Pub and City Winery. We played in the Brooklyn Bowl. We’re just kind of growing.
“It's not really about a specific image that we're trying to project. But I do think that the music that we're making is unique. It has funk and jazz influence, but it is pop. The press has compared it to Steely Dan quite a lot because the musicians are so killer. I just continue to write away and continue to create and the band just grows tighter and we get better and better.
“We woke up sort of two and a half years later and now we have a presence. We have fans and we have followers and we’re on editorial playlists. So, it's growing. But, man, it's brick by brick. It's like building a business, to be honest. This notion of you write your song and there you are in front of 30,000 people - maybe that happens to some. Maybe that happens out there. But, you know, that's not how it's going for us. We build it brick by brick. We are releasing an EP now called, Love Knot, that's a three tune E.P. and I'm really excited about it. I don't know if you've heard it. The title cut is a duet. I really love duets - everything from the Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock duet, believe it or not, going back to Andy Gibb and Barbra Streisand on that tune, Guilty. Remember that one? Great f***ing tune. I'm a big fan of doing that so I figured I would do that. I've written a number of duets. Marc Broussard and Grace Weber sing one. Elliott Skinner from Third Story and Grace Weber sings one and now I have Alita Moses and Caleb Holly singing one.
“The title cut is a duet. I would describe this as kind of weird abstract love songs; sort of inside-out love songs is how I describe it. I'm not a huge fan of endlessly writing love songs. Most love songs - and most songs in general - lyrics kind of suck. The days of writing great lyrics like Neil Young and the Eagles, Steely Dan, not everybody writes great lyrics anymore. But I do try to hang together these abstractions that somehow people can relate to.”
Which song of the band’s would Gideon point to as a calling card for their entire body of work, to date?
“You know, I would say that would be two or three songs. I'd say there'd be a song called ‘Lady of a Thousand Sorries’, which has gotten a fair amount of attention on Spotify. That's one for sure that people really related to and they really like. For sure, ‘Love Knot’, which is the title cut of the EP; it’s a duet. Then, to be honest, there's the more obscure ones like, ‘Under My Head’, which features John Scofield. He plays a nice solo on that. That's Mark Burchard singing. For sure that would be one of them. And there's, ‘Upscale Madhouse’, the title cut of the last CD.
“So, here these tunes will feature piano solos and guitar solos and they will exemplify my lyrics, for sure. I guess I would mention one which is a more fusion oriented tune which is called ‘Broken and Beautiful’. That would be an example of more instrumental side of our music. But yeah, I mean, those tunes on ‘Love Knot’; the title cut for sure. Maybe ‘Lady of a Thousand Sorries’. People really like that song a lot. And ‘Gun To My Head’ is a tune that people really like. So, yeah that would give them a feel for the sort of pop, funk fusion style that we write - even with a touch of folk music; with a touch of Neil Young in there - one of the great lyricists. I was taking a drive yesterday to get out of the house. I was listening to that Neil Young tune, ‘A Man Needs a Mate’. What a great song. Neil's one of my greatest influences, not necessarily harmonically and musically, but I just think he's one of the great lyricists of all time. I love his music, too, and I am influenced to some extent by it. But I think he's one of the greatest. He's probably in my top five influences of all time.”
Wrapping up our chat, I asked what is on Gideon’s radar once the COVID-19 situation pipes down.
“Let's just kind of make a presupposition. As COVID goes away and our government lets us outside again, I guess I would say is we will, we will release our EP. We have another song coming out which is almost like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young tune called ‘Silent Sirens’. Beautiful. three, part harmony, acapella tune, with just piano. Really cool, man. I'd like to send it to you. But, you know, honestly, there is that old expression that man plans and God Laughs. So, we will just continue to craft really good tunes; tunes that we feel and we hope are different from what the maddening crowd is doing musically. We will continue to play bigger and bigger venues and we will continue to sharpen our game in terms of live performance.
“I don't have a specific guidepost. I don't have a number of streams on Spotify. I don't have a sign or signifier of a specific level of notoriety that I'm praying to. The only thing that I would say I'm praying to is getting better and better at writing songs that are harmonically sophisticated; relatable but also mysterious in their lyrical content so that people can project their own kind of psychic landscape onto it and make of the songs whatever they want. And just to grow like any band. More music, good music, more venues, bigger venues. Just try and try and really be creative. I'm the lead guitarist of the band and I'm always working on my guitar playing. That's not a very specific or exciting answer, but it's really the truth.”
Gideon King and City Blog really is a great, top-shelf band. Download their work. Follow them on their site, gideonkingcityblog.com. And, if you’re ever in the Big Apple, catch one of their gigs and tell them Boomerocity sent you.