July For Kings Biography
Joe Hedges - vocals, guitar
Travis Delaney - guitar
Sam Dobrozsi - drums
Jason Morgan – bass
T Miller - guitar, cello
July For Kings understands the vices and virtues of small-town America, writing and singing about them - and more - with uncommon passion. After two indie CDs and several years of constant touring (under their former band name, Swim), the band has earned widespread success across the upper Midwest. Now, with the November 2002 release of their MCA debut album, SWIM, July For Kings is destined to shed all provincial bonds and take its brand of relentlessly tuneful rock to a much wider audience.
Three of the five members of July For Kings have been best friends since childhood, while two met and joined the band while in their teens. The Middletown, OH-born-and-bred quintet is about friendship first, which may explain why their music is so powerfully moving. Working with producers Ben Grosse (Filter, Sevendust, Fuel), Ken Lewis and Blumpy (Vertical Horizon, VAST), as well as the late great guitar master Cesar Diaz (Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan), the band recorded SWIM at Longview Farms in rural Massachusetts, a studio frequented in the past by such bands as Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones. There, they recorded an album that embodies a reverence for rock heroes past and present, as well as their insistence on forging an aesthetic path of their own.
Few listeners will miss the religious references throughout SWIM. "I've always been obsessed with spirituality and the idea of God," says lead singer and chief songwriter Joe Hedges. "It's probably the biggest idea we have as human beings." The album kicks off with "Believe," a wrenching rocker that expresses the universal seeker's credo: "I wanna believe in something." Songs like the debut single "Normal Life" and "Girlfriend" express affection for simple values and pleasures, while rejecting the larger pressures of so-called "progress." The hammerhead guitars of "Bed of Ashes" underscore the song's nightmare vision of a mechanistic world gone mad. While other songs, like "Champagne" and the acoustic-flavored "Meteor Flower," show the band's unabashed romantic side. "In any art," notes Joe, "it's important to explore the full spectrum of human emotion. The album touches on the scope of everything I feel."
Though many fans will at first interpret "Anything But Beautiful," with its reference to the tallest towers swaying, as an angry response to 9/11, the song was actually - amazingly - written some years ago. "It was all metaphorical," notes Joe. "I considered changing those lines, but in the end decided not to. Nothing specific triggered the song. I actually feel that way all the time: there's a lot to be upset about." The album ends with "Washed Away," a lilting acoustic-based song informed by memory and pain. "It's about my father's death and the subsequent struggles with that," recalls Joe. "It's about doing what we have to do in everyday life living with problems: letting things go."
Then known as Swim, the band reached a crossroads when discovered by producer Ken Lewis, who promptly took the band under his wing. By December 1998, Swim had begun recording their debut CD, SAFE UNLESS. Many of its eleven tracks featured their hometown friend, cellist T.J. Miller, who was soon asked to join the band. From there, with the permanent line-up set, they performed throughout the Cincinnati/Dayton area, making friends wherever they played. In 2000, the band took a giant step forward musically with the release of their second CD, THE LAUGHTER AND THE NOISE, which drew the attention of major labels, including MCA. Once signed, they began turning their attention to writing and recording their MCA debut, due for release this summer.
In 2000, July For Kings won two Cammys (Cincinnati Music Awards), including Favorite Band, and also landed touring slots with Local H, Days of he New, and Collective Soul. They earned a booster shot of pre-release exposure when five of their songs were featured on MTV's hit series "Real World: New Orleans," and later reached #1 on Billboard's Talent Net Top 10 Unsigned Artists Poll.
As the band continues to evolve, the members are upbeat about their musical direction. T Miller adds "We're in a very comfortable place musically. We don't have a thing to be upset or anxious about right now." that sentiment is shared by songwriter Hedges, whose once dark view of life colored the band's musical approach in the past. "My perspective on life has changed since the last CD," he says, "and my songwriting reflects that. For example, the song 'Normal Life' is about having someone to love, having a job, the regular things people take for granted, the things that really make you happy. The last CD was a search for something profound and other-worldly. Since then, our music has been about creating meaning on a daily basis in the simple things you enjoy and the people you love."
These are days of heightened anticipation for July For Kings. The band's MCA debut album SWIM (named in honor of the band's former moniker) is nearly ready for its close-up; the band continues to perform regularly, and their website (www.julyforkings.com) is a marvel of DIY internet ingenuity. Though the band lives smack in the center of Middle America, the music of July For Kings defiantly crosses the heavily-guarded borders of pop rock.
"An intelligent blend of progressive alt-rock."
- Larry Nager, Cincinnati Enquirer "Who’s Up and Coming" (May 23, 2002)
"The band's driving melodic modern rock sound is built around Hedges' penetrating lyrics that alternate between whimsical and heart-wrenching. …a group that stands a good chance of being the ''next big thing'' to come out of the tri-state."
- Rick Bird, Cincinnati Post "Swim: New Name, CD" (May 23, 2002)
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