Rachel and the kings
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Rachel and the kings


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"Rachel & The Kings - Feature"

Rachel originally hit the studio as a solo artist, but she needed the help of fellow musicians to make the songs complete. While her initial intentions may have been to remain solo, the chemistry between her and the other artists was undeniable, and the band was born.

I love this band. Love. Listening to the songs, I always get this feeling that I’m on the brink of something brilliant, on the verge of breaking through. Of surfacing. Rachel sings in “Tonic,” my favorite song, “I will throw all your chains away…away…away” in this slightly defiant, yet freeing way of hers, and I want to throw off all that encumbers me. ”Get up/Get with your new Life” she encourages in “Fall Down.” And I think to myself, why not? Musically, this is everything I adore. Think Plumb, sometimes heavy on the guitars, other times, light on the keys, or even Evanescence, without the anger weighing them down. Rachel and the Kings have scored their throne on my iPod and my heart.

Relate: First memory of music:

Rachel: My personal first memory of music is hanging out at church with my parents around 3 years old and singing with the adult choir for the Christmas program. It was such a fun time.

Relate: Name one song you wish you had written and why:

Rachel: Gosh, just one!! Let it Be. This is an incredible song, lyrically and musically perfect in every way. Plus I love that it speaks to something bigger. More modern songs? I love Nothing Compares 2U by Sinead O’ Connor. What an incredible song.

Re: Favorite song of yours that you have written and why:

Ra: I think so far my favorite song is Carry Me Home, which is one the new album. It took all of 20 minutes to write and came to me, lyrics and melody, all at once. It is close to my heart.

Re: Since you started recording with different intentions and then came out of the studio as part of a band, how have your visions for your musical career changed?

Ra: This band has brought more to my music than I ever could have imagined on my own. What I am writing now is even better, what they are contributing is better. The songs, Fall Down and Let Yourself Go on the album were the last two songs to be recorded and had the full input of the band involved and I love how they turned out. The sound is changing and evolving and becoming something all its own and I am thrilled. The live show is also now really becoming a “show” which is hard to pull off when you are a singer/ song-writer hiring players. What we do live is going to be a lot of fun and really entertaining. Instead of me being, and working, and fighting for only myself, I now have a team of people on board that I trust in business, life and in music. It is a huge blessing.

Re: The album seems to have a theme of encouragement, consistently sympathizing with a heartbroken listener but never allowing her to wallow in despair. What have been the biggest sources of encouragement and inspiration for you?

Ra: God. My faith is my core and the inspiration from knowing that love exists and it is bigger and more miraculous than we imagined, has changed my worldview. I have been through a lot in the last three years. A lot! But I have seen miracles in my life and in the lives of my friends and this band. It is undeniable that even in the dark places, light exists, and it uses those struggles to build you into something better if you let it. You can see this hope and love in the people around you, in the earth and universe, and hopefully in yourself as well.

Re: You came up with the “and The Kings” because you believe the musicians in the band are kings of their craft. What do you think it takes to become a “king” of an art form; do you think talent trumps dedication and are successes more important than failures?

Ra: It is a combination of talent and hard work. Failures are far more important. You learn more from falling, plus falling means you are trying, right? This is a group of amazing talents, with great natural ears and ability, who have also spent time and energy honing their skills and improving their craft. Each one has been through a lot in life and in music. They aren’t just kings of their instruments, they are kings in their own right. Their hearts and commitment speak to big souls and personalities that everyone falls in love with. Just like I have. This is a great group of guys.

Re: You and the band haven’t been together long; what have you found helps you guys connect in the recording studio and on stage?

Ra: We all love the music we are creating and we have forged a bond and friendship that can only be described as, astonishing, given the short amount of time we’ve been at it together. We all want to create great and interesting pop music with an inspirational or at least positive foundation. I tend to write dark sounding music but the lyrics and the addition the band gives it really adds that element of hope that the band has decided should be characteristic of what we do musically and as a team.

Re: ”Fall Down” is the lead single from the album; how difficult was it to chose that song over the others? What is it about that song that makes it a great introduction to who Rachel and The Kings are?

Ra: The lyrics are about something real, the sound is mature but still accessible and everybody just loved it. There is something special about it that we each heard and we each felt confident that this song could really bring people in to hear more of the album, our creativity, and what we will do going forward. It was an easy pick in some ways actually.

Re: If a listener had the opportunity to listen to your album only once, what would you hope that she took away from hearing it?

Ra: My hope would be that that he/she would relate to the content, on their own level and in their own subjective way. I hope it makes people feel something deeply and makes them think about something new or from a fresh perspective. We want this music to encourage, challenge, and come alongside people in their daily lives, like a part of a tapestry being woven in. Everyone can take something from it, and that it hopefully adds some light and life where it is needed. - Relate Magazine

"Rachel and the Kings to release debut album at Bluebird Theater"

In the winter months of early 2012, pop/rock outfit Rachel and the Kings was established from former members of previous Colorado bands. A couple of months later, before ever having done a live public performance (let alone put out a record), the band beat out hundreds of other acts across the nation to win the Ford “Gimme the Gig” competition in Los Angeles, edging past fellow Denver acts Bop Skizzum and Josh Blackburn. That not-so-humble beginning should give you an idea about the energy behind this band. (Never mind that all of the Top 3 were from Denver—that’s another story.)

Rachel and the Kings (or RAT Kings, as they humorously like to call themselves) have continued their upward momentum since then, playing several impressive shows around the Denver area and making the Top 3 in the 2012 Hometown for the Holidays competition (again, less than a year after forming). And now, nearly one year after the whirlwind began, the band is finally set to release their debut full-length recording Tonic at a special show this Friday night at the Bluebird Theater in Denver.

Rachel and the Kings "Not Giving Up"
Those who have already heard the band perform live will be happy to know that Tonic is full of the power and energy we’ve already come to expect, with high production value, skillful musicianship, and plenty of great hooks from frontwoman/singer/songwriter Rachel James. The band has already proven they have a penchant for grabbing attention, and this record is destined to carry them to the next level.

Tonic will only be available as a physical release at the Bluebird show on Friday before its national release next month. Opening acts include Eldren, PrettyMouth and Post Paradise, and tickets are still available at press time from the Bluebird Theater and AXS. Don’t miss your chance to hear an exciting emerging Denver band, and pick up an early copy of the new CD from Rachel and the Kings. - The Examiner

"Denver Acts to Watch 2013"

Another of the HTFTH Top 3 acts this year, Rachel and the Kings have been making lots of waves in less than a year since their formation. A supergroup of Colorado music veterans (including pop/rock songstress Rachel James and members of Tickle Me Pink), this band won last year’s national Ford “Gimme the Gig” competition before ever having played an official live show together. Plan to catch their debut CD release show at the Bluebird Theater on Jan. 25. - The Examiner

"Music Buzz: Rachel and the Kings CD Release Show"

For most bands, stepping into the national spotlight and earning kudos from a Grammy winner takes years, if it ever happens at all. For Denver-based Rachel and the Kings, that validation came after just four rehearsals. That was the extent of formal practicing the quintet had under its belt before conquering thousands of other bands to win Ford’s national Gimme the Gig II competition last year.

“It was really intense,” says frontwoman and Denver native Rachel James of her band’s brief preparation for the contest. “It was a fantastic test of what everyone was capable of.” That adept capability will be on display at Friday’s CD release show, which heralds the local release of debut album Tonic (a national release is set for March). James and her Kings—bassist Noah Matthews, violinist Ian Short, drummer Stefan Runstrom, and guitarist Steven Beck—will play the album in its entirety, punctuating the release’s tracks with a smattering of new songs. If the fresh offerings are anything like singles “Underwater” and “Not Giving Up,” expect James’ powerful vocals to soar over the band’s roaring pop-rock soundtrack.

The album’s unveiling is the latest milestone in the band’s recent winning streak, which includes a top-three placing in 93.3 KTCL’s annual Hometown for the Holidays contest in December and its triumph during Gimme the Gig II. As part of the latter contest’s prize, head judge Don Was—a Grammy-winning producer that has collaborated with icons such as The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan—produced Rachel and the Kings’ track “Underwater.”

Though the recording process was quick—just a half-day to lay down the vocals and instruments for the band’s track “Underwater”—James says getting one-on-one time with Was proved invaluable. “It was incredible,” says James. “We talked about the difference between making sound and making music, something that becomes a part of someone else’s life and world.”

The final rounds of Gimme the Gig II were filmed and broadcast in Los Angeles for a three-part TV series, the first episode of which also featured Denver acts Bop Skizzum and Josh Blackburn.

Can’t make it to the CD release show on the 25th? Rachel and the Kings returns to the Bluebird Theater on March 8 with fellow Denver rockers My Body Sings Electric. Fri 8:30 p.m., Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave. - 5280 The Denver Magazine

"Rachel & the Kings Deliver at the BlueBird Theater"

When we see Rachel & the Kings, we’ve come to expect an outstanding performance every time. This is because they never fail to deliver. Friday night at the Bluebird Theater was no exception. However, there was definitely an undercurrent of greater intensity Friday than any other performance I’ve witnessed. Perhaps it’s because this night marked the release of their debut album, Tonic. Or maybe it’s because Rachel has finally found a band that she feels can take her into the national spotlight. Whatever the case, the energy was like an electrical current running wild.

I knew it was going to be a special performance before they even took the stage. The crowd was anxious for the headline performance after the previous band, Eldren, played a 15 minute finale. Rachel & Co. waited in the wings, letting our anxiety build before finally storming the stage.

I was hooked as soon as Rachel started singing… “Hear the roar, Of a thousand people marching… I can breathe Underwater.” Underwater was followed by the band’s hit single “Not Giving Up,” a song with strong connotations for not only the lead vocalist, but for anyone trying to rise to the top in this business. “I lay My head back down, So tired of being pushed around…” These lyrics accompanied by pulsing eight notes on her keyboard and drummer Stefan Runstrom’s bass beat. Lead guitarist Steven Beck slams a riff before bringing in fellow band mates Ian Short on violin and Noah Matthews on electric bass.

Its songs like these that separate this band from its peers. Sure, rock definitely has to have sex, drugs and a bit of grunge, but it can be so much more. Rachel & the Kings have found a way to transcend the “normal” rock n’ roll formula and still achieve success. In a time and age where we are inundated with negativity from the media and even our own peers, this band is spreading a message of hope.

I have to keep reminding myself that this band has played only nine shows including Friday night’s performance. They are skyrocketing upwards, winning Ford’s national competition, GIMME THE GIG II after only two months together. And less than eight months later, they are celebrating an album debut. It’s very rare a band clicks as fast as this one has. Ian and Steven have a knack for trading solos; Stefan and Noah lock in the time effortlessly; and Rachel is the perfect front-woman. The bottom line is these guys have fun on stage and it’s infectious. If they keep playing with the same consistency they have been, have no doubt Denver, this band will make it to the top. - Music Munch

"Denver's newest rock royalty, Rachel & the Kings, are working for their crown"

I really thought I was going to be a songwriter," says Rachel James, the pianist, vocalist and namesake of Rachel & the Kings. "I was writing for other artists, and I was co-writing with a lot of other songwriters. I mean, a year ago, this is not where I thought I'd be."

A Colorado native, James had studied journalism at Colorado State University and worked in real estate before she decided to take the advice of a college friend and pursue music full-time. She enjoyed the freedom of writing music for other people, a career path that allowed for a certain amount of privacy and anonymity. It also allowed her to be a full-time mother to her young son. But after she'd been at it for less than a year, the prospect of fronting a band snuck up on her, and plans changed.

In the short time that James has been fronting Rachel & the Kings, the band has accomplished a great deal, from winning national contests such as Ford's Gimme the Gig — besting some 700 bands from across the country in the process — to landing one of the top three spots in KTCL's annual Hometown for the Holidays promotion for the tune "Fall Down." All of this success has come before the official release of Tonic, the group's first album, which is due out this week. "We're so new," James points out with a note of disbelief. "Things have happened so fast. We haven't released an album yet, but we already feel like we have a lot of traction."

That rapid pace hasn't been lost on James and the rest of the band, a group of veterans that includes guitarist Steven Beck, bassist Noah Matthews, violinist Ian Short, and Stefan Runstrom, the former drummer of Tickle Me Pink. "All of this has been since May, all of these things right after another. Our song is already on the radio," Runstrom marvels. "With Tickle, that took years to cultivate. With this band, it just seems so easy. It's cool to see how little time it takes."

The band credits that breakneck progress to a combination of chemistry, collaboration and luck. "After five or six practices, it started to mesh," notes Matthews. "I got that glimpse of a really great rhythm section. That was a big driving thing for me."

No one in the band has had much time to let the pressure of success fully sink in. In 2011, mere months after James had left her post in a real-estate company to focus on music, she was writing with former Tickle Me Pink guitarist Joey Barba. When the opportunity to record an album came up, Barba agreed to co-produce. He brought in former bandmate Runstrom to play drums and Alain Baird Project alum Matthews to play bass. They also called on violinist Ian Short, who'd worked with James and played for Hello Kavita. "After recording for a while, the guys all decided they wanted to call me up and offer their services as part of a band," James recalls with a smile. "I was like, 'Heck, yeah, let's be a band. This will be fun.'"

That was last spring, two weeks before the Kings decided to enter Gimme the Gig. With only four rehearsals under their belt, they played their first live show in L.A. for an audience that included Grammy-winning producer Don Was, whose producing credits include work for Roy Orbison, David Crosby, the Rolling Stones, John Mayer and a host of other musical legends. "It was the first time we'd ever played together for anybody," James confesses. "We sit there, and we watch Bop Skizzum play. They're tight; they're good. And these guys stepped up. Every show we've played, we feel like we don't have enough time to get ready...but everybody has gotten to prove what they're made of."

Beck got his chance a little later than the others. A Fort Collins native, he recently moved back to Colorado from L.A. after Barba left the group to play in another outfit. Beck, Matthews, Short and Runstrom came to support James's songwriting style with varying backgrounds and areas of expertise. Runstrom's work in Tickle Me Pink was much more rooted in hard rock, Matthews cites a background in country, and Short's work in Hello Kavita veered more toward folk. But all of the members have found an immediate common ground. "My preferred way of working with other musicians," says Short, "is that somebody comes with an idea."

That was part of the dynamic in recording Tonic. The album, recorded at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins and Arsenal Studios in Wheat Ridge, drew on the expertise of engineer Andrew Berlin. Seven of the album's nine tracks were James originals, tunes that had been in various states of development before the start of the band.

Listening to those tracks, it's impossible to miss James's ambition and range as a songwriter. "Tonic" kicks off with soft keyboard tones and James's lyrical musings about living in a masquerade before the rest of the band kicks in, giving the 4/4 ballad a straight-ahead rock feel. James calls "Soldier Boy," a song with a tender theme cloaked in military metaphors, "an organic ballad that goes somewhere really big." "Carry Me Home," meanwhile, unrolls at a modest pace; a steady beat and muted hints of chamber piano become an earnest musical statement. James muses that it would be the way Björk would approach a pop ballad.

According to Beck, the band has already come up with a system of interpreting James's tunes. "We do our thing pretty well, but we listen," he insists. "When she has a vision, we don't just write a shit-ass '80s guitar solo over it. All of us are sensitive to the actual vibe and feel and original direction of the song."

But recording Tonic also brought out a degree of collaboration between the players. Both "Fall Down" and "Let Yourself Go" are songs co-written by the entire band. "Fall Down," with its seamless blend of virtuoso violin, driving drums and James's falsetto, shows powerful signs of that new partnership. "I think those are the best two songs," James offers without pause. "There's a vibe that's different than what happened before. It's because these guys were contributing parts."

That's the latest adjustment of many by this longtime performer, who's earned praise from local musicians as well as producers in L.A. One of her tunes had even garnered interest from Cher. "That anonymity thing," she says, "that was absolutely a factor in why I was a songwriter. But there's something really cool happening here; there's something really good happening with this group. I can't take credit for it. I'm kind of along for the ride, along with everybody else." - Westword Magazine

"Rachel and the Kings win Ford's Gimme the Gig honors and record track with Don Was"

Looks like props are due Rachel James & the Kings (due at this weekend's Westword Music Showcase), who have been named as the winner of Ford's second annual Gimme the Gig competition. The outfit, which recently added Tickle Me Pink vets Joey Barba and Stefan Runstrom to the fold, and whose profile has already been steadily on the rise in the past year, is set to gain even more momentum. The Gimme the Gig honors, which the band earned by besting 700 bands, come with some nice, well, gimmes, including a track produced by Grammy-award winning knob twister Don Was and a high-end video. - Westword Magazine

"Rachel & The Kings - Feature"

Rachel and the Kings, Rachel and the Kings. I’ve been hearing about this supposed band for months, but there’s not much information about them online. So why does the name keep coming up? Who is Rachel? Who are her Kings? How many Kings does she have, and where can the rest of us find Kings of our own?

The band is comprised of front woman, Rachel James, both lovely, and lucky to be in a proverbial castle surrounded by Ian Short (violin), Noah Matthews (bass), and former Tickle Me Pink heartthrobs Joey Barba (guitar) and Stefan Runstrom (drums); lucky queen, that Rachel.

“We didn’t form as a band until five months ago, that’s why nobody knows who we are,” says James. “People are like, ‘who are you guys, what’s going on?’ We really are that new, but we have such great chemistry.” A testament to that great chemistry? Winning FORD’s Gimme the Gig after just meeting. “Gimme the Gig was in July,” says James. “I was playing as Rachel James around town, uploaded a video to play Gimme the Gig, and got chosen to play that show with my old band, which Ian was in. We made it to the top 12 (out of 2500), which, I didn’t realize we were even still in the competition, and oddly that was at the same time we were thinking of being a band, so we, literally, practiced four times. It was really scary.”

Adds Runstrom, “We won the competition, and as a result, we got to work with Don Was (producer for Rolling Stones, John Mayer), super cool dude. They aired the pilot episode of Gimme the Gig a couple weeks back on KTLA.” The band was chastised for what they were wearing for the video—er, what Short was wearing . . . jorts. Says Short, “Noah woke me up five minutes before we were supposed to leave, and I thought we were just going to breakfast, not the video shoot. I tried to relieve the stress with the jorts, but it backfired.”

The camaraderie among the royal newcomers was apparent as soon as we sat down at the Denver Beer Company to chat about who the heck they are. For only being together about five months, the brethren, bantered back and forth like long-lost best friends. Whether it was endless jokes about Short’s fondness of “jorts,” or James’ “appalling shoes,” I felt like I was sitting with a family who was lucky enough to pick each other.

James is the primary writer, but a lot of their debut album, Tonic, (set to release this fall) was co-written with Barba. “All the songs started from stuff I was playing out before,” says James. “But I have to say, this group of musicians–you have to come see a show, they are the best. Everybody is so good, it’s freaky.”

I asked them to describe their sound, because at the time of the interview, I hadn’t heard their music. James replies, “We kinda decided live, we’re like Florence and the Machine meets Alanis Morissette. But the album is—there’s a lot of Florence elements to it, and there’s a lot of R&B elements to it.” Adds Ian, “Every song is a different personality.”

“Every song on this album is unique, which I intentioned,” says James. “We’ve got some songs with horns–I don’t like listening to the same song ten times. I think the familiarity comes in with the style of everyone’s playing, and a lot of the commentary is my vocals that tie it all together. There’s a definite style running through, but these songs, even from a song-writing perspective, are very unique. We did that on purpose, and I like it. I think it takes you on a journey.

“I think, lyrically, the majority of the album was a lot of what I’ve gone through in the last few years, divorce, and losing everything. Losing everything I thought I was going to be. I used to be in real estate development, so I’m in a different world. A lot of the album and lyrics are about that journey. Then there are a few fun little pop songs that lighten it up.”

“I’ve been doing music forever,” says Barba. “For me, it was wanting to get back to doing something that was 100% why I got into music in the first place. It sounds cliché, but no label telling you what to do, or writing a song for radio, or this or that. Just doing what felt right, trying to be as creative as possible. I remember when we were pre-producing these songs; Rachel would send me a piano/vocal scratch of a song–pretty much every song on the record started off with a drumbeat. I would sit in my room and tap out a drum beat, but I would try to find the right groove first, because I feel like that’s what people vibe off of—not that they’re even hearing the beat, but that’s what you feel. I think that’s why the songs all feel different from each other.

“Rachel’s voice,” Barba continues, “I feel, is really that glue over everything that makes it work, and the players too. Noah has style, his groove on the bass is really inherent, and Ian’s melodies on the violin, and obviously, the way Stefan plays, you know. There’s a chemistry that’s taken on its own thing. Originally, it was a solo record, and there was no band. She was going to be a solo artist, and I was just producing it. As things formed and people got involved, it turned into this thing, and the chemistry just evolved on its own.”

Most of CMB’s regular readers agree that we have a pretty amazing music scene in Denver, and RATK concur. “I think Denver has a great music scene,” says Matthews. “When I was in L.A., it seemed like people would come out for one band—their friend’s band. They came right at that time, and then left. It seems like in Denver, people are more willing to give bands a try. They’ll come at the beginning of the show, or maybe half way through a set, and they’ll stay through the whole thing, so the crowd grows.”

“I also think that Denver is a really eclectic music scene,” adds James. “We’re not all competing to be pop bands, we’re not all competing to be folk bands. There are a lot of different sounds going on, and that’s one of the comments I’ve gotten back from both Nashville and L.A., that the stuff that’s coming out of Denver is unique. There’s so many different sounds here, that it doesn’t feel like we’re competing, it feels like we can all just enjoy each other.” Short adds, “There are different levels of competition, and that forces all these bands to grow. And it doesn’t have to be musical talent, it could be song writing, it could be promotion, when people find a good idea, they will latch on to it.” James agrees, “If you’re doing what you do, really, really well, there’s room for you. If you want to do well in this, and you work at it, there’s a place for you.”

Check out RATK’s video release for “Not Giving Up” and single release, “Slo Mo” on October 6 at the Gothic as they join Denver faves Bop Skizzum for their CD Release.

“The album is very edgy, very cool,” says Runstrom. “I think it will surprise a lot of people. We plan on performing a lot in and around the area once the record is finished.” Says James of Runstrom, “Stefan is so incredible, he’s ridiculous.” And of Barba, “He knows an insane amount. He’s more than just beautiful hair.”

Look for “Slo Mo” and “Not Giving Up” on the Colorado Music Buzz Facebook page - Colorado Music Buzz

"Rachel And The Kings Live in Denver"

Recently I had the chance to see Denver band Rachel & The Kings play at The Gothic Theater in Englewood, Co. Let me tell you, folks… they crushed it.

Kicking straight into a high energy set, The Kings set the tone for a great night early, utilizing every shred of dynamic range to push these songs along live. Among the first things you’ll notice (beyond singer Rachel James’ thousand-watt smile) is that this is a band that is serious about having a good time on stage. My FAVORITE thing about watching live bands is watching them interact, and there were plenty of knowing smiles and nods tossed around between phenomenal bassist Noah Matthews, stellar violinist Ian Short, and the impossible-to-ignore drummer Stefan Runstrom. Impressively solid on changes with massively dynamic swings, the band rounds out nicely with Rachel crushing it on keyboard and guitarist Steven Beck perfectly accompanying this crew.

It was obvious to anyone present that Rachel & The Kings weren’t simply there to play a show, but to announce of their arrival and provide fair warning that they aren’t about to fade into the background.
I have to say I can’t imagine seeing them in a better setting – dynamic and full, this band absolutely runs the full spectrum of pop-rock. Songs like “Raise Your Dead” and “Underwater” are incredible glimpses into what this band is capable of, and in a live setting, there is unlimited potential for this band to own any stage they set foot on.

Striking a blend of the beautiful, melodic groove and straight-ahead driving rock music, RAT Kings has the capacity to win over fans from across many genres, and have the lyrical and musical fortitude to impress, delight and challenge contemporary radio while shattering expectations.

Rachel made her public guitar-playing debut on the song “Soldier Boy” and prefaced it with a rather endearing and honest statement about how terrifying it is to step out of her comfort zone to do so, but in light of the song’s message about being brave and taking risks she was taking a deep breath and going for it… I have to say – in this honesty, she won over any skeptics left in the crowd. And in showing us her heart, it was my favorite moment of the night. (Note to artists: Let us connect to you!)

When I learned of The King’s roots, with several members coming from Tickle Me Pink to help steer this project, I was very surprised. The styles are a far cry from one another, but both brilliant. To be perfectly honest, Rachel & The Kings have found a very mature core early in their existence. This music isn’t formula, and songs are not cut from the same cloth – they are unique and alive, but flow so well together it’s as though they are different parts of the same body.

A word about the musicianship in this band – it’s incredible. I believe most musicians will find them not only impressive individually, but incredibly well suited to one another. Gorgeous, anthemic and bold, this band is so much more than a group of musicians. They are a talented tribe making the music that can move the masses. If you get the chance, get out and see them… it will be the best choice you make that week. - Nanobot Rock Reviews


Rachel & The Kings - Tonic (2013)



A funny and amazing thing happened when singer-songwriter Rachel James started recording her first album. She entered the studio with every intention of being a solo artist and emerged a full-fledged bandleader and front woman for an explosive symphonic indie pop/rock ensemble the classically trained Denver based artist quickly dubbed “The Kings” in deference to her cohorts as “kings of their craft.”

Less than two months after James, Steven Beck (former lead guitarist of Tickle Me Pink), drummer Stefan Runstrom (also of Tickle Me Pink), violinist Ian Short and bassist Noah Matthews discovered their innate chemistry and crowned themselves an official working unit, Rachel & The Kings won Ford’s National “Gimme The Gig II” competition. They triumphed over 2,500 bands from across the country, earning huge accolades from legendary producer and head judge Don Was. The ironic part of this was that when James entered the first round of the competition (which was shot for a recently aired TV pilot) in Denver a year earlier, she was working with a whole different set of backing musicians; all along, it was her catchy, emotionally charged songwriting and vocal talents which drove her success. The Kings now take her vibe to the next level.

The album release party for their debut Album, Tonic, sold out at the Bluebird Theater in January 2013, marked only their 8th live show. Truly reflective of James’ personal and professional credo about focusing her passion and overcoming all obstacles in pursuit of her dreams, their single, Fall Down, is also the lead single for the band’s debut album, which Rachel & The Kings are set to release nationally in April 2013. For James, the band’s full length collection will mark the culmination of a whirlwind three year period in which she began focusing on songwriting. She soon won the Durango Songwriting Expo and had her “Catch Me If You Can” recorded by Canadian country artist Jess Maskaluke; the video for the tune debuted at #2 on the charts in Canada. The band followed up their Gimme the Gig win with a top 3 placing in Clear Channel's KTCL Hometown for the Holidays competition in Denver.

James’ journey from aspiring songwriter to full-fledged front person and bandleader began at a show she did at the Meadowlark club in Denver with members of her old band. Her performance, featuring songs that are key parts of Rachel & The Kings debut (“Tonic,” “Not Giving Up” and “I Know What You’re Made Of”), sparked the interest of one of the audience members who loved what he heard and offered her some of his connections to help her make a record. “I honestly thought I would develop my career as a songwriter, and was gearing up to make an album of songs I could play for fun and then pitch to other artists,” James says.

“Joey Barba and I pre-produced the whole album and decided to bring in some players we knew who could add their flair to the tracks,” she adds. “He knew Noah (former bassist for The Alan Baird Project) and Stefan and I knew Ian. These guys loved my songs from the start and added something so incredible to what we were doing. I loved their vibe as well and without them the production would have sounded completely different. While we were recording the album, each of them individually came to me and said that, if this was ever going to be an actual band, they wanted in. It was such a compliment and I saw it as an open door that I needed to walk through.”

Representing opposite ends of the sonic spectrum for Rachel & The Kings are two of the album’s key tracks, “Fall Down” and “Not Giving Up,” (mixed by Dave Pensado, famed for his work with contemporary pop legends like Beyonce and Christina Aguilera). James likes to whimsically define the dark-tinged “Not Giving Up” as “Adele meets Drake,” with an Adele like verse and a Drakesque chorus. It’s a heartfelt song about not giving up on love in life, overcoming even your own feelings to keep moving forward optimistically. James penned it initially about a romance but as the band took shape, its larger life applications made it a perfect mantra for them.

Driven by a hypnotic, infectious hook, the soaring uptempo “Fall Down” is the album’s key "happy song,” which, the singer says, “sets it apart from many of the other songs that are a little less straight forward.” Two other songs getting a lot of buzz are the dark and moody, emotionally charged opener “Tonic” (which draws on James’ classical background and love for classic and progressive rock) and the jangly, percussive power-popper “Let Yourself Go,” about encouraging people to overcome their greatest battles with themselves.

“Lyrically, a lot of this album came out of some really hard times I was having in my own life,” James says. “We are still growing and changing as a band but I think it shows our potential as well as our experience as musicians. I am a pop songwriter with a rock band that also wants to be creative. It is a lot of fun and I love the team