Life, Death, and Devotion

The Killingtons on the Verge of a Verge

Former Red 5-er Townsend had to learn about the business end of the music biz the hard way. Red 5 were a hot local buzz band a few years ago after they got signed to Interscope, but the process of dealing with the suits and ties wound up killing the band—a case of buzz-band-today, has-been-tomorrow. "Our first record came out, and everybody in LA was saying, 'This is it! This record's gonna be huge!' So we toured our asses off, we did the first two Warped Tours, and we went on the road with everybody. But touring was the only thing that kept us alive, not record sales. Interscope wasn't doing shit with promotion. By our second album, they were promising it was going to be a top priority, but it wound up getting shelved for a year while all their attention was going to Snoop Dogg. With the Killingtons, I really don't want that happening again. We just want to get as much going ourselves as we can, so that if further down the road the idea of going to a major label becomes something we want to do, there's something to stand on, something we can show that we already did."

"It's an industry I would suggest no one go into," Muench advises.

JK is quick with an even blunter summation: "It sucks."

With the new album will inevitably come new appointments with friendly label people. Meetings and lunches will be penciled in. Still, the band is in no hurry to get signed—the priority now is to get the music in the right hands, and even that is a very grassroots operation. If you had stopped by the MEG offices in Orange any time this month, you would have seen 2,500 promotional copies of The Killingtons strewn about, ready to be stuffed inside 2,500 envelopes, which need to be sealed and sent out to 2,500 media types, concert promoters, radio stations, venues and publicists. Those, naturally, will be followed up with at least 2,500 phone calls, and at least 2,500 recitations of the standard question, "Did you get the package we sent you?"

Pileggi and his staff are working the Killingtons, the kind of grunt duty they hope will pay off later for the band, in the form of print reviews, gig offerings, in-studio appearances, whatever. It's all part of getting the name out, he says. "Getting noticed is always hard, though. Every week there are more than 5,000 new CD releases. That's 20,000 per month—you just get lost in the shuffle so easily. But it's like fishing. You have to wait for a long time."

When those 2,500 people get their Killingtons CDs in the mail, they'll find a gem of an album—a smart, great, passionate rock & roll record, something rare in this Unholy Age of the New Cock Rock. Guitars echo and ring. Power chords feel —well, powerful. A tune like "Staring at Concrete" opens up into these huge, fiery, dramatic riffs, the kind of sonic craftwork you hear differently with each spin. There are bits of honest, ethereal beauty, too, like "Balladovie," something gentle enough to rock a newborn to sleep by.

It's as if the Killingtons give their music a texture you could almost physically rub your palm across. You could probably call their music "emo," and people have, but that sticks the band with tons of baggage they're not terribly comfy with.

"Emo is a term that was created by hardcore kids to insult guys who were into emotional, melodic rock," explains Muench.

JK agrees: "The word just doesn't make sense. It's like saying 'alternative rock' when all that's passing for alternative rock now is mainstream. Boyz II Men put out more emotion than we do—does that make them an emo band?"

And then there's "In Memory," a song that's clearly about loss and only cuts you deeper when you find out the full story behind it. Muench lost both of his parents in the past two years—his father, Michael, to a stroke, and his mother, Wendy, to breast cancer. They were both big supporters of the band, often turning up at shows. The music in the track is fittingly mournful, yet somehow triumphant as well, a celebration of lives lived more than a dirge about loss. JK's lyrics are especially poignant, lines that Muench still hasn't brought himself to read or listen to (they haven't performed it live yet): "In the end, we all grow old/The time we spend laced in gold . . . Does tragedy appeal to God? Does God exist at all? . . . Your wide eyes closed before your time is up/Run to me before the last show."

"We were all pretty close to Chris' mom," says Bravine. "We talked a lot, and she reminded me of my mother in a lot of ways. She had a real kind heart."

Just before she died, Muench's mother had a favor to ask. "Her last wish was to watch us play, and I'll never forget that," says Townsend, for whom the command performance was his first gig with the band. "It was a small room, but it was filled with family and friends. More than anything, having an event like that happen, it's a reminder that there are always going to be more important things than music and guitars. We might be in a band together, and we might have our bad weeks, but something like that pulls you up and tells you that we're friends above all and to not let stupid things that may happen down the road cause us to forget that."

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