It's not often you hear a rock band describe its music in cinematic, Guillermo del Toro-esque themes like “innocence colliding with brutal reality.” But that's Kings Of Prussia for you.
"I've always had this vision of the innocence of childhood, and the moment that you lose that innocence," says Javi, KOP's keyboard/electronics wizard. "You know when you're growing up, you had that moment in your life when you're like, 'OK, shit's not going to be good forever'? I feel like this record represents the night that this kid — in his dreams — transferred over into adulthood."
Oddly enough, it's a pretty spot-on description of KOP's giddily-schizophrenic sound. Their new debut album, …Occurring before in time…, is part Dr. Jekyll, part Mr. Hyde, an instrumental rapid that lulls listeners in with beautiful, soaring guitar melodies and rushing waves of Ratatat-like synths and beeps, before exploding into thrashing distortion and pummeling double-bass drums kicks. So yeah, it's like a dream, if you dream of electric sheep with a side of kick-in-the-balls.
Then there's KOP's live show: A visual feast just as chaotic and choreographed as its music. Hidden behind fantastical masks — pig's heads, old lady mugs, skeleton face paint a la The Karate Kid — the band syncs up its songs with an array of images parading on-screen behind the instruments.
"We definitely take a mix of some disturbing images that will strike a chord with people," says Javi, "and mix that with the complete other spectrum, beautiful, happy dreams type of shit. Basically an intertwining of light and dark, good and evil. Like life."
And Saturday's CD-release show promises to be one of KOP’s most epic parties yet. Along with brand new visuals splashing across the Orange Peel's three giant screens, the band has invited a few choice friends to join them onstage and dance (OK, pole dance) during their set — while completely disfigured in grotesque zombie make-up, of course.
Josh, the founding guitar player, nods his head in agreement. "It's really like two shows in one. A lot of people sit back and they don't really know which one to watch."
Naturally, a band this tight doesn't form overnight. And while KOP is essentially an Asheville band, its roots are in Miami; that's where Javi and Josh first met as next-door neighbors. The two befriended Tommy, KOP's drummer, years later in high school. It was an easy match.
"We were all into the same shit," Javi jokes. "Music and skipping class."
In 2004, out of college and playing in different bands, the three friends decided to get together in their free time and form a side-project for fun, one that would focus as much on the music as the trippy visuals. And with that, Kings Of Prussia was born.
Two years later, the fun little side-project had outgrown the confines of Josh's garage. By then the three Miami natives were itching to leave home for awhile, to settle some place new. Since Tommy and Javi had Western N.C. connections — and not to mention the cheaper rent and easy vibe — they figured what the hell, they'd give Asheville a try.
Javi remembers the day in 2006 when the band first rolled into town.
"I came to downtown Asheville," he says, "and I saw a bunch of punk-rock kids and some indie record shops. And I was like, 'I can do this.'"
And do it they have. With their eyes on becoming the next ISIS or Mastodon, KOP is renowned locally for hitting the pavement and tirelessly handing out flyers to promote their upcoming shows. And if headlining at the Orange Peel is any indication, their level of dedication has paid off. Sometimes, a little too well.
"One of the last times we played the Peel, people were just going ballistic," says Josh, who's been known to stir up the crowd into a moshing, gear-destroying frenzy by diving off stage with his wireless guitar and tackling people in the audience. "One guy walked out with two broken ribs, his earrings ripped out."
For you newbies, though, no worries. As with everything KOP, it's all about that whole beauty/beast, good/evil dichotomy. Or as Javi puts it:
"If you don't want to get hurt, stay out of the pit. That's Rock 101."
— Miles Britton is an Asheville-based freelance writer.
who: Kings Of Prussia
what: Local art-metal band's CD-release show. Dissever and The Campaign 1984 open.
where: The Orange Peel
when: Saturday, Aug. 21 (8 p.m., $5. theorangepeel.net)