Grammy-nominated recording artists Common Kings will be performing in Brooklyn tonight following the release of their album, “Celebration.” Ahead of the show, Common Kings stopped by PIX 11 News in New York City to talk about the new album, their inspiration, and the Road To Maui Tour 2023.
WATCH THE VIDEO INTERVIEW BELOW:
Music is the common bond for the Pacific Islanders that includes Samoan-born Hawaiian lead singer Sasualei “Junyer King” Maliga and Hawaii-raised Samoan guitarist Taumata “Mata” Grey; Fiji-born bassist Ivan “Uncle Lui” Kirimaua, and L.A.-born Tongan drummer Jerome “Big Rome” Taito. Together they have transcended their 2011 Polynesian reggae beginnings to achieve pop crossover success.
WATCH THE VIDEO FOR “CELEBRATION” BELOW
The new album came about over the course of almost two years that spanned during and after the pandemic. It is the product of various songwriting and recording sessions that took place around the country including Miami, Hawaii, Orange County, Nashville, and L.A. “We’ve got two albums’ worth of material, 24 songs in all, finished,” explains guitarist Mata about ‘CELEBRATION’, which is the first of two upcoming releases. Adding to the decision to record in so many locations Mata continues, “it was to explore different atmospheres and absorb diverse creative energies.”
On ‘CELEBRATION’, Common Kings kicks off with a groove that evokes Junyer King’s funky James Brown-esq vocals on the dancehall/hip-hop/reggae track “Do My Thing” featuring the Jamaican rising star Royal Blu. “We wanted to capture the listeners right away,” insists the vocalist. It then turns to vintage ska horns on “Raggamuffin” featuring fellow two time Best Reggae Album nominee J Boog.
The title track, “Celebration (One Shot)” released earlier this year, says it all, “it is about taking that ‘one shot’,” adds Uncle Lui, whose backyard was where the band first met, “It’s a celebration of doing things our way. We’ve made a lot of things happen in an unconventional, unorthodox way. It’s a celebration of where we are today. We’re able to live in so many different musical worlds.” “Hideaway,” released ahead of the album, gives the band’s avid reggae fanbase a solid nod – it came out on the heels of the pop-leaning title track.
While the infectious “Came Up” featuring Kabaka Pyramid and SpreadLof is an autobiographical, hip-hop flavored joint that tells the band’s story – “We came up from Hawaii to the streets of L.A./To Miami where the Kings like to play… From the bottom to the top.” Reflecting back Mata says, “That song just came to us in Miami. It’s all about doubling down and betting on ourselves. We put in so much work, we created this lane that never existed. It’s not reggae, it’s not rock, it’s not R&B… It’s just feel-good music.”
Junyer King’s keening falsetto characterizes the yearning on “Stay with Me,” which offers to fly his lover “to the moon, Saturn and Venus,” while “Wild Out” featuring Big Body Cisco is a full-on, let’s get down and dirty party anthem – “If you wanna/You can take it back to my house.”
“A homage to our beloved adopted city, Los Angeles, ‘City of Champions’ was born during a Miami session with producer Poo Bear, renowned as the primary songwriter
for Justin Bieber.” “Poo Bear is a good friend of ours, just an amazing singer/songwriter/producer,” explains Mata. “We were just looking for something that represents who we are, where we come from. It shows the love we have for Southern California, a Common Kings signature vibe that’s all our own.”
The album ends with the glorious one-two punch of the old-school dancehall toasting of “Queen Majesty” featuring longtime brother Sammy Johnson and The Green, a song made for a booming sound system. And closes with the silky-smooth R&B soul vibe of “Just One of Those Days” featuring Demarco.
With musical influences that include Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, George Benson, Jim Croce, Michael Jackson, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Gypsy Kings, Earth Wind and Fire, Bob Marley, Common Kings’ approach brings diverse people together for a good time. There’s also a strong connection with the post-punk ska scene that includes the likes of Sublime, Slightly Stoopid and OGs No Doubt.
It is Junyer King’s vocal range that truly distinguishes Common Kings. “He’s a master impersonator,” says Mata. “He can sing like anyone from Luther Vandross and Prince to Axl Rose and Mick Jagger.”
“We draw from many different kinds of music,” acknowledges Big Rome. “Growing up, I loved the rock-reggae feel. When I was in high school, I used to love 311, the way they fused the two.”
“We all have diverse musical backgrounds, and bring different elements,” says Ivan aka Uncle Lui, “Which we then fuse together, because JR can sing just about anything and everything. Our music has an edge but with a smooth polished overtone.”
“Our take on reggae is more feel-good, fun and loving, relaxed in that Hawaiian way,” says Junyer King “We’re not a political band.”
Reflecting back on the new album JR comments., “It’s a culmination of our careers, jamming 20 years, raising families, living life and making music, all of it coming together and being able to share that with the world.”
‘CELEBRATION’ is just that for Common Kings…a way to toast more than a decade of musical excellence and have a really good time doing it.
In support of the new album Common Kings will be touring, starting September 1st at The Majestic Theater in Ventura, CA. The tour includes some co-headline shows with reggae legends Steel Pulse, as well as support from artists like Jakobs Castle & American Idol winner Iam Tongi. Check out the full tour & exclusive CELEBRATION VIP offering, and purchase tickets at commonkings.com/live.
• Oct 4, 2023 @ Brooklyn Bowl – Brooklyn, NY
• Oct 6, 2023 @ Reggae Rise Up Music Festival – Las Vegas, NV
• Oct 8, 2023 @ Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia – Philadelphia, PA
• Oct 11, 2023 @ The Stone Pony – Asbury Park, NJ
• Oct 12, 2023 @ The NorVA – Norfolk, VA
• Oct 13, 2023 @ Greenfield Lake Amphitheater – Wilmington, NC
• Oct 14, 2023 @ Rub-A-Dub Reggae Festival – Raleigh, NC
• Oct 15, 2023 @ Music Farm – Charleston, SC
• Oct 18, 2023 @ Terra Fermata – Stuart, FL
• Oct 19, 2023 @ Jannus Live – St. Petersburg, FL
• Oct 21, 2023 @ The Ranch – Ft. Myers, FL
• Oct 22, 2023 @ House of Blues – Orlando, FL