HiLIFE | MUSIC
FL Morris / email@example.com
Kasi Nunes and her band, King of Spade, are working hard to continue a thriving music career that took off in Los Angeles.
X-Factor returns to harmony
When X-Factor left Hawaii for the mainland two years ago, most people thought that was it for Kasi "Rebel Girl" Nunes and her band.
Normally, musicians decide to move in search of better opportunities. The only reason they'll return is to regroup after failing, or to show family and friends how successful they've become before returning to that big rock across the Pacific Ocean.
KINGS OF SPADE CD RELEASE PARTY
Place: Ong King Arts Center, 184 N. King St.
Time: 9 p.m. Friday
That logic doesn't compute for X-Factor, who moved back to Oahu last month after a successful stint in Hollywood. Now known as Kings of Spade, the four-piece band gigged regularly at well-known venues like the Viper Room and House of Blues in addition to recording their first full-length studio album.
Nunes and her crew will celebrate the release of "Crave" this weekend with a show at Ong King that serves as both a homecoming party for the band and an opportunity to unveil their new album (see John Berger's "Island Mele" review). Kings of Spade will be joined on stage by openers Paula Fuga, Jammarek, Family Dinner, Natalie Phoenix and DJ H.O.P.
AFTER STARTING OUT as a party promoter five years ago, Nunes decided to form a band in order to fulfill her dreams of performing in front of a crowd.
"I never used to consider myself a singer," she said earlier this week. "I thought I was an entertainer."
Her desire to improve as a vocalist was one of the primary reasons the band decided to move in 2006. Nunes realized that the only way to learn more about the mainstream music business was to be where the action was, and that meant moving to Los Angeles.
"All we did in L.A. was play music," Nunes said. "The first few months were really rough, until we got stable and got cars so we could get to gigs."
Nunes and bandmates Jesse Savio and Matt Kato all lived together in the shadow of the famous Hollywood sign, taking various jobs to help pay for rent and studio time. Their first stumbling block came early on, when the band's former bass player didn't show up in L.A.
"(He) got cold feet and didn't come out when we first got there," she said. "We were there for four months before he showed up.
"We thought, 'He wouldn't do this to us,' but he did."
Although they were able to find a replacement, Kings of Spade welcomed their missing bass player back into the fold once he decided to show up in Southern California. But a few months before they moved back to Hawaii, he left the band once again.
So when she got home, Nunes set out to find a replacement. She found one in Tim Lee, a musician old enough to be her father.
"He's, like, Hawaii's best-kept secret," Nunes said. "We're lucky he's willing to play with us."
FL Morris / firstname.lastname@example.org
Kings of Spade were in the KTUH studios this week during the broadcast of Monday Night Live. The band members are Amber Crago, left, Reggie Padilla, Jesse Savio, Tim Lee, Kasi Nunes and Matt Kato.
FRIDAY'S CD RELEASE party will be the second time Kings of Spade performs on Oahu since moving back home. New additions at live gigs include DJ H.O.P. alongside a keyboard player and horn section; Nunes also hopes to find a harmonica player to join them at Ong King.
Why the name change? According to Nunes, it was to eliminate any confusion after a band with the same name won a European version of "American Idol" a few years back. Lead singer Leona Lewis has since broken out as a solo artist in the United States, adding to the possibility that fans could get confused.
"We didn't find out until after we were on the mainland," said Nunes. "And we didn't want to have anything to do with Europe's 'American Idol' winners."
The switch also appeased her bandmates, who thought the old name didn't accurately portray their blues/rock/funk sound.
With a mix of "Stevie Ray Vaughan's dirty blues guitar stylings, crossed with Janis Joplin or Aretha Franklin on vocals," they hope to continue with a sound that found them success on the mainland. In a scene currently saturated with indie rock, Kings of Spade was a breath of fresh air among Hollywood booking agents.
But despite the increased support, Nunes is confident she made the right decision by returning home. Along with being closer to the ocean and her family in Waianae, she said the talent pool of local bands is actually much better than Hollywood's.
"On the mainland, there's just so many bands coming from everywhere and so many of them just want to play," she said. "So there's a lot of bands that will play for free, and then the talent drops.
"Bands that thought they were good up there, wouldn't even get gigs down here ... there's a major difference in talent, I think."
Following this weekend's party, Kings of Spade will continue their push for airplay on both local and mainland radio stations. Nunes also said she hopes to parlay the contacts she made over the last two years into a opening slot on the 2009 summer festival circuit.
"We've already started submitting (our music) to promoters," she said. "We didn't even understand stuff like that until we went (to Hollywood)."
Even if they don't get picked up to open for a big-name act, Nunes is confident Kings of Spade will find a way to headline their own summer tour. With so much time and effort invested into "Crave," she's adamant about getting back on the road and winning over new fans.
"I've never been proud of our recorded music, but I'm extremely proud of this album," said Nunes. "I'm happy to play it for anybody and I don't have to make any excuses.
"I stand by everything (that we decided to put) on that album."