It’s hard to believe that Knoxville’s King Super and the Excellents have been together for all of three years now; that after earning a wiggy notoriety for spectacle-heavy live shows and twisted cover songs, they actually came through with a “proper” album of original material in April of this year; that proper album v. 2.0 is already eighty percent complete, headed for an early 2014 release.
But a quick review of all the facts—like the band’s recent Halloween date at another local club, with the members dressed in full-body checkerboard leotards—tells that there’s still nothing proper—in any sense of the word—about KSATE. “You could even drink beer through the masks, though it’s not very fun,” says bassist Georgie Paul. “It’s pretty foamy.”
And, yes, they prefer to use pseudonyms in the press, even though their real names are not exactly well-kept state secrets. Because that’s how the men of KSATE roll—they’re at once silly, obstinate, witty, juvenile, reckless, and tirelessly inventive. It doesn’t hurt that they can all play their axes like demented jazzbos, either.
But the main point is, these guys are unafraid to walk on a stage under hot lights in front of two hundred people, dressed in gaudy spandex and unwieldy prosthetics, and play a 90-minute set full of goofing and improv.
“That’s the thing, I guess,” says frontman King Super. He and Georgie are gathered with ‘mates, drummer Scuba and guitarist Max Dazzle, at Preservation Pub for a beer and a preview of their next gig here, Nov. 23 at 10 p.m. “We all have this ridiculous and tasteless sense of humor, this need for always saying what’s inappropriate. And we all love rock ‘n’ roll.”
Not so long on the heels of April’s Hammertime County, the band is hard put to finish its sophomore effort, at Nashville Studios. Which is located in South Knoxville, in case you’re wondering.
Hammertime County was a surprisingly coherent statement from a band that made its bones live dropping Pink Floyd bridges into the middle of Britney Spears pop grinders, off surprisingly faithful renditions of honky-tonk country juxtaposed with levitating live jams. The record melded arena rock with a smart sampling of ‘80s and ‘90s radio, a smattering of doo-wop and echoes of the kind of weird pop sensibilities that imbued some of Frank Zappa’s more digestible work.
While the Excellents are proud of it, they still see it as the work of a band in transition. “First albums are first albums,” says Georgie Paul. “The whole joke of it was that we didn’t make an album of throwaway schlock.”
The next record, he says, “will still be funny shit. But it will be even more musically well-crafted. The tunes we’re putting together have three and four parts, with two and three bridges.”
“We’ve reached a stage now where there’s a feeling of, ‘we need to do this,’” says King Super. “Before, it was just, here’s an idea. You just farted. Let’s write a song about it.”
And with more music to play, the band hope to reach more people. The Excellents have already tested the waters around the southeast, but drummer Scuba says that the New Year will see KSATE “maybe go for broke for a couple of months, go crazy.
“There are some places that have emailed us, soliciting us. They’ve heard of us, and we don’t know how. Someone’s been talking about us behind our back. We need to get out there and cause a stink.”
Because no matter what heights of songcraft and recording excellence Super and co. achieve on any future releases, they will always be an outfit best showcased in a live setting, where some weird combination of drama, musicality, and malevolent fortune seem to coalesce in such a manner as to bring out their best.
“Remember when the set list caught on fire at our first show?” King Super queries, to no one in particular. “That’s when things really took off.”
“You know, there’s a certain part of every movie where everything always goes to shit,” says Georgie Paul. “Somebody goes through the wedding cake; everything goes off the rails. The worse, the better. That sort of frames being in this band, for me.”
King Super will play the Pub on Saturday, Nov. 23 in the Smokeasy, with guests Rootstand and the Crumbsnatchers. Show starts at 10 p.m. Look for the band’s upcoming New Year’s Eve show at Preservation Pub as well.