Rock ‘n roll is alive and well, and there may not be a band more determined to prove that statement that Philadelphia’s own The Boardwalk Kings.
TBK is a quartet of well-traveled ex-punks that take pride in solid songwriting and thoughtful compositions. Never wanting to confuse intricate artistry with a lack of enthusiasm, their high-octane live show gets even the most skeptical music fan dancing to the beat, toasting to good health and good times, and clamoring to come back again and again.
Due out on August 26, 2018, Before the Riots will be The Boardwalk Kings’ debut studio effort. Clocking in at just under 20 minutes, this Extended Play is a roller coaster ride of rock ‘n roll gusto, indie tone-chasing, atmospheric bliss, and even the slightest hint of Country Twang thanks to a trip down to Nashville, during the album’s post-production process.
Simply put, Before the Riots is a contagious and cohesive collection of five songs with a folk heart and a punk rock soul.
Snagging an opportunity to delve into an advanced copy of this EP was a top priority after dabbling in some of TBK’s back catalog of live cuts and demos on platforms like Bandcamp, Spotify and iTunes. After the very first listen, there was no doubt that an expert amount of care and love went into the making of this record – from the first contagious riff of the album opener “Jack B. Quick” until the last punk rock power chord rings out in “Front Line” to close out the EP.
“Jack B. Quick” was the first song the band wrote together after forming just about a year ago in the basement of the drummer simply known as Pagan. During an interview on Temple University Radio’s The Oxford Comma Show, guitarist VInny Marone called Pagan “the mad scientist” who mixed all of the band members together to form a chemistry that none of the four had ever felt during their long careers as rock musicians. Known affectionately as “Riffy” in the early days, “Jack B Quick” packs a punch that lives up to its baby name while weaving in and out of a beautifully-written melody and harmony composed by Marone and performed by Kate Kozak (In Different Sounds, Oddfellow Church, Boyfriend Store). Lead Singer Travis Coffin tells a story that can resonate with just about anyone, yet is so personal and candid that you feel as though your’re snuggling on the couch with him as he spills his guts about his deepest and darkest secrets.
The second selection, “Still Got It”, has a legendary story that can be found in almost every interview the band has done since the single was released in May of 2018. The dirty, bluesy lead guitar takes the listener by the arm and pulls them straight into the mosh pit of dangerously catchy rock ‘n roll riffage. Pagan and bassist Pete Samulis show off their 15+ years of being “hetero life mates” in this song (their words, not mine!) as the tight rhythm allows Travis’ lyrics to once again take the listener on a personal journey of regret, redemption, and triumph. The lead guitar tucked in the background of this song evokes the essence of Kirk Hammett, Brad Nowell, and (dare I say), even the great Mr. Jimi Hendrix himself as Vinny’s wah pedal acts as an expressive exclamation point to a fitting melody that ties the song together.
For tracks three and four, TBK tapped the Lead Guitarist of legendary emo band Saves the Day to help with recording and mixing. A trip to the studio of Arun Bali on the outskirts of Nashville, TN proved to be just what these songs needed,
“Waves” is a gem of a song. With Coffin’s storytelling sensibilities at their peak in this selection, “Waves” tells an emotional tale of three characters that eventually converge into one heart-wrenching story, echoing the struggles and the successes of real life. The simple song structure and solid rhythm allow the classic country-like guitar licks to stand out and enhance the overall presentation. The lead guitar builds until it crescendos into a bendy, bluesy masterwork that David Gilmore of Pink Floyd would be proud of. Arun also left his brilliant mark with a carefully-crafted lap steel guitar part that works in tandem with the emotional conclusion of Travis’ story.
An obscure cover by an (arguably) even more obscure side-project is next as TBK puts their mark on “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” by The Postal Service. Sonically, the song is beautiful to listen to. And while the cover has quite a few highlights scattered throughout (Travis’ ballsy vocal performance, an appearance by a band member’s daughter singing backup harmony, and a brave arrangement) – the overall feeling was that this version of the song was a misstep. I’d personally like to see the band take another crack at this song because, judging by the almost surreal solo acoustic performance by Travis that can be found on The Boardwalk Kings YouTube Channel, the ingredients are there to make this song truly epic. The band just needs to get the recipe right.
Capping off this truly remarkable maiden voyage is the song “Front Line”, written by Travis just before TBK formed. The song’s energy and overall vibe tap directly into the band’s youthful punk rock attitude with a no-nonsense pace and a few blunt statements to let you know that this lyricist says what he means and means what he says. The song itself is a neigh-perfect ending to the EP, with just a few critical choices made during the overall production of the song. But nitpicking aside, I don’t think the band could have chosen a better song to leave their listeners wanting more.
And more they’ll get!
The Boardwalk Kings have a busy fall ahead of them, appearing at their first festival dates in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Southern New Jersey. TBK also has a slate of other shows planned all over Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware, and are even cooking up a tour of the Northeast that will take them to new places such as Lancaster, Pittsburgh, Boston, Connecticut, Baltimore and Washington, DC.
Fans can purchase physical copies of “Before the Riots” at a show, or find it on all major music retailers like Amazon, Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp. A deluxe version of the EP is available with a full color booklet that includes lyrics, extensive recording history of each song, and a touching tribute to Pagan’s father Antonio, to whom the EP is posthumously dedicated to.
Check out The Boardwalk Kings live in a city near you! The band urges that you use the hashtag #theboardwalkkingslive to be randomly selected on Instagramand Facebook for free merchandise, content, and other giveaways!
September 8th – Harper’s Pub – Clementon, NJ
September 14th – Broadway Dive – New York, NY
October 14th – The Knuckledown Showdown Festival – The Delancey – New York, NY
October 20th – Whitsend Music Festival – Laurel Springs, NJ