On June 1, 2019, California’s-own Common Kings performed at Bunbury Music Festival here in Cincinnati, Ohio. Starting their tour with Sublime and Rome this summer, the dynamic and fun-loving quartet took some time after their set to sit with Alex Macon and Nicole Betscher to discuss the story behind their energetic music and how they came together.
Alex: How did you guys start making music together?
Jr. King: We all met at a party.
Mata: A barbeque. Food and music brought us together. Uncle Lui, our bass player, it was at his house. We kind of got together and started jamming.
Jr.: We were like, “Hey, we should start a band!”
Tell me the story behind the name Common Kings.
M: It’s a tribute to our [people].
Jr.: We’re paying homage to our people and our culture. I’m Hawaiian Samoan, [Mata and Rome] are Samoan…we’ve got chiefs and kings, and royal lineages. It’s a part of the culture.
Big Rome: But we’re regular, common dudes.
Could you guys describe the kind of music you guys make in 5 words or less?
M: Our fans have coined us as “feel good music”.
Reggae music, especially here in America, has been denoted as “feel good, upbeat music”. Do you think that’s how it should be, or is there something a little deeper behind reggae that isn’t always received?
R: I think it’s whatever anyone wants to take out of it.
M: I think feel-good music is a good way to put it.
Jr.: There are different kinds of reggae music. you have the feel-good music and the conscious, socially aware reggae—that’s more where you get the big message and the deeper meanings. I’m just saying whatever [Big Rome] says. [laughter]
Personally, what inspires you guys to write feel-good reggae?
M: Our fans, what we’re going through; it could be anything. Our personal lives, being on the road, seeing what the fans love and the growth within the band. But the fans are probably the biggest thing of what we base our whole career on. What we put out, our music, how we write and compose.
R: We are naturally light-hearted guys. You’re never gonna hear any emo from us.
M: Unless there’s a, like, reggae emo genre out there.
Nicole: Kinda like, ska?
Hey, Sublime’s playing later. You guys excited for it?
M: We’re on the road with them! 49 shows and this is [technically] the first show of the tour. We’re super excited. The guys are great, the whole camp is great. We’re just like a family band right now.
R: I really grew up listening to them.
M: Sublime was really what did it for us. My brother got really into it, and I was like 11. I was like “Holy smokes! Who is this band?”
Out of all your projects, what’s your favorite work?
M: Lost in Paradise is our biggest work. Our debut album.
On your latest LP, One Day, you have collaborations with Stephen Marley, MAYDAY, and Matisyahu. How did those collaborations come to fruition?
M: You know, you’re on the road, playing festival shows, and you’re doing your thing, meet and greet, hanging out, shooting the shit with your boys and from there on, they’re like “you wanna jump on this record?” “Yea let’s do it.” Stephen Marley took a little bit of time to make it happen. He’s like Reggae Royalty. Friends of friends got together, and we’re easy going guys, and people gravitate towards us. We’re kinda cool, too. [laughter]
Nicole: You guys are really good friends. Almost like a family. How hard is it being away from your family for months on end on tour?
Uncle Lui: That’s the hardest part.
Jr.: The shittiest part about it.
M: We Facetime a lot.
Jr.: That’s a huge one for all of us.
M: Just knowing there’s a bigger goal. A bigger purpose for what we’re doing; A sacrifice. My dad was a traveling musician all his life. I don’t know how he did it without Facetime. It isn’t easy, but it’s the catch 22. But we make it work.
Alex: You guys are very energetic on stage. You four have a chemistry that is undeniable, and it really looks like you guys are having fun. What is your favorite part about performing?
UL: The audience.
Jr.: The interactions we have with the people. Seeing random people that you don’t know [and] you’ve never seen before singing your songs—that’s great.
R: Also making fun of each other on stage. We have talkback mics where we’re constantly talking shit about each other. We have a good time on stage. I think that that’s the parts that keeps it fun. Obviously, the crowd singing and giving back—it’s awesome.
Last question: What the future for Common Kings?
Jr.: Be Astronauts.
Mata: Rule the world. One good vibe song at a time.