Interview with Almost Kings

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(From left to right: Kevin Compton, Ryan Yunker, Bryan Bozeman, and Danny Helms)

Almost Kings brings their own uniqueness to the music scene. A band unlike any other, they take rock and hip-hop and blend it into something utterly amazing. Vocalist Bryan Bozeman (aka “Boze”), guitarist Ryan Yunker, bassist Danny Helms, and drummer Kevin Compton are poised on the verge of greatness, their following growing with each passing day.

I met Almost Kings more than a year ago and was very impressed with their energy and style. I become a bigger fan with each show, each song, each interaction. Not only talented as musicians and performers, the four men are also very humble and down-to-Earth. 

Recently, my brother Rick and I sat down with them for an interview…

Me: Let’s start with the really standard question of your influences and why y’all started doing what you do.

Boze: I think we started it because we’re all passionate about music, but we didn’t know we could actually make a living out of it. Although we’re not making a good one out of it now. [laughs] But that’s the ups and downs of music. You have to stick with it, like any love you have. [pause] I don’t know what the other question was, but I probably shouldn’t answer it.

Me: The influences for each of you.

Ryan: I was raised on more of the rock side–The Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Incubus…

Boze: I was raised on rock music like, uh, Outkast and Cypress Hill, Nas, Biggie Smalls, Tupac…all those guys influenced me. Some white kid named Eminem.

Me: If you had answered that question without saying Eminem, I would have been surprised.

Boze: No, no. Of course. He’s a rap god. 

Kevin: I’d say James Brown, Incubus, Deftones, uhh…

Boze: Weird Al Yankovich.

Kevin: And some Tom Petty back in the day with my parents. Bon Jovi.

Boze: I do like Tom Petty.

Danny: I’ve got a lot! Gonna start off with a little Justin Timberlake. Weird, right? Incubus, Deftones–one of my all-time favorites. I could say Pink Floyd. Pretty much a little bit of everything. 

Me: So then how was the decision made to play the rap/rock genre?

Boze: They couldn’t get a singer to sing.

Danny: Limp Bizkit!

Boze: They didn’t have a choice. I rap. I can hit a couple of notes, but mostly you’re gonna get wrapping paper with some Boze. [pauses for effect] Get it?!?!

Kevin: Bozeman asked all of us to join this, and we did. We wrote “Legend,” “Unstoppable,” and “On Like That” in the first twenty minutes we were together.

Boze: Yeah, I’d say half the first record was probably done the first practice. Not done, but the ideas were down.

Me: Okay. Another standard question–how did the band get its name?

Boze: We came up with it because everyone, at the time, was like “King of the south, king of the north, I’m the king of this, I’m the best at everything” and everyone’s like…music is all about gloating, and we’re just regular dudes. 

Danny: And the name starts with “A.” It’s easy to search.

Ryan: Top of the list. That’s an “A” in my book.

Me: Who is, for each of you, the band/artist you were the most excited to play with?

Boze: We haven’t played with anybody I like, so…just kidding! Joking!

Danny: You are lying through your teeth. We played with Vanilla Ice, and he was ecstatic about it.

Boze: I did love Vanilla Ice. And he was nice. We played with Ludacris. He didn’t talk to me…

Danny: Sevendust. That was mine. And Everlast. Everlast was super cool to play with.

Boze: Yeah, he was actually nice. Anybody that’s nice.

Ryan: Avenged Sevenfold.

Boze: We did play with them. That makes us sound a lot cooler.

Danny: Stonesour.

Kevin: Stonesour, yeah. Halestorm!

Me: Y’all have played with a lot of people. Wow. All right. Let’s see if you can remember your most embarrassing moment onstage. Ryan?

Ryan: I jumped off the riser and completely busted my ass back into the amps. Everything dominoed. It was in front of a packed house. It was pretty embarrassing.

Boze: Forgetting lines of songs. I’m a bad recovery person. Like, most people would catch on, like, the third bar in and be like “Oh, well here’s where I am.” If I miss the first line of a verse, I miss the whole entire verse and there’s no going back for me. 

Kevin: Mine’s vintage, but falling off the drum riser while playing. It was a tight squeeze and I fell back and had to play, like, all extended. It was bad. Or throwing up onstage that one time. That sucked. That was here at The Nick.

Danny: Mine was at a hometown show that we did. There’s a riser behind Kevin’s drums, so I was able to jump over the kit, and I landed on my knees and pretty much barrel-rolled. I tried my hardest to play it off, like “oh, I meant to do that,” and I’m limping the rest of the show, like “this is the worst idea I’ve ever had in my life.” Uh, yeah, that was probably the most embarrassing, but it was embarrassing for me because nobody knew that anything happened.

Boze: We play off stupidity well, but the cool thing is, we don’t try to be cool, so it’s easy to be stupid and mess up. Easier. 

Me: I don’t know why most singers don’t say forgetting lyrics bothers them.

Boze: I hate it. That’s the only reason I write fast verses, so no one knows what I’m saying. If I do mess up, I’m just like “Shamalamalamalama”…

Danny: Watermelon, banana, banana.

Ryan: Banana, banana.

Me: Do you remember the first time you heard Almost Kings on the radio? 

Danny: I was at work!

Ryan: I was in the McDonald’s parking lot.

Danny: First time we got put on was a week-long thing where they played one of our songs from Filthy Nice every night, a different song each night for a week straight, at ten o’clock or midnight or something. The first song I ever heard was “Legend.” I was at work. And I … [laughs] … I made everyone in the bar shut up and, like, turned it all the way, full blast, on the stereo. They were like “Turn that shit off!” because it was so loud. Or maybe it was just that bad.

Me: Next, I wonder what y’all think makes Almost Kings different from everyone else?

Kevin: I’d say our energy. Our energy on stage sets us apart.

Boze: People are starting to jock that, though.

Kevin: Often imitated–[Boze joins in]–never duplicated!

Kevin: For real, people will steal Danny’s and Ryan’s moves and all that, but, like, the energy on stage is…you watch people and they feed off that. You get hype like that and the crowd gets hype as fuck, too.

Rick: What is “made it” to you guys?

Kevin: Doing only this. Not having to worry about a nine-to-five. 

Danny: Living healthy and wealthy.

Me: That’s a good definition.

Boze: Yeah, I’m down with that. I like that answer.

Rick: And what do y’all hope to achieve once you’ve made it? What do you want to do with your success?

Kevin: I wanna help some people. We had a fan the other day hit us up that was in a serious deep depression and she said that our song saved her life. That’s what I want to do. That was the coolest thing! We had another fan that had an illness and she said, you know the placebo effect, like with happiness and stuff you can beat those things? She said she jammed our music and it literally helped heal her. 

Ryan: That’s what it’s about.

Boze: I want to be remembered like “man, those guys were good and they weren’t douche bags.” That’s pretty much it. That’s not really a good music answer, but that’s my goal. 

Me: [to Danny] What about you?

Danny: I would like to continue to do this for the rest of my life, healthy and wealthy and comfortable.

Ryan: They say “If you’re working a job you love, then you never work a day in your life.” I would say if we can do that and continue to help people and make people happy in the process, then we’ve done our job and we’ve done it right.

Boze: These are great political answers. [To Ryan] You’re fucking good. [To me] Are you quoting this? 

Kevin: Are you running for office?

Boze: Just leave mine out. Quote them. Vote Yunker.

Me: I’m glad that y’all believe fans when they say Almost Kings saved their lives. I’ve heard bands say they don’t like the responsibility that goes with fans telling them that.

Boze: Music has done that for me. That’s why sometimes I write very vague in songs like “Shadows.” It was about a certain thing that I had to deal with, but I wrote it vague enough that you could insert your own problem. 

Me: Some bands seem to forget that it’s the fans who keep them alive. They reach a point where they don’t want to show appreciation anymore, like they feel that the fans aren’t helping and so they don’t have to care.

Danny: [When that happens], they should quit. The fans are the best prize. **

Review: Azrael, From Ashes to New, Offbeat Hooligans, & Almost Kings @ Wild Bill’s

On Saturday, May 3rd, Atlanta natives Almost Kings played their hometown for the first time in roughly nine months. In celebration of this hometown event/Cinco de Mayo bash, the band gave away free tickets to all who requested them prior to the show. Three opening acts–Azrael, From Ashes to New, and Offbeat Hooligans–were booked, and anticipation built by the day.

Doors opened at 7:30 that night. Rockers Azrael were the first to hit the stage, going on around 8:30. The best way to describe them is a mix of Creed and Seether. Their originals were great, and their versions of Bush’s “Come Down” and Alex Clare’s “Too Close” really sparked the crowd’s enthusiasm. It was the perfect way to kick off the night. Before the energy could fade even one iota, it was time for From Ashes to New.

Hailing from Lancaster, PA, From Ashes to New is reminiscent of Hollywood Undead, only much heavier. They had Wild Bill’s jumping by the end of their first song. They were energetic and interactive, vocalist Matt Brandyberry hopped down into the cluster of people gathered in front of the stage more than once, singing and shaking hands and creating more of a sense of camaraderie between fans and band. The atmosphere was electric at the end of their set and it remained that way throughout the entirety of Offbeat Hooligans‘ performance.

The best way to describe Offbeat Hooligans is “funky.” The members are extremely talented. Bassist Ben Rickard, in particular, tore it up. Akin to 311 and Authority Zero, they left the room with a positive vibe. Finally, right after 11, it was the moment we’d all been waiting for–Almost Kings. Drummer Kevin Compton, guitarist Ryan Yunker, bassist Danny Helms, and front man Bryan Bozeman walked out to a packed house. A roar rose from the audience as the band ripped straight into “Shakin’ ‘Em Up.”

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I can’t even find the words to explain their performance. It was non-stop enthusiasm, the guys bouncing all over the expansive stage and Bozeman repeatedly encouraging the audience to help him out, something that every person in that building was more than willing to do. AK played all of their most popular tracks, including “Bounce,” “Five Foot Hurricane,” “Shadows,” and “Hold On Me,” while also breaking out a few songs that aren’t usual on their set lists, such as “Lose Control” and “Never Quite the Same.” A few covers were slipped in: the medley that includes a portion of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby,” and House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” as well as their always popular version of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Throughout their set, Almost Kings was joined onstage by multiple guests, other musicians who they have collaborated with over the years.

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The night was truly an unforgettable one. Without a doubt, Almost Kings gave their all and made their hometown incredibly proud.