The King of Mars puts a rich twist on traditional rock
That’s the philosophy behind The King of Mars. The nine artists from throughout the Chicago area (including West Dundee, Cary and Elmhurst) traffic in luscious, layered rock sounds, but the band dives deeper into its influences with funky riffs, elaborate keyboard harmonies and jazzy horn blasts that hearken back to some of Chicago’s rich musical history.
We spoke with John Bruner of West Dundee, frontman and primary songwriter for The King of Mars, before the band’s July 19 show at Reggies, the release of its next single, “Tigress,” and the countdown to this fall’s new EP.
Band members: John Bruner (vocals, guitar), Matt Gordon (guitar), Randy Deadman (keys), Austin Deadman (percussion), JJ Frale (bass), Andrew Gercak (drums), Jaime Ruiz (trumpet), Walter Sanchez (trombone) and Gabby Bandera (tenor sax)
The King of Mars started out as a four-piece band back in 2015, and now you’re up to nine members. How did you guys know each other?
Most of the band met through the music program at Columbia College Chicago. We slowly started adding members after the four main guys were in place. We wanted a bigger sound that would set us apart from the standard rock band, so we found a horn section and piano player and have since added auxiliary percussion.
I’ve always loved the sound of horns, and the guy who writes our horn lines (Jason Deran) is a genius composer so he made it pretty easy. Then adding Randy’s keys was also a no-brainer. Piano is my favorite instrument and very versatile, so Randy fit right in. … The new instruments really set us apart from other bands
With so many members, what is the songwriting process like?
John is the principal songwriter and will often come in with a guitar part, melody and lyrics. The other band members will then layer on their parts.
The King of Mars has a sound that’s really unique to the Chicago scene. How did that evolve?
We started out writing more traditional rock songs, but once the horns and keys were added our sound started to branch out. From a songwriting perspective, the band draws influence from artists like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Stevie Wonder, but other members focus more on music with heavier technicality emphasis, such as Snarky Puppy and Victor Wooten.
Where did the name The King of Mars come from?
When John was searching for the band’s name, he was obsessed with the show “Adventure Time.” There’s an episode about Abraham Lincoln, who happens to be the king of Mars in the show, and that name just stuck out. As soon as the name was suggested, it caught on from there.
What has been one of your most memorable shows to play?
One of our most memorable shows was one of our most recent. On June 22, we opened for one of our favorite bands, The Dip, at Space in Evanston. It was surreal meeting The Dip and Space was hands down the classiest venue we’ve ever played.
What do you guys have coming up in the next few months? (shows, music releases, etc.?)
We’re opening for Sowflo at Reggies Music Joint on July 19th. We also have our next single, “Tigress,” being released on all major streaming platforms Tuesday, July 24. Our second EP will be released this fall.
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SowFlo, The King of Mars, Hitsleep
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, July 19
Where: Reggies Music Joint, 2105 S. State St., Chicago; reggieslive.com
Tickets: $7; ticketfly.com
• The King of Mars is the featured band on this month’s local music playlist, “2018 Chicago Sound Check vol. 6,” now streaming on Spotify. Give it a listen and check out some of the other Chicago and suburban musicians we’ve included recently in the Daily Herald.