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The ingenuity that rock bands have to come up with new names seems to spring eternal like a well that has no bottom. Some of the most unusual band names are the ones that people remember the best, like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Def Leppard, or Nickelback. Go virtually any place in the world and you'll find people who know their music, but making history does not end with these guys. A new name can be added to the roster, that of New Haven, Connecticut's The Queen Killing Kings.

Lead singer/pianist Coley O'Toole explains about the band's name, "I came up with the name. The idea behind the name was influenced by the realization of the inevitable fact that all things must come to an end. In this case, it was the demise of a love affair that brought me to ruins and I started this band in the midst of a broken heart. I used a Queen and a King to depict two very powerful forms of an alliance whose ties would spoil and they'd ultimately destroy each other."

TQKK 's debut album from Wind-Up Records, Tidal Eyes, is a recording that sheds light on the shadows of the past and aspirations for the future. O'Toole speaks candidly about the making of the album, "Tidal Eyes is a very personal record. It is a confession, one that I made to myself. It is also my diary in disguise. There was a dark period in my life where I was so consumed by depression that making poor decisions came easy. I found happiness in things that I never believed true of my character, things I only speak of lyrically. The name 'Tidal Eyes' is based on the idea that when trying to understand something in its entirety, it is important to be familiar with its components and the intricacies that make up its whole. I want listeners to be aware of the relationships that the songs have with each other, and how our purpose for this record is not to showcase one, two or three songs, it's about each track individually contributing to the scope of Tidal Eyes."

He recollects, "The majority of the songs were written long before we went in to make the record. Songs like 'Into The Woods', 'Birds With Iron Wings', 'The Streets', 'Reinventing Language', and 'Naked In The Rain' were songs we played as a local act long before entering the studio. The only songs that were written during the time of recording were 'Ivory' - which was actually written in New Orleans, hence [the lyric] 'Last chance train from New Orleans', and 'The Warden' which is a tune that pretty much found us. 'Dark Hearts' was an older song that we brought back to life and changed the melodies and wrote and entirely different chorus. "

One song that is a real heart-stopping, throat clenching tune is "The Warden." O'Toole reveals about the song, "This is the only track on the record that did not come from the same personal status as the others. In fact, this song was not written for the record, I didn't even intend to write this song. While strumming on a guitar along side Joe Ballaro, the bass player for the band, I spat out the line 'same old story for the warden.' From that point the song pretty much wrote itself. It was one of those songs that was waiting to be written, as if it had been floating about through the air waiting to touch down over a Cm. We just saw 'The Warden' in for a gentle landing that afternoon and never once thought to arrange its instrumentation for TQKK. However, later on during the recording process I sat down at the grand piano and played it as would TQKK. The rest is history. We added this track to the record because it had a mood and a vibe that was undeniable. It's a story in and of itself, and while it may not be of the same vein as the other 10 tracks, it is still [one] that I hold dear to my heart because it came so naturally."

TQKK gravitate to choices that feel natural to them. The band, which comprises O'Toole on lead vocals and piano, Joe Ballaro on bass, Dan Duggins on drums, and Zac Clark on organ, are a natural fit for modern rock gears, but with no set guitarist on board and mainly keyboard-driven tracks, they defy what people expect in a rock band, O'Toole persists, "I love guitars. I write on guitar just as much I do piano. I had played in guitar bands since I was 13, but my early days as a songwriter via guitar had taken a turn toward mediocracy. Even though I was writing all the time, the songs themselves where not natural to the performer I was meant to be. I didn't know who I truly was as a songwriter until I was able to incorporate my percussion background with the melody of a piano. I started on my musical journey as a drummer and played for many years, and the piano allows me to steer songwriting elements in a percussive direction which I think works best with my vocal capabilities. Having Dan's wealth of vibe behind the drum kit brings the simplicities and/or the technicalities of our keys arrangements to frontiers that bring all parts back to supporting roles that cater to the song. In our case, the drums are just as much of a melodic instrument as the piano. We use the organ and Fender Rhodes to smooth out the attack of the piano and help instill a particular mood of a song. In the studio and now live, we treat them as our 'guitar' parts. The growl of the organ or distorted Rhodes gives attitude much like a driven guitar would, but we utilize their sounds to round out the cadence."

He surmises, "To us it's all about the song. We draw from jazz and classical music to better the rock songs that we write by understanding and using jazz chord arrangements and classical expressions. I am a much better rock 'n' roll songwriter than I am a jazz or classical composer because rock strikes a different chord with me, and I've studied rock far longer than I have anything else. I also love words and telling stories that are guided by moody soundscapes to destinations of no further than 4 minutes."

The four members of TQKK show total confidence and complete agreement in putting themselves out there alongside other guitar-mantled rock bands. O'Toole can trace back their bond to his years in high school with classmate Joe Ballaro. "Joe and I have been playing music together for over a decade and he introduced me to Dan Duggins and Zac Clark who were a perfect fit for the project. What I love about this group is the fact that everyone is a player and strives to get better. Dan is more than a drummer, he is a student and a teacher in the art of percussion. He brings his knowledge of genre and ethnic rhythms to the group which help influence the mood and solidify our parts as a whole. Zac is a songwriter himself and thinks from a melody-based stand point so he is able to get underneath a song and pull out melodic ideas that I had not thought of. What's great about Zac and myself is the fact that he is the major keyed one and I am the minor keyed one. We have the spectrum covered. We have yet another songwriter in the group with Joe whose bass playing I would not trade for anything. His influences have shaped his playing into something that is unique to TQKK and I often forfeit runs with my left hand to allow him the space because I love listening to him play."

TQKK obtained the attention of Wind-Up Records A&R officials after years of playing in local clubs throughout Connecticut. Being signed to a major label has opened the band up to new opportunities as well as expanding their creative output as O'Toole remarks, "Having a label such as Wind-Up come to you with an offer to help build a career by putting out your records is a dream come true. I still pinch myself everyday because we were that 1-in-a-million chance everyone talks about when you are busting your ass for recognition. Being signed to Wind-Up has given me the biggest dream of all and that is focusing on writing music and developing the art everyday I wake up. I don't have to show up to a white room anymore and work 12 hours a day in a space suit or wait tables while people complain that their steak tastes like rubber. Years of random jobs to support a lifestyle dedicated to music has humbled me and made me appreciate and work even harder for what I have now. Since signing with the label, things have changed in the sense that we now have a guided purpose to everything we do and a team of talented professionals to help us achieve our dream. The biggest thing I've learned is 'hurry up and wait'. There is a strategy to building a band and trying to create a fan base that will give the group longevity. It takes time, especially with the music we play, to feel out our target audience and the most effective ways of doing it."

Performing live remains a natural fit for TQKK whose songs seem to be made to be played before a live audience. O'Toole expresses, "Our live performance is never directed by the reaction of the crowd. We take the stage with great excitement to play these songs and the energy we get from each other ignites the intensity and passion behind each and every show. We created the music for us to enjoy, and we feel blessed when people take to it, but we will always create and entertain for ourselves first. If we don't believe in what we do then how can I convince an audience, too? I love what happens to me both physically and mentally when we are performing. It is the greatest high I've ever had. When I play, it's a rock 'n' roll cocktail of equal parts excitement, anger, sex, love, and fearlessness. It's a parallel living that I miss the minute I walk away from the keys. Interacting with audiences is easy if you are in control and we are always in control. It's important to be daring and bold in all of your intentions and in the beginning some will believe and some won't. we will continue to be relentless until we are playing rooms where everyone believes."

He envisions, "We want to bring this music to the rest of the world because for every one person that our passion affects, our spirits grow 100% stronger and there is no greater feeling. Tidal Eyes is the first stepping stone to a mountain that we must climb. This record is going to be the first crack in breaking commercial barriers so that we may kick up the dust of decaying pioneers. "

Making great strides in the span of a couple of years has enable the band to recognize what works for them, and impart to aspiring musicians, "Keep listening and keep writing! Whether its words or melody, never stop creating. Stimulate your life with things that inspire you and use them as fuel to navigate through the mediocre representations of who you truly are. Never fear people's opinion, fear your own. If you don't believe in yourself then it will never be enough. When you catch that wind that delivers a song, don't take it for granted that it will pass so it's important to keep on mining even if the day leaves no gold to be found. What ever genre of music you play always give it all of you, it doesn't have to be artsy or indie to be passionate. Catapult off the tails of your influences to create something. I write poetry and free form pieces every day to ward off the inner critic. It's important not to be single-minded and to never be too precious with ideas. Music is an expression, not a template."

The Queen Killing Kings are more than an unusual band name or a rock 'n' roll fad. They have something special which comes through in their songs, taking a pinch from their musical influences and pouring a whole lot of themselves into their music. They are a rock band that is chunky on the keyboards and defies what the general consensus dictates constitutes as rock music. TQKK show that sometimes rules need to be retooled and bended for progress to take shape, and they are just the sort of musicians who thrive on accepting the challenge. It's a natural fit for them, and Tidal Eyes confirms it.

-Susan Frances

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