This Friday King Loser will play at Bodega in Wellington. I’m pretty excited about this. I saw King Loser – back in the day, as we say with not a shred of coolness – at the (old) Bodega and around university. And I loved that band. Still love that band. A sloppy mess of on-stage tension, surf-rock madness and the right kind of ferocity required to channel the real boots-and-all/don’t-give-a-sh*t rock’n’roll attitude.
King Loser was the right band to arrive on the scene as I arrived at my new scene: one of the bands of my university tenure. I didn’t have any of their albums, I instead relied on a friend who had the band’s singles and their two records (at that time the complete discography). A few years on I found a vinyl single and that was my souvenir of the time spent attending those gigs and watching the video clips and loving this lo-fi brand of garage-y surf-y beat-driven looseness. The movie Pulp Fiction was a hit, was the mark of cool at that time and King Loser covered Misirlou, Dick Dale’s instrumental that played over the opening credits.
King Loser’s drummer, one of a Spinal Tap-like number I believe, was called Tribal Thunder. There was something up between the two at the front. Chris played guitar and sang. Celia sometimes played and sang too but just as often she did karate kicks.
It was “Strange World” music to me – that’s where it came from, a mix of country-twang and surf-rock guitars and hipster-sleaze and there was a Nancy/Hazelwood dynamic and the music sounded like it was being beamed in from anywhere else. A strange world indeed. Beautiful and ugly all at once.
One time a bunch of us went to see King Loser and one of my mates couldn’t get his head around it – he was convinced they were the worst band in the world and we all had to be mad for digging it. I tried to point out that the room was loving it, and no one cared whether these people were technically great or not (I was pretty sure that Tribal Thunder was special and great and not just because of his name). It’s fine to love technically precise music too. There’s a time and place for looseness. And that time and place is definitely whenever King Loser is on the stage.
They were my favourite local band for years. And then they stopped. And there were solo albums and side-projects and I always returned to the albums – Caul of the Outlaw was the only one I owned myself. So that became the sentimental favourite.
And then King Loser reformed – Tribal Thunder and all – for Auckland’s The Others Way Festival and now a string of dates around the country. They’ve been down south and now they’re on their way back up to Auckland. And at the end of this week, for the first time in what must be 17 years or so (at least) I get to see one of my favourite bands. It’s not a bad life you know.