Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, rockabilly rabble rousers the Amazing Crowns started life as the Amazing Royal Crowns in 1996. 4 years, 3 albums, and one threatened lawsuit later, the Amazing Crowns are going strong, playing across the country with bands such as the Reverend Horton Heat, the Cramps, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Their new album, “Royal” came out on Time Bomb Recordings on June 6th. Easy*Life's Sharkskin Finnegan recently sat down with lead singer Jason “King” Kendall and talked to him about record labels, moose, and Marilyn Manson.
Sharky: So you have a new album coming out June 6th?
Jason: June 6th. Yep. On Time Bomb.
It’s called “Royal”?
Yes it is.
Does this have anything to do with the name change?
Yeah, of course it does.
Can you go into a little bit about the name change?
Pretty much, a year and a half ago we got sued by The Royal Crown Revue, and we had to drop- we used to be called “The Amazing Royal Crowns”- we had to drop the “Royal”. It’s no big deal. At the time, there were some hard feelings but now we’re fine with them. If anything, our fans have kind of taken the banner and run with it and it’s been kind of cool, like a rallying cry. So we’ve called the next album “Royal”, which you can do. And, we wrote a song called “Still Royal”, which we should have played tonight, but we will. We’ll start playing it when the album comes out.
You recently played the Providence Payback shows, how did they turn out?
They sold out each night. It was three nights: Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Tons and tons of bands, everything from Pressure Cooker to Belmont Playboys to LES Stitches and Showcase Showdown. I mean, it was huge.
Why did you start doing them?
We started doing the Providence Paybacks because we were touring so much, we kind of lost touch with our local scene in a way. When you do something like 230-260 dates a year, you don’t know what’s going on in your local town. So we’d go home and we’d hook up bands that we knew or that we knew of from around town and bands from all over the place. It was a good way for us to get reacquainted with our fans and our friends.
I heard that there was going to be a live album to come out of those shows. Is that going to happen?
Yeah, it’s probably going to happen. We’re trying to make it happen. It should happen in March. If it happens, it’s going to be on an indie. We might put it out ourselves. You never know.
You said you currently are on Time Bomb. Can you explain about what happened with your old label, Velvel?
Sure. After the last album, we did the Warped Tour and we toured a lot. We did a lot. We sold like 80,000 of our last album. We did pretty well for us. You know, we’re the kind of band that pretty much lives in a van and tours. That’s our thing. It’s not MTV, it’s not radio. It’s live shows and it’s people who care about the music. So, anyway, we did okay with it and we got back home after touring for awhile. We went into the studio and everything was fine and all of a sudden Velvel just crumbled. The money got taken out and we were left without a label for a long time. A lot of bands were left without a label, it was bad. Well, we finally begged borrowed and stole to get the money up. We finally got the money. And now we find ourselves on Time Bomb, which is a really good place to be, because Reverend Horton Heat is on Time Bomb. Social Distortion, Mike Ness. It’s good for us.
Speaking of MTV. Why did your original version of the video for “Do The Devil” get banned from MTV?
They didn’t like this one part where we have like this Betty Page style stuff going on. It’s not Betty Page, but it’s Betty Page style. It’s the Women of Sodom, from Boston. They’re just these beautiful women and they really know how to do the old blue movie style. They’re was this one part with this woman piggybacking another women, riding around the room with a crop, and she had a ball gag in her mouth. They thought that was too “risqué” for MTV. But at the same time you have Marilyn Manson with no clothes on.
So Marilyn Manson aside, what are the bands influences and what are you guys listening to now?
(laughing) Well, Marilyn Manson’s the big one. Well, influences for me personally are like Joe Strummer, James Brown, Joe Clay, Johnny Burnett, Johnny Cash, whatever. But as far as what we are listening to right now, in the van, it’s Zeke, Social Distortion, AC/DC. God, you name it. A lot of stuff.
How much time do you spend on the road, usually?
Well, when we’re doing well, it’s like 260 days a year.
Are you going to be on the Warped Tour this year?
There’s talk of it, the Warped Tour again. I don’t know if we want to be on the Warped Tour this year to tell you the truth. I really don’t. It seems like last year was such a corporate thing, you know what I mean, and now I don’t know.
Do you have any horror stories from the road?
Horror stories from the road. We’ve had everything from van breakdowns everywhere across this country, to huge amounts of snow. We just did two months in Canada, which was fuckin’ insane. We had to carry salt in the van. You know, it was crazy. Everything from, like, looking at moose. We’ve done it all.
So when you’re not touring, do any of the band members hold other jobs?
Um, nah, not really. We don’t have time. I work at a record store once and a while when I can, In Your Ear records. When I come home, if there are any shifts open, I go in, just because I’ve been there for so many years they let me do that. But it’s hard to hold down a job when you’re touring that much, working that much.
So your website is very up to date, I noticed.
I hope so.
Has it played a part in keeping touch with the fans?
Yeah. Our message board and things like that. If anybody comes out to see us and they have a camera and take pictures. Scan the pictures in, or if it’s digital, send them to our website right there. There’s an address for it, www.amazingcrowns.com, and we’ll put them up immediately, with your name on it, with a link to you. It’s a way of keeping in touch with our fan base. And believe me, last year was kind of lean, and it was hard and that’s the only way we kept our sanity.
Have you found that the rockabilly scene has grown in the past few years? Declined?
No, no. I think it’s grown. Definitely. I mean, God, six years ago, when we started doing this it wasn’t like this at all. It’s nice to go out. We’ve been to most towns now, but it’s good to go out to a town you’ve never been to too much and all of a sudden see a good amount of people that you’ve not seen before that are into this style of music.
So what made you want to start the band if there was no scene back then?
It doesn’t matter, man. It’s just something I wanted to do. When I used to live in Germany, I was always in punk rock bands. I got into Psychobilly in Germany. I used to go see the Meteors, and the Guano Bats. The Cramps, whatever. There’s a huge Psychobilly movement in Germany and a huge Psychobilly movement in Europe, in particular. Through that, I kind of was like, “I’m always gonna be in one of these bands. I’m always gonna do it.” And when I got home I got into Rockabilly. It’s kind of funny you say that because I was talking to my mom and dad the other day and they brought all these pictures and there’s this picture of me in high school. And I was this total fuckin’ thief, car thief, drug addict, idiot in high school. I quit high school for awhile, hitched around the country, then went back to high school, whatever. But there was a sign on my wall when I was fifteen years old and it says “I’m a Rockabilly Rebel” and it says “Stray Cats” and it’s on my wall. So, I just ran into a friend of mine that knew my brother, back when I was a kid. I used to beat up friends for him, beat up people for him and he goes, “Man, I think it’s so crazy that you’re doing this now because you always said that one day you’d be in a band like the Stray Cats”. It’s pretty funny actually. I couldn’t believe it.
You played the New England Ska Fest…
Two years in a row.
So what’s the demographic of your fans? Do you find a lot of rockabilly fans, punk fans, ska kids?
You name it man. Honest to God. It’s a wide range. It’s rudes. It’s skins. It’s punks. It’s greasers. It’s whatever. I just think it’s people who are into good music. And it’s all Judd’s friends [Judd Williams is The Amazing Crown’s drummer, who just walked into the room]. They all come to see us.
You play a harder style of rockabilly, sort of borderline punk. Do you feel included in the rockabilly scene or have you met with resistance from the more traditional fans?
In the beginning, I think we met with resistance because years ago we played, “We Wanna Boogie”, which is like a rockabilly car show in Jersey. Years ago. And people just looked at us like we had three heads. But, now I think people are catching up to it, because the traditional rockabilly scene is a very low ceilingened room and you can only go so far. So I think, eventually, people start hitting their heads on the ceiling and are looking for something else.
Well, Reverend Horton Heat's playing for years and…
Reverend Horton Heat, yeah. And, Reverend Horton Heat’s fallen in and out of favor with those people a million times, but it doesn’t matter. He keeps doing what moves him and we keep doing what moves us. We’ve never, ever started out to try to like, fit into some trend. You know what I mean. So I’d say yes and no.
So what are you future plans?
Jason: Judd, what are our future plans?
Judd: Back to the hotel I think, then I may go out tonight. [Laughs]
Jason: Well, pretty much the album coming June 6th and I think we’re going to tour our asses off behind it. I really do. As far as the Warped Tour question. I don’t know because last year was real corporate. This year, although, they just got Social Distortion. But who knows what will happen. If we don’t do the Warped Tour, maybe we’ll do a Hootenanny Tour. Who knows? You know, they’re talking about that. But either way, we’ll be touring in some way.
Finally, the most important question, what kind of pomade do you use on your hair?
Jason: Ah, me, myself. I’ll show you. Recently because I just dyed my hair today because I like dying my hair. Murray’s Black Australian Beeswax. I use that with a little hard Murray’s. I love Murray’s. I’ll use New Nile. I’ll use Murray’s. I’ll use a little Dixie Peach once and awhile.
Judd: A little KY.
Jason: A little KY. A little butter. [Laughs]