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Formerly Alaska, King of Heck’s name isn’t the only thing that’s all new

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Meet the new band: King of Heck. (Courtesy)

Post-hardcore band Alaska had an impressive following when it went on hiatus in 2017. Despite that band’s success, after touring 18 months straight, playing 100 shows in nine different countries (including England, France and the Czech Republic) and amassing more than 15,000 followers on Facebook, the group decided to pull the plug.

Guitarist and vocalist Joel Kirschenbaum continued on the road as a tour manager for the Bay Area band Mom Jeans while the rest of band members settled into life in Las Vegas. Eventually, the guys all found time to reconnect under a new band name, King of Heck.

“After we did all the touring for three years straight, we were like aright, we can’t do that and sustain relationships and money and rent. Everybody had to figure out how to live a regular life.” Three months ago, Kirschenbaum, Tyler Kawada (vocals/bass/trumpet), Cody Furin (guitar) and Nick Strader (drums) realized they had enough material to record a new album. That record, Shine in My Chest, will be released on tape on August 9 through Community Records (communityrecords.org/releases). The first pressing of 200 will be done on gold foil cassettes, which will be available at a house show release party with Vegas bands Dark Black and Spring Breeding.

Without a doubt, King of Heck has similarities to Alaska, but like the band members themselves, the songs sound older and less pigeonholed to one genre.

Shine in My Chest is the world of dreamy, trippy, punk where King of Heck sits squarely in the center, shouting new stories into a blur of instruments,” the band declaims in its promotional copy. “King of Heck’s songs shine a light inwardly and outwardly, in order to contemplate what can be done as the responsible rulers of these small realities.”

Obviously, the band has spent plenty of time reflecting, indicative in the band’s melodic but brash song structures, juxtaposed against Kirschenbaum’s raspy screams and Kawada’s tempered vocal delivery. The band also just released a video for the single “Sup Doc,” which doubles as a spoof on horror films like The Blair Witch Project and The Shining.

“I think it’s really just been kind of a refocusing of what we like in songwriting and music,” Kirschenbaum says of the band. “We started [Alaska] after we heard Touché Amoré and La Dispute and things like that, the mid-2000 punk scene.” Now, the guitarist says the band has broadened its horizons, taking influence from bands like Interpol, Radiohead and Sonic Youth.

King of Heck embarks on a co-headlining tour with Austin, Texas, band Hikes on August 15 in Phoenix and will travel as far as New Orleans before returning to Las Vegas. After two years off the grid, Kirschenbaum says almost nothing has changed except time.

“In a way, it was the most natural thing to do,” he says. “We are really proud of it, but also it’s just us doing our thing. We know how to play music and that’s our communication. Hopefully people are into us doing that.”

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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