Santa Rosa’s Kingsborough band to open for ZZ Top
By the time it was announced that Sonoma County rock and roll band Kingsborough would get to open Tuesday for ZZ Top at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts a second time, it had already sold out. All that means is ticket buyers are in for an even bigger treat than before.
From Santa Rosa, the group consists of four, who all provide vocals, with frontman Billy Kingsborough and Alex Leach on guitar, bass in the hands of Chris Magione, rounding out with drummer John Whitney, the only member not originally from here, but Atlanta.
They first opened in 2015 for these “Tres Hombres,” as ZZ Top titled its third album, which is one of the Kingsborough band’s favorites.
“To open up for them again, especially in our hometown, it’s just unreal,” said Billy Kingsborough in a phone interview. “We feel extremely fortunate to get the opportunity.”
Back then, they were fairly new to the game, having released their first album, “The Night, The Grind, And the Woes,” in January that year. Now Kingsborough is coming off their sophomore record from 2017, “1544,” with “Low Down” and “Subtle Lies” released as singles.
Billy Kingsborough speculates, at least for them, that this time around will be a little more enjoyable because they won’t be as nervous. The biggest difference is having “1544” out, touring extensively to support it and how they’ve evolved over the past couple of years.
“We’re excited to showcase it on a big stage,” said Kingsborough. “There’s nothing like playing on a stage like that, having everything just be loud, in your face and rocking.”
He’ll never forget the best part about last time, how ZZ Top leader Billy Gibbons was walking around, hanging out and being very personable with everyone backstage. With any luck, he said, this year won’t be all a blur for him afterward, since he knows what to expect.
Being in their hometown adds to the pressure as well, since Kingsborough wants to give their fans and families something special. They aim to kick it up a notch, try new things and push the envelope. Whether it’s playing locally or abroad, the love spreads wide.
“It feels a little different,” said Kingsborough. “We feel like we have to raise the bar a little bit because these are people that have seen us since our infancy.”
From October to November 2018, the band went on its longest tour and first ever in Europe, titled “Maiden Voyage,” performing 18 shows in 21 days. They visited seven countries: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland.
Perhaps the highlight of it all was opening for the Robert Cray Band at Tobakken in Esbjerg, Denmark on Nov. 1, which only solidified how special this venture became for them. It was tiring, exhilarating and incredible, all the more so with how fast they moved.
“You try to take everything in,” said Kingsborough, “while also trying to stay focused and put on the best show possible. It definitely was grueling at times.”
Despite how tiring it is, Kingsborough admits touring can be addictive, and the band is excited to go back out. While the new year begins with many aspirations after this big opener, they plan to head back to Europe in 2020, in hopes of keeping the ball rolling there.
Kingsborough said the band is working on an album and hopes release it later this year, while also touring in the states between now and the end of 2019. They’ve started the writing process and are looking forward to growing throughout the endeavor.
“We’re the type of people that are never satisfied,” said Kingsborough, “we’re always going to push to explore and evolve our sound.”
This was the case with “1544”, named after the street address number they lived on in Santa Rosa from 2015 to 2017. Their experiences during that period inspired many of Kingsborough’s songs, and the biggest difference was writing together more.
It was a collaborative effort, whereas the initial album was their first go, with Billy Kingsborough bringing a lot of songs to the table, primarily when they were forming the band. The record was an introduction to simply finding their style and trying things out.
“The evolution of the songwriting definitely shows,” said Kingsborough, “to where each song on ‘1544’ - musically and lyrically - showcases every aspect of all our personalities.”
Kingsborough couldn’t give many details on the next album but mentioned it will definitely be different than the last. However, the same Grammy-nominated producer, Damien Page Lewis - who has been said to bring out their best - will be involved again.
With an extensive songwriting process, the band wants every album to offer something new, but still maintain the group’s signature rock ‘n’ roll flavor. For Kingsborough, rock and roll is freedom. If they don’t have that freedom, then rock and roll is something else.
“Whether it’s freedom from your nine-to-five, the place that you live in or your current mental situation,” said Kingsborough. “It’s an escape, it’s always been an escape for us.”
Being an indie band allows them to make anything they want, without the constraints of a record label, or what’s going to sell. Kingsborough just wants to make music, and if people like it, then they do. This mentality has gotten them far, and hopefully even further.
Billy Kingsborough couldn’t be more thrilled and is extremely thankful for the fanbase of Sonoma County. They’ve been a band for almost seven years now and have gotten to do a number of incredible things already. He and the rest of them know it’s only just beginning.
“It’s because of the support from this community, from Sonoma County, that’s allowed us to do that,” said Kingsborough, “and to push forward as independent musicians.”