Introduce us to the band! What are your names and what do you do in the band?
Good morning from Tucson, AZ. My name is Ryan Rosoff, and I have been the singer/guitarist/songwriter for the band Little King since 1997. We also have Manny Tejeda on bass and Eddy Garia on drums (and also the engineer for the last 5 releases).
The band also works with David Hamilton and Christina Hernandez (cello and violin, respectively), Jessica Flores (vocals and some live sax), and the usual suspects of Daniel Salcido (mixing engineer) and Maor Appelbaum (mastering).
LK has morphed almost continously since the first album, TRANSMOUNTAIN, came out in May of ’97. Having said that, Ed has played drums in the studio and live since 2007, and Manny has been on the last 3 releases as well.
Where do you call home?
2. How long have you been together as a band and how did you find each other?
As I said, the first Little King record came out in 1997. It’s…honest? I mean, hopefully one learns and improves along the way, and I think that is particularly true with the advent of better and more affordable recording technology.
The band is “based” in El Paso, TX, although Manny lives in Delaware and I’m in Tucson. But all of our records have been tracked in EP, and most of the musicians through the years have close ties to the Borderland.
In reference to the current lineup, I met Eddy in about 1996. He and his brother Danny owned a club in downtown El Paso called The Attic (which later became Debut Records…and then a probation office!) Before Little King existed, I was in a band called Tweed Quickly with future LK players Shannon Brady (bass) and Scott Marestein (drums and vocals). We played at Ed’s club a lot, and eventually he and I discussed working on a record together. Finally, in 2003, I tracked the album VIRUS DIVINE with him at his place, Krank Studios. He didn’t play drums on that album, but he has on all of the subsequent releases.
Manny and I met in about 2016 in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. PARTYING! That was a time in our lives where raging was the order of the day, and he and I just connected immediately personally and musically. Manny grew up in the Dominican Republic, and he’s about 10 years younger than me, so he brought a diverse palate of tastes to the table. I think between him and Eddy, the band has never sounded better, and I love both of those guys as brothers.
3. Do you have a special songwriting recipe you follow?
I really do…and while it changes from time to time for a particular song, I basically start as what I started as…a guitarist. I LOVE the guitar…it’s my chosen therapy dog. My dad gave me a Washburn acoustic guitar in 1988, and I think it’s my oldest surviving possession.
When it’s time to write, I typically tune the Washburn up and start noodling. It’s usually a collection of notes, then riffs, then parts, and eventually a (hopefully) cohesive song. I spend A LOT of time in this stage of writing. Because I have so many songs out in the world, I try to make sure I’m avoiding repetition. Nothing needs to be re-said, right? Musically and lyrically. I also stay away from cliches, mess with a variety of time signatures and tempos, and keep in the back of my mind that, most likely, I will have to sing to the song I’m writing. That keeps me honest!
When the song(s) are done, we track the basics…drums, guitar, bass, and maybe a scratch vocal. I take those rough mixes home and wander the desert. Seriously. I sing and write and walk and think about how I might try to clearly and elegantly say what I need to say. I have a degree in Creative Writing, so words are important to who Little King has always been. I want to leave a legacy of thoughts and ideas that are digestible but also make the listener THINK. I love the idea of challenging sensibilities within the context of a rock song. Having said that, we probably aren’t great background music. Stoner tunes, not drunk tunes!
When I’m ready, I go back in and sing, add the guitar solos (the fun part), and oftentimes over the last 4 years, we add David Hamilton’s string arrangements. It’s always been important to me to keep the ethos of a live band on the record, so fortunately Dave and Christina have been able to join us live for some Little King shows. They slay live, for sure!
As we finish up, the tracks are mixed by either Eddy or Daniel Salcido, who’s our secret weapon out in LA at Command Space Audio. He then kicks mixes back to us for review, we tweak a bit, and finally they end up in the capable hands of Maor Appelbaum, mastering master. I truly do admire my team’s skill and their aplomb…putting up with yours truly can be an arduous task. Having said that, I know what I want and how to get there, so my notes are always concise.
4. How would members of your family describe your music to someone that hasn’t heard it?
Dynamic, diverse, heavy (in sound sometimes, in sentiment ALWAYS), and confounding. No one has ever really been able to put a label on the Little King sound which suits me just fine. If a record is 40 minutes long, shouldn’t it reflect a variety of moods? I write what I feel, and I organize the song order to reflect a theme that may be linear but is DEFINITELY in service of a larger theme.
Prog Rock? Heavy Rock? Alternative Metal? No clue…I’ll let you all decide. I do think a journey is the thing, especially in our modern age of Netflix Series and short attention span playlists. If I can get the listener to come along for a quick ride, I feel that’s good enough.
6. Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Totally used to, and it involved a modicum of self-destruction. Not anymore, though…I’ve been a non-drinker since 2019, and I imagine I will always be moving forward. Ed and Manny do their thing, and we just get up on stage and put the rehearsal time and passion into you. Can you feel it?
Musicianship is super-important in our style of music, so there is a decent amount of warm-up. I am actually working with a new vocal coach named Stephanie Hansen, and the exercises and pointed criticism are incredibly valuable. Can’t wait to record a new record with the improved “vocal toolbox” she has given me. (Note to singers…get a coach! You can never imagine what you don’t know until you know it.)
9. What key elements do you believe makes up a successful song?
As referenced before, avoiding cliches is a good starting point. If you feel like you have heard something before, you probably have! Is the direction of the song clear, both lyrically and musically? Everything, in my opinion, or at least in our kind of music, should serve the song. If the changes and tempo and attack feed the theme, and if it never drags too much into a place that is hard to work through, then you may have something.
I love all kinds of music; the regular rotation includes classical piano and guitar, reggae, 90’s hip hop, hardcore, and jam bands. It’s important to keep an open mind and to not pigeonhole oneself. I never think, “Oh, this doesn’t sound like Little King…better scrap it.”
I mean, in essence, if it’s coming from us, it IS Little King! I think our fans appreciate that.
Some songs don’t follow conventional structures…some violate everything I just listed, really…and they still work. Perhaps the most important things are honesty and originality. I’ve never made a song to become a hit. If you try hard and maybe keep getting better, the hope is that the respect will follow.
10. When writing, how do you know when it is finally done?
Ahhh…I think Neil Peart called it “the death of hope.” For me, I just want it to sound good and feel polished. I trust Daniel and Maor, too. If a track has run the gauntlet of me, Eddy, Daniel, and Maor, it’s probably ready to go.
I have surrounded myself with humans who are better than me at what they do. Experts in their craft, if you will. This subversion of my ego is key! I cannot let me opinions override someone who simply knows better than me. Yes, I have the final say. But every good manager hires great people and lets them cook. I can provide those ingredients, but I am NOT a drummer, mixing engineer, or mastering engineer. I’m a guy with a guitar and a dream.
11. What song of yours are you most proud of?
HA! They’re all my babies…how dare you ask me to choose?
Without going too deep, the newest song is my favorite. “Silver Tongue” was recorded last year and finished in early 2023, and I think it is the quintessential Little King opus. It is about 6:20 in length, and we threw a bit of everything in there (although I kept the arrangement as a power trio.) “Silver” alludes to the 25th anniversary of the band, and the “Tongue” part…well…look it up!
It’s groovy, moody, heavy, dynamic, and it really does pay homage to every previous album while keeping the full force momentum of the last 4 years. Catapults us into the future, I think. The vocals are something I’m especially proud of, as is the message of introspection and motivation to keep on keeping on. This business is HARD! Fortunately, I’m not in it for any other reason that to keep adding to my legacy, OUR legacy, and to play music with my friends and a high level. What else could I have asked for as a 16-year old new guitar player? I’m awash with gratitude…
13. Are you able to write while on the road or do you need a calm familiar space like home?
I can write almost anywhere, but I really do need a guitar. Sometimes I’ll travel and borrow one, buy one, or just use my imagination. When the muse strikes, I try and stay fluid and open to the moments of inspiration. There are times when I say, “Okay, time to write. GO!” But mostly, when it hits, I document it and move to the noodling stage pretty quickly.
14. What’s the most embarrassing thing to happen on stage or on tour?
Oh wow…yeah, I have one. We were headlining a show at the venerable Club 101 in El Paso in like 2002, and our drummer kicked a hole right through his bass drum head. The show was already veering off into drunken stupidity, and that seemed to elevate said stupidity to new heights. I believe I feel to the floor, solo’d on my back for about 5 minutes, while a couple women poured whisky continually down my throat while Scott changed his drum head.
The rest of that show is a blur. Did it even happen?
15. What can BleachBANGS do to help you in any way?
A review of “Silver Tongue” when it comes out on 3/25 would be amazing! You don’t have to like it…but if you’d give is a listen and read the words and then react to it, we’d be obliged. It’s about the art, not the personalities! So, if you like the art, or at least give it a fair shake, that’s all we could ever ask.
16. How can everyone keep up with everything you have going on? Where can they get albums/merch?
Please visit us at www.littlekingtunes.com or on all socials @Littlekingtunes (FB/IG/Twitter/Youtube = Little King Official). We have the new song dropping on March 25 everywhere, so you will find those links on our digital platforms. We are also planning a live video release this summer and then touring for a couple weeks in October…if you like what you hear, let us know and let’s be friends.