King Elementary and the Tenacity of Kudzu

“I hope we keep making records that are great in and of itself, not ‘They’re doing this, and they’re so young.’ We just want people to say, ‘They’re doing this, and it’s great.’”

Kudzu, the debut album from King Elementary, teams energy and youthful exuberance to make one of the most electric debuts of 2005. With obvious influences of Sonic Youth and At the Drive-in, the band’s sound is a mix of garage rock and grunge. The four Jackson, Miss., teens that comprise King Elementary—singer/guitarist Morgan Jones, guitarist Jeremy Upton, bassist Will Randolph, and drummer Andrew Fox—have played together since they were 14 and 15 years old. Now all 18 and 19, the band’s debut album does nothing to give away their young age, and has given the four a publicity hook that has only helped.

“A huge chunk of our appeal is our age, and has definitely helped us to catch people’s ear,” said Jones, now working on the follow up to Kudzu. “But hopefully in the future, it won’t be such a big factor to media.

“I hope we keep making records that are great in and of itself, not ‘They’re doing this, and they’re so young.’ We just want people to say, ‘They’re doing this, and it’s great.’”

Kudzu was the result of a one-album agreement King Elementary made with Oxford -based independent Sweet Tea Records. The agreement came about after producer and Sweet Tea owner Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello) saw the band live. Recording began in January 2004, but due to conflicts, the process took longer than expected.

“We were still all in high school, so I was playing baseball and Will [Randolph] was playing soccer, so we had to find weekends, holidays, and spring break to get it together,” said Jones. “But it was a really great experience—it was our first time in a big studio, which was a lot of fun, and I think the album sounds great.”

Based on the strength of Kudzu, the band signed to Capitol Records in the fall of 2004, and is currently recording demos for their first major-label release. Jones looks forward to the experience.

“It’s definitely different. When we found out that signing a deal with a major label was a possibility, we had the same doubts that everyone has, and I wasn’t sure if that was the right move,” he explained. “But in the end, we talked about it and decided if a major label wants to record us and we’re confident enough in our music, that’s all that matters.”

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