It's no secret to most local music fans why MidWest Kings went on hiatus and disappeared from the local music landscape. After roughly eight years together and a couple of variations in the line-up, principal members Andy Skib and Neal Tiemann got the call, and they couldn't turn it down. After David Cook won American Idol and started putting his touring band together, he immediately tapped the friends who had asked him to join their band after the dissolution of Axium.
Now, two years and a world tour later, Skib and Tiemann are returning with the latest incarnation of Midwest Kings and a completely different perspective.
"We never officially said we were going to stop," singer/guitarist Andy Skib said. "Neal and I made ... Well, not really a pact, but maybe just realized this will be the fun release for us--when we have time and because we can, not because we feel like we have to. I think it will be fun and healthy for us to go back to MidWest Kings right now."
Appropriately enough, the first (and for the moment, only) MWK show on the calendar is a performance at Flytrap Music Hall Thursday, Feb. 18.
And for those who are wondering, the lineup will consist of Skib and Tiemann, accompanied by drummer Kyle Peek and bassist Joey Clement, both of which played in David Cook's band.
For the potential set list, Skib indicated that the group will play roughly an hour, pulling from each of the band's releases. There will probably only be one or two songs drawn from the first CD, as he and Tiemann want to keep things fresh and moving forward. After all, it's been nearly a decade since MidWest Kings played its first gig.
"I remember our first show was at the Full Moon in probably 2000 or 2001," Skib said. "I had another band, Brookside (his first project, with guitarist Miles Ralston) that was playing at Full Moon, and we were friends with Tony Henry, who booked us there. He had the idea to put both bands on back-to-back. After that one show with both bands, I pretty much did just MidWest Kings, for the most part, and that was almost 10 years ago."
Part of the attraction to MidWest Kings was always the chemistry between Skib and guitarist Neal Tiemann. Combined with a number of incredibly well written tunes, it's hard to believe MidWest Kings never got signed to a record deal of its own.
In regards to the songwriting process, Skib said, "To be honest, Neal's just an amazing songwriter. Us truly writing together was rare. I mean, I did a little; I'd bring in a guitar riff or something occasionally, but we never really sat down and wrote together. Our first and only true collaboration was the song 'Undertow,' on the first album.
"Our real chemistry comes from just playing together and feeding off of each other," he continued. "For the most part, though, the songwriting is all Neal."
Naturally, the conversation eventually turned to the experiences during the past year and a half touring with David Cook. Discussing the surreal experience to do a world tour, including all of the things that come with it, such as playing Saturday Night Live, Skib was typically thoughtful and transparent.
"I guess the way I dealt with it in the beginning, I can relate to when we got to go to Iraq," he said. "We got to fly over in a Black Hawk Helicopter, and as I was looking out this thought came to mind--if I really thought about it, I could possibly freak out. I mean, like Saturday Night Live--I can either play or fall on my ass. So yes, it was very surreal, but I tried not to think about it too much and just look at it as fun.
"It was also cool being out with Dave and Neal," Skib said. "I think that was one of Dave's motives in bringing us along. He thought this is supposed to be fun and he wanted it to be just that."
Transitioning from being the front man to the band members wasn't difficult for Skib, he said. After all, when Cook began his solo career here in Tulsa, even before he appeared on American Idol, Skib was playing in his band as well, so it seemed natural to continue playing with him.
Now that Cook's tour has wrapped up, and Skib and Tiemann have some free time on their hands, it seems a good time to revisit MidWest Kings.
Although the song writing process has begun again for Cook, the pair is waiting on a call back to duty and has the freedom to do what they want in the meantime.
The original plan was to play Tulsa and a few key shows in the region, but booking specific dates has been difficult as bassist Joey Clement is playing with another artist that limits his availability. As Skib said, the group doesn't want to book any shows too far in advance, then realize they can't play and have to cancel. As such, Tulsa is the only planned show at this time; although an appearance in Los Angeles is a possibility, if the group can get something booked.
There's no pressure this time around, however. After all, this time it's about relaxing and enjoying the ride.
While Thursday evening's show is for the fans, it's also for Skib and Tiemann. That's how they've gone about constructing the set list and addressing a return to MidWest Kings. Again, Skib returned to his earlier comment: "We want to make this fun for us. This is something we get to do, not something we have to do."
Even so, there will be plenty to look forward to by the fans. Not only will it be an evening to revisit some favorite songs with old friends, the boys will be back with CD in hand, as they finally get around to a physical release of the band's last EP, Luna Despierta.
Skib said that when it was originally completed, the group didn't have enough money to fund a hard copy release, especially not knowing what demand would be, so they did a digital-only release. Since then, fans have asked for physical copies of the disc, so that wish will be granted.
When MidWest Kings rolls into town, the band will have limited edition copies of the disc in hand. This version will be completed out with a new design and artwork by Nick Gibson and a pair of bonus tracks--an acoustic demo and an old song, which Skib said never made it onto another record.
With the Luna Despierta EP and bonus cuts addressed, a door was opened, and I couldn't help but take advantage. If the band is still an ongoing entity and Skib and Tiemann are taking the time and money to formally release a hard copy of the last EP, is there a potential for new MWK material in the future?
Skib said that they have a plan to record at least one more EP as MidWest Kings and a few songs have already been demoed. There's no timeline and no pressure, however. After all--this time they're doing it because they can, not because they have to.
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