We get to know rock/funk/indie collective The King of Mars.

So who are you?

The King of Mars is a rock/funk/indie band. We currently have nine band members in our collective including a horn section and auxiliary percussion. We’ve gone through a lot of lineup changes in the past, but this band has technically been playing since 2015. Our goal is to make our listener feel the same kind of passion we get from playing the music live. We put a heavy emphasis on musicianship without sacrificing catchy hooks and thought-provoking lyrics.

Where are you from?

The majority of us live in Chicago along with a few of us living in Elmhurst, a suburb right outside of the city. I (John Bruner) met our guitar player, Matt Gordon, in a guitar class at Columbia College Chicago. From there I showed him the songs I’d been writing and he introduced me to our bassist, JJ Frale. Then we met the rest of our band through Columbia classes until we had enough members where we could hardly fit on a stage.

How long have you been together?

I’ve been working on songs for The King of Mars since I was a freshman in college back in 2013, but the first time I got the band onstage for an actual show was in 2015. Now we have a very different lineup and a revamped style, but technically we’ve been going at it a little less than four years now and we don’t plan on slowing down any time soon.

How long have you been playing music?

All the musicians in this band have a music degree or are in the process of getting a degree, so we’ve all been playing/studying music for a long time now. Personally, I started playing the guitar when I was about nine years old and started writing songs when I was 16. I’d also loved playing the guitar, but I realized my real passion was songwriting so I knew I had to find a band to help play my songs. Since then I’ve been putting all my effort into making a career out of playing these songs.

Why should people listen to your band?

A lot of modern music focuses on either jamming hooks and one-liners down your throat or showing off obnoxious musicality so much so that you can’t remember any hooks or lyrics from the song. We aim to create the best of both worlds with our tunes. All nine of our members are (in my modest opinion) insanely gifted at their respective instruments so we have the musicality covered. We also put a lot of our efforts towards the songwriting aspect and making hooks that get stuck in your head until you have to listen again. We’re different and we’re working our asses off to get our music in your ears. If we’ve piqued your interest in any way, look up The King of Mars on Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube and listen for yourself!

What is your ideal touring line-up?

One of my favorite modern artists is Father John Misty. I’ve taken a lot of songwriting influence from their songs and lyrical ideas. To open up for them would be an honor and I think their crowd would really connect with our music as well. As much as we focus on hooks and lyrics, nothing beats a top notch groove. We’ve modelled a lot of our horn lines and rhythmic ideas from Stevie Wonder. Being able to play before him would be the ultimate dream.

What does music mean to you?

I’ve always had trouble dealing with heavy emotional events in my life and music has always been the easiest way to move through them. Music is the one cathartic outlet that’s been a constant in my life. All that aside, I love music because you can spend your whole life studying it, but somehow still find new ideas, concepts and techniques. Music never ends.

What was the first record you bought when you were younger?

I was fortunate enough to have an older brother who introduced me to all kinds of music that most seven-year-old kids wouldn’t listen to until their teenage years. The first record I ended up buying was Bleach by Nirvana because my brother already had Nevermind and In Utero.

What artists first inspired you to start playing music? 

When I was nine I saw the movie School of Rock and from then I felt like I needed to play the guitar. My brother showed me some songs by Red Hot Chili Peppers and from then on I was hooked. John Frusciante’s guitar playing blew my mind every time I’d listen, especially to their live stuff. Then I got into The Beatles and realized how powerful a well-written song could be.

What’s the most aesthetically pleasing album cover that you have in your collection?

My favorite album cover in terms of aesthetics is Kid A by Radiohead. Unrelated, but that’s one of my favorite albums in terms of music as well. The cover just always resonated with me for some reason. I love how the white mountains reflect onto the ground and the sky has this eery brown hue to it that sets a mood for the whole album.

What kind of movie genre do you think your music would best be the soundtrack for?

As much as I like to goof around with the band during photoshoots and shows, our songs usually end up being more serious and intense. I always pictured our songs in the background of a drama or action movie. Not those shitty dramas though, I’m talking like Good Will Hunting level dramas.

Recommend us a record, a book, and a movie…

I listen to all kinds of music, including rap, and right now I’ve been obsessed with Freddie Gibs’ Piñata, produced by Madlib. Currently, I’m reading Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace and if you haven’t heard or seen all the memes about the movie, Bird Box, I suggest checking it out.

Any last words for the readers of Highwire Magazine?

If you’ve made it this far in the interview, thank you. We sincerely appreciate the time you took to read what we’re dedicating our lives to. We love each and every one of our fans and anyone else who happens to support us in some way. If you’re interested, please follow The King of Mars on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, Apple Music, etc…

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