It was Memorial Day, 2012. Ahead of their set at Metallica's inaugural Orion Festival in Atlantic City, the members of East L.A. rock outfit Kyng paced anxiously backstage.
They were greeted by the man who handpicked them to play: James Hetfield. He then introduced them onstage. After hearing Hetfield sing their praises, the group proceeded to win over the thousands of fans assembled. Though they've played countless shows since then, this one sticks with them.
“That was intense,” says group member Eddie Veliz, sipping on pho at a Koreatown restaurant.
All three members of the group come from Mexican-American families, with drummer Pepe Clarke (born Jose Clarke Mangaña) immigrating to the States from Juarez when he was 18.
But they don't want to be known as the Mexican hard rock band.
“If people ask, it's something we'll admit,” Clarke confesses. “But we want to be known for our music, not our ethnicity.”
Prior to the trio's formation in 2008, Veliz and bassist Tony Castaneda played in Ounce of Self, with Clarke drumming in Ankla. The two bands toured together, and when Ankla's bass player fell ill, Ankla enlisted Castaneda to fill in. At the time, the duo joked about forming their own band, and at the bassist's insistence, Veliz had to be part of the equation. After Ankla's van and instrument trailer were stolen, the band was in disarray, and that misfortune led to Kyng's beginnings.
From their first practice session, when they wrote their first song, “Falling Down,” the trio sensed they were onto something. A year after they got together, their demo landed in the hands of SiriusXM's Octane radio DJ Jose Mangin, who knew them from the Ankla days. Mangin has been instrumental to the band's growth. In addition to playing them on his show, he helped set them up with a manager and booking agent.
Since then, Kyng's heavy riffs have won over fans across the country. They've toured with veterans like Danzig, Megadeth and played at Bonnaroo earlier in the year.
Their 2011 debut Trampled Sun was self-released; they were briefly signed to Realid Records, but were dropped from the label two weeks before they went to record their second album.
But they still managed to land on their feet. Their sophomore album, Burn The Serum, will be released on label Razor & Tie (which has distribution through Sony) in early 2014. They describe the record as more melodic and heavier than their debut.
But above anything else, they can't wait to hit the road.
“We love playing live,” Veliz says. “That's when we're at our best, and once February rolls around, we'll be on the road for another year or two giving people a reason to know as more than just those Mexicans dudes in a band.”