On The Phone with King Shelter
King Shelter, a name spliced together from Taco Bell commercials, self-identifies as a sort of psychedelic grunge/scum rock band. Labels aside, these boys merge their music with ideas ranging from space exploration to human insignificance and our culture of complacency. I had an opportunity to speak with Taylor Hecocks, who sings and plays guitar, about the absolute necessity of recognizing human limits while, still, opening your mind to speculations about our greater universe.
The phone conversation revealed a King Shelter trademark of satirical depth in music. Read on for the perfect collision that is King Shelter; between rock and experiencing this crazy life we all seem to float right on through.
Zach Capittifenton: Drums
Taylor Hecocks: Guitar & Vocals
John Harzan: Bass
David Noble: Lead Guitar
I would love if you could give some background on your band, how and when did you start King Shelter?
So, I’m originally from South Florida. In 2013 I moved out here to go to school and to play some music, and that’s where I met the other guys. We just started playing some house shows and things just started rolling from there. That’s kinda how we got started, just meeting up at school and messing around and stuff like that, so it’s a pretty basic, classic beginning.
That’s so cool, and when did you form your band officially?
The year was 2014… I’d say 2015 was our first real release. We’d been playing around since 2014, or late 2013. That was ‘Failure’ we put out in 2015.
Were you guys all involved in music before you started the band?
I had met David through classes in school and stuff because we were in the same major, music. I had made an album by myself that I had put out of Soundcloud, and that’s when we started getting hit up for shows on the internet. That’s when David and I decided to try and put a live set together, and we, via associated friends, found the other two dudes. Dave and I met up in classes and then we were hunting around campus for a drummer and a bass player, that’s when we found those guys. [Zach and John]
How did you come up with King Shelter, what’s that story?
To be honest I was back in Florida, working with a college record label under a different name that I didn’t really like the music too much, or anything. I was playing with my buddy, Hunter, and I think we were both in a Taco Bell, like probably stoned. If I remember correctly, and they had this TV, which is weird enough and makes me pretty confident that I was baked. We were trying to think of another name to start a new project and there was a Burger King commercial followed by an animal shelter commercial, so then we just put those two words together.
It was Shelter King for a little bit and then when I moved out here I think I just reversed it. It really means absolutely nothing…two random words found from commercials, baked in a Taco Bell, so I don’t know if that sounds good or bad but it is what it is. People always think it has some big conceptual meaning, and it does feel pretty ironic with the kind of material stuff we make, but in reality, it means a whole lot of nothing.
And also part of it too, I wasn’t really planning on turning it into a band, so for a little bit I thought it might be my own little alias since my last name has the word ‘cock’ in it. “I probably shouldn’t go by that.” It turned into a band so it worked out really nice.
You can really take this anywhere! What would you say is your self-described sound, your goals or anything of that nature…
Well for a little bit we were joking around with, it was kind of our old drummer’s joke, the ‘salad rock’ thing that seems to get passed around. All the blogs and people, they always really like that, like a self-proclaimed genre. We were calling it ‘salad rock’ for a while because we’re all into different kinds of rock, and it just kinda of seemed like a big salad bowl of rocks…we don’t really use it anymore just because it sounds kind of goofy.
My goals are to sound like the lovechild of Kurt Cobain and Thom Yorke, that’s my goal. I want to be their baby, so my new self-proclaimed genre is like ‘scum rock’ or something, but it really is just like all psychedelic grunge at this point.
It’s tough to say because I listen to a lot of, an obscene amount, of Radiohead and a lot of the grunge stuff, like mostly Nirvana for grunge, a lot of Flaming Lips, stuff like that. It has a little bit of grunge, a little bit of alt, just like… pretty stuff, and psychedelic in there to. So what do you even say, you kind of have to make up your own. It’s kind of scum rock n’ roll at this point, just a big cesspool of nonsense.
Such a hard one, but if you had to narrow it down, top album?
If I had to go top album it would probably be Radiohead, of course. I listen to so much Radiohead. My favorite album is probably ‘Hail to the Thief.’ That’s definitely the biggest impact for all of us, for this album and for the next.
Let’s talk about your inspiration behind your music in general and your newest album, ‘$hame.’
We made the album ‘Failure All Ourselves’, I got to produce everything and mix it and then we did a series of singles that were just a bunch of random songs that I had made and it just didn’t feel so great, we like making a collection of songs, as opposed to a bunch of random ones. We wanted to theme it up a little bit more and I wanted it to have a flow to it. It’s trying to progress from the sound, to move to the next step, and make it sound a little bit more interesting and not focus so much on the success of it. This one’s more for the fans who are into it, all the songs are over four minutes, it just takes its time.
The album is pretty much observational I didn’t want to take any stances on a lot of stuff, I just wanted to put a bunch of things out there that I see. A lot of it’s very satirical and maybe sounds sassy like I’m calling somebody out, but it’s really not. A lot of it is saying what I saw…very observational. I end up looking at myself, trying to look at everything objectively with a little bit of satire in there. It’s definitely a lot of just looking at everything and saying what I see instead of trying to make some big, old sociopolitical statement.
That’s what lead to making this album too…being frustrated with the state of unknown and the complacency that everybody’s in. Everyone’s fine with not knowing the answers, it seems. At least the people walking by me on the streets, they don’t really care and it’s frustrating.
The overlying theme is we look too much at Earth and we don’t focus enough on space exploration, to be honest. That’s actually what I was thinking of when I was making the whole thing, I spent a lot of time in LA during that process and it gets kind of depressing out there, it’s kind of a rat race, big old ant pile of just chaos. You get kind of fed up with it. So not in a nutshell…that’s what it’s all about. *laughs*
Let’s talk more about your perspective on more space exploration…
I’ve gotten very into studying and researching space and outer space and kind of all that intergalactic stuff. I found it interesting and watched a lot of documentaries, different things, trying to learn as much as I could about it. The more I learned the more it seemed like it was kind of crazy how we spend all of our time trying to get our personal selves to a better point for these materialistic things that, frankly, won’t really be here if we don’t find a new planet to live on. The sun is going to burn this planet up, it won’t be here anymore, and no one really seems to care, everyone wants to make some cash and be with some big booty strippers… when in reality those big booty strippers won’t be here if we don’t get to the next planet. That gets kind of frustrating to me. We focus so much on what we’re doing here when we should be focusing on getting to the next spot before this one runs out.
Space is also the most beautiful thing that exists. It’s crazy looking. This stuff is really interesting. People get stuck in the idea of the layout and the timeline that’s set for every single human, from birth, you have to do these certain, specific steps to be successful, in order to play your part. What if I don’t want to? What if I’m not interested in that. That’s what kicks off this album, [the song] Pick Your Poison is about how I don’t really want to get a job and a wife and have kids and a white picket fence and send my kids off to college, make them do the same exact thing that I did. It all gets a little mundane, a little strange. These requirements that are set for you, why are they set for you? Who decided? Why are these our main focuses? Why is everyone always talking about sociopolitical issues when we’re not funding NASA, we’re not funding space exploration…we’re not putting our emphasis on the next, we’re just putting it in all this social, cultural stuff. Which is fine, which is cool. Culture is beautiful but, you know, it’s not beautiful when it doesn’t exist anymore. When are people going to start focusing on the longevity of culture, as opposed to the quality?
Shifting gears a little… Do you have an especially pivotal song that you’ve written or has been important to you, personally?
On the old album, ‘Failure,’ was the most important song to me. That album was for the “everyman.” It’s super personal, it talks about a lot of the things people struggle with internally. I felt like I finally explained myself in the right way, people were able to relate to it, so that one was always very special to me and to the band.
On the next album, ‘$hame’, there’s a song on it called ‘All Right All Wrong’ where we did what we wanted on the track and made a heavy differentiation between Earth and space with music and sounds and instrumentals. It was really satisfying, really nice and it just turned out exactly how we wanted it to. Finally got to say some shit I wanted to say, so that felt good…it might ruffle a feather or two, but sometimes you have to. That song is very much about human insignificance, knowing how small you are in comparison to what’s around you, and not just the people next to you, but the stars in the sky and the sun that’s shining on you every day. Also living in LA, everyone thinks that they are God, that they are the next big thing. It just gets old.
Do you mind if I ask you about God? Your current beliefs on spirituality?
Dave, John, and I grew up in Christian homes and, for myself, it’s more of a state of trying to discover what the right thing is. Having personal experiences that really seem to point to a spiritual realm, it’s pretty interesting. For me, I like to stay in the unknown. I like to keep my mind open to those possibilities. A friend of mine once explained to me that things continue to get bigger and bigger…what’s the next biggest thing? Does it go on for infinity? Or does it finally, at some spot, meet the greatest of the great, that being “God”?
How can we say that doesn’t exist when we haven’t even explored 95% of our goddamn ocean? How are we supposed to know if there’s even a god way out there, we just can’t. So, I’m more on the agnostic plane, where it’s like maybe…
It just got to the point of where I wanted to know more. I get a little exhausted at having to use so much faith as opposed to statistics and facts and what we can actually discover and know. So I’ve been more interested in discovery instead of just closing my eyes and hoping. Christians would be upset with me for saying this but if God is real then I want to find him. I want to prove it. That’s where I stand on all that.
The spiritual realm has definitely made itself pretty apparent in my personal experiences, but not in a tangible way to make it seem real to anybody else but myself. A lot of people have those kinds of experiences where a spiritual world of sorts has made itself very apparent to that individual. I feel like you have probably had your own experiences where it’s like “I don’t really understand what that was…” and who knows it could be a crazy coincidence, like evolution begging, it could be something like that, where the stars align and it happens. Or it could be a divine intervention, who’s to say.
Everyone sees you as being a part of your band but what about your outside life…anything you really love doing?
I actually skate a lot. So pretty much if I have any free time I’m gonna hang out with my homies at Brea Park and just skate there all day.
Do you have a craziest concert experience, one you’ve played or one you’ve gone to?
There’s been an obscene amount of just ridiculous things that have happened at shows. One of the ones that also sticks to me, it was the worst I ever felt after. This was back before Failure ever came out, when we were doing all the house shows, playing like three times a week, everywhere we could. This kid threw a big house festival thing for his birthday and it was just a bunch of college kids, going way too crazy. We were playing in the yard and everyone was so drunk and running around…this guy fell into my microphone, hit it into my mouth and it cut my lip open and it was bleeding. I freaked out, lost my cool, screamed at the guy. And it turned out that the guy whose birthday it was and everyone booed us off. It was so bad and I just felt so awful. That was one of the craziest, it got out of control in a matter of like 15 seconds. I feel so much shame so if you’re reading this, my bad.
How can people find your music?
Pretty much anywhere. We have Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, those are the only three we still update.
Any last words of wisdom to finish it off?
Call your mother, tell her you love her and do what you think you should do. Have a good night my friend.
Thank you again to Taylor for taking the time to talk about music, culture, and the “finer things in life.” Give King Shelter’s newest album, $hame, a listen, as well as the rest of their music. Their songs are permanent residents on my favorite playlists and, as a friend, I recommend you check them out online and in concert.