ONE DUDE SAT INSIDE Wimpy's on NW 21st. White T-shirt. Blond hair. Hip eyeglasses. Messenger bag. Unassuming features. It was Chuck Westmoreland, leader of the Kingdom, who celebrate the release of K1 (Arena Rock), their first full-length, Thursday, September 21, at the Doug Fir—appropriately enough, with a CD release show.
We met at Wimpy's to talk pop. While your chances of recognizing Westmoreland on the street are slimmer than the white-filtered American Spirits he burns through, if you haven't spent the last year in an oblivious coma, you recognize his band. Thanks to the Unitas EP, an absorbing live presence, and the song, "Die All Over Me," the Kingdom have put themselves on the tip of Portland's tongue. They've sparked a buzz with enough charge to power all the lights inside Wimpy's—and then some. One local paper asked, "Could this be the group sent to save Portland rock?"
K1 will satisfy... some. Pop is for the masses, but this record is more than that. It won't be for everyone. It's not an instant hit. It's a vision—a record inspired by Westmoreland's dreams and searching for answers. It's integrity-laden pop: a 25-minute burst of strings, horns, tickling leads, gleaming melodies, and age-old questions. It's a record about what we're all missing. Whether it answers these questions is unimportant.
K1 is indulgent, a record unashamed of its visceral poppiness, but far more complex than simple ear candy. It takes balls to say, "Let's bring in the strings." It's a concept album that's somehow not.
"It's not a fucking concept album. It's not about wizards and dragons," said Westmoreland in a male voice, nothing like the tiptoeing, marble-mouthed, man-pixie he is on record. "You want to make the kind of record you like listening to, and I really like pop records. I'd love to have made a record Portland really likes." He continues, "But when I go to a show, I want someone to rock my balls off. Our show is a lot more intense than the record."
Lucky for the Kingdom, if there are two things Portland really likes, it's pop records, and having its balls rocked. Westmoreland, who once upon a time acted in porno, saved this money shot for the end of our conversation, comparing his former profession with his current. "With pop music you're dealing with raw shit, like love and loss. With pornography you're creating fantasies for people. They're able to watch you fuck, and put themselves in that scenario, and for whatever reason feel good. Similarly pop music creates an environment people put themselves in, and ultimately, hopefully, feel good."
Come watch the Kingdom fuck, Thursday at the Doug Fir.