The Mood Kings
"My earliest exposure to music was a gumbo of everything from Elvis to Kiss to Glen Campbell. I really loved Michael Jackson, disco, funk, and 80’s pop. When hair metal started happening, I took to it – I think it was my teen angst that connected with the aggression because I also enjoyed listening to the rap that was coming out at the time like NWA and Public Enemy."
~Herman Ospina, lead vocalist / guitarist
When it comes to making cool Alt Rock music with tight harmonies, there's a telepathic connection between the members of this Charlotte, North Carolina Alternative Rock trio. Herman Ospina, lead vocalist / guitarist, Joey Townsend, backup vocalist / bass and Mark Schwarze, drums, are The Mood Kings.
By Kreig Marks, September 2021
KM: Hi Herman. Welcome to Tru Rock Revival Magazine. You guys have a new single out, “Dust and Bone.” Very cool song. Where do your roots lie, as far as your sound?
HO: Hello! Thanks for checking out the song and appreciate the compliment! As far as our sound, we’ve played all kinds of music in our time together, and I think we’ve taken everything we’ve enjoyed over the years and just mashed it together into something that we hope sounds pleasing.
KM: Are you guys fans of Elvis Costello, Tom Petty and the Smithereens? Listening to your songs, not just "Dust and Bone," but all the songs from “The Wonder of it All,” I hear some of those as influences. Would you agree?
HO: Man, we love all those groups especially Petty, but I wouldn’t say we’ve been directly influenced by any of those bands, especially with our recent songs. Perhaps it’s just tapping into that universal muse that brings those comparisons to mind. We are big fans of hooks and vocal harmonies; we also want to tell a compelling story while people groove out to the music. Hopefully, we are achieving that with the songs.
KM: From what I've heard so far, I think you're on a solid track with that. The harmonies, I love the way Joey throws his backup vocals into the songs. That caught me by surprise, seeing Joey and hearing that high harmony coming from a guy who looks like, if provoked, could give someone a good beat down.
HO: Ha, yes!! Joey has a great range and he is so versatile. We’ve never had to sit down and work hard on nailing harmonies; he just naturally knows where to place his voice and it always works so well. I don’t really remember a time when Joey couldn’t sing. He’s always either been the main singer or an additional vocalist in most of the bands I’ve seen him with. We’ve always been able to match our timbres without a lot of problems. It’s great to have that, since I know that it can be difficult to work out harmonies for some folks. Or maybe it works so well because we don’t want to provoke him. (laughing)
KM: (laughing) Take me through the writing and recording process with your music. Listening to all of it, it’s not complicated, but it’s very cool and you guys really gel. You definitely have a unique sound and a band “identity.”
HO: That’s so cool to hear. We have tried to carve out our own niche with our sound. Usually, ideas are shared via an iPhone memo and if it sticks, we all chime in with suggestions or edits. If it seems like a keeper, we’ll bring it out during our face-to-face rehearsals and try it out. That’s usually when we’ll know if it’s something special. It comes down to us being transparently honest with each other in regards to how the song is crafted. We try to trim the fat and hone each tune as perfectly as we can. Once we take these songs to the studio, it morphs into another process, but we try not to add too many ingredients. It’s like cooking. Get a great-tasting base dish and then add some spices to make it pop.
KM: You guys crafted The Wonder of it All in 2018. What’s taken so long to put out the new music, COVID? Were your fans getting a bit restless?
HO: The original plan in 2019 was to write and rehearse with an eye towards recording in 2020 but our plans got COVID-sidetracked. We regrouped in early 2021 and decided to try recording/releasing one song at a time with a video, which is something we’ve never tried. It speeds things along and you’re able to keep fresh material out there longer. At least that’s what we’re hoping to do.
KM: When did you begin singing? Have you been doing this since you were a kid?
HO: Honestly, I can’t call what I do as ‘singing’!
KM: Why do you say that? I think your singing is pretty solid. You've got good tone, good range.
HO: My wife is a trained singer, and Joey has a much better grasp on the craft than myself. I have been doing this on/off since I was in my teens, but really never have sung this much until TMK.
KM: Personally, who were you listening to as a kid?
HO: Man, my earliest exposure to music was a gumbo of everything from Elvis, to Kiss, to Glen Campbell. I really loved Michael Jackson, Disco, Funk, and 80’s Pop. When Hair Metal started happening, I took to it. I think it was my teen angst that connected with that aggression, because I also enjoyed listening to the Rap that was coming out at the time, like NWA and Public Enemy.
KM: Man, that is a gumbo! That's one hell of an eclectic mix! How did you, Joey and Mark get together?
HO: We’ve known each other since we were kids really, and we’ve been playing music since our mid teens. We’ve played in countless bands together, covering everything from Rock to Pop to Metal. We reformed a previous band for a one-off show a few years ago and afterwards, Joey texted us and asked when we were going to write some music. I had some musical ideas that I had stored on my phone, so I sent him and Mark some of that, and shortly afterwards, we had some ideas on the board. It wasn’t long before it escalated into a band situation.
KM: You have a big family. 6 kids? How did you keep them all occupied last year during the pandemic? I know that couldn’t have been easy.
HO: It was challenging but we’ve always been an active family. As things were shutting down, we got more involved with things we already enjoy – biking, hiking, exploring, etc. We just had to get creative and find things that were still open to the public but not inundated with people.
KM: Great things to keep busy with. I hear you about the crowds. Were you Joey and Mark able to get together last year during "lockdown" to write and record or did you keep some distance and do “distance” writing?
HO: We all live approximately 2 hrs. from each other, so we’ve always done distance writing. The pandemic just made us work more, but we did meet several times in 2020, to rehearse in-person and just to hang out because we missed each other.
KM: Do your kids like your music? Are any of them interested in following in dad’s footsteps?
HO: Yeah, I’m surprised at times that they do enjoy the music. A lot of times, I’m working on a new song while they’re bustling about around me, and I don’t think they’re paying attention to anything I’m doing, but later on, I’ll find them singing a snippet or humming the melody. The entire family has musical gifting. Most sing very well and we have an aspiring drummer and a guitarist. I’m not sure what kind of musical aspirations they have at this time. I’ll be happy if they just have music as part of their lives no matter the ambitions behind it.
KM: Did you get any positives from the pandemic, personally or musically?
HO: It definitely makes you appreciate good health and your loved ones.
KM: What do you find to be the most challenging for the band?
HO: Obviously, the distance and scheduling can be a logistical challenge for us. But, we’ve been able to maintain the machine so far without any major hiccups!
KM: What plans do the Mood Kings have from now through the end of the year and for 2022?
HO: More writing, recording, videos, and live concerts hopefully!
KM: Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give a shout out to?
HO: The obvious ones would be our loved ones who have been patient with our little musical endeavors. Friends and family who have encouraged and supported us in so many ways. We wish to especially thank our friend and recording engineer/studio owner, Chris Garges at Old House Studios in Charlotte, NC, for helping us realize our songs in a tremendous way. And, thank you for your time and interest in our group – hope we can cross paths down the road some time soon.
KM: Absolutely! Stay in touch.
Kreig Marks, Publisher / Founder TRR
Kreig Marks is the Founder/Publisher of Tru Rock Revival Magazine.
Rock music has always been his passion, and promoting musicians. In is spare time he is an internationally recognized neuro-fitness trainer/ kinesiologist.