I caught up with The Quasi Kings just before their evening practice on the south side of Columbus to talk about the their roots and how they’ve begun navigating the scene as a young band.
Formerly the Turkish Royals, The Quasi Kings are a local reggae band that blend elements across a vast range of modern styles positioning them at the forefront of their genre.
If they’re not hanging out barefoot on the patio of Double Happiness or spending their time in Roots Records, they’re most likely exercising their talents by jamming in a friend’s band or with other local bands at one of the many live music venues in Columbus.
The group is a six piece that consists of Benny Coleman (vocals, bass), Zach Coleman (vocals, sax, percussion, samples), Evan Gosdanian (drums), Scott McCarron (guitar, vocals), Wib Schneider (guitar, vocals) and Alex Willard (keys).
Whether they’re pursuing their realtor licenses or working as an agricultural technician, this diverse group of guys manage to stay passionate about their music and are working incessantly to release their first project together.
The Indie Sound: Give me a brief history of the band.
Zach Coleman: History wise, Evan [Gosdanian] and I met on the swing sets a really, really long time ago. We started hanging out and eventually we both did jazz band in middle school together. Benny [Coleman] was playing with a couple of his buddies in a band called No Cash Value. They were a few years older than Benny so when they went on to school, he was left needing someone to play music with.
Benny Coleman: We basically just played the school talent show. But then I got called to play with Shrub. I played with Shrub for about four years. At some point, we ended up needing a new drummer and Evan was the dude to call. He’d always been the dude to call but we were waiting. I didn’t want to influence these dudes not to go to college.
Eventually, Evan joined and then Zachy joined after my mom basically told me I had to let him into the band. I don’t know why I was resistant to the idea at first because it’s worked out really really well. Mom was right, of course. We caught up with Scotty and Wib through Shrub as well. Our first shows as this current formation were about a year ago. We played at Rumba on my birthday and then at Jammo, a music festival in Atwater Ohio, which was wicked.
TIS: Your band was “Turkish Royals” not too long ago and has now become The Quasi Kings. Why the name change?
ZC: The Turkish Royals was the name of our band in high school when we had with the three of us (Benny, Zach and Evan) and it was just because we smoked Turkish Royals. It was stupid, it was dumb. I personally, and I guess all these guys at one point, were concerned about the branding and Camel coming after us and also the conflicts in the Middle East. I mean, none of us are Turkish.
Evan Gosdanian: For me, I wanted to move on from that aspect of my life. We didn’t play any real shows; we just did the talent show stuff. I wanted something that was more serious.
ZC: It was also a name we threw together quickly because we were just trying to play a show at that point in time.
BC: We were kind of just trying to get away with it, like, “we’re going to name ourselves after cigarettes and see if the teachers will let us,” which is so lame.
ZC: After Benny graduated high school it was left with me and Evan and a couple of our other friends in band. Evan got expelled from school so the talent show our junior year, the big show of the year, our band name was Expulsion.
EG: We were always just trying to piss people off.
ZC: We figured out that that may not be the way anymore. It’s just childish now.
TIS: So where did the name The Quasi Kings come from?
EG: After an extensive name changing process…
BC: It was probably the least pleasant process that we’ve gone through. Scotty came up with it which frankly, I wasn’t expecting.
ZC: I guess it still followed that Turkish Royals kind of feel that we had built an identity around together as this group.
BC: I’m hoping it will be a smooth transition.
Wib Schneider: It seems like it has been.
TIS: Has it been hard re-branding yourselves?
ZC: Well we didn’t really brand it in the first place. We never had any merch.
BC: We were known as the Turkish Royals and we had a name to a certain extent. I don’t doubt our ability to build it back up, though. I think that if we could do that in a year with a name like Turkish Royals we can do it again. Admittedly, there has been a noticeable difference since the change. I’ll get people who will hit me up on Facebook that seem kind of confused, but you know, that was going to happen. It’s certainly not a big thing, but I do get a couple questions about it.
TIS: Who are your guys’ biggest influences?
WS: The reggae all comes from Benny, Zach and Evan. I had never played reggae music before I started playing with these guys. They’ve taught me a lot about that.
ZC: Basically, the reggae came from The Ark Band. When we were really young, the first show I ever played was at Mad River Mountain with The Ark Band when I was like 13 or 14. I played the saxophone with them. They brought us up and taught us how to do what we were trying to do. They’re the longest running reggae band in Columbus, maybe even Ohio. Carlos Jones, though, I don’t know.
BC: The Ark Band is probably my number one influence. I remember going over to Eustace’s house for bass lessons, getting driven and dropped off by my mom. The lead singer Mark taught me a lot about the philosophy, too. Because of The Ark Band, Bob Marley is a big influence as well.
ZC: Bob Marley got me into reggae. I would say Biggie Smalls is the first hip hop artist I came around to because of my buddy back in the day. Those are probably my two biggest introductions to how I perceive my style.
EG: Bob Marley and Biggie Smalls?
ZC: Biggie rhythmically and I admit the story telling element of it a lot. Bob for the same reasons. Everyone in the band is very diverse in what they enjoy. So sometimes we get these middle grounds of all the genres we enjoy on one song and it’s really cool.
WS: I played in a lot of jam bands. I was into Phish and the Dead for a long time, I’m kind of passed that now.
BC: Don’t say that Wib…
WS: I’ve also played in a funk band and many other types. Scott is kind of the same way, he’s done a lot of different stuff before this as well.
BC: Umphrey’s is Scott’s band.
WS: Yeah Scott only listens to Umphrey’s McGee.
EG: I like a lot of metal and that definitely ties into my playing. That and electronic.
ZC: Yeah we definitely have a lot of different styles at play.
BC: I listen to a lot of jazz in my free time, probably more jazz than I do reggae at this point. I also went to school for jazz. I know everyone wants to claim that their band is a mix of different genres and can’t be defined, but I like to think we keep it pretty eclectic. I also think it blends really well into song writing and we keep it really open where everyone can contribute what they want to it.
TIS: What is your song writing process like?
BC: At this point, it’s fairly individual.
EG: Kind of, until the arranging comes in.
BC: I’ll come to these guys with a verse and a hook and another verse and show them this is kind of what I’m thinking. Zachy produces a lot of stuff so he’ll usually make a beat and flesh out the whole idea and bring that to the band. I do my thing on the acoustic guitar. Wib also wrote one of the tunes and basically he just wrote it in his bedroom and brought it to us.
WS: Yeah it was like a demo that was finished more or less
BC: We keep it pretty loose like I said so once we get into it’s basically just everybody bringing what they bring to the table.
WS: Stuff usually evolves over time a little bit too as we play songs live. So, it’s kind of an ongoing process.
ZC: Another thing that we haven’t really experienced much together is that we’re getting into the studio. We had a session a week ago and another one coming up. That’s kind of brought us to a different song writing style because now we’re thinking about stuff that goes beyond just what we can play as a six piece, so that’s been another weird expansion.
BC: Zachy and I have written a few tunes together. Alex, the keyboard player, and I have written a whole bunch of tunes together. So, we’ve got a good book to work from between all of us.
ZC: Scotty’s got this riff that we’re working on right now.
BC: Dude, Scotty is in this band called Omniview, it’s Scott’s band and he’s gotten Evan and Zachy in the mix, it’s honestly the dopest shit.
EG: It’s all funk jam.
BC: It’s probably my favorite band.
ZC: Scott is the king of the interesting chord progressions.
BC: So we’re definitely talking about bringing some of Scotty’s songs in. Ideally we’re going to start writing together.
EG: Yeah we already had a bunch of songs in the works when we all started playing together that we’ve wanted to play for a long time. The writing process may completely change after this.
BC: We’re excited. It’s going to be wicked. I’ve been trying to collaborate with Zachy on this one tune like I recorded my acoustic guitar and sent it to him to put a beat over so we’re starting to do more stuff like that, more collaboration.
TIS: So you guys are currently recording your first EP as a group?
ZC: Yeah there’s nothing recorded from Quasi Kings or Turkish Royals yet.
BC: Yeah we have about six songs that will be coming out in the near future.
ZC: Yeah hopefully there will be a full-length album not too long after that.
TIS: What is your take on the music scene in Columbus?
ZC: There’s a lot going on in Columbus.
EG: Yeah there a lot of different scenes here. The jam scene is big, the reggae scene is there. With a city this big it varies for sure.
WS: It’s definitely not bad for being an Ohio city.
ZC: You can pretty much see whatever you want on any given night if you know what’s going on.
WS: There’s just a ton of venues in Columbus too. Not all of them are amazing but they’re there. It’s definitely not a bad place to be being a fairly new band.
EG: I love Columbus’ scene.
BC: It’s hard to say because I’ve never really been a major part of any other scene. I wouldn’t know who to compare it.
ZC: There’s pretty much a show every night and you can’t complain about that.
TIS: What events or feelings inspire your songs?
EG: Through my perception, and I haven’t written much of anything words wise, I’ve noticed it tends to be through tragedy and the good times and other significant life events that change one’s perspective.
WS: Absolutely. Our stuff isn’t super light-hearted. It’s pretty serious subject matter
ZC: My song “Guns Drawn” was written because I was getting harassed by my little town’s police. I lived on the outskirts of this really wealthy suburb and I was getting pulled over constantly.
EG: Is harassed the same thing as getting in trouble all the time?
BC: Were you doing something wrong constantly and they caught you a lot?
ZC: If that were the case I wouldn’t get pulled over when I was doing nothing!
EG: That is true. You do get pulled over a lot when you’re doing nothing.
ZC: Let’s be fair, I’ve done some shit. I was way into graffiti, which is the polar opposite of what New Albany was.
WS: Besides that song, most of our current originals are based on personal experiences and relationship. It’s meant to be serious song writing for sure.
EG: Serious subjects with upbeat music.
BC: I feel like it helps a lot for personal introspective reflection, which I feel like I don’t give myself enough time for. There’s something appealing about sitting down to write and really trying to figure out what my perspective is on certain things. I mean, I write about girls a lot, but I also write a lot of songs that aren’t about girls that I make about girls for the sake of not having to talk about the actual subject. It’s an easier thing to approach. It may be me being a little bit shielded, but I don’t know. I’m trying to stop doing that so much.
ZC: The only songs that have made it into our sets, for the most part, have been the ones that are about things we’ve felt really strongly about. When you feel really strongly about something, the music kind of just comes out of you. Like, for a couple of the songs I wrote I didn’t even have to tell these guys what to play, they just kind of snapped into it.
BC: Wib wrote a song actually and I wasn’t expecting anything from him. Honestly, and I’m not trying to be a dick, but sometimes somebody will come to you with a song that just isn’t good and then you have to be ‘that guy’ and tell them it’s not good, which is horrible position to be in. But it really worked out so nicely with this one.
ZC: This was Wib’s first time writing a reggae song ever and he knocked it out of the fucking park. It’s one of our most powerful songs.
You can check out The Quasi Kings on Facebook and keep an eye out for new music soon. See them live May 10 at Beachland Tavern with Roots of a Rebellion and The Cat’s Meow.