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Most young musicians were introduced to their musician friends by means of a junior high music program. We all had our influences that shaped our musical tastes before we stepped through the band room doors. Before and after rehearsals, on marching band competition trips, I’d have some time to discuss “Beatles or Stones?” with my friends with an appreciation for the rock and roll rhythm section. A couple conversations turned into plans to jam after school, learn some cover tunes, and start writing our own material. A band was brought forth into the world, and it was called King’s English.

Guilty parties

Matt Carey – friends since rec-league soccer in 1st grade, Matt has been the nucleus of the project from the beginning, writing the majority of the material (lyrics, chord changes, etc.). Matt plays lead guitar and vocals.

Tyler Finnie – Tyler and I met in junior high band when we were 7th grade. A worthy trombone player in his day, he now wields the rhythm guitar in King’s English.

Sean Dewitt – Bass player and helps the group sound uniquely us. Hanging out routinely since junior year high school, I’ve had a special musical relationship with Sean.

Without going into too much detail, here’s the skinny on the band’s history.

King’s English was originally Twice Baked and featured Ben Burns on lead vocals. We formed in the fall of 2003 during our senior year at Hilton Head High School, home of the Seahawks. Twice Baked performed and won the HHHS battle of the bands in May 2004. By that point, Ben Burns had left the band and we renamed the group King’s English, including the remaining original four members. The summer of 2005 was a prolific one – KE self-recorded and released our first album of original material and performed regularly at Riders’ Lounge. The summer came and went and we were all back off to school. We would jam often over the summers and holidays during college years but scheduling got progressively difficult after we graduated.

Flash forward nearly 10 years. I get a wild hair and email the gang, “King’s English 10-year reunion session, in Raleigh NC.” In 2015, Tyler was located in Raleigh, Sean and Matt in Hilton Head SC, and I was in Chicago. The schedules all seemed to work together until Sean told us that he tore his ACL and didn’t look like he was going to make it up. The trio of Dave, Matt, and Tyler had a long weekend in August 2015 to write some new material, rehash old jams, and rekindle the music fires of old.

The bulk of the sessions were recorded (via iPhone) and are now live safely on our computers as mp3s for posterity’s sake. The Raleigh sessions sparked a new passion for King’s English for all members and now we skip ahead to July 2016.

In months leading up to July, a group text thread was created so that Sean, Matt, Tyler and I could exchange recordings of song ideas, youtube clips of live performances, as well as just staying in touch. I have not had this much communication with the group since we were all in high school and King’s English feels tighter knit than ever before!

My wife, Rachael, and I came home to Hilton Head about two weeks ago. I called up a friend with an extra drumkit and cymbals I could use for a few days and hit up Matt and Sean. The Rose Hill Sessions were born.

Before arriving in the lowcountry, I coordinated with Matt and Sean about what gear we still had at my parents’ house. Not only did we have ample XLR (mic) cables and ¼ inches, but we still had the old mixer from when we recorded our first record! It was functional AND it still had all the old material saved on its hard disk, some of it unreleased and hadn’t been listened to in over a decade. We proceeded to record 7 new tunes that had been in the works via the group text thread. It only took about 6 hours of rehearsing and we had all of the takes we needed to start mixing and mastering – the chemistry was still there.

We had set a goal for all the rehearsing we had been doing in such a short amount of time; we wanted to get on stage at Corks, which had an open mic night the Tuesday before were set to return to Chicago. We were introduced not as King’s English, but as Sludge – Tyler’s sound and presence was missed. Sludge had a three-song set: “Thing for Redheads” (original composition by Matt), “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (The Stooges), and “Chinese Rock” (The Ramones). It was the first time in 10 years that Matt and Sean had performed in public… and they slayed it.

Why this story? Why go into great detail about a high school garage band metamorphosis? This band did two things for me; it brought me closer to the music that I loved playing and it brought me closer to my friends who I care for deeply. There are certain activities from your youth that are nearly impossible to recreate… and then there’s music. It has meant the world to me to keep in touch with these jokers that I’ve known for most of my life, grow together in the music we love to listen to and perform, as well as become better friends for each other.

Altered Stage strives to achieve that same fulfillment for its members. The musical and personal connections that are being made at 657 W Lake St are nothing less than sensational. I’ve seen advanced players working with novices, new members writing their very first songs, and people branching out from their favorite genres to expand their musical horizons. The King’s English story is just a small microcosm of the Altered Stage experience. I’m excited for more members to share the same joys I’ve had – wouldn’t trade them for the world.

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