There’s sometimes this perception that if you want to see great music in Vermont, you’ve got to head to Burlington. It's a myth a band from the Northeast Kingdom is trying to dispel.
The Kingdom All Stars are a rotating group of about a dozen middle and high school students who come from all over the region, many of them playing multiple instruments. The band has been around for about six years, playing mostly covers of jazz, funk, and rock tunes. Now, they're about to drop their first album of original songs, called Smarticle Physics.
VPR's Morning Edition host Mitch Wertlieb and producer Bayla Metzger visited the group as they were putting the finishing touches on their milestone album.
More than a dozen kids from around the Kingdom had gathered in St. Johnsbury on a cold Sunday morning. Band director Todd Wellington kicked off practice with an idea for a new song, which consisted only of a drum beat composed by Katherine Barney, a 15-year-old from Peacham.
Barney says she came up with the soca-inspired beat while playing around with her drum set at home. “I’m always kind of working to, like, find new beats. Like, find new ways to challenge myself to be a better musician,” she says.
While the instrumental parts came together, Ally Morrison, a 17-year-old from Barnet, crouched on the floor and wrote lyrics in her spiral-bound notebook. The band's song-writing process is fluid and collaborative — and that’s just the way they like it.
“It’s kinda like that kinda dynamic where we all just all pitch in our ideas and figure out how we want to make it sound,” says Morrison.
“We have all these different personalities that go into making our band what it is,” Barney agrees.
“I feel like there's like almost a level of, like, introvertedness in some of us. So, like, when we’re put together we become extroverts together,” says Ava Marshia, a 14-year-old from Danville.
By the time practice was over several hours later, a new song had emerged, called “The Super K Beat.”
The Kingdom All Stars have played the Caledonia County Fair and other local events, but 14-year old Aden Marcotte says Smarticle Physics is exciting new territory.
“I feel like this is the biggest step the Kingdom All Stars has ever taken in the direction of becoming a pretty big band,” he says.
The Kingdom All Stars first ever album of original songs, Smarticle Physics, comes out on December 28th. The band will be playing a New Year’s Eve show in St. Johnsbury as part of the First Night North festivities.