Rock 'N Roll Case Study: Kingface
In this installment, Sean Koepenick explores the music of the Washington, DC band Kingface.

Kingface-My Sweat Will Make Me Holy
By Sean Koepenick

"I've got a tattoo on my back
Don't know what it says
Any questions?
Read my back"

(-"Read My Back")

Kingface was a band based out of Washington, DC that for a brief period strived to raise the music scene in the area out of its post "Revolution Summer" haze of 1985. Although they did make inroads in the late 80's music world nationally, most of today's music fans have not been fully aware of the ferocity and power Kingface brought with their unique take on punk rock. But for a few years, the sun certainly shined hard on this band.

The band formed in 1985 and quickly made a name for itself on the local club scene. The band consisted of Mark Sullivan on vocals, Patrick Bobst on guitar, Andrew Rapoport on bass and Larry Colbert on drums. The band members all had roots in the local hardcore scene. Mark Sullivan had played in a band called The Slinkees in high school. This band featured two members who would go on to start Minor Threat and Dischord Records: Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson.

Kingface quickly made a name for themselves for 2 reasons. First the band's lyrics were of a more personal versus political nature. Second, the band rocked-hard. While several older veterans on the scene wanted to keep it a secret that the listened to Ted Nugent back in the day; Pat Bobst did not keep it quiet that Eddie Van Halen was his guitar idol.

"Punch my face and tell me that you love me
I'll punch you in the belly, dear
and show you that you're mine"

(-"Dirty Wings")

The band went into Inner Ear Studios in Arlington, VA to cut some tracks with Ian MacKaye producing. Two sessions occurred. April 1986 the band recorded 4 songs: "Tired", "Lick The Moon", "My Favorite Movie Is Life", and "Dirty Wings." Only "Dirty Wings" would come out within the band's existence-it was on the State Of the Union compilation on Dischord Records. In December of the same year the band went into the studio and came out with 5 songs: "Crawl Into Tomorrow", "I Don't Want To Be Anything", "Lull-A-Bye" "Anyone" and "Like A King." These songs would come out on their first record, a 12" released in 1987 by the band itself and called King Face.

Kingface continued to get wider recognition for their blazing rock sound. Gigs both local and out of town followed. Towards the end of 1987 my first exposure to the band live happened. November 11, 1987 I was lucky enough to catch the band opening for The Replacements at Lisner Auditorium in DC. It was a school night, and I had to tell a little white lie that I was working late on the school paper that night. But it was worth it because Kingface was incredible. Although it was a fairly short set, I just remember walking away and saying-"who the hell were those guys?"

1988 saw the band solidifying their live reputation and starting to gain a significant following in towns like Boston and Philly. In 1989 they put out their second record called Everywhere You Look. Konkurrel, a Dutch punk label put out the record to widespread critical acclaim. The record was a cohesive mixture of songs, half recorded in 1987 and a pair recorded in spring of 1989. But already there were signs that the armor was beginning to crack. Two of the songs did not feature Colbert on drums. Towards the end of the band's run he would be replaced by Kenny Craun. However, the band was still creating as recent sets featured songs that would only exist in a live setting: "Television's Better", "Hungry", and "I'm Not The One." But 1989 would be the year that Kingface would hang it up after 4 short years.

Many years later (7 to be exact), rumblings in DC were hinting that a reunion may come to fruition. Dischord Records had assisted Kingface with getting their first CD out-an anthology in 1995. Then it was on. Shows in New York and DC were organized and fans came in droves. I got my chance to see a full show by the band on November 30, 1996 at The Black Cat in DC. The show was unbelievable. It was like they had never taken a break. Almost all the songs from their anthology were played, along with a wild cover of Hendrix's "Stone Free". Lead singer Mark Sullivan stated how happy they were to be back and that a new record would be on the way with the original line-up intact. So everyone was excited about what laid ahead for Kingface.

"Wishing it and wanting it and saying it
'Cause it's on my mind and
Summer keeps reminding me about how much
I've left behind."

(-"Words Taste Good")

Time passed and no new record of new material emerged. Although a live double 7" had come out in 1993-it had only featured 2 previously unheard tracks. Eventually the roar would grow silent and not even any more shows were forthcoming. Although no official announcement was made, this seemed to be the end for the band. As of today-it was.

Most of the band members went on to other projects. Sullivan joined his brother Bobby (ex-Soulside) in a band called Sevens. They put out a record in 1996. Andy Rapoport went back into acting. He eventually re-surfaced in 2000 in a movie called Eat Me by Joe Talbott. Filmed in the DC area, the movie also featured "The Hedgehog" himself-Ron Jeremy! Sullivan has also parlayed his insightful lyricism into writing novels. His first book Jonah Sees Ghosts came out in July 2003 on Akashic Books. It garnered high praise from many critics. A second book entitled Angel,Fall From Heaven is in the works. Pat Bobst has maintained a behind the scenes role. But what about Larry? No word-Larry we hardly knew you!

As for playing music, only Andy Rapoport has reappeared from the ether. What has become a once a year project for fun is now in it's second year. The band is called Looters DC and they play late 70's early 80's punk covers by bands like The Damned, The Buzzcocks and the like. Brian Baker from Bad Religion plays guitar and they will be playing The Black Cat's anniversary party in DC in September 2005. Get your plane tickets now.

Although a full scale reunion seems unlikely, it's never too late for Kingface to go into the studio again and cut a record just for the fun of it. Dag Nasty did it in 2002 for Minority Of One but hadn't played live in over ten years. So it could happen, but it's highly improbable.

At the very least, some enterprising record label should see about putting their anthology CD back into print. Kingface did put out a vinyl only single on Akashic Records with 2 new songs. Perhaps those 2 new tracks could be put on a CD with a whole live show? Supposedly there is an excellent soundboard recording of a show from 1988 at the 9:30 Club in DC. Only time will tell. But in the meantime, check EBay for a used copy of Kingface's CD. I guarantee the rock will overpower you and make you a believer.

kingface Selected Discography-

King Face-(12”)-1987-self released
Everywhere You Look-(12”)-1989-Konkurrel Records
Motherfucker…Read My Back-(2X7”)-1993-Constant Change Records (Live from the Blue Pelican-4/24/88)
Kingface-Self titled-CD-1995-Dischord Records (Anthology)
Kingface-Self titled-(7”)-I Believe b/w Come The Sun-1996-(?) Akashic Records
Eat Me-(soundtrack)-(CD)-2000-Features “I Believe” and “Learn To Love The Leash” by Kingface