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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

NEK Band The Kingdom All Stars Drops Its Debut Album

Mitch Wertlieb / VPR
Kingdom All Stars band members Ava Marshia, left, Liza Morse and Ally Morrison practicing new songs in St. Johnsbury. The band's first album of original songs comes out December 28th.

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.

Kingdom All Stars band member Leo Parlo plays drums in St. Johnsbury.

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.

"We have all these different personalities that go into making our band what it is." — 15-year-old Katherine Barney from Peacham, Vermont

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.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Bayla joined VPR in 2018 as the producer for Morning Edition. She left in 2019.
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