On first listen to Crash Kings, you'll think they sound a lot like most other power trios -- bass, drums and piano ... and guitar? Or maybe no guitar ... It's not easy to decipher. Further investigation will show the band uses drums and bass along with piano and clavinet -- a keyboard with 60 strings designed to sound much like an electric guitar.
"When the band was started, the idea was to create piano rock where the primary instrument was the piano," bassist Mike Beliveau says. "It's not a widely charted area of music."
The clavinet -- think Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" -- that singer/keyboardist Tony Beliveau -- yes, he's Mike's brother -- uses is custom-made with a whammy bar to offer closer reproduction of those guitar sounds.
The brothers had a band together while in high school in Boston and then another in college. Eventually, Mike was living in New York and Tony had moved out to L.A., but after a chance meeting between Tony and producer Linda Perry, Mike soon moved out to join his brother and start Crash Kings.
"It's a funny story and a lot of people don't believe it," Mike says of the meeting. "Tony was waiting tables when he met Linda. She basically said, 'You have a good vibe to me; are you a musician?' He said, 'Yeah.' I'm probably messing the story up because I wasn't there, but it was a fortuitous moment for Tony to say the least. Soon after that, he was involved with Sierra Swan [a band Perry was working with] and then we started this band and brought our demos to her. She wanted to sign us to her label and she's been great and a real inspiration. It's great to go into business with someone that's an artist who understands the wants and needs of us."
Perry's label, Custard Records, is an imprint on Universal Motown. Tony and drummer Jason Morris met through their work together in Sierra Swan. After the original drummer for Crash Kings didn't work out in the beginning stages of the band, Morris stepped in, learning all of the songs in about a week.
The end result is music that sounds like some odd cross between The Whigs, Kings of Leon and Cage the Elephant with hints of Coldplay or Billy Joel thrown in.
"It's one of the most creative bands that I've ever been in," Mike says. "I'm totally fulfilled being in this band."
The band, which formed in 2006, is currently kicking off its debut headlining tour after opening stints in the last year for Chris Cornell, Stone Temple Pilots and The Bravery.
"I think we'll use this tour to play a longer set and to be more in-depth and show the different sides of what we're doing," Mike says. "We do perform other material that's not on the album. Probably our most popular cover is 'War Pigs' by Sabbath. We only started this band three years ago and it's just getting started. There's a lot of excitement and it's a lot of fun."
Crash Kings will perform at The Milestone on Jan. 20 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5 in advance, $7 on the day of the show; $9 for under 21.