A southern rock slice of bluesy guitar-based Americana
that brings positive vibes and energy that last for days!!!
In 2018, not long after veteran, well-traveled singer/guitarist Will Bell hightailed it from his hometown Tulsa, OK to Vero Beach, FL seeking fresh musical fortunes, he was watching the local weather report one night and heard six provocative words: “We are expecting a King Tide.”
As a newcomer to Florida, he didn’t know what the expression meant – an especially high spring tide occurring at new and full moon when the Earth, Moon and Sun are aligned – but he thought it would make a kick-ass name for a band. He even put a piece of paper with the name in his guitar case. It wouldn’t take long for Bell’s vision to come to fruition. Little did he know the first time he checked out – and was blown away by the high-octane musicianship at - the longstanding Dave Scott Jam at The Patio Seafood Tavern – that he was literally watching the opening scenes of a musical superhero origin story. Jamming along with Scott (guitar) were future King Tide members “Medicine Man” Hastings (harmonica, percussion vocals) and Joe Zep (drums and vocals).
As with so many indie bands trying to hone in on their sound and find their footing and groove, King Tide has experienced a lot of comings and goings since formally launching in 2020. Yet every connection made, every invitation to join, every vibe developed and every four traded centered on the dynamic freewheeling magic at the Jam. Starting as a straight blues band with guitarist/singer Mike Presutti and bassist Peter George, the original lineup of King Tide performed numerous socially distanced gigs during the first summer of the pandemic (including four at Backbeat Music Parlor) and engaged in several popular livestream events produced by VBar Live called the “Number JUAN Tequila Quarantine Concert Series” hosted by comedians Alex Reymundo and Ron White.
Solidified just after New Year’s 2021, King Tide’s current lineup includes Bell, Hastings, Zep, Steve Strickland (bass), Todd Jones (lead guitar, vocals) and Peter Valentine (piano, organ lead vocal). They proudly and cleverly bill their explosive hybrid vibe as “A southern rock slice of bluesy guitar-based Americana that brings positive vibes and energy that lasts for days!” As South Florida and the rest of the U.S. slowly emerge from this anxiety ridden era, those collective vibes and energy are more essential than ever.
As of Spring 2021, while working tirelessly on their debut album of all original material – including fresh versions of tunes Bell wrote for an earlier band in Boise, ID that King Tide incorporated into their live shows – the ensemble has gigged at various Rock the Harbor events (including the Rock the Harbor Events), the Martin County Fair in Stuart, FL and the Indian River Concert Series in Vero Beach. Aside from their innate, almost otherworldly musical and personal chemistry and powerhouse shows, one of King Tide’s trademark attributes is the sheer amount of eclectic musical experience they bring to the table. It’s a been there, done that, now let’s explore what’s next aesthetic that allows them, as Valentine says, “to transcend going down that usual band route of ego and bullshit.”
For these transplants from around the U.S., one of the more amusing aspects to this wealth of musical experience is trying to figure out a ballpark figure for those collective years. Valentine estimates 150, while Zep – a garrulous New Yorker perhaps prone to exaggerate – says, “OK so we don’t have 20 years in the studio together, but we have a freshness and a boldness, and between us 250 years of experience at all levels. Todd did country, Peter did Adult Contemporary as a studio and pit musician and is a veteran music teacher. I’m a rocker, Will’s a cowboy…Peter and I are from New York, Todd’s from St. Louis, where he was a rock star selling out shows for 15 years….”
Zep, who totals 33 years all by himself, is on a roll so let’s let him continue: “I was host of the jam for several years, starting with when it was held at the Grind and Grape Wine Bar, and this was an incredible meeting place for all the musicians who had come to Vero Beach from other places. The way I met these guys, and the way the future members of King Tides ultimately crossed paths, it felt like the stars all aligned. These guys were practically dropping out of the sky to be here.
“I’m a big believer in vibrations and the law of attraction and feel that at this point in our lives, being part of a group of stellar, monster musicians becoming close like brothers so quickly was meant to be,” he adds. “King Tide gives us all an opportunity to broaden our musical horizons while staying true to the crafts we have honed over decades. We’re all aware that a lot of cats can play but don’t have their heads on straight, so this is a special camaraderie. Musically, we’re all about feeling good, being positive and putting on the best show we can.”
As exciting as it is to look forward to the future of what King Tide can bring to the musical culture of South Florida and beyond – because, after all, their energy is too massive to confine to small local clubs for any length of time – fans first catching on may want to know a bit about some of the members’ previous experiences.
Always gotta start with Zep. In addition to working with Dave Scott on numerous Central Florida based music projects, the versatile drummer’s collaborators have included John Ginty (Dixie Chicks, Santana, Matthew Sweet, Robert Randolph)-Sven Pipien (Black Crowes)- Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood)-Steven Gibb (Zack Wilde, Saigon Kick, Sixx AM)-Micky Free (Shalamar, Crown of Thornes)-John Brandt (Cheap Trick)- Papa Joe (Afro-Cuban Blues Icon)-Shannon Connely (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Lez Zeppelin)-Dean Holterman (Mick Rock).
Now on to the “Medicine Man”: Hailing from the D.C. Metro area and making his home in Vero Beach now for ten years, Hastings – who first played harmonica in the Merchant Marines - has been in three notable bands. The duo Front Porch Blues with Bill Sommers won the IBC (International Blues Competition) Treasure Coast Regional Competition in 2019, then competed in the IBC finals in Memphis against 90 national and international duo and single artist finalists. He was also a member of The Reckless Shots, a four-piece local blues band which in 2018 won the IBC Treasure Coast Regional Competition, competed against 123 national and international band finalists, and made it to the IBC Semi Finals in Memphis. Years earlier, in the late 90s and early 2000s, he was part of the four-piece contemporary Christian band Shields of Faith.
A Tulsa native who is truly a musical citizen of the world, Will Bell was influenced early by the “Tulsa Sound,” began playing professionally at 17 and performed throughout the 80s at numerous Tulsa hotspots, including the historic Cain’s Ballroom. He then took his music to New Mexico, where he immersed in the vibrant scene in Santa Fe with bands like The Range Busters, Jon Asher and the Emergency Blues Band, and Big Step. One of Will's favorite musicians, the late Dan Fogelberg, became a friend, and would often sit in with the band in Santa Fe, when he was not traveling the world. Later, Bell played his Southern flavored music in Italy and he received airplay for his songs throughout Europe. Over the years, he has shared the stage with greats like Eddie Money, Coco Montoya, the Kentucky Headhunters, J.J. Grey, Bruce Willis and Tony Furtado.
Steve Strickland, the only member who had to audition for King Tide (made it on the second try!), rekindled his career about ten years ago when he moved to Florida. His band affiliations include Lowdown 13 (runner up for two years in the South Florida IBC Competition), Nick Trill, Joel Da Silva, the blues/R&B influenced Duffy Bishop Band (a legendary Pacific Northwest singer/songwriter), Coque Ross Band, and the R&B/pop outfit the Melinda Elena Band. He has opened for the likes of Edgar Winter, Jimmy Thackery and Pat Travers. Prior to moving to Florida, he played in Chicago at top venues, including the iconic Earl of Old Town and Buddy Guy’s Legends.
Right out of college, Long Island native Peter Valentine landed his first North American tour with the great Indian violinist L. Shankar and throughout his illustrious career in NYC he performed with greats like Tony Bennett, Darlene Love, Patti Labelle, Rickie Lee Jones, Phoebe Snow, Desmond Child, Pat Benatar, Carly Simon, Pete Seeger and others – sometimes in live venues, other times on national TV shows. Peter also toured with rocker Bill Chinnock, Russian superstar Alexander Rosenbaum, and German opera tenor Peter Hofmann. His musical theatre experience includes singing, dancing, and playing trumpet in “The News”, serving as music director for the national tour of “Footloose” and being part of the national tour of “Rent.”
A 35+ year musical veteran, lead guitarist/vocalist Todd Jones has played it all - rock, country, pop, blues – while adding his unique talents as a lead/backup vocalist and vocal harmony arranger. As a founding member of renowned, long running (since 1993) St. Louis/Southern Illinois based band The Wellhungarians, he performed in concert with a nonstop array of music greats – from country artists Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Keith Urban, Travis Tritt, Charlie Daniels and Blake Shelton to rockers Kansas, Yes, Little River Band, Dee Snider, Molly Hatchett, Steve Morse, Loverboy, The Outfield, Georgia Satellites and Dr. Hook. In addition to performing for a collective 3,000,000 fans, The Wellhungarians charted four consecutive singles from their popular album Sorry About The Mess; their songs have received airplay throughout the U.S. and ten countries worldwide. Todd also performed with Silver Bullet STL, a Bob Seger tribute band, and several other acoustic and electric side projects.
Zep speaks for all of his bandmates when he says he is beyond thrilled at the opportunities not only to play festivals and series but build a national brand for King Tide as years go by. “For guys like us,” he says, “there are always opportunities to play for someone else, but this band gives us an opportunity to create a significant musical legacy for ourselves and evolve naturally into what we are meant to become. When COVID happened, the musicians in South Florida had nothing to do. Yet all of a sudden, we got enthused, put this thing together and now we have the momentum, personnel, ability and ambition to fill a potentially huge void in contemporary Southern Rock. As for our first album, we hope it’s something our grandchildren can listen to some day and reflect that it was a dark time for our country, but we put something positive out there.
“King Tide is living proof that nobody has to give up on their dreams, even if they’re in their 50’s or older,” Zep adds. “You don’t give up on something when it makes you feel this good. In one way or another, all of us came out of the gate in our early 20s swinging for the fences, rock star ambitions in our eyes – but now we’re in a different reality where were’ doing it because we want to and it’s a blast. So, we say to all the musically inclined guys who moved from out of town to retire here in Vero Beach and put down their guitars to go the straight route and raise a family: Come jam with us and live those dreams!”