“People still can’t figure out what to call the music we do,” said Brian ‘Rooster’ King, looking at his longtime collaborator Clay ‘Uncle Snap’ Sharpe. “We just get in there and write about what we want.”
Sharpe nodded in agreement before comparing The LACS latest and most radio-friendly album Outlaw in Me to a mix CD of their favorite music burned on a laptop.
The duo has been together since 2000 and Outlaw, which is their fifth album since signing with Average Joe’s Entertainment, is a watershed effort from The LACS that sonically broadens their musical scope and blends together every genre from traditional country and southern rock to rap and spoken word.
But it’s their true-to-life lyrics that paint a series of authentic compositions depicting the life of a pair of hillbillies from South Georgia. “We love writing about stories that we’ve lived,” said King, of their biographical 12-song effort that could prove to be a breakthrough of sorts.
Sharpe added, “You won’t hear us singing about Bentley’s because we don’t know nothing about that. All we know are our stories and our family’s stories growing up. It’s how we relate to music. It’s like Johnny Cash. We love him because every song of his kind of told a story and you could tell it was real. That’s how we want to be.”
Label it however you choose. They call it country.
Baxley, a slow-moving rural town of just over 4,000 residents, where Sharpe grew up a country boy, is a place where everyone knows everyone else’s business and newcomers are known as outsiders. There’s one elementary school, one high school and, until recently, only three red lights. “No we got a fourth and a Wal-Mart,” said Sharpe, “so, yeah, we’re stepping up.”
Both his parents worked and, as a young boy, he’d tag along with his old man and spend summer days hanging out on construction sites, while listening to a local country radio station. Those early formative years is when Sharpe’s love of country music developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
However, it wasn’t until he was 20 when a then-18 year old King moved with his family from Waycross to Baxley that The LACS first met up. They liked a lot of the same music – Garth Brooks and George Strait, Pink Floyd and Metallica along with Tupac and Nelly – and as quickly as they befriended one another they started writing lyrics as if they had been kindred spirits since childhood. King was a self-taught guitarist and the two fast-friends pooled their money together to buy a cheaper version of a beat box they still use when they perform on stage today.
In 2001, they saved up another $2,500 to pay for 40 hours of studio time – half of which they spent recording their first self-titled album and the other half of the time was used to mix and master – and 1,000 copies of the CD to sell in parking lots and parties.
Over time they built up a cult following of fellow rednecks and hillbillies and eventually drew the attention of Average Joe’s.
“We found out there are people out there just like us,” said King, who along with Sharpe were at the forefront of a popular blend rap and rock with the traditional themes of sad country break up songs. Sharpe added, “This is not an overnight thing. … We were doing this when it wasn’t the cool thing to do. This is real to us. This is what we live.”
Last fall they released their fourth album and this spring the prolific songsmiths are already back with yet another studio album, which features the first single God Bless a Country Girl. “It’s a fun little song,” said King.
Sharpe and King have matured personally and especially professionally since the first time they plugged a $7 microphone into a boom box, which still says a lot about their authentic writing process. Then and now, The LACS enter the studio with half the album written and then finish the second half of the writing process while recording the first half.
Their fans, who both King and Sharpe describe as rowdy, loud, hardworking rednecks, have come to expect songs about the south – beer drinking, mud bogging and more drinking – that remind them of their own lives.
“Sometimes we lower that music to get the message across,” said Sharpe, of the lyrical content versus the delivery, which easily transitions from country crooner Craig Campbell (Back to Georgia) and Josh Thompson (Tonight on Repeat) to rapping with Crucifix on the title track Outlaw in Me. King added, “You listen to our album and real country folks are like, ‘Hell yeah,’ when they hear the lyrics.”
Whether they’re performing or recording cuts like Might as Well Get Drunk, River Life or Stomp, those are the stories – southern influenced poems, if you will – of their lives.
Back to Georgia, which gives fans and listeners a look at their lives off the stage, is a favorite of theirs, while Tonight on Repeat proved to be a new challenge as songwriters. It’s the closest thing The LACS have to what’s being played on the radio today, while still staying true to their distinctly southern roots, which is why Out Here is for the more hardcore country audience.
An added bonus on the album are “Great Moments in Redneck History,” sharp-witted comedic skits featuring Brian and Clay in every day redneck banter.
“Brian and I have prided ourselves on putting out real music that we lived,” Sharpe concluded, “and not just writing about some topic because it was a No. 1 for somebody else.”
It’s been nearly a decade-long road for Almost Kings, and the band continues to persevere, put out new music, and bring their energetic live show from city to city. Hailing from the dirty south rock clubs of Atlanta, GA, Almost Kings hit the road in 2008 and never looked back. Supporting groups like Rehab, Framing Hanley, and Sevendust through their early releases (“Filthy Nice”, 2009 & “Club Rock”, 2011), AK managed to build a loyal underground following throughout the southeast, up the eastern seaboard, and beyond.
In February 2012, Almost Kings found themselves performing as part of The Grammys in Los Angeles – due to a fan submitting the band into a fan voting-based, CBS-sponsored contest. AK humbly finished the contest on top of 916 acts from around the U.S., and became the first unsigned band to perform as part of the Grammy’s event. Upon their return to Atlanta, the band performed a hometown show to a nearly 3,000-person crowd – numbers not seen often by an unsigned act with minimal radio play.
Almost Kings continued to play 200+ shows each year in 2012, 2013, and 2014, opening for acts ranging from Avenged Sevenfold to Yelawolf to Machine Gun Kelly to Periphery. AK performed at festivals such as Rock USA (2013, 2014), Florida Music Festival (2011, 2012, 2014), Common Ground (2014), Bayfest (2011), Uproar (select 2012 dates), and many more.
“Hear Me Out” was released in summer 2013 and was received extremely well by the fans. Singles like “Shadows” and “Hold On Me” received high view numbers on YouTube and caught occasional radio play. In summer 2014, Almost Kings found themselves at the top of yet another national fan voting-based contest, this time sponsored by ESPN, and the band performed at the X-Games in Austin, TX with Kanye West, Bad Religion, Slightly Stoopid, and Mac Miller. 2014 came to a close with a nearly sold out nationwide House Of Blues tour supporting Bone Thugs n Harmony.
In 2015, Almost Kings hit the studio with Grammy nominated producers Willie Baker and Pete Woodruff, cranking out four tracks to kickstart a new album. Throughout the year, the band finished the album with producer Adam Palka between Atlanta and Detroit. “The Reintroduction” was released on January 26, 2016, and is receiving extremely positive feedback from longtime fans as well as new ones. It is being recognized as AK’s “most mature release to date”, as well as “brutally honest & relatable, lyrically.”
Almost Kings is not signed to a record label, and continues to grind independently. Says guitarist Ryan Yunker, “We are not opposed to getting signed. If the right opportunity comes along that makes sense, we’re open to it. However, until it does, we can and will continue to keep our train rolling forward.” Almost Kings has an undeniable deep resume full of accomplishments, memories, near-death experiences, stories, and more. And they don’t plan on quitting.