The next great Christian indie-pop-rock band? I think so. | Posted January 15, 2024
Could Kingray be the next Gable Price and Friends?
The comparisons are already obvious - both groups' frontmen sport long-ish brown hair and prominent mustaches, and both bands came from humble beginnings. Gable's bunch eventually parlayed their early success on the indie circuit into a deal with Capitol CMG (not to mention two nominations and one win at the 2023 GMA Dove Awards). And If Kingray continues on their current trajectory, it won't be too long before these little-known upstarts receive a significant boost to their platform as well.
The Pacific Northwest-based alt-rock band - consisting of Ian Heacock (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Cameron Dan (bass and keyboards), and the Campean brothers: Josef (lead guitar) and Jonathan (drums) - have only been around since 2022, but they've already demonstrated a stunning work ethic to go along with some seriously high-quality music. The team released their first two E.P.s, Memories and Black and White, during a span of just over three months in 2023. Later that year, they dropped "Gold In The Sun", their latest single, which I am reviewing today. But first, I'd like to share a bit more behind the group's backstory.
Before he founded Kingray with his friends and fellow bandmates, Heacock started independently releasing music on his own from 2020 to 2022, specializing in reverent, reflective worship music. I was introduced to Heacock's music by one of the co-producers he worked with during that time, Ian Manubens (who also helped me release my own debut single). I eventually reached out to Heacock via e-mail, and he eventually set me up for a recording session with Jonathan Campean (who, in addition to his role as Kingray's percussionist, handles songwriting duties alongside Heacock and serves as the band's main producer and sound engineer). Shortly after this, Heacock announced the formation of Kingray on his YouTube channel, and I've been following and supporting the band ever since. So, yeah, my review may be somewhat biased, but Kingray's music is good enough that even if I wasn't acquainted with the band members on a relational level, I'd still strongly recommend their music. (Also, I was personally invited by Jonathan - who is now also the primary producer that I work with - to attend one of the group's concerts, and boy, do they know how to put on a SHOW.)
Musically, the quartet blazes new trails, enabling them to stand out significantly from the same old tired, derivative, generic sonic territory that most Christian rock bands have been stuck traversing for years. With crisp, hard-hitting drums, lush keyboards, cleverly utilized arpeggiated synths, dynamic guitars, and Heacock's soaring voice (to name a few musical elements), Kingray excels in melodic innovation and sonic originality. Think I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it-era The 1975 meets Living Hope-era Phil Wickham meets A Rush of Blood to the Head-era Coldplay meets Glory-era Kutless (whew!) and you're in the right ballpark.
Lyrically, Heacock and company, for the most part, refuse to stoop to the kind of unimaginative cliches that you typically find in mainstream CCM and worship music, instead opting for more introspective, contemplative, thought-provoking, and unique lyricism that paints a vivid, profound picture of practically striving to live out one's faith in Christ on a daily basis without being too in-your-face about it. While God is rarely directly mentioned by name in any of the band's songs, He's still clearly the subject of their music - and "Gold In The Sun" is just another stellar example of this.
In a YouTube short released shortly before the song's release, Heacock described the song as being about "how there's brokenness, there's pain in this world, but at the end of the day, there's that light, there's that 'gold in the sun' that gets us through it." That "gold in the sun", of course, serves as a lyrical metaphor for the Light of the World Himself, as Heacock sings: "All I see is grey everywhere I look...Feel I can't trust the things that surround me (Surround me) / So I'll never take my eyes off of You / You're the gold in the sun, You're the reason / The reason I keep going, I'm breathing You in, slowly."
As Christians, we know that while life's circumstances are ever-changing and often challenging, the faithfulness of God remains the same, rock-solid foundation we can stand upon no matter what we face. Kingray articulates this truth masterfully in the song's bridge: "Hearts, I know that they can change / Times, they never stay the same / Lights, they seem to always fade away / But in the end, the day seems to find a way." The bridge seems to draw inspiration from John 1:5 - "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
Thematically, "Gold In The Sun" directly reminds me of Job 19:25-27. Even while his whole world was crumbling around him - he was impoverished, in poor health, and all of his loved ones had either died or abandoned him - and even as he lamented his desperate condition - Job's eyes remained fixed on his Creator and on his faith that ultimately, one day, he would experience God's full presence in Heaven: "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes - I, and not another. How my soul yearns within me!" Job's unrelenting hope in God's promises of salvation and restoration - whether in this life or the next - kept him going even in the midst of severe adversity, and that same hope, now fully realized through the death and resurrection of Jesus, still has the same sustaining power for modern-day, New-Testament-era God-followers.
Overall, "Gold In The Sun" is a great introduction to Kingray. It's a brilliantly-executed, Christ-centered portrait of everything that this fantastic foursome does best, both musically and lyrically.
P.S. Kingray is currently trying to raise funds so they can hone their craft at an even higher level in Nashville. Make sure to check them out on YouTube and stream their music on Spotify and Apple Music! I'm confident that you won't regret it!