How Justin Timberlake Shared His Secrets With Common Kings

5 February 2016 | 3:59 pm | Cyclone Wehner

"He'll come and just chop it up with us."

Orange County, California band Common Kings supported Justin Timberlake on his 2014 Australasian tour. Now they're back for a headlining run.

Sasualei "JR King" Maliga (lead vocals), Taumata "Mata" Grey (guitar), Ivan "Uncle Lui" Kirimaua (bass) and Jerome "Rome" Taito (drums) — are conducting a phone interview together on speaker (though Taito is apparently absent). They muck around. It'd be a challenge for any journo. But it's impossible not to like them.

"What we all wanna do is kinda get away from all that [politics] at some point in time, because there's just so much of it going on."

The four — with diverse island backgrounds from Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga — bonded at a barbecue jam. They began as a band-for-hire, performing covers (including Justin Bieber). However, original songs such as Alcoholic proved popular on YouTube. Common Kings developed a hybrid of pop, reggae, rock and R&B. It's a bit Bruno Mars, a bit Blue King Brown. Above all, they have a feel-good ethos. Indeed, Common Kings are yet to pen a 'message' song. Says Kirimaua, "I think individually we all have our strong beliefs and I guess, if you want to call it [that], political ideas and whatnot. But when it comes to music, what we all wanna do is kinda get away from all that [politics] at some point in time, because there's just so much of it going on… What we've discovered is that our music is like an escape from all of that."

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Common Kings went from being a hobby to a professional concern. "When we started getting booked for shows — and finally started getting paid for some — is when we all threw in the towel on doing our nine-to-fives and started doing this, which is our 24-seven," Grey recalls.

Common Kings were not an obvious choice of support for Timberlake's 20/20 Experience tour. "We got turned down for being a security detail," Kirimaua jokes deviously. In truth, they had a strategic ally. "We had a studio session with one of [Timberlake's] good friends, who's an amazing producer — Rob Knox," Grey tells. "Our management submitted Common Kings to open up for [Timberlake]… We just hit it off well with his boy Rob and word got around. Justin heard about it and he hit up Rob, saying, 'Hey, man, have you heard about these guys?' [Knox] was like, 'I'm actually in the studio with them. Common Kings are awesome — they make good music.'" Common Kings clicked with Timberlake over drinks. "He'll come and just chop it up with us." The star even shared his music "secrets". "Really cool guy, man," Grey sighs.

Late last year Common Kings issued the Hits & Mrs EP, with the single Before You Go, featuring Meghan Trainor. A long-awaited album should materialise in the first half of 2016 — the band have been running a PledgeMusic campaign. Grey says, "I think the Hits & Mrs EP that we released is like a prelude or a precursor to what the album will be — where we've been and seeing where we're at now — but it's just a fusion of everything that we're around musically. We've been just trying to get in the studio with great songwriters and producers. [It's] really similar to what you hear on Hits & Mrs, but just more awesome!"