Music Tea w/Simon Thompson of Alvarez Kings

What happens when you mix indie disco vibes, deep, luscious synths and spaced out rhythms with just a touch of shimmer? You get the collective sound of rising UK based, Alvarez Kings, who have packed all of those elements and then some into their stand out album, Somewhere Between, which is giving all of us life just in time for summer. 

In fact, the English Breakfast tea sipping boys are taking the record on the road all season long with stops in Philly (they were just at Coda on Sunday night), as well as Chicago, San Francisco, L.A., Kansas City and Cleveland. So, yeah, they’re going to be mighty busy serving up their whole delicious catalog just for their ever-growing legion of fans all summer long….and we can’t wait. 

But since there’s always time to spill some sun-kissed music tea, Philly Mixtape took a seat with Alvarez Kings guitarist and vocalist Simon Thompson, where he broke mugs about the touring life, the recording of Somewhere Between (go here now to listen..seriously) and what pre-show ritual him and his boys practice before each show… has something to do with Tawny Kitaen. 


Hey, man! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with Philly Mixtape. First up, how’s the tour going so far? We’re actually navigating our way to the last show of the [overseas part of the] tour in Nottingham. It’s going great! We started off in London and that was’s always good to play in the capital. They’ve been great shows…the crowds have been good to us, as always. It’s also nice to stand on our own two feet and watch the tickets sales come in. It’s been great tour and we can’t thank everybody enough for this opportunity, especially our fans. 

Have you guys played in the states before? It’s our first headline show in the states, yes. We played Warped Tour twice and last year we played with Melanie Martinez..I think we played the Troc…I remember that being really cool. I also remember they got us Philly cheese steaks before sound check which was awesome. I do remember they were very tasty. 

How about some artistic influences that don’t just run through you, but all of you guys. Where we do begin, right? We’ve all got different influences, but we have similar tastes. We’re really into The Fold, a band called the Macabees who are now split up, which is a shame. It’s just a ton of stuff, really…I think it’s all in there somewhere. 

Now, your record, Somewhere Between, is truly awesome and out-of-this world, man. What was the recording process like for it? It was awesome. We got a chance to go to L.A. for [a few] weeks and record the whole album there. We sort of took in the whole vibes of L.A. We worked with a great producer who definitely brought the best out in all of us while we recorded at an ocean studio in was just really good. 

Just to put you on the spot, shout out two of your all-time favorite records for me…. Wow…only 2! I would say Beatles Abbey Road and Bob Dylan Highway 61. 

How about some words of advice to the young kids out there just starting to find their way in this crazy music business? To the younger generation just getting into music I would say you just have to be patient..really, really patient. And if you don’t succeed, just keep trying..keep grinding away. It gets crazy, and if you think you wrote the perfect song…don’t think that! We [actually] try to better ourselves each time we write a song we do because we’re never satisfied. So, just preserving and you do get a lot of setbacks along the’s a very up and down sort of roller coaster ride. It is tough, but as soon as you get on that stage and play for the fans that come and see’s all been worth it. 

Any pre-show rituals you guys do before a show? We definitely have a couple of beers before we go on. But for the most part we get together in-arms and we sing “Is This Love” by Whitesnake. 

No shit, man. That’s awesome. Still to this day we don’t know why we chose that song it was just something that came out one time and it stuck. 

Any last words for the stateside fans who haven’t seen the show yet?   We can’t wait to see them and just give them as much energy as we can give on stage and give them their money’s worth. We know how much it is to buy a ticket and travel to a show. We’re well aware that we have to give them as much back as we possibly can. We thank everyone that’s bought a ticket so far we’re really excited to hang out and have fun! 

For much, much more with Alvarez Kings. check this out. 






Venue Spotlight: Bob and Barbara’s Lounge

Though Bob and Barbara’s is better known as host and originator of the best beer-and-a-shot combo in Philly, the infamous CityWide Specialthe timeless venue (since 1969!!) has also grown its presence in the local music scene in the past few years, evolving as host of its regular lineup of The Crowd Pleasers jazz ensemble to Ms. Lisa Lisa to now also featuring live music just about every day of the week. In sound, it’s not quite the Bob and Barbara’s you remember from a decade ago, should you show up on a weekday evening for a PBR and that no elusive quick slug of Jim Beam. 

Here, we talk country music, cabaret and a changing neighborhood with Bob and Barbara’s manager and booker (and longtime patron) Robert Dicks.

When did you guys transition to having live music most days fo the week? Used to be just Thursday, Friday and SaturdayAbout three years ago, I took over the booking for the rest of the week. It was one of those things the owners said ‘You have this background in entertainment.’ I used to work for the cabarets back in the ‘80s. So that was – I was around in the heyday of the ‘80 entertainment scene …

So, I started to bring in bands and see if they do well and if they do well and fit the motif of the bar I try to give them a regular slot once a month or every couple months.

How has your cabaret background contributed to bookings? I was more in the marketing department, but I used to do all the calendars and things. I think knowing – sometimes you have to give things a chance. The idea is it should fit the room. Some types of music just wouldn’t work within the cabaret situation and I liked the idea of residences, which is something I first saw when – Stephen Starr, actually, he was kind of our competition at the time. And I remember when The Hooters were a big thing, they were booked once a week on a Monday night or something at [Stephen’s] nightclub; before he got into restaurants he was a nightclub owner. That was back in the day when he was doing that. I remember, particularly, I thought that was a good formula — you knew what night certain things were happening. We already had that proven formula with the other things we do at Bob and Barbara’s, so I just want to see what works and doesn’t work and, certain kinds of music, give it a chance. I think my days in cabaret, having such a wide, eclectic range of types of music and trying them out and seeing what works and what doesn’t [influenced me]. There’s a lot of things I never thought would work at Bob and Barbara’s and they actually are pretty big. So …

What kind of music do you think does work at Bob and Barbara’s? Or works well?  Jazz. Jazz always works. Lounge music. Dena Miranda and the Mellow Tones play once a month. They’re one of my favorites. And one thing we’re doing at Bob and Barbara’s is country – we have a country night we’ve been doing at Bob and Barbara’s for the past three years that’s gotten pretty big. Regularly, it’s actually pretty busy. There was a big JUMP article recently that came out about it because people were pretty shocked. When I first started booking, particularly for The Lawless Brothers band, they play a lot of festivals and stuff and have a bit of a reputation of being rambunctious and rowdy and stuff, but they’re just good guys and they just know a lot of different country bands. For three years now we’ve been booking country night and they put together a nice lineup. It’s getting now that we have national acts that say ‘Yeah, we don’t care if we get paid, we just want exposure to the country scene.’ I think that’s vastly underappreciated.

I come from Pennsyltucky, and country music was my childhood. It’s odd that Philly is not geographically that far but there isn’t much of a country scene here. They’re actually from Yardley or something. And they put on two country festivals. The first at Bob and Barbara’s. The country scene has become so big that we had the first annual Country Music Festival at Bob and Barbara’s out front, two years ago. Two stages, 25 bands, all day. The first time in 35 years there hadn’t been jazz played at Bob and Barbara’s on a Saturday night. It was huge and this year we couldn’t accommodate it so they moved it to Connie’s Ric Rac. And it did really well. We’re looking to bring it back again this year in the summer.

But yeah, the country scene, I’m surprised with Boot and Saddle so close to where Bob and Barbara’s is that they don’t have more of a country scene there. But they have other restrictions to deal with in terms of neighbors and stuff.

What’s a favorite act you’ve had in the past three years? I always love the Mellow Tones. [Miranda’s] a great lounge act singer with an amazing voice. She’s just a star. It’s all standards and older songs.We have a talk show we do once a month, with the Absinthes called the Talky Show. They come in and play and do a talk show and have different acts all night. We recently had the Citywide Festival in Philadelphia and hat’s what we’re known for, the citywide, we were a venue and there was a band, The Sermon, that played our place and they played.

We have a talk show we do once a month, with the Absinthe Drinkers called the Talky Show. They come in and play and do a talk show and have different acts all night. We recently had the Citywide Festival in Philadelphia, and that’s what we’re known for, the citywide, and we were a venue and there was a band, The Sermon, that played our place.

And Carolyn Thorn — there’s so many. They’re really, really good.

You guys do Lisa Lisa’s drag show on Thursdays. Have you thought about a drag or burlesque expansion? We do have a burlesque night once a month. It was originally started by Candy Heart Cabaret. I’ve been trying to get a burlesque troupe into Bob and Barbara’s for years and it’s — not restrictions, but there’s a certain amount of money that needs generated for certain acts and you can’t do it unless you charge at the door. And that’s the thing I always tell people: We’re not a music venue; we’re a bar that has music. It’s a lot different. But Lisa actually – Lisa had been running an amateur drag night on Mondays. She’d been doing that once a month, one Monday a month for a little while, and for a couple reasons she just stopped. But it wasn’t because it was bad. It was just for whatever reason. We’ve talked about it and done a couple things drag-oriented but the drag show is such a big thing that it’s sort of — you pay $8 to come in and see the drag show and it’s the longest-running drag show in Philadelphia. And it has its history. Its own little engine going.

Do you see the audience changing at all with the development on South Street West? It’s always changing. I live in the neighborhood too so I’ve seen the neighborhood change and it’s a lot of new people. It’s a big influx of friendly faces – the things I’ve seen that’s changed has been a lot of tourists, a lot of people who read about us on the internet. And a lot of our reputation precedes us. The audiences showing up, ‘We know something fun is going to happen so let’s show up – and it’s free.’ That’s something people can appreciate it. I’ve seen it get busier most nights. But in the same respect, it’s sort of like, it’s changed but not for the worse or better. Just different.

In this month, what are you looking forward to, performance-wise? The Talky Show is coming up the week before the election. So instead of having to do anything related to the election, they’re doing an all-cats show. Which is kind of funny. It’s a funny way to combat against the election. Focusing on kitties.

And I’m looking forward to the Mellow Tones. We don’t have any special events coming up in November, but country night is the second and fourth Wednesday of the month.

December is going to be fun, too, because a lot of acts will want to do Christmas and holiday shows. So they’re always kind of irreverent and crazy. It’s always something going on. 

And at the iconic Bob & Barbara’s on South Street, it certainly is. For much, much more on this Philly entertainment staple, peep this and we’ll see you there! 


Groove of the Day/Rihanna/”Diamonds”

While we could easily sit, sip and spill music tea all day (or all year) about any one of Aussie pop mastermind’s Sia’s original werk or the 654, 342 tracks she’s written for other music artists, (she was also on Xtina’s 2010 record Bionic  when no one was looking) ahead of her show tonight at Wells Fargo Center alongside Miguel and AlunaGeorge for their Nostalgic for the Present Tour, there’s only one track that fits right into the undeniable Friday groove that we’re all in because of this weather….Ms. RiRi and her oh, so, shiny “Diamonds.” 

The monster Sia penned single not only served as the lead single from Rihanna’s 2012 Unapologetic set, but it further proved that Ms. Sia (although we rarely see her which could be interesting for tonight) can simply do no wrong. 

And “Diamonds” certainly justifies that and then some, you Sia queen who just can’t wait for…it all tonight at the Wells Fargo Center. 

This month’s grooves sound like….


Cover photo courtesy of