Asbury Park/Orlando-based Marguerite King’s tale of musical and personal redemption is as passionate as the pursuit of her dreams with her bad-ass band, Little Vicious.
The Riff Witch is in the third chapter of her redemptive rock ‘n’ roll autobiography known as Little Vicious. It’s the one in which she pulls up stakes in her native Asbury Park area a second time to continue to pursue her musical dreams. But this time it’s down south, instead of out west; Orlando, rather than Colorado.
Those dreams most recently were represented by Dark Country. The smokin’, gnarly mix of stoner rock, blues, punk and pop produced by Bouncing Souls’ Pete Steinkopf and released on GrindEthos earlier this year followed the self-released 2016 debut LP, Little Vicious I. Passionately determined to forward her bad-ass buzz ‘n’ boogie band, Marguerite King has quite a tale to tell, and the LV founder does so on behalf of her latest band mates, both of whom hail from Jacksonville, Fla.: Tom Morrison (AudioHive, Cardinal Slinky) and bassist Greg Black (Chrome Fangs). Check it out in the following interview, as well as live on Aug. 8 at The Saint and Aug. 23 at Asbury Park Yacht, as well as Aug. 24 at The Grape Room, Philadelphia, and Aug. 25, Coney Island Baby, New York.
Little Vicious have an interesting history that relates to both Colorado and New Jersey. You’re from Ocean Township next to Asbury Park. How, why and where did you end up in Colorado?
Woof, this could be a long one, but I lived in Fort Collins, Colo., for just over four years. I had been there maybe two times previously, visiting a friend, when I decided to pack up my life and move across the country in my CR-V. I’d just finished college (mostly), gotten out of a serious relationship, and really needed to get away from the area I grew up in. There were too many painful memories and reminders … I wasn’t giving myself space to heal. Or maybe I wanted to run away. Either way, I wouldn’t have pursued music if I hadn’t moved to Colorado, so I’m not upset.
Did you form Little Vicious in Colorado?
Yup. Little Vicious is so special to me because it is the first and only band I have formed with myself as the front person. I had played bass, drums, backups—but it was the first group that I was like, “Fuck yeah, this is my band.”
What brought you back to Jersey?
Have you ever driven through Nebraska? It sucks! It’s six hours of cornfield. That’s what was difficult about Colorado, especially because LV made such serious traction in such a short amount of time out west. We wanted to go as far with the band as we could, so it made sense to move to either LA or NY to keep going. And I’d rather be caught dead than live in god damn LA, so back to Jersey the band went.
You’re known as the Riff Witch because of the bad-ass way you play guitar, among other things. What was your introduction?
Fumbling around through bluegrass chords on my mom’s Yamaha acoustic. The strings were, like, an inch off of the neck and were all rusted — real vintage, [laughs]. I’ve played piano since I was about 5, and I just started picking instruments up, trying to emulate the feelings and sounds I was shown through my parent’s amazing (and totally eclectic) music taste.
What is the greatest guitarist influence on the Riff Witch and how and why did they inspire you? Hendrix and Page. Are You Experienced and Led Zeppelin II were the first albums I remember my dad showing me, and my little 11-year-old brain nearly exploded. I remember hearing those first notes on “Heartbreaker,” the tone, bigger and gnarlier than anything I’d ever heard before. I didn’t understand it, but I was blown away and immediately hooked to fuzz, the blues—mulating emotion with tones and scales.
And then I saw Dave Grohl’s goofy-ass playing Wembley Stadium. Running around, chewing gum and grinning ear to ear from the sheer enjoyment — and he didn’t even know how to play guitar! I made a bet with my dad that he would go sky diving with me when I played Wembley Stadium. That still stands by the way, Dad.
So, you’re not Little. You’re rather tall. And you’re not Vicious because you have a heart of gold. So, from where does the name Little Vicious come; why has it stuck for all these years, configurations and locales, and is it related in any way to the 1991 Oscar-nominated documentary or the Jamaican rapper?
[Laughs] Oh man, no, we have no affiliation with Lil’ Vicious. I think he actually dropped the Lil. Anyway, my original drummer, Eric Pierce, and I had the logo before the name, strangely enough. It’s this made up, mirrored rune I just started drawing, and I knew I had to use it for something. We kept going back and forth, had Little, then Vicious, trying to think of a third word that started with L because the rune is two mirrored L’s overlaying a single V. We kept at it, just saying Little Vicious over and over, until my original bassist came home and said, ‘Why not just Little Vicious?’ And we had it. It’s our sound, really. Just vicious enough, but we definitely have a sweet side.
Who else now is in Little Vicious, for how long, and what other bands have they been in?
Tom Morrison plays the drums in LV. He came on just about the same time my most recent one, Matt Lauritsen, was relocating to Nashville. Tom is the best, because he’s played with so many bands in the past, but was looking for a project exactly like LV for so long. He currently still drums for AudioHive and Cardinal Slinky, but his focus is definitely on Little Vicious. Similar to Greg Black, my new bassist. We make fun of him because he’s another guitarist turned bassist for LV, and is bad with technology so he’s the band dad. Black plays guitar in a Jacksonville group, Chrome Fangs. It is so different working with these two, because it’s the first time both other members take this group as seriously as I do. It’s a business, a priority, and we all treat it as so. They have families to take care of, we can’t just take off on the road without a plan and budget. It’s instilled a serious new energy and drive into the band and I know these two will go to the very end with me.
Your latest album, Dark Country, features four songs from your 2016 self-titled debut. Did you re-record those songs for the new release?
That’s right. Those four songs are the four oldest, quintessential LV songs that we still play live, and with all of the different reiterations of LV, it would be impossible for their sound, structure, and form to stay the same after four years. I doubt we’ll re-release any new versions of any of the other older songs, but you never know. We always try to record how we sound in real life—and the past versions of those songs just weren’t accurate any more.
What did you like most and learn from recording with Pete Steinkopf and how did you hook up with him?
I fucking love Pete so much. He is one of the most creative and fun producers to work with, and since we recorded the album as a two-piece, Pete was the deciding factor in what would usually end at a stalemate between the two of us in the band. He’s like, the stuttering punk god of rock and roll reason. Pete reminded us to play the songs how they are, not relying on studio tricks to make the song. And we kept yelling, ‘GIANT, ROCK, BALLS,’ throughout the house, so that really kept the mood for the album on point.
Your management team also runs a record label, and you not only are an artist with them, but are also a management/label rep working with other artists. How did you hook up with them as an artist and how and why did that lead to the rep gig?
My boss, Meghann Wright, is one of the most bad-ass boss bitches I’ve ever met. She saw Little Vicious close to two years ago now when we picked up a last-minute gig at Sunnyvale in Brooklyn. Meghann used to be a nationally touring artist, but after having her kid, Calvin, focused more on management and artist distribution. That last-minute show in Sunnyvale was, like, one of the two live gigs she still plays a year. Total luck! We immediately bonded, and I knew Meghann wasn’t full of bullshit or just another concert promoter or fake agent. She kept at me for close to a year trying to get me to work with her label, GrindEthos. My band had still been rotating, playing out, and doing rad things, but there was too much volatility for me to feel right about committing to a label. I don’t like wasting people’s time. I finally had a proper three-piece and a solid crew when I pulled the trigger with GrindEthos Records, and I’ve never been so happy with a decision. We went on tour, we released/distributed our back catalogue and new album legally. I learned so much about the inner workings of the industry in a very short time. That’s why I love GE!
Sure, it’s a label, but everyone that works there doesn’t act like some holier-than-thou music guru. We’re there to teach each other what’s going on and how to evolve, survive in the music world. And when Meghann saw how seriously I treated my business, my music, she invited me to be a part of hers.
Who are the artists you specifically are representing, why did you want to work with them, and how can folks find out about them?
I represent four artists: Candy Cavity, Mansfield, Jen In The Right Light, and Seth Newton. Candy Cavity is an AP-based grunge-punk-pop band lead by my personal friend and all-around bad-ass, Candace Schur. They’re finishing up their debut album, and it’s coming out very soon via GrindEthos, so stay tuned for that pre-sale announcement. Mansfield is a four-piece indie-rock group I found in Orlando, and they are some of the hardest-working young musicians I’ve ever met. They released a single, ‘What Else To Do,’ July 26, and also have a full-length album coming end of summer. Jen In The Right Light is a six-piece groove army that reminds me of My Morning Jacket covering Umphree McGee on steroids. They have killer hooks and a familiar funk-jam sound, but with harder-hitting rock edge. I’m organizing a tour for them in mid-September, and JITRL is gonna destroy some venues very soon. Seth Newton is an indie singer-songwriter coming from a hardcore/heavy background. Currently based in Massachusetts, Seth was my first client with GrindEthos and I’ve handled his past two releases helping with artwork, licensing, and social promotion/reach. All of these artists are linked through the GrindEthos Records website, and can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Spotify. Go check them out, and shit — go check out all of our artists.
What is the Standard Motorcycle Co. and your connection to it?
The first time I went to Standard Motorcycle Co. was during the Voodoo Tour with Black Magic Flower Power (FKA Black Pussy). We were thrown on this ‘secret show’ at a motorcycle club last minute, so here we were 1,000 miles from home, a week-and-a-half on the road, wondering if we were gonna get robbed or worse by some Floridian bikers. We pulled up, exactly when we were supposed to be there, parked where we were supposed to be. I jumped outta the van and was very confused because yeah, it was a motorcycle garage, but it also had nitro iced coffee on tap, an actual green room for artists, and a BBQ truck. What?! I was definitely confused, and then on top of that, I had to go and fall in love, head over heels, with one of said bikers. We had both relatively recently gotten out of very traumatic, very public relationships, so naturally we avoided each other all night, like high school kids — we were too nervous to talk to each other. It wasn’t until the very end of the night, after the music had ended and the stage was broken down and only the bands and club employees remained, that I sat down and talked with Jason. We were both so tired, but we sat on this bench right outside the garage door and talked for a couple hours, about music and bikes and the road and all sorts of shit. I had gotten up to check on Matt, who was sleeping in the car, when I heard someone yell they were locking the doors for the night — I got in the van and locked myself in the front seat, sleeping behind the steering wheel. Scooter woke me and Matt up at six a.m., and we left in the barely morning light for our next date in Jacksonville. It was some point during that drive I noticed we’d gotten an Instagram message from Standard, offering couches instead of the van for sleep. I thanked them and left my phone number, then passed out until we got to Jax. Jason and I continued to talk, more and more, over the next two months. He became my best friend, an ally, a partner, and guidance that could not only keep pace, but push my goals and progress further — all the while keeping me accountable as a person. Yes, Jason designed one of the most coveted Triumph motorcycles in the world, and, yes, he was on a season of RIDE with Norman Reedus. He let me find these kind of things out on my own — he is incredibly humble with his accomplishments and notoriety. He doesn’t bank or rely on it to impress people — just his actions and his work.
It’s no secret around February last year Little Vicious was hurting. Matt was moving to Nashville, me and Scooter’s friendship was on edge, I was terrified. But I found Tom Morrison on tour, and we played for the first time together in the garage of SMC. Greg Black joined on bass, and now my work, band and love life was in Orlando, the home-base being Standard. I found some of the most talented, hard-working, ball-busting and kind-hearted people I have ever met in my life here. There is something so, so magical about this place, and I urge anyone who enjoys motorcycles or music to come down to Orlando for a show.
What are the next steps in promoting Dark Country?
Touring forever, really [laughs]. We also have a music video coming out mid-August, so keep your eyes peeled.
When and how do you plan to follow that release with new music?
As soon as possible. We’re already sitting on about, I dunno, five bangers and, of course, we’re eager to get them recorded and out. It’s just doing it right. We have to give Dark Country, it’s proper time, so we’re not really worrying about a new record until after the summer.
When and where will LV be playing from Aug. 7 on?
Man, everywhere? We actually play Aug. 8 with Thunderpussy and Hollis Brown at the Saint in Asbury Park. Aug. 10 at Garden Grove in Virginia, Aug. 16 at El Rocko in Savannah, Aug. 23 at APYC, Aug. 24 at The Grape Room in Philly, Aug. 25 at Coney Island Baby in NY, Aug. 28th at Monstercade in Winston-Salem — fuck it, we announced our full tour so go check our website, it’s all listed there. But there is a lot. See ya’ on the road.