Jeff Fischer

Makin Waves with Reality Suite: Friends Throughout the World

Few Jersey bands market themselves as well as Reality Suite. Their masterful efforts have built an international following on four continents.

Childhood friends Brian King, drums; Joe Padula, guitars, and Antonio Valenti, bass, have been performing together and apart for many years in a variety of bands. They formed Reality Suite in 2009 and joined forces with front woman Kimmii Heart four years later.

Inventively growing their following throughout the pandemic via music videos and social media, Reality Suite will release their first new music in more than a year on April 8. The single “Sleep with Ghosts” from a forthcoming acoustic EP features a collaboration with the husband-and-wife team of Sarah and Andrew Wayne of the fellow female-fronted Jersey hard rock band Aurin. Two days later, Reality Suite will play their first show in more than two years opening for Tantric at Dingbatz. 

Be sure to pre-save the Spotify single here, and enjoy the following interview with Brian and Kimmii.

Please provide as many details as you can about your next single, including inspiration, creative and studio process, release, and label info.

Brian: “Sleep with Ghosts,” featuring Sarah and Andrew Wayne of the New Jersey band Aurin, will be released April 8 on DI Records out of Pittsburgh. The inspiration is primarily nostalgia and vengeance after being ghosted. “Sleep with Ghosts” began with a simple lyric, “I sent you my love on your birthday, now I take it away.” The songwriting process began 10 years ago, very early on in our band’s history. I think we’ve all experienced a situation where you’ve sent someone a personal message on social media without receiving a response. Well, I sent an innocent “happy birthday” message to a previous girlfriend from many years ago, and it was ignored. So that became a song. Not every lyric in the song is directly related to that scenario, but the sentiment is consistent. 

The song was completed and recorded with a previous singer, but when Kimmii joined the band, this song was shelved in favor of writing new material with her involvement. When the idea arose to record a special acoustic EP for our supporters, we wanted to include at least two new songs. This song was dusted off, I wrote a new chorus and bridge, and we were suddenly excited about this track again! 

We wanted to present a special collaboration to our fans and invited our New Jersey peers Aurin to join the project. Sarah Wayne (vocals) and Andrew Wayne (production and keyboards) helped us in taking “Sleep with Ghosts” to another level. We are all excited for our fanbases to hear this!

What is the status of, and plans for, your forthcoming EP? Will you be releasing any more singles and videos from it before it is released?

Brian: “Sleep with Ghosts” will be included on our upcoming acoustic EP, Closure, to be released in May or June. Although “Sleep with Ghosts” is a digital single, the acoustic EP will be a CD-only release, which will be included as a bonus to our Awaken vinyl bundle. ‘Awaken’ is our 2019 full-length album featuring “Kiss the Ring,” “Dead to Me,” and “Cut, Burn, Bruise,” which had a very limited vinyl release in 2021. We held on to our last 50 records. We are signing and numbering them 1 to 50 and will include two 11×17 posters, a handwritten lyric sheet, and other collectibles in addition to this acoustic CD. Supporters will even have the ability to be listed on the liner notes. The CD will feature two new tracks, plus fan-elected songs reimagined and/or acoustically re-recorded. 

When, how, and why did each of you get into music and come together as a band?

Brian: Antonio and I have been friends since grammar school, and Joe and I have been friends since high school. The three of us had played in bands together and independently all our lives. After walking away from music for a few years, we each got the itch again and decided to write and record again. It was very casual at first until the music we were writing excited us and the people around us. We discovered Kimmii through a Craigslist ad, and our audience grew after that.

On April 8, Reality Suite will release their first single in more than a year. “Sleep with Ghosts” is a collaboration with fellow female-fronted hard rock band Aurin / Photo by Jeff Fischer

What are each of your favorite kinds of music? Do you incorporate those styles into Reality Suite, and, if so, how?

Brian: The common denominator among the four of us is rock music, but each of us has our own guilty pleasures that influence the overall sound of the band. As much as I love Metallica and Ghost, ABBA and cheesy pop music are a big influence on my songwriting. Kimmii loves our genre peers The Pretty Reckless and Halestorm, but is also very in touch with pop radio. Joe ensures that every song has an edge by bringing the Van Halen, Five Finger Death Punch, and overall rock vibe to everything. Antonio is all over the place from classic crooners to Radiohead to Dua Lipa. He ensures things are just a little off kilter. But this is all just a stereotype because there are dozens of bands that we all enjoy together: Kiss, Muse, Rush, Def Leppard, The Struts. It all makes for interesting songwriting.

In 42 years of covering the New Jersey music scene, I’ve never seen an independent band market themselves as well as Reality Suite. Do any of the band members have a background in marketing and/or business that you apply to the band or are you self-taught out of experience and necessity?

Brian: “Self-taught out of experience and necessity,” you hit the nail on the head. Throughout my entire life, I enjoyed being the guy in the band who designs the ads, visits the clubs and hands out CDs (back in the day), sets up interviews and gigs – but it wasn’t until 2015 when we released our debut full-length, Skinn, that I realized how critical it was to proactively position ourselves in front of our target audience. I mean, this is Marketing 101, but none of us had ever taken a course in marketing. Back then, I had the same approach to marketing and social media that many independent bands still have – let them find us, this notion that it looks desperate if you are putting yourself out there and engaging with people. That was ridiculous. We need to find them and develop a relationship, then let it grow from there. In 2015, strangers around the world began posting that they were streaming our music. People began taking photos with our CD and posting it on social media. I then found the opportunity to maintain relationships with all these people and how important it was to remain engaged to our supporters. I invest the time into being available for our supporters. Kimmii also dips in on our social media pages. 

Quick story: Kimmii and I wanted to see a local band a few months ago. Both she and I sent messages to the band’s Instagram account asking if they were selling advance tickets because we wanted to contribute to their sales. You know what? That band never responded to either of us. And you know what? We never went to see them. That is where most indie bands fail; when there is no open door to the band. If you don’t check your social media messages and respond, you’re missing out big time.

Why have music videos helped grow the band’s following, particularly in the face of the pandemic impacting tour plans?

Brian: We were fortunate to have recorded a live album and accompanying music videos in 2019 but were holding onto them until the time was right to release them. In the spring of 2020 when the lockdown began, the immediate reaction was to release Live at Alpha Wave Studios as a limited edition signed and numbered CD with a collectible guitar pick and face mask. We released the live videos on YouTube every week for a few months until the pre-order of the CD was complete, and the album was sold out. Continuously releasing videos and music has proven to be extremely vital to our existence since we have no current plans to visit our supporters in Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and others worldwide.

Reality Suite are good at marketing, social media, and music videos, but do you enjoy them? Why or why not?

Brian: Within the band, we all have our different levels of engagement with social media, but I can say I really enjoy interacting with our supporters. We all love shooting music videos. We just shot one for “Sleep with Ghosts” featuring Sarah Wayne and Andrew Wayne of Aurin. It incorporates several birthday cakes, explosives, and fire, but that is all I can say at the moment!

Do the band rely on Kimmii’s beauty and sex appeal to market the band?

Kimmii: I wouldn’t say that we rely on beauty and sex appeal. I’m just a sensual person – always have been. Sure, that helps with marketing. l open the door for people to actually click in and give our music a shot. It’s the way the world is, unfortunately. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the music!

Kimmii, are you a model? If so, for whom have you modeled?

Kimmii: I’ve been modeling in front of the camera since I can remember. I love photoshoots! To name a few, I’ve modeled for the Fabulous brand and The Days Sustainable Apparel, which I’m super excited that they are female-owned and opening their first storefront in Cape May at end of March. Check them out!

Reality Suite front woman Kimmii Heart also is a fashion model, painter, avid reader, and plays guitar and piano / Photo by Jeff Crespi

You have a great deal of sensuality and physicality you bring to the band on and off the stage, and you’re engaged to a bodybuilder/exercise physiologist/physical therapist. Why are your body and appearance important to you and to the band?

Kimmii: Actually, very interesting timing to be asked this question. I am no longer with him. We recently split up. He was a bodybuilder/personal trainer. I do not believe looks and appearance are everything. There absolutely needs to be balance, and it is more important to be beautiful on the inside, than outside. It might sound cliché, but it is so true. You could be the most beautiful person in the world, but if you’re bitter and judgmental on the inside, you’re automatically ugly. What is on the inside radiates.  

I believe it’s better to live a balanced life. Eat healthily, but also eat your sweets and fried food. And move, don’t ever stop moving! Walk, dance, sing, and laugh. Never stop taking adventures and living in the moment – that is what life is about.

I love to express myself through my appearance. I always have dressed differently and love going against ‘what is cool and trendy.’ But no matter what I look like, I’ll never stop making music. It is always about the music for me!

How and why is Kimmii not just a pretty face?

Kimmii: I have many talents other than writing music and singing. I also have been in dance classes since I was young. Dancing and movement bring me joy. I play guitar and am currently teaching myself piano. I also enjoy painting. 

I’m the type of person that needs to know everything and learn as much as possible about things that spark my interest. I love to read books and just educate myself as much as I can. I can’t stress enough how important it is to always be learning and educating yourself! Question everything, don’t take things at face value and do your own research.

Oh, and I have weirdly great aim! I’d like to think I’m more than just a “pretty face” as you said.

Where would you say you have the largest overseas following and why?

Brian: Well, looking at our Apple Music stats, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Australia are our top 5 countries of 2021. Our Spotify top countries add to that Germany, France, Brazil, and Mexico. 

You ask, why? I wish I could pinpoint the trends! I can connect the dots and say I can name some people that I interact with on social media from all these countries, but the thousands of others I am not interacting with make us even more proud. Despite our top streaming countries, we have charted on iTunes in Belgium, New Zealand, Portugal, Egypt, and Paraguay! I wish I understood how so we can follow a similar plan for future releases! I can tell you, when a dive bar at the Jersey Shore won’t give you a gig, seeing the love that we receive from around the world sure is consoling.

It’s been a while since you’ve performed. Comment on how and why you are looking forward to your first show in two years opening for Tantric at Dingbatz.
 We are stoked to perform at Dingbatz with Tantric on April 10. This is our homecoming show after not performing in New Jersey in over two years!

What would you say has been the band’s greatest accomplishment so far?

Brian: Our greatest accomplishment has been remaining a band for almost a decade. I believe we have remained tight through little victories and major disappointments that would have easily broken up most bands. Because we have been friends for most of our lives, we have learned to navigate around each other’s differences and accept that it is our differences that make this band unique.

What goals for the band haven’t you reached yet and how do you plan to?

Brian: When the ‘Sleep with Ghosts’ single is released on April 8, the pre-order for our collectible vinyl bundle and acoustic CD will launch. We also have new songs to record and release later in 2022. The goal is to continue to release the best music that we can and continue to make new friends throughout the world.