Drummer Ben Williams remembers clearly a life-changing moment.
“I was 16 years old, and a friend of mine came by my house,” he said. “He had his car window down and he was playing ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ by Cream. And I just remember hearing that song and thinking that I had never heard a song with a drum so deep and such a cool riff. It really opened my ears, opened my mind, opened my eyes. I went out and bought a Cream album that day!”
In the two decades since that musical revelation, Williams, a Noblesville resident, has never lost focus on music, never ceased to build on that musical legacy, nor closed his eyes, ears, or mind to the possibilities of new frontiers in music.
“After I started listening to Cream, I wanted to find out all I could about [Cream guitarist] Eric Clapton,” he said. “Through Clapton, I got into Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. I got books on all those artists. I wanted to know everything there was to know about them. That was when I came across Robert Johnson.”
Johnson, the legendary and enigmatic bluesman, of the 1920s and ‘30s, continues to influence Williams to this day. As members of the blues/rock power trio, the Warrior Kings, Williams, guitarist Casey Harshbarger, and bassist Andy Newell wove that influence into their self-titled, debut disc. The track, “Robert Johnson’s Revolver,” is a direct homage to the iconic blues figure.
“That song is really about a traveling bluesman and all of the dangers he would face on the road. A lot of them would carry revolvers for protection, to keep them from getting stiffed, or getting robbed,” Williams said.
Moreover, that song is part of a larger metaphor for the struggles and challenges that people face in contemporary times.
“The lyrical themes deal with the life of an everyman,” Williams further explained. “Topics of love, lust, war, carnage and the need to understand the hard questions, and even the hard answers this world gives us.”
Yet, the beginning of the Warrior Kings is not a story of challenges or adversity, but rather a coming together of like-minded individuals. Williams and Harshbarger were introduced when both were playing at Northview Church in Carmel.
“I just pulled out my guitar and played a song for him, and he really liked it. We just knew right away that we wanted to form a band together,” Williams said. “We’re the same age, we have the same taste in music, we’re both fathers with two children. We have a great working relationship. And Andy is the icing on the cake. He’s a real prodigy. For such a young guy, he is really in demand! He stays busy!”
All three shared one key element: the desire to push musical boundaries with blistering blues, rock and jazz blending seamlessly into loose jams and tight playing.
“The album to me is a new twist on the fusion of the blues, rock and the psychedelic,” Williams said of the disc. “We wanted to avoid cliché and predictability … That’s why we dig playing live. We are always looking to outdo each other. When we jam, we turn a four minute song into a seven or eight minute song. It’s not monotonous. One of our goals is to do a live album.”
Harshbarger and Williams both give music lessons and want to pass on that knowledge of and hunger for music, just like the older guys passed it on to them.
“We are on a mission to please the listener’s ear. We want to continue the blues/rock, and we believe our music has the power to do it,” Williams said. “My hope is the formula changes that people aren’t afraid to challenge their minds, branching out into new music. Going out listening to bands perform new music and perfect their craft, there’s nothing like it.”