The King Street Giants are the North Bay’s liveliest disseminators of traditional, New Orleans–style jazz.
Inspired by the boisterous and raucous music that can be found in the halls, clubs and streets of the French Quarter, the band originated their sound in street-busking sessions throughout the Bay Area, and in recent years they’ve shared the stage with iconic artists including Bonnie Raitt, Galactic, Rebirth Brass Band, Charlie Musselwhite, New Orleans Suspects and many more at major festivals throughout the West Coast.
On August 3, the King Street Giants released their third full-length LP, Everything Must Go. The 11-track record is the band’s first release to feature vocals and it is the first release under the group’s current name, as the band previously played under the name Dixie Giants until changing the name two years ago.
“We were gearing up to do our first trip to New Orleans (in 2018), and as we were talking to friends and colleagues who had moved or toured down there, we started getting a lot of questions about the name Dixie Giants,” says band co-founder and sousaphone player Nick Pulley.
As the group did research into the name, they found that the word Dixie still has a strong connotation with the Confederacy in the South.
“We all grew up on the West Coast, and the term Dixieland Jazz doesn’t bat an eye,” Pulley says. “But, we learned that Dixieland Jazz was a term that white record labels used in the 1920s and ’30s to tell the public this is white musicians playing this music.”
Dropping the potentially offensive term from their moniker, the group quickly decided to rebrand the band with a name inspired by their at-the-time practice space on King Street in Santa Rosa.
“And, of course we changed the name, and then we moved,” Pulley laughs. “Recently, seeing the Dixie Chicks change their name and seeing (New Orleans–based) Dixie Beer change their name, it’s good to get that reinforcement from people who have an international platform who are making those same changes and learning those same histories.”
For the record, the King Street Giants were warmly welcomed in New Orleans in 2018, and the band—made up of Pulley on sousaphone, Casey Jones on clarinet and tenor sax, Jesse Shantor on alto sax, Jason Thor on trombone, Daniel Charles on banjo and both Libby Cuffie and Dylan Garrison on drums—have made a new name for themselves over the past two years, treating the North Bay to raucous live shows up until the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the scene.
At the time of the shutdown, the King Street Giants had just recorded Everything Must Go at Prairie Sun Studios. The album features all original tunes, several with vocals, that range from freewheeling shuffles to sonorous ballads and even an old fashioned dirge. Pulley says the album title reflects the group’s attitude about getting rid of bad habits and working on bettering oneself. He also says there is a political angle, and that despite the group’s ebullient musical output, he and other members of the band are currently writing more somber music to reflect the ongoing pandemic and protest movements.
Originally, the group was going to release the album in mid-July, and they were hoping to perform live to celebrate the occasion. Even as the pandemic keeps people isolated, the group went ahead with the album release on August 3.
“We’re very proud of it and there’s no point in sitting on it and keeping it a secret and waiting for a release show to happen,” Pulley says. “The response that we’ve been getting from close friends who’ve heard it has been positive, so why wait? People have time to listen to it, and I think people need something new to listen to.”