King Whisker is an experimental art punk band from San Diego, CA. Their latest record Relaxing With Aunt Janine is nominated for Best Indie/Alternative Album in the 2022 San Diego Music Awards taking place April 19th. The band will be performing at our sponsored San Diego Music Awards showcase at 710 Beach Club on April 16th. We met up with singer/guitarist Charlie Rohlfs in Hillcrest to talk about his background, the creation of the band’s album, and their nomination.
Photo: Bradly Cooling
1. What was the first instrument you picked up?
I played violin in middle school and elementary school, and then they were desperate for bass players. Nobody wanted to play bass, so I switched to stand-up bass. That turned into electric bass, and eventually guitar.
2. The member of King Whisker are from all over the country. How did you all end up in San Diego?
We started as a three-piece. Just me and the drummer are all that’s left from the original three-piece. We were working at a marketing agency together, and that’s actually why a lot of our songs on the album are very weird corporate-y, pro-corporate nonsense. It’s because we’re all in this insane-o marketing agency together. It was all like, “company culture, company culture!” Yeah, so that’s kind of the impetus for some of the weirdness in the band.
3. Tell us about Whiskerton.
We kind of had this universe that became Whiskerton. We call it a dystopian utopia. It’s kind of where corporate America wants us to be going, which is like, “everybody loves their job, and your work is family,” and all of that stuff. But it’s that actual place. Like, that is the world we’re kind of creating, but it’s a world where animals and humans live together. So, your bus drive’s a pig, and different things. We have this whole world we’ve been slowly building up over time.
4. So, it’s sort of a satire of Corporate America?
Yeah, yeah. Just kind of like a tongue-in-cheek love of corporate culture. Especially, the songs Whiskerton and My Job I think are the ones that address that the most on the album.
5. Is the band name related to that as well?
Whiskerton came out of King Whisker. Yeah, so it’s just kind of like the whole bizzaro universe that we exist in.
6. I saw somewhere that you guys took classes at Berklee College of Music. What kinds of things did you learn, and do you recommend other musicians do the same?
We built our own recording studio to record the album, and we wanted to at least not have it be terrible, the audio quality. So yeah, we took courses online through Berklee. I highly recommend it. It’s great if you’re working on your own projects. You can understand how to do things better so you’re not wasting time and wasting takes. It’s also great when you’re working with an engineer to understand what they’re talking about and understand what stuff creates headaches for them, so when you’re handing them your files, your material, whatever, it’s not a total nightmare.
7. Your song Boys Club/Girls Club is an anthem for the queer, trans, and non-binary communities. What other issues are important to your band?
LGBTQIA is a very big part of our music and our identity. We pride ourselves on being a diverse group of people. The Black Lives Matter movement. Voting rights. You know, it’s a balance. We’re balancing being a political band and being a nonsense band, so we kind of pick and choose where to get involved. I think if we were a band of just straight white dudes, a lot of our songs would be about cars and chicks and stuff like that, which is fine, but I think the diverse voices of our band allow us to be a little more creative and multi-influential. We just want people to generally treat each other with respect. That’s kind of basically all it’s about.
8. The San Diego Music Awards are coming up. Tell us what category you’re nominated for, and are you excited to participate in that?
We’re nominated for Best Indie/Alternative Album for our album Relaxing With Aunt Janine. We were nominated last year for a single we did for Best Indie/Alternative Single for a song called Television. I’m so stoked, ya know? We’re all transplants not from San Diego, and the scene has been super welcoming to us. There’s a lot of really good bands in there. I actually was very briefly in a band that was one of the guys from Machine Politik, one of the guys from Evening’s Empire, and myself. And we’re all nominated for the same category, so it’s kind of cool to all be coming up at the same time, I guess. There’s a lot of really great music coming out, and we’re definitely the weirdest band being nominated in that category. I’m just so happy that the people who choose who’s nominated were okay with what we’re doing, and that they recognize that it’s music and not just nonsense.
9. If you could make up a SDMA category, what would it be and who would you nominate?
I want to celebrate people who are doing something new, and I think that’s the most important thing. I think there are definitely some bands in San Diego doing really cool new stuff, and I think recognizing bands that are taking kind of bold, big chances would be a good thing to do. I don’t know what I’d call it, but that would be kind of cool. Best Experimental Band, maybe? Cause there’s some really great wackos doing weird music, and I think they could use a little more love in San Diego.
10. What are your goals this year for the band?
h man, we’re just trying to get back on our feet after Covid. We released this album and were so stoked to hit the ground running and tour. Then Omicron came, and then our bass player moved, so we’re just looking forward to be playing shows again.
We have the showcase at 710 Beach Club on April 16th, we’re headlining a 4/20 show at The Casbah, and then we have a May 6th show at Kensington Club, which is one of our favorite places to play. So, just playing music again, meeting new bands, and just seeing the scene being alive again is what I’m looking forward to. That’s my goal, is just to play music.