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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Weekend In: Salt Lake City, Utah

Our Utah weekend trip was a whirlwind adventure! We left on Friday night and were back on Monday morning. It was rough but so much fun. Being back West was kind of crazy, considering we had only left three months before! We missed those mountains though.
Rocky Mountains Ogden Utah
Our hotel was really nice. I found an awesome deal via Booking.com for The Little America Hotel. The breakfast was amazing. We recommend the french toast, house-made granola, and the Chuck Wagon meal. We started both our mornings at their restaurant. SO GOOD!

On Saturday we spent the day celebrating with the new Mr. & Mrs. Boyce! They were sealed in the Ogden temple, right down the street from our old place. That was fun being so close to where we used to live. Waiting outside the temple made for a little more practice time with the camera. The luncheon and reception was good food and good times at a reception hall right across the street from the temple. It was really funny because a couple of the Young Men and Young Women from our old ward worked at the reception hall, The Grand View. I scared one of my old Laurels haha. 

the Ogden Utah LDS temple

Spencer taking pictures for another wedding

Ogden Utah LDS temple grounds

Mr. and Mrs. Boyce

selfie with the newlyweds

It was a great day! We headed back to Salt Lake City a little early so that we could relax before the day ahead on Sunday. There was checking out the Hogle Zoo planned before getting on the plane Sunday night. Told you it was a whirlwind weekend!

Breakfast at the hotel restaurant was again amazing. The zoo was easy to find but parking wasn't. Who knew so many Utahans went to the zoo on Sundays! The animals were of course wonderful.

This bear was so funny. He was playing in the water with tiny pieces of wood and reminded us of Muggle when she wrestles with her toys. And the otter was cute too. Spencer made us go back to check the exhibit 3 times to make sure we saw the otters. It was worth it to see him show off. Isn't that baby orangutan cute?!
Grizzly bear at the zoo

otters at the Hogle Zoo

photo op at the Hogle Zoo

baby orangutan at the Hogle Zoo

Kristyn and Spencer at the Hogle Zoo

The trip back home was intense as we arrived back in Baltimore at 7am on Monday. Needless to say we slept all day. But overall a worthwhile trip! Wish we had more time to spend with family in Utah. Hopefully we'll get to see you all soon.

The weather is getting warmer around here meaning we'll get to have more fun outside. The National Museum of the American Indian is hosting a Hawaii Festival in a couple weeks that we are planning to check out. And we are looking at a camping and fishing trip during Memorial Day weekend. I'm interested to see how Muggle handles that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Band Promo Ideas: Instagram

Social media is big part of branding and marketing for anyone looking to put themselves out there. Queens Over Kings uses four different social media platforms and we have about an equal audience across the board.

The trick to social media is not to get overwhelmed. Without balance things can become too much to handle on top of everything else a band needs to look out for. My game plan for the band is to offer all the options, allowing our fans to choose. Then, over time, we will work on the platforms individually to discover the purpose for each one. 

Thanks to a post earlier this month by Career Girl Daily, a blog I personally follow, I was motivated to make Instagram simpler for myself and the band. CGD had some great tips on how to clean up your profile to gain more followers and promote your brand by choosing a single theme. While the post was meant for "career girls in heels," I think the two examples below can be translated for any promo opportunity. See how I've used the theme ideas for Instagram, then check out my list of other possible ideas to streamline your band's Instagram account!

Instagram 2 Ways

For my personal profile I chose to look into developing my photography skills. I recently purchased a Canon EOS Rebel T5 for blogging and I take it pretty much everywhere. As I take pictures I choose some to post on my Instagram. Because my theme is practicing photography I can post about daily life, band stuff, or whatever I want, as long as I am working on getting better at taking pictures.

The photo shoot of the guitars from a couple weeks ago had Jerald helping me get right lighting. He went to school for that kind of stuff so he jumps in to help me get pictures for the blog. We used a cookie sheet for reflectors!As for the band, we've chosen an "exclusive content" theme. Generally this was because we needed Instagram to be low-maintenance and to make it unique from our other profiles. Sometimes we cross-promote to get information to our whole audience. However, most of the time we only post to Instagram when we have something special we want to share.

We've had sneak peeks on songs, special offers for merchandise, and behind-the-scenes videos of practice. Just this past weekend we had the address for our Open House Jam Sesh up on Instagram only.

As I mentioned both accounts only post when there is something to post. Otherwise there is so much stress over collaborating on posting schedules, creating content where there is none, and driving ourselves crazy trying to fit everything in. Just remember two things: keep it simple, and music comes first.  

Theme Ideas for Instagram

I know that without a full time marketing manager band promotion can be rough, so to help you get started here is a list of theme ideas for your band to use on Instagram:
  • Venues you've played
  • Traveling to and from performances
  • Wardrobe
  • Behind-the-scenes at rehearsals, performances, or recordings
  • Instruments/Equipment
  • Meeting fans
  • Graphics of lyrics from your music
  • Contests & Giveaways
  • Street team in action
  • Daily life of band members
  • Fans with your merchandise
  • Upcoming performances schedule
  • Funny/Silly situations
  • Shout outs to fans and sponsors
  • Words from your band name, lyrics in unique places

I hope these ideas get the marketing juices flowing. What approach will you take with Instagram? Let me know in the comments! Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Hardest Part of Being In A Band

UPDATE 6/16/2015: I recently realized that this post is all about me whining that being in a band is hard with no real solution. Sure, being positive is a nice way to keep the nagging at bay. However there is a practical approach to solving group/team projects. See my answer to the hardest part of being in a band, group, or team over at Miss Apples Co.

Initial thoughts of being in a band are usually of glamour, fame, and fortune. I mean those are definitely in my top five reasons for doing what I do. But there is a dark side to the pursuit of music that is almost never talked about. (The only helpful link I could find was this article.) Being in a band is the perfect example of a paradox: it is the most awesome and the most annoying thing you could possibly decide to do. And to me it’s also the most frightening. The hardest part of being in a band is having everyone on the same page all the time. In our case for the moment it is how we define "better".

A good portion of my day is band. Research, emails, phone calls, promo, planning, practice, finances. Then repeat... That means my brain is running on Queens Over Kings overdrive all the gosh dang time. I barely have time to think about anything else. Like my job that actually pays me. Most nights I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking of promo ideas, follow up emails, songs we need to work on, photos to take. Ugh. BEING IN A BAND IS WORK. 24/7 WORK.

When there actually is a break my brain immediately has an anxiety attack. What if this doesn't work out? Are we doing enough? Are we doing this right? Do people even like our music? Straight up, this is scary stuff! I would hate to be let down after putting ourselves out there. I need outside validation to breathe, so in my mind we are just not allowed to not make it. If we would work harder we’d get better and then we can’t lose.

Ahh. But what exactly is better?

I have come to enjoy words that have different meanings to different people. The discussion is obvious. It forces people to consider a new perspective. The word “better” comes up often around here so I've had a chance to think about it a lot working through this idea of doing music with my siblings. 

To me better is about expertise. If you are committed to doing something better then you are committed to heart and soul progress. This is so when anyone asks how you know something you can look them straight in the eye and honestly say that you know. There are a lot of things I'm committed to doing better, blogging for example. Then there are things that I'm not quite all for, such as keeping my room clean.

That is not the way the band works right now, or even how most individual members of the band work. At the end of some days we can only hope to do better next time by getting through an hour of practice or remembering to finish some kind of update when we say we will. And on those days that just has to be enough. And those days are my biggest let downs. (See anxiety attack above…) I end up on a Slurpee run or binge watching Psych behind a locked door because I just. can’t. handle. it.

I love my family. I mean, shoot, we're in a band together! But when it comes down to it we simply aren't the same – different personalities can be a creative asset, but they can also be a train wreck. Along with differing personalities and experiences comes differing opinions and priorities. Add the age range and we have a very complicated, maybe unlucky, recipe. Because we have so much variation to wade through among the five of us, life can get pretty overwhelming.

Being in a band is hard enough, but being in a band with your family can mean taking each other for granted. Or plain wanting to scream at the top of your lungs. Here at QOK headquarters I think things are a getting a little dysfunctional. It's the boom and bust cycle of creativity I suppose. Practices get cut short, promo is left undone, promises aren't kept, all because we can’t communicate or forget to set aside being stubborn. It’s all so far away from the excitement and simplicity that made us want to do this in the first place: family, faith, fun.

Now that we are at the bottom, the only way to go is up. We have to make ourselves have fun again! For us that means lots of performances and less pressure. Surprisingly the performances are the easy part. As for taking off the pressure, we'll see how that goes for me. Someday we'll achieve the routine and accountability I strive for. But for now my better is going to be reminding myself that I'm just happy to be here. I can't take us too seriously. After all, we aren't famous...yet. So I’m going to take a step back, try to enjoy the ride. My goal this week is to keep track of the band's small achievements by posting them on our front door so I can share them with everyone. That should motivate us to do better, whatever our definition is.

What's your definition of "better"? It would be great to get some more perspective so please share!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Photo Tour: Washington, DC

Washington, D.C. is an amazing place. As my brother put it, "It's where the world is decided." It represents so much to many different people. Living close has always made me feel kind of special and I'm really happy to be back. Since my family went into the city a lot when I was growing up, it's nice to make new memories and share my favorite things with Spencer.

Over the weekend Spencer and I took to the city with Jerald and Christina for an adult's day out. We just bought a new camera for work (I'm now the marketing manager for the company that Spencer works for and I'm starting to work on this blog thing something more) so the day was spent playing with our new toy. While we never made it to the cherry blossoms, we had a really great time hanging out in the sunshine of the city.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Guitar Hero World Tour Playlist

Queens Over Kings guitars

Do you remember Guitar Hero? I loved that game. It's probably still around, but not nearly as popular as maybe 8 years ago. We got Guitar Hero: World Tour as a family Christmas gift one year and it was the most amazing thing. We played all day long! I bet none of my family can remember if we got anything other gifts. Guitar Hero was the best because it was a game we all liked playing together. Even my dad got in on the drums sometimes. It was crazy fun!

The 2011 Relay for Life event has been pegged as Queens Over Kings's first real performance, but Guitar Hero: World Tour was probably a better tell of what was to come. We each sat down to an instrument and played for stadiums of adoring fans like it was our job. It just clicked: playing together, identifying with instruments, and the songs we rocked out to. Check out our original set list below.

Spiderwebs was at one time a staple on our set list. And No Doubt continues to be where we all meet musically. Any of your favorites make our list? Can you guess which one of these was my dad's favorite song to play? Share your guesses below!

Update 4/15/2015: Guitar Hero Live was released yesterday too! What a coincidence huh? The new game lets you play for life-like crowds to get real-life reactions. Interesting twist. Check out the trailer here and let me know what you think in the comments.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


how to write music

Queens Over Kings has basically always been a cover band. We've just had fun picking songs and playing them for the heck of it. There wasn't a reason to write music. Not to mention differing abilities, distance, and being shy kept us in our comfort zone over the years. Because of this The Blues Song, or Lock and Key, has been our only original song for a long, long time.

I had always assumed that music was a literal step-by-step process that once learned would work every time. "Just do this, then do that, and voila you have a song!" I even Googled it a couple times like any self-respecting Millenial would do. Nothing. On top of searching for the perfect way to write, I was afraid of being told I was wrong. When considering song topics, word choice, tone, emphasis, pitch, and so on there is a lot to think about so there is a lot of personal effort behind it all. If, and only if, you find something you like then you have to share it with someone eventually. Taking criticism for something you put your whole self into is not a lighthearted experience. It's a skill all on its own!

So how do you deal with all of the timing and shyness and attachment? To get the ball rolling I had to just commit to doing my part in the music. I am in no way perfect or on the same level as Jerald or even Hallie, but I can say that I can contribute. Bottom line, I have looked to find out what works for me in the role of lead singer/songwriter. Once I made the decision to do my job things became easier, at the very least familiar. Here are a few tips that I've picked up over the last year that will hopefully help you figure out your own way to write music:

  • Remember that music is about balance - If you have ever heard of yin and yang, then you'll know what I'm saying. Everything has its opposite (fire and water, light and dark, feminine and masculine) so look for the compromise in your music. When writing Lock and Key we purposely made the words vague and complicated, but music that is straightforward is enjoyable too (see Taylor Berrett's "Those Days" for a prime example) and we are highlighting more of that now. Also consider what you think is worth sharing. On a scale of private and public display of emotion, do you want to be Sting or Taylor Swift?
  • Carry a notebook and pen with you everywhere - And I mean EVERYWHERE. My mini journal is a significant part of my writing routine. Have a place where you can jot down lyrics from single words or phrases to whole verses. You'll thank yourself when it comes time to put something together. You can mix and match however you want or get help putting on the finishing touches. A great alternative is a notes app on your phone. I really like Evernote because I can sync to my computer. It is available for both Android and iPhone.
  • Set aside time to relax and write whatever pops into your head - Some of my favorite lyrics have come to me when I've set aside time to just lie on my back and look at the ceiling. For me this is usually when I'm settling down for the night. I've also tried other rooms of the house with great success haha. Everything counts here so write it all down. You just never know! We recently used what I wrote from a session like this into a new song that you can preview on the QOK Show. That first line gives me chills every time! 
  • Use music you love as a springboard - Put on your favorite tunes and try harmonizing or singing new words to melodies you already know. Learn how to play these songs on an instrument, be it piano or guitar, so you can sing along. I took a guitar class for fun and learned a tiny bit about music theory. That helps, often enough, when I'm in the Green Room with my amazingly talented and experienced siblings. Plus arranging the songs I love gives me practice with song structure.
  • Just mess around in a jam sesh - This one has taken me the longest to work up to. I'm so glad I'm getting into it though since we are writing more original songs. I started laying down some nonsense after practice one night and it has really paid off with yet another new song. I think it's going to be our best song yet! Start singing about your pet, your dinner, or your favorite sweater. Good music is universal so those feelings about your car are bound to make sense to someone else somewhere right?
Each process is individual so I'd love to hear about yours. What have you written lately? How do you get into the "zone"? Also, don't forget to like the Queens Over Kings Facebook page and subscribe to our growing YouTube channel for videos and music. Good luck with your writing!

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Kristyn here. I'm really good at Googling, dreaming, and thinking outside the box. Someday I'm going to save all the puppies and perform on a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float.

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