By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Apr 27, 2010 at 8:55 AM

It's been a long time coming, but we Milwaukeeans knew the day would eventually come that we'd have to officially share Kings Go Forth with the rest of the country -- and world.

After a high-profile stop at this year's South by Southwest music festival, the 10-piece mix of classic R&B, soul, funk and rock steady returned home briefly before heading down to Washington D.C. to kick of its first East Coast tour.

Its highly anticipated Luaka Bop debut, "The Outsiders Are Back," dropped April 20 and that night, NPR Webcast the band's live performance at U Street Music Hall. You can hear the live performance here, read our conversation with vocalist Dan Fernandez below, and see the band play at Turner Hall Ballroom Friday, April 30. Congrats on the new album. We know it was a long time coming. Did you ever anticipate you'd be releasing it in DC while NPR streamed your show live for the whole country to enjoy?

Dan Fernandez: Yes, as a matter of fact, the very first practice we ever had, we wrote down our masterful plan to release an album in DC while receiving nationwide attention on NPR ... while also holding gold scepters and being fed peeled grapes. I guess two outta three ain't bad. Ha ha!

But seriously, thank you, I know people have been waiting a long time for the album. We really did intend for it to be released last July when we had our "release" show, but hopefully the extra time put into finishing the album made the final product that much better. And to be in DC on the release date was spectacular; the crowd could not have been more exuberant, and ("The Outsiders Are Back" sleeve designer) Mingering Mike, who we met at the show, was incredibly cool and gracious to us, and gave us a great introduction. It truly was a wonderful night.

OMC: Is this rush of local and national attention a surprise for the band, or was the eventual goal of Kings Go Forth? Has signing to Luaka Bop changed the course in any way?

DF: Well, we didn't presume any of the attention as a forgone conclusion. At the beginning, I didn't even know whether anyone other than our friends would even bother to come see us play! But I think the great response and support from our fans, especially those in Milwaukee, gave us the extra boost of confidence that allowed us to believe we could accomplish great things, including national and international attention. Why not?

Signing with Luaka Bop raised our profile for sure, and allowed us to tap into promotional channels that would likely have been out of our reach otherwise. Those efforts have paid big dividends. But in the end it comes down to the quality of the songs; without good songs, who is going to care about your band? We have great confidence in our songs and each other, and that buoys us when our minds start wondering if we can "make it."

OMC: A lot of reviews claim your sound to be retro or classic in many aspects, and while there's no doubt that's where the influence comes from, do you guys consider your music a step back in time -- or a step forward?

DF: We cannot escape our musical influences, and we don't want to. We have great appreciation for the magnificent soul, funk, reggae, hip-hop, jazz, Latin, rock, etc. that has molded the way we approach making music. And that foundation does inform our ideas about recording, rhythms, vocal harmonies, lyrics, all kinds of things. But we are not stuck at the foundation.

I guess I'd describe us as having one foot rooted in rich musical tradition, while the other is kicking forward into space! We're not interested in simply conforming to what others expect us to be, or just living in the past; we want to make music that we can get excited about, something that connects to people now. I think the way to do that is to reference our musical foundation here and there, especially when it comes to classic harmonies, but to never be afraid to try new ideas, and to have faith in our fans to come along with us.

OMC: And honestly, how difficult (or easy) is it to get 10 individually music-savvy people to consistently agree on melodies, rhythms and song structures? Is it a pretty agreeable group or are you constantly challenging one another?

DF: Hmm ... well, it has taken a while for us to "gel" as a unit. I'm laughing to myself when I say I don't know if we ever "consistently" agree on anything! We singers in particular have lots of "discussions" about melodies, harmonies, lyrics, you name it.

But having said that, I think each of us has great respect for the talents of the other band members, and we are all generally nice guys, and that helps when we disagree on something. As we have grown closer as a band, I think the guys feel more comfortable expressing their opinions, and we do challenge each other a lot; but out of the chaos comes something better than if that weren't the case.

Andy has a great musical vision and loads of good ideas, so he has a significant influence on our overall sound and often plays referee. But we all throw ideas into the final mix, and we keep tinkering until we think we've got it right. If you heard some of our initial versions of "One Day," "High On Your Love," you name it -- you would understand how important it is to go through the process!

OMC: The inevitable question: Where do you go from here? You're riding a pretty high wave at the moment -- how do you plan to keep the momentum going?

DF: Man! I don't know. The past few months, and particularly the events of the past week, have been nothing short of amazing. Twenty-four hours ago I was in Brooklyn, trying desperately to save my voice after the ravages of a cold and a non-stop schedule, wondering if I could even make it through the first set, let alone the second. But then I got on stage in front of a huge crowd of fans dancing, screaming, jumping, believing ... and it seems the magic of the moment carried me through! Well that, and having (singers) Matt (Norberg) and Black Wolf cheering me on, which gave me a confidence I didn't even know I had. I think that confidence and support for each other, which keeps growing in our band, will help sustain us.

Based on the unbelievable things which have transpired thus far, I would be a fool to think we can predict what will happen in the future. I do know we will be trying to play a lot more shows all over, and will continue to write and record songs whenever possible.

I guess we'll try to control what we can, by working really, really hard to continue improving and challenging ourselves as a band, and by never, ever forgetting how lucky we are to be doing this, or how great it is to have such wonderful fans to come home to. See you all at Turner Hall on April 30!

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”