(Original Photo By: Scott Simock)
I remember perfectly the first time I heard of the up-and-coming progressive-house duo, Lost Kings. It was July 12th, 2014 when I received a message from “H.e. Pennypacker.” What the heck? When I looked at the message it seemed just like your typical “Hey check out my music!” message. Music writers you know what I’m talking about. For some reason though, I decided to provide some feedback to this H.e. Pennypacker person on how to approach us bloggers. He was so appreciative of the feedback that I couldn’t resist listening to the song he so graciously sent my way. I’m so glad I did because it was their remix of Disclosure’s hit, “Latch.” This unofficial remix also became a huge hit for the Lost Kings as well. It quickly picked up support from the likes of Morgan Page, Sidney Samson, and Tritonal to name a few. Oh, and it received massive radio play on BBC Radio 1, Chicago’s B95, and BPM Radio. I later learned the actual name of H.e. Pennypacker and have become a lifetime fan of their music. After recently signing with Circle Talent Agency and Disruptor Management, I think it’s safe to say H.e. Pennypacker/Robert Gainley and Dr. No (real names = Robert Abisi and Nick Shanholtz) have a bright future ahead. The thought of being a touring musician has been a lifetime dream of these two 25-year-olds. As of late, this dream has been turning into their reality.
When Rob was just a kid living in Andover, Massachusetts, he dreamed of becoming a professional athlete, but realized that this dream was not likely to come true. After this realization, he turned to another dream: becoming a producer/DJ. His dad worked in radio so he was able to meet and see a lot of his favorite artists at a young age. In fact, he met his absolute favorite band, Coldplay, on their first American tour. He remembers not just being in awe at their performance, but also gaining a lot of respect for the group because of their kind and humble persona. Meeting them is something he will always remember. He recalls asking for his first turntables in junior high, but his parents said no at the time. This didn’t stop him. He started making playlists for his friends because he loved sharing music with other people. In high school, he even decided to start a few of his own music blogs to introduce people to new music. Once his parents saw their son’s dedication to this musical endeavor, they decided to buy him a controller for Christmas at the age of 19. And so the DJing began.
The following year posed as one of Rob’s biggest life challenges. He was set to leave for a study abroad program in London when he found out that his dad was diagnosed with throat cancer. Rob reminds us that throughout life we often see our parents as invincible, but then reassures us that anything can happen in a matter of moments. When he found this out, it really shook him up. During this time though, his parents cared so much about sending him to London. So he went. He received updates every night on his father’s condition from his mother. While he was away in London, he lost his Aunt to cancer. Additionally, his grandmother’s husband had died, and this man was like a grandfather to him. The only way he was able to fight the ruminating was to listen to music and go to concerts. It created a distraction and an escape for him. This is also when he got really into electronic music. It was the first time he went to real clubs and experienced world-renowned venues such as Ministry of Sound and Fabric. It changed his mindset on the whole scene and left a huge impact. Fortunately, his dad has been cancer-free since December 2009.
In 2011, upon graduating from James Madison University in Virginia, Rob decided to move to Los Angeles. When he first moved it was extremely hard for him to just break into the LA scene. He was trying to pursue music as a solo artist and was attempting to book his own DJ gigs around the city, but never had much luck. He became distracted and would go out every night to the clubs and bars. He lost himself in that scene and forgot why he even moved to LA in the first place. However, he continued to be persistent and eventually conquered this battle. There were times when he took gigs just to pay a bill or two, even if it meant he had to play reggaeton for a hotel’s employee holiday party. Even though it would have been easy to move back to Boston, he never gave up. Since LA is such a creative, art and entertainment-driven city, it really allowed him to expand on what he was doing musically and learn from people who had been in the area longer. He was able to find a lot of like-minded people.
As for Nick, becoming a professional musician was the #1 dream from day one. He grew up on the East Coast as well, in Baltimore, Maryland. He specifically wanted to be a drummer in a band and perform nationally/internationally. He started on drums when he was just eight years old. As he grew older, he quickly realized he had a deeper passion for writing and producing, so he decided to learn the piano and guitar at age 15. He went to a high school in Baltimore that was centered on music and the arts – Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts. Throughout his teenage and young adult years he was always jumping in and out of bands and producing for other artists. He didn’t really find his niche until he started producing electronic music when he received a Macbook his freshman year at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
In 2010, Nick moved to Los Angeles, where he decided to enroll in the LA Recording School. Upon arrival he too found it difficult to make ends meet and separate himself from the other thousands of artists in the city. It was a struggle to figure out where he fit in musically and building/maintaining his own brand. Additionally, it was a challenge for him to make “real” friends. He would often meet people who just wanted to use him for their own benefit. Even though it took several “friendships” going awry, he eventually figured out how to be surrounded by the right people. Because of this, he was led to finding the other member in Lost Kings.
The two aspiring musicians met through a mutual friend and had known each other for a while. However, it wasn’t until Rob’s 25th birthday party that they actually started to talk about collaborating on their musical journey. A week later they decided to sit down and work on a remix together and were stunned by the results. After being thoroughly impressed, they joined forces and from that day, the Lost Kings were found.
Despite the fact that they both work full-time jobs outside of producing/touring, they are biting the bullet and finding time to make this dream come alive. When they both get home from their day jobs (usually 9am-5pm), they grab dinner and then meet up to work on music every night. They feel that in order to support themselves while living in LA, they must continue to work these full-time jobs for now. However, it is only a matter of time before they are able to leave and pursue music and ONLY music.
This has in fact been an extremely surreal time for both members of the Lost Kings. According to Rob, “Getting calls from my dad saying he is listening to us on the radio is still crazy to me.” Surreal, but scary as well. Even though their brand has picked up a lot of traction in the last few months, they fear that it can leave just as quickly. This fear only drives them to work even harder to make sure that their success is maintained. Music has and will always be their biggest inspiration. If they can inspire others through their music the same way they have been inspired by some of their favorite musicians, then they are “completing the job they set out to do.” This scene in general continues to inspire them day in and day out. They believe that the world would be a much better place if it were more like an electronic music festival. They are amazed at the level of acceptance between people at these festivals and are glad that everyone sees each other as equals. If everyone had that outlook then this world would be a much better place to live.
If you haven’t listened to their music then you really need to check it out. They have a beautiful, progressive-house sound that will leave you full of emotion. You can tell that they put everything into a track and produce what they want, which gives them something to stand behind. They don’t produce a specific sound in hopes that their fans will enjoy it. If they just produced music for someone else’s approval, then it would fail. Instead, they just produce what they love. Obviously, a lot of people do love this sound though. Nick says, “If my music can out live me and be remembered way past my time on this earth, well then that would be the ultimate impact.” They just want to bring good vibes to people with their music, especially to those who are going through tough times. At the end of the day, they want to show everyone that “not all who wander are lost.”