In this installment of Beats and Eats, I take my favorite acoustic duet, 22 Kings, out for a meal on the Pacific Beach boardwalk at Woody’s Breakfast and Burgers, hoping to have a good time and not get sunburnt.

Mikey Beats: Hey kids! Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?

Sam Bybee: My name is Sam Bybee of 22 Kings. I was born in Utah, [resided] there until 11 and then here in San Diego from 11 until I spent four years in Hollywood. Now I am here.

Sandi King: I’m Sandi King, I’m also with 22 Kings. I was born in Texas, my parents moved here when I was 3. I grew up in San Diego until I was about 19 or 20 then I moved around a little bit; Vegas, Orange County, San Francisco for five years, then I moved down to LA. Now I am also here.

Mikey: When did you two start making music together? 

Sandi: When I lived in SF, Sam flew me down to LA to sing on his album. By the time I moved there, he was pushing that album, so we started doing shows to promote that album. I was singing harmonies for him and that’s where we realized that we were alive on stage together. 

Mikey: Before you linked up and started 22 Kings, were you two playing in acts?

Sandi: I had been singing my whole life. My dad has played trumpet here in San Diego in the local jazz scene since I was born. He’s in Jazz Cats and plays with Whitney Shay, a vocalist. I used to go to his rehearsals all the time and would sing along, so when I was 10 or 11, I started singing with that big band. 

That’s an excellent music foundation. Sam, you had a solo career? 

Sam: I did, yeah. I released three albums under Sam Bybee: 8 A.M., Sweetzer Ave. and I Hate Pretty Girls.

Mikey: Were you playing anything prior to the solo career?

Sam: I’ve been in maybe three bands my entire life, kinda professionally. The first band was The Gooses. The second band was when I tried to do The Sam Bybee Band, which was a lot of the members of The Gooses plus a cello player. My step dad, Boyd Gardiner, played on the drums for my band.

Mikey: Do tell that story, please.

Sam: His name is Boyd Gardiner. He’s been playing drums for over 50 years. He’s played with Bill Magee in the Bill Magee Blues Band. He has traveled the country and the world just playing music. He got me started into really what music is for me today. With the Sam Bybee Band, we were playing music, doing a lot of wineries, doing big venue shows like Belly Up. I got a very good offer to go up to LA from my brother to live basically rent free in the heart of Hollywood and do music. I was like, “Well, if not now, then when?” I moved up there and at the time, I must have had five or six venues where I was playing weekly. I was really into that scene.

Sandi: Which really helped us jump start when we came back. I lived there for a year and by the time I was done, I was like, “Sam, I gotta get out of here! We gotta leave, I can’t do this!” The emphasis is on the wrong thing up there. Instead of fostering the art form and who you are as a musician or an artist, it’s more about your look and how you present yourself, which is a part of it, but shouldn’t be the main focus.

Sam: The difference between LA and San Diego, for me, was that I find that in San Diego the artist community is just that, it’s a community. It’s people who love art and like to play music. There is some competition because people are just like that inherently, but for the most part, people are just happy to be part of an artist community. 

Whereas in LA, people come from around the world and it’s way more competitive. That’s what I’ve learned. The caliber of musicianship down here far exceeds what I saw in LA in the four years of playing non-stop shows. Up there, everyone looks like Lady Gaga, but nobody sounds like Lady Gaga. If you’re going to move to LA for intentions of doing music, you’re better off building an audience where you are and then going to LA to play a show or two. That’s the way you break into the LA scene. Do not, I repeat, do not move to LA to be like, “Oh, I’ll just start playing shows there.” You are just a drop in the bucket. Unless you have ties, there is no way you’re going to make it like that. There’s just no way.

Mikey: Amen. That’s some good advice for the kids out there.

[The food mini-tsunami comes out delivered by Sean Thompson, a solid dude who I have known for about a decade. He is one of the main men that the owner Aaron Phillips keeps around to make sure his many establishments, including Beachwood, Avenue and Truckstop, stay open and serve quality products. I call Aaron Phillips “Papa Bear” because he once hosted an industry wedding for my wife and I at Beachwood that was one of the greatest nights of my life. When Sean lays down the food, all our eyes are immediately drawn toward the French toast.]

Sandi: Holy French toast!

Mikey: Bananas, candied pecans, syrup, oh my. The hair is going up, it’s time to get serious. 

[I tie my hair up and then it’s a mad fork dash to the French toast, with all of using tying for first place.]

Sam: These pecans, they’re so good. I love a good nut, a good candied nut. 

[Pause and a moment of silence with awkward but forgiving stares at Sam. We get over it and I reach for the yogurt bowl.]

Mikey: Let me have a dip into that. Greek non-fat vanilla yogurt, topped with crunchy granola, fresh blueberries and strawberries. This is the perfect after-workout breakfast to have while hanging out on the boardwalk and people watching. 

Mikey: By the way, I have a bad case of boardwalk Tourette Syndrome. If I see something out there that I like, I have to holler. 

[Almost on cue, four girls walk by.] 

Hey girls, four of you, two of us, six pack of fun?! 

[Silence from the girls but the unappreciative look from them said something loud and clear.]

Mikey: Tough crowd.

Sandi: What about me? I would make that a seven pack of fun!

Mikey: Sorry Sandi, I will include you next time. 

Sam: I’ll kick into that parfait if I may. I thought I was going to lose weight on the tour, that didn’t happen. 

Sandi: Being stationary in a car for 10 hours a day doesn’t really help the workout routine.

Mikey: How many cities did you hit?

Sam: It had to be 30-plus. 

Mikey: Wow! I was expecting to hear 15 or 20 cities, not over 30. You did this without a booking agent nor a manager?

Sandi: We’re our own manager. We do all our own bookings. 

Mikey: I don’t want to give out your entire playbook here, but what would you tell another acoustic act ready to hit the road?

Sandi: Planning is the number one thing. Really be on top of all the information you can be on top of, before you leave. 

Mikey: The logistics. With so many gigs, how do you find these venues in these different cities, in these different states, across the U.S.? 

Sandi: My major tool I used was Indie on the Move. 

Sam: Reverbnation came through a couple times. Friends of friends came through. 

Sandi: I Googled what cities have the best live music scenes in America. I searched online and did a lot of research about where the best music scene is, where the local bands like to play in those cities and then just did the research on how to contact those venues. For every city we wanted to play, I sent out 40-50 e-mails. It’s pure volume because you’re only going to get a couple people booking you, especially if you’ve never been there. You have to be able to handle not being responded too.

Mikey: Immerse yourself in the booking process. Did the gigs cover your expenses? 

Sandi: We did try to plan about half the dates to be paid. Since we’ve never been to these cities, we’re not going to get venues where other bands want to play with us because we don’t have a draw. We do know we’ll get paid enough for gas money to get to the next city. The number one revenue on the road is merchandise. Sell anything and everything. People are happy to support you and don’t want to just buy a CD, but they’ll buy a t-shirt or some buttons you made. 

Mikey: So what kind of car did you drive across the U.S.?

Sam: His name was Gramps, a Toyota Camry that had been meticulously taken care of. I made sure I fixed it up. I used money from local gigs to make sure that car got us through the tour. Sandi booked the tour and I made sure we got there.

Mikey: Any tire blowouts?

Sandi: No, but right before we left for our tour …

Sam: … we were high-fiving, saying, “”ere we go!” and when we turned the ignition, nothing happened. The battery had died. It was a minor oversight, but at least better at home than in Birmingham.

Mikey: How many miles did you travel?

Sandi: Close to 14,000.

[Sean lays down a burger and fish tacos.]

Sean Thompson: That’s the Buddha Burger: one pound of sacred beef piled high, with sugar spice bacon, grilled onions, avocado and American cheese. It comes with wedge fries. These are Ono Tacos topped with lettuce, cheese, jalapeño white sauce and a house made mango salsa accompanied by black beans.

Mikey: This column is why I’m fat. Well, I’ve only had this column for a year and I was fat before that. 

[Sandi jumps on the fish tacos while Sam stays far away.]

Beats-Eats-Woodys-Burgers-Breakfast-4L-Magazine-San-Diego-02Sandi: This is really good! I’m digging the tacos. That mango salsa is the jam!

Mikey: Yes, that mango salsa is epic. I like sweet with my food. The fish tacos are on point with great quality fish. The black beans are delicious, I’m feeling them, they are Mikey approved.

Sam: I’m legitimately afraid of this hamburger, it’s huge! The beef has got some spice to it, a seasoning on this sacred beef. Not sure what it is, but it’s really good. Here, try the burger Mikey.

Mikey: Yeah, slip the burger over here. I’ll be completely honest: I’ll only take a couple bites. Beef and I don’t get along, it’s like concrete in my bowels. I won’t poop for like a week. If I eat a whole burger, I will start making diamonds in my large intestine. 

[Laughter all around.]

Sam: That’s an appetizing story. I think they found that much beef in John Wayne’s colon after he died. 

[More laughter with a couple of “Ewws.” I dive teeth first into the burger.]

Mikey: Sean, that burger patty is outstanding. That’s some flavor! 

[Sean perks up, proud of the burger as a man is proud of his son hitting a home run.]

Sean: Aaron spent a good month playing with recipes. I think he nailed it.

Sam: It’s really good. Something happens to your happiness when you see melted cheese on any meat. My midsection is starting to look more and more like E.T.

Sandi: Yeah, that vest is looking pretty tight Sam.

[Me, pointing at my Hawaiian shirt:] These buttons are screaming. 

[Laughter all around.]

Sandi: Do you grind your meat here? 

Sean: We get it fresh, not frozen. And we add to it. 

Mikey: That is good meat. I love Woody meat. 

[Out of nowhere, I shout out to the boardwalk.]

Good job, ladies, keep it up! Yeah, you! 

[The response is equal to crickets on a summer night.]

Beats-Eats-Woodys-Burgers-Breakfast-4L-Magazine-San-Diego-03Mikey: OK … Moving on …Where did the 22 come from in 22 Kings?

Sandi: My birthday is on the 22nd of September and Sam’s is the 22nd of May. My dad’s birthday is the 22nd of January. My nephew’s birthday is the 22nd of October. He’s got some 22nd birthdays in his family. It was just a number for both of us that we didn’t realize was significant until we were looking for band names. 

Mikey: You’re a duo, an exciting duo to watch. There’s some uniqueness to your duo. What is the set up you use live? 

Sam: Guitar and vocals for me.

Sandi: I sing and I am also the percussionist in the band. I have shakers, a kick-ass tambourine and I play the kick drum as well. Sometimes I’m doing all those things at once. Sometimes I clap. I do whatever percussion needs to be done within my abilities of having two hands.

Mikey: And a foot!

Sandi: … and a foot! 

Mikey: Which was something visually exciting that I saw. You were literally kicking it while playing live.

Sam: She looks super impressive. She belts it out better than anyone I know and she does the kick drum and shakers, so she’s pissing you off on three levels. You know what I mean? She’s keeping time and singing while making it look easy. We get done playing a show, and people are like, “Hi, who is that?” Every time. She’s like a magic trick. 

[Laughter all around.]

Mikey: You two are very pleasant on the eyes, a guy and girl acoustic duo. As a fanboy of the band, I really get excited when you do your harmonies. It just blows my mind. My eyes water and I get emotional; I think it’s a natural human reaction when hearing others harmonize. 

Sandi: We definitely feel it when we’re singing, too. 

Mikey: You get the tingles, right?

Sam: Yeah, it’s cool. 

Mikey: You two are cool, thank you for your time.

[We finish everything laid out before us, shake hands with Sean and go our separate ways. Please, do yourself a favor and check these kids out at 22-kings.com.]