Majestic Twelve frontman Kenyata Sullivan is, by all accounts, his own little critter
"Kenyata Sullivan has a long and storied indie rock history, going back to the late 1980's - publishing zines as a teenager (Suburban Landscapes, Wannatrade), sequencing and releasing the FED compilations (featuring the very first compilation appearances by Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Britt Daniel (Spoon), Bouncing Souls, My Favorite, etc), founding Opulence! Records (Dufus, Spite, the legendary "Noise Kills Punk Dead" comp sponsored by Thora-Zine magazine), and founding the W.E. Festival (Mooney Suzuki in 1998, Dismemberment Plan in 1996, Martha Mooke five years before she went on tour with David Bowie, Ryan Gentles two years before The Strokes, etc, etc).
He's known in the underground for having a great ear, but is perhaps better known as the front man for the notorious Pandora's Lunchbox (PLB). He was the guy who told all the majors "no" when they came calling, and all of the big five did. He as well as the rest of the band frown upon conventional music conglomerates that censor or market music to boring extremes. Putting songs in a virtual tailspin of commercial hypocrisy that in turn cater to the monopolization of corporate radio, label and ticketing entities; that suck the life out of musicians and expose the fans and new listeners to undue hassels.
He was the guy who said no to a slot on the Empire Records movie soundtrack when they wanted his publishing, but still gave away his music left and right to fans instead of selling it - back when it meant mailing out free cassettes to everyone who took the time to write a letter, instead of just posting MP3s.
This was the guy who threw his amplifier on an A+R man who said his band would be "the next Beatles, the next Rolling Stones", just because that was sheer blasphemy. He was written about in Raygun, POPsmear, Flipside, Jersey Beat, Alternative Press, Details, even interviewed on MTV, and he was doing it all on his own terms.
But in 1997, without any fanfare or even a word of warning to the extended network of musicans, filmmakers and artists he had cultivated, Kenyata dropped out of the scene completely - and mysteriously. Word slowly filtered through the underground that Kenyata's grandmother had suffered a major stroke. He could either put her in a nursing home and keep "running around playing rock star", or he could go home, and make sure his Grandma was cared for in the house she grew up in. Everyone who knew him understood; for Kenyata, that wasn't a hard call.
Fast forward a few years. Guitarist Alex Alexander was in a band called Railroad Earth. They'd toured with PLB, and Alex refused to accept that Kenyata had retired. So every six months or so, he would call him up and ask if he was ready to get back to business. In 2002, Kenyata said yes.
Alex didn't know it, but Kenyata had been writing songs (and then mostly forgetting them) the whole time. He'd been sitting on his front porch in his small coastal Carolina town, taking care of his Grandma, and banging out tunes. He was also quietly making quick trips up to Mebane NC, in order to record some of those "little pop songs" with his friend Jerry Kee (a legendary engineer who has Superchunk, Connells, Portostatic, and many others under his belt). Alex + Kenyata started playing together a few nights a week, and then guitarist Joey Stewart left his budding hippie band to join the duo after jamming one evening. The trio worked up some songs, and Kenyata's old drummer from PLB flew down from NYC to play drums in a whirlwind 14 hour recording session at Duck Kee Studios.
As luck would have it, another legendary musician and producer, Chris Stamey (dB's, Michael Stipe, Ryan Adams) heard some of the tracks they recorded, and graciously put off his newest solo CD in order to master the project..... and "Searching For The Elvis Knob" by Majestic Twelve was officially born.
Since then, drummer Anthony Cribb and bassist Alan Monteath have joined the fold forming a permanent lineup. Kenyata still takes care of his grandmother (who is smiling and delightful, and is obviously enjoying Kenyata's return to music). They say the next disc is just about written, and despite the fact that Kenyata insists these are just fun songs to sit around and play, the initial press about "Elvis Knob" has been phenomenal - as well it should be.
What will happen with Majestic Twelve? I definitely have my own opinions (the CD is truly great, and if there's any justice they should be huge), but Kenyata insists that no one knows, and he's not counting on anything. He says good bands are like hurricanes - they can threaten the shoreline, and you board up your windows, and then, with just a shift of the breeze, they can be headed back out to sea, leaving you with 10 spare gallons of water, and a useless generator rusting on the back porch. Kenyata says it's OK if they just fade away... but I suspect that Majestic Twelve won't be going anywhere for a good long while. I'm betting that this storm has just begun."