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Comparable to bands like Default, Third Eye Blind, and Familiar 48, July for Kings are a melodic post-grunge and alternative pop/rock outfit whose primary influences include Pearl Jam, Live, and Creed (with hints of U2 at times). Joe Hedges, July for Kings' lead singer, is obviously well aware of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, and Live's Ed Kowalczyk has clearly had a major impact on his vocals. July for Kings generally rock harder than U2, although some of the band's lyrics hint at U2's spirituality. Much like Creed and Default, July for Kings have a way of combining loud, amplified, crunching guitars with poppy melodies and sensitive, reflective lyrics; in other words, July for Kings' sound is quite typical of what alternative rock radio formats were playing in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.
Previously known as Swim, July for Kings were formed in the Cincinnati, OH area in 1998; that was when Hedges (who plays rhythm guitar in addition to singing lead) officially joined forces with Travis Delaney (lead guitar), Jason Morgan (bass), T. Miller (cello, guitar, background vocals), and Sam Dobrozsi (drums). Hedges, Delaney, and Dobrozsi had been friends since childhood, and they were high-school students when they first met Morgan and Miller. After reaching adulthood and officially becoming Swim, the five Midwesterners played around Cincinnati for several months before they started recording their debut album, Safe Unless, in late 1998. They put out the CD independently the following year, and their second indie album, The Laughter and the Noise, came out in 2000. By that time, Swim had acquired a small local following and had created enough of a Midwestern buzz to attract the attention of Wind-Up Records (home of Creed). It was also in 2000 that five of Swim's songs were heard on MTV's hit series The Real World.
At first, Wind-Up seemed to be seriously interested in signing Swim. But after five months of negotiations with Wind-Up, things fell apart — and Wind-Up ended up passing on the band. But all was not lost. A&R person Joel Mark, who was with Wind-Up in 2000, subsequently moved to Los Angeles and joined MCA's A&R department. Mark still felt that Swim had potential, and MCA signed the band in 2001. After signing with MCA, the members of Swim agreed that a name change was in order. The Midwesterners learned that there were at least seven other bands in the United States that were using the name Swim, and they decided to change their name rather than risk any possible lawsuits or intellectual property hassles. So Swim officially became July for Kings in 2001, and the new name was a combination of two of their songs: "July" and "Kings." As July for Kings, the rockers paid tribute to their old name when they opted to call their third album Swim. Released by MCA in November 2002, Swim was the band's first and only major-label release, first album as July for Kings, and third album overall.
However, July for Kings were dropped from MCA upon the label’s dissolution in 2003, and drummer Dobrozsi and bassist Morgan subsequently left the band. The group returned with the independent release Nostalgia — featuring new bandmembers Dan McQuinn on drums and Drew Phillips on bass — in 2005. Meanwhile, lead singer Hedges began pursuing a solo career outside of July for Kings, eventually releasing his solo debut album, Curvature, in the spring of 2007. During the fall of that year, July for Kings reconvened to start working on new material, but by spring 2008 T. Miller had also left the band. The group persevered nevertheless, adding new guitarist John McGuire to the lineup and releasing a new full-length album, Monochrome, in June 2009.