The Yankton band, The Kings of Oblivion, have provided a unique contribution to the local music scene since their formation in 2007. The dulcet duo are James Dean and Eric Beringer.  The name may sound like it might be heavy metal or hard rock, but the Kings is a self-proclaimed cover band even though the members have written and recorded plenty of their own music. The band’s name was inspired from a song lyric in a David Bowie song titled, “The Bewlay Brothers.” At the time, James and Eric were “going through a Bowie phase”, listening to a lot of his albums and playing his songs.  James shares, “There have been other bands with the same name out there. One in the 70’s released an album, but we are the longest running Kings of Oblivion to date.”

James and Eric got into playing guitar as children, early in middle school. Both did a lot of experimenting and learning on their own through regular practice. They were influenced by many musicians and contemporary bands while growing up and honing their craft.  James loved Kiss, and Judas Priest, among others. Eric cites Jimmy Hendrix as one of his first favorites.  James and Eric both lived in the area growing up and left, continuing to play music while living in other parts of the country. Eventually, both found their way back to the Midwest and made their homes in Yankton. 

 The men played with various bands and musicians prior to coming together. They have been members in the bands Lctric Riverside Stomp, and Post Position. They collaborated in a two year project with Post Position that culminated in the release of a CD titled 432. After the completion of the album, the band dissolved and Eric and James continued forward, creating the Kings of Oblivion.  

The band features a wide range of music genres at their shows. Their website defines it as: “a mix of classic rock, blues and Indies rock, along with a handful of classic country tunes.” They play popular covers of long-time favorites, everything from Johnny Cash to Tom Petty, with more obscure bands sprinkled in to jazz it up.  Eric shares, “If we could play all Tom petty, all night long, not only would we’d be the most popular cover band, but I’d love it too! Whenever we start feel like we’re dragging in a show, we play Petty and it works every time. People love his music, because he’s got so many great songs, and everybody knows all the words.” Playing songs that people know and like is important, because it’s a way of making them feel included and letting them participate in dancing or singing along with the band. It brings people together and creates an enjoyable experience for everyone. The band can play amazing acoustic, but also include innovative technology. This allows them to incorporate other electrical instruments and music into what they are physically playing live at the same time.

Besides Yankton, the men play at small venues such as the Crash, Boom Bang bar behind the Hard Rock Casino in Sioux City, IA., the Green Diamond bar in Nebraska, and the Schnitz in Menno, SD.  amongst many others. The Kings prefer to stay relatively close to home, and usually don’t travel further than two hours away for performances. This is especially true in winter.  They will happily venture out for special occasions such as weddings, and private parties though. They don’t perform in Sioux Falls, SD. or Omaha, NE, because these larger cities are overly saturated with local musicians that are favorite go-tos for the public.  Both James and Eric have lived all over the country, but Eric says that, “because of the opportunities I’ve been given here, I’ve made more money in Yankton than I did in any other city I’ve lived in.”  This is chiefly because of the usual competition found in larger cities. Many bands will play for free or very cheaply, just to get some public exposure and their foot in the door.

James and Eric are true professionals. They calmly and efficiently set up their musical equipment with clock-like precision. They start on time and rock tirelessly for three hours, with only a swig of water now and then. They vary their play list depending on audience preference, and song requests.  Some crowds like more country, while others more eighties music. James preplans all the set lists and sometimes, likes to try and challenge Eric by having songs in the playlist that they haven’t done in years. This happens more often in the summer when they have four shows on a weekend, and want to play different material to keep it fun. Eric in turn, gladly makes it happen and likes it, “because it keeps me on the ball.”

Sometimes they have a gigs in larger venues and will include a drummer. The Kings have been playing together so long that they have at least ten hours of material readily available. Eric shares that “James and I are working musicians and we like it that way. Ideally, we’d like to play at least one show together a week.” The men truly enjoy their live audiences, while also appreciating the constant variety and creativity of their personal musical pursuits.

Always busy, in addition to their shows and side projects, they each play regularly at local businesses. James provides a wonderful musical ambiance every Friday evening, for the customers at Willa B’s Bistro. He’s often at the Landing restaurant and also at the Yankton Farmer’s Market on Saturday’s when it’s operating.  Eric regularly plays upstairs in the Copper Room at Ben’s Brewery and other venues such as the Dakota Brick House in Vermillion, SD. The men intentionally offer different material when performing solo than they do for their Kings of Oblivion appearances. Eric also works part time at Avera hospital In Yankton as a surgical technician. 

If that wasn’t enough activity, both men also give plenty of private guitar lessons in the Yankton mall to children and adults of all ages.  They started soon after Lanny Mollett retired and closed his well-known music store. 

When asked what age is best for kids to begin learning to play an instrument, both agree that it depends on the child.  Some are naturally more mature and motivated than others. The student needs to have an adequate attention span to learn, discipline to practice, and hand strength to physically press down on the strings to make a chord. Usually ten years old is the youngest that seems to have all the prerequisite skills.

The Kings of Oblivion always give their audience a great show.  Their upcoming performance schedule is available on Facebook with contact information too.  James and Eric thrive on the thrill of connecting with their fans and sharing their passion for performing live. Equally gifted, the Kings are complementary yet distinct, together they are a synchronistic gift for our ears. They are definitely Kings of their craft.