They say you can’t go home again, that the world changes us so quickly that we are nothing more than constantly molting selves, shedding our identities and reinventing ourselves so that our origins become irrelevant. Denver quartet The Knew flies in the face of this notion, creating straightforward and earnest rock and roll that is as much steeped in roots and tradition as it is forward thinking. The Knew knows exactly where they’re coming from, and whereas their music speaks (loudly!) with a roots rock accent, it’s speaking a new dialect altogether.
Rbt. B. Rutherford (Everything Absent or Distorted, Rabbit Is a Sphere) sat down with The Knew to find out where they were headed, neither he nor they had any idea the 2009 Monolith Festival was in the cards.
Rbt. - I want to start off speaking about your influences, because I think that what you guys do well is bring disparate musical elements together and keep them cohesive. Your song “Coldblack” starts off sounding like a song by The Cure, and then the slide guitar pops up out of nowhere, the synthesizer starts in, and it becomes harder to nail the song down to one genre. It’s all over the map, and I think it would be worthwhile to discuss your individual influences because they feed your sound as a band in interesting ways.
Tyler - I think we always have our own tastes in mind, and the audience’s tastes in mind. When we go to see a show, or when anyone goes to see a show, for that matter, we like to see a bill that is pretty diverse. In that regard, why shouldn’t it be that every band is that diverse, that each song be that diverse? If you only have a few minutes to catch somebody’s attention, you should probably try to bring a few different influences into it. We all feel pretty strongly about certain influences and are unable to let them go, so we have to make them work in the songs.
Jacob - It becomes kind of piecemeal. When we were writing “Coldblack”, we just wanted to have the slide guitar in there somewhere, so we had to figure out how to make it work. It’s based on the song, it’s tone, the singing.
We were worried up front that every song would sound like a single that we are trying to push, but that we don’t know what kind of band we are, but I think when every song is different like that, then that is what kind of band you are. We commit to each song one at a time and we don’t worry about putting it together with other songs that might be different.
Recorded at live@lunch on KRFC, Fort Colins Co.
As far as influences go, it’s hard to say, because there are so many. For me, when I was in high school, it was the garage bands of the 60’s, I thought it was great how there was more to them than just their music, how they had this style and a theme and a lifestyle. At that time it showed me that you can do something with your music that shows who you are as opposed to just what you listen to. I realized after that time that whatever we do, I just want it to reflect who we are, and whatever it sounds like is what it sounds like.
Tim - I was in a punk band in high school, and then I went to Reno and spent ten years in a place that was really bad for music. I was a rabid consumer of music. I listened to everything I could get my hands on. When I moved to Denver, I had so many ideas running around in my head, and now I finally have an outlet for it.
Tyler - What is nice about this band is that if we get tired of playing stylistically in one genre, we can ditch it for the next song and do something different.
Tim - I think that is what we’ve done in general to keep everybody happy. Every one of has a lot at stake in each song and we are very careful about that process. We all like what we are doing in every song.
Jacob - And what’s most important is that we might not agree about the kinds of music we like, but we agree on what we like about music in general .
Rbt. - This is an important point, because I think that despite all of these disparate influences in your songs, the element that binds them, the thread that runs through them, is earnestness. It is very straightforward rock and roll.
Tyler - I’m glad that comes through. We don’t want any kind of pretension to shine through. We would rather have an overall positive effect come through our music.
Jacob - I think no matter what type of song you’re playing, whether it’s a pensive or positive, or whatever, when that authenticity comes through, that is what people are looking for. Sometimes your best days are the ones that suck more than anything, but as long as you can be authentic, it’s what people care about.
Rbt. - You guys have put out quite a bit of material for being together as long as you have. Can you talk about why you’ve chosen to put out EPs?
Jacob - We have put out five EPs, well, four EPs and a demo. We recorded that demo to give out and really just ended up recording it to just record it.
Patrick - It’s really just these last two that we made that we actually ordered copies and pushed them around.
Jacob - What’s fun about listening to some of that old stuff is that now that we’re so far removed from it, in terms of songwriting, to reintroduce old songs and re-write them. Some of them had some really good basics and it’s a blast to bring them into a more sophisticated place with the band. I like it sometimes more than the stuff we’re currently working on because I don’t get it. It’s so long ago that I don’t even understand where it’s coming from or what it’s about. It’s always what you don’t understand that you like better, and it takes some time to fully appreciate some of those things that we’ve done.
Rbt. - Are you planning on putting out a full length, or are you going to stick with the EPs?
Patrick - That’s the plan. We have about nine songs mapped out on our whiteboard in our practice space, and we’re going to wait until we have fifteen or twenty until we record. We have to be patient, because we love what we have so far. We want to record tomorrow.
Tyler - With the other ones we’ve done, we just recorded whenever we had the money and the songs to do it. With this next one, we’ve got some breathing room and we have other stuff going on. We’re playing some shows, and we are just trying to wait until we’ve built up these songs. No rush. We have a lot invested in these songs.
Jacob - And these songs mean something deeper for us than our other ones.
Rbt. - How so?
Jacob - The four of us have actually written all of these songs collectively. With our other songs, Tim was coming in to learn the songs, and others were ones that we had written together or bringing ideas. Now, it feels like everyone has found their little pocket and how we can overlap each other’s style.
Patrick - The last month and a half is the longest we’ve gone without playing a show, and we’ve pumped out some songs. We’ve written a half dozen songs in that time. It’s been really productive.
Tim - When we get to writing songs, it becomes a very sacred space for us. We don’t worry about anything else that’s happening.
Rbt. - How do you protect that space and keep what you do earnest? Is that something you talk about, keeping the process that the four of you have something that is free of outside influence?>
Jacob - Part of it is a self-awareness, recognizing what is good and what is detrimental to a band. We talk a lot about what is going on with other bands, what we make fun of, what we think is legit. Ultimately I think you have to be able to be honest, admit what works and what doesn’t and move forward.
Tyler - I think we’ve been lucky, too, in that we have had really good influences in the people the we’ve met, the bands that we’ve played with in town, and we’ve been able to pick up positive suggestions from them.
Jacob - We all talk a lot. We talk about what we have going on in our lives. If one of us has a new thing with a girlfriend, or with our job, and it explains why we are edgy or in a mood, it explains everything. Its important for us to talk about that as bandmates. I feel with this group and with our music, its when we get to let it out, we get to get angry and get aggressive and get it out, in a way that you can’t at work or at home.
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