Kitchen Dwellers

New Years Eve Party
with The Drunken Hearts
Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Doors 8 | Show 9
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MONTANA BLUEGRASS: The Evolution of Galaxy Grass

“This all started as a series of jam sessions in the kitchen,” says Joe Funk, bassist for the breakout progressive bluegrass band Kitchen Dwellers. “We were getting together to play covers and traditional music and old-time tunes for fun after school, and everything else just really evolved from there.”

For Kitchen Dwellers, "everything else,” as Funk so modestly puts it, has been nothing short of remarkable. In the near decade they’ve been together, the Montana-based four-piece has performed for thousands at Red Rocks, shared bills with the likes of Railroad Earth, The Infamous String Dusters, and Twiddle, graced festival stages from Northwest String Summit to WinterWonderGrass, and transcended traditional genre boundaries, blending virtuosic bluegrass wizardry with ecstatic rock and roll energy and adventurous psychedelia. With their spectacular new album, ‘Muir Maid,’ the group has come fully into their own, seamlessly blending the past, present, and future of string band music to create their most daring and collaborative work yet. 

“This is the first record with all four of us contributing to the writing together,” says guitarist Max Davies, “and the songs really reflect that. You can hear each of our different backgrounds and influences in the music, and you can also hear how much we’ve grown in the last few years, both as individuals and as a band.”

While much of that growth can be traced to the group’s relentless tour schedule, they’re also quick to credit the influence of The Infamous Stringdusters’ Chris Pandolfi, who produced ‘Muir Maid’ and helped the band reach new heights in the studio and beyond.

“We call it The Panda Effect,” says banjo player Torrin Daniels. “Just by hanging out with a musician like Chris, you absorb what he says and how he approaches songs, and all of the sudden you’re a better musician for it.”

‘Muir Maid’ follows Kitchen Dwellers’ acclaimed 2017 LP, ‘Ghost In The Bottle,’ which was produced by Leftover Salmon’s Andy Thorn and featured a slew of special guests, including Little Feat’s Bill Payne and Greensky Bluegrass’s Anders Beck. Tracks from the record racked up more than a million streams on Spotify and garnered rave reviews across the board, with The Huffington Post hailing the band as “a bluegrass phenomenon” and Relix praising the unique way the group’s songwriting “embrac[es] their love of electronica, metal…and everything in between.”

While those wide-ranging influences might not sound like typical fodder for a bluegrass outfit, they’re essential to Kitchen Dwellers’ eclectic identity. Mandolinist Shawn Swain grew up listening to and performing traditional roots music in Colorado, but his bandmates all come from decidedly different backgrounds: Funk studied classical and jazz as a youngster and cites Metallica among his biggest influences; Daniels spent his youth playing drums and listening to punk and metal before he ever picked up a banjo; and Davies found himself drawn to the intersection of rock and jazz, only stumbling upon bluegrass in middle school when he saw Bela Fleck perform live. 

“The band came along at a pivotal time for each of us,” says Daniels. “Our tastes were changing and we were discovering all kinds of new stuff. Even before we started performing together, we were all going to tons of shows and becoming part of this tight knit musical community out here.”

While the Appalachians may be recognized as the birthplace of bluegrass, the Rockies boast their own vibrant roots scene, and Montana embraced Kitchen Dwellers from the very beginning.

“Bluegrass started out as music for and by hardworking, rural mountain folks, and that description fits Montanans perfectly,” says Daniels. “You’ve got a be a little tougher to get by out here, which is why I think this music resonates with everybody so much.”

When it came time to cut the new album, Kitchen Dwellers decided to tap into the intoxicating energy of their concerts and record everything live for the first time. They began by holing up in a New Hampshire cabin for a few days of preproduction, working out every detail of the performances and arrangements in advance, and then they headed west to Denver, where they captured the album raw and fast under Pandolfi’s deft direction.

“Chris isn’t the kind of guy who steers the ship,” says Davies. “He’s the kind of guy who helps guide you to a place you didn’t even know you wanted to go. He has this way of getting you to bear down and dig deeper than you ever realized you could.”

That depth is apparent from the outset of ‘Muir Maid,’ with album opener “Shadows” showcasing the band’s dazzling musicianship, airtight harmonies, and transportive storytelling. Like much of the record to come, the track features lightning-fast fretwork and brilliant solos, but far from showing off, the instrumental pyrotechnics here always come in service of the song, a guiding principal for the group. 

“The person who wrote a particular tune isn’t always the one who ends up singing it,” says Davies, who shares vocal duties with his bandmates. “We base every decision off of what’s going to be best for the track, and to me, that’s the true definition of collaboration.”

With a title like ‘Muir Maid,’ it should come as little surprise that nature plays an important role on the record. The breezy “Woods Lake” looks back fondly on a life spent outdoors, while the charming “Driftwood” draws on memories of a summer spent kayaking around Alaska, and the rollicking title track pays homage to the boat Funk’s father sailed up the Pacific Northwest coast.

“That’s the kind of bad-assery we like to celebrate,” says Daniels. “I think we saw a lot of parallels to our own sometimes-harrowing journey in that story, as well.”

The trials and tribulations of the road are a frequent theme in Kitchen Dwellers’ songwriting. The jaunty “Broken Cage” spins a cowboy tail of life on the trail, while “The Comet” tackles the challenges of maintaining human connection when you’re always on the move, and the introspective “Phaedrus” takes its title from former Montana State University professor Robert Pirsig’s philosophical road-trip classic ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.’ Perhaps, though, it’s “The Living Dread,” a song with no lyrics at all, that best encapsulates what Kitchen Dwellers are all about.

“That song is a perfect example of the way our different musical backgrounds can all come together as one,” says Funk. “The intro starts with this electronic dub vibe, and then it goes into a metal-influenced section, and then it turns reggae and moves into bluegrass and works its way back to dub by the end. It showcases everyone’s own little flavor.”

When you’re a band born in the kitchen, flavor is everything. 

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The Drunken Hearts

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The Drunken Hearts found themselves entering Silo Sound Studios in Denver on April 1st, 2018 with friend and producer Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) — just one day after the release of their then-brand new, self-produced album, The Prize. The band wanted to try something new for their next album: to create and record a new song each day, and continue that model until an entire album was realized, and the result is eleven full-fledged, living, breathing, musical time capsules that make up Wheels of the City. Mastered by Jim Wilson, and released worldwide October 18 on LoHi Records.

Called, “Boulder's Americana Heroes” by 303 Magazine who writes, "Since their inception as a trio [in 2012], the now rock ‘n’ roll quintet has gained quite the reputation. Their music is raw Americana-rock, with a touch of country and a sprinkle of folk, and the result is a steaming and raucous sound full of emotion and energy."

Mixing their mountain-spirit with the twang of the south, this electrifying five-man band met and live in the Boulder/Denver area of Colorado. Acoustic guitarist and powerhouse lead singer, Andrew McConathy is originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, and is known for his compelling songwriting and distinct and expressive vocals. Joining him are pedal steel, Dobro, and lap steel player Cody Russell and electric guitarist and vocalist Kory Montgomery, both from Arkansas, along with bassist and vocalist Jon McCartan, from Upstate New York by way of Vermont, and, from the outskirts of Chicago, drummer Alex Johnson.

“The Drunken Hearts deliver an intimate perspective to a nostalgic rock and roll sound,” says Paul Hoffman (Greensky Bluegrass), “Passionate vocals that are reminiscent of Eddie Vedder and country flavored pedal steel are both familiar and a newfound discovery.”

On Wheels of the City, The Drunken Hearts deliver tales of adventure, love, risk, and realization. There’s an overarching feeling of positivity throughout the songs, yet they also contain undertones of the darkness that inhabits life. Aspen Daily News says, "The Drunken Hearts are magnetic, as they combine catchy beats with unique melodies to create a well-synced mixture of musical sensibilities.”

“I loved working on this record with The Drunken Hearts,” exclaims Carbone, a partner in LoHi Records. “Andrew sent me the acoustic demos of the songs and I sketched out the arrangements and instrumentation. The band essentially learned the songs and added their ideas the day we tracked them.”

Andrew says, “Once we got into the studio with Tim, ultimately ‘Unrest,’ the first single, morphed into a rollicking piano-driven rock song topped off by a very psychedelic Pink Floyd-esque bridge with the lyrics, ‘Just getting up is getting me down… Gonna pull the string get my head unwound… Before I die I want to learn to live… Unrest is a state of mind…’” Listen to “Unrest” at this exclusive premiere at JamBase.

Carbone says, “We did a song a day and except for some vocal overdubs, solo replacements and the strings and horns, that was how it all went down. I'd never worked that way before. It was an amazing stretch of hyper-creativity. I'm very proud of Wheels of the City!”

The title track was inspired by Jack Kerouac’s Vanishing American Hobo, written in 1960. McConathy explains the song, “‘Wheels of the City’ examines the cultural paradigm between the homeless, health insurance-less citizens of America and an opposing population who seemingly wish to leave their brothers and sisters helpless, and build a wall to keep freedom and opportunity at bay and weak against the overbearing patriarchy who wishes to repress them.” He sings, “Build a bridge, and not a wall… Something to bind us, not divide us all... ”

The album features a horn section on the title track and “Passchendaele” brings in a string section along with Sheryl Renee’s accompanying vocals to create a unique texture to the telling of a riveting tale of a soldiers love long ago that was lost upon returning from war. Renee also joins on “In the Middle” a song with poignant lyrics, “Here we are fightin' in the middle, bleedin' 'n dying like fools… Here we are believin’ in the the middle, We got nothing but change for days… Here we are believin’ in the middle, I’m the only one that can change my ways…”

Carbone joins in on multiple instruments throughout the album including piano, organ, and violin. Cody Russell also brought two instrumentals to the table, one of which McConathy added words to (“Dream of Waiting”) and the other, “The Cave” to which Carbone added a spoken-word passage from ‘Plato's Allegory of The Cave’ to create the intro.

Somehow with this ambitious “create and record one entire song per day” approach, the band was able to write and track eleven songs in eleven days, and the result was one of the more satisfying creative endeavors the band has ever taken on.

LoHi’s Vice President Chad Staehly (of Hard Working Americans) says, "We've known about The Drunken Hearts for years and it has been really cool watching their growth as artists and performers. This latest album Wheels of the City has an extra layer of depth and songwriting that is very engaging and emotive on a different level from anything they've done in the past."

With notable performances at WinterWonderGrass Steamboat (CO), WinterWonderGrass Squaw Valley (CA), Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road Fest (CO), Electric Forest (MI), FloydFest (VA), Vertex (CO), Fayetteville Roots Fest (AR), Hangtown Music Festival (CA), Bohemian Nights at New West Fest (CO), Northwest String Summit (OR), Grandoozy (CO), Four Peaks Festival (OR), and the band’s very own Yarmony Music Festival (CO), the band is very much at home on the festival circuit. They have also supported Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Deer Tick, Leftover Salmon, String Cheese Incident, among others.

Andrew McConathy | Vocals, Acoustic Guitar

Jon McCartan | Bass

Cody Russell | Pedal and Lap Steel, Banjo

Kory Montgomery | Electric guitar, Vocals

Alex Johnson | Drums, Percussion