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The Sluts
"Loser (EP)
"
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 Lawrence, Kansas (affectionately to be referred to henceforth as LFK) continues to be a source of the kinds of music that I want to hear more of and know more about. One band in particular has really caught my ear of late with a sound that’s raw, dirty, energetic, and undeniably attention-grabbing: The Sluts, a bare-bones twosome consisting of Kristoffer Dover on drums and Ryan Wise on guitar and vocals. Two musicians, no more, no less … but as the sounds you’ll hear on their new EP Loser will demonstrate, two musicians is plenty when it comes to making a substantial sonic statement.

 
Their mix of garage, punk, and grunge kicks things off with the opener, “Let Me Go,” as The Sluts tear things up with a grimy bounce firmly entrenched in 4/4 time. “Loser” starts with a tip of the cap to upbeat new wavey rhythms, but 25 seconds into the track, the boys re-establish the power presence that is their raison d’etre (how’s THAT for some damn NPR-speak, kids?). “Green” and “Linger” wrap up the four-track, barely-more-than-ten-minute EP with the sound that I’ve most commonly described as “Nirvana without Krist Novoselic,” as Wise’s sneering vocals and snarling guitar combined with Dover’s relentlessly on-point percussion give the music just a bit of Bleach-era homage while sounding very much of the present day.
 
I had the honor of introducing The Sluts during this year’s Midcoast Takeoverat SXSW; they were on the roster of the I Heart Local Music / Whatever Forever day-party that featured more examples of LFK’s finest (Black on BlackShy BoysJosh Berwanger Band, and Oils/CS Luxem). After a couple long days of music and food truck fare and drinking, the abrasive grind of The Sluts was a much-needed Brillo pad to the brain. Give Loser a listen, and keep an eye out for this band.
 
Love me some dirty, filthy, nasty The Sluts. Awwww yeahhhhhh.

--Michael Byars

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(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
 
There’s a certain poetry to the way music communities ebb and flow. A band will manage to capture a certain something that attracts interest, if not devout fandom, but at some point the end of the road lies ahead. At this stage, many musicians decide that it was a good run but now it’s time to do something else. In other cases, band members go off on other musical pursuits. Sometimes a new band arises from the remains of those no longer working. Such is the case for The Dead Girls (formerly Dead Girls Ruin Everything), who came to life in 2004 when members of Ultimate Fakebook and Podstar combined their talents. For the past decade the band has been on its self-described search for “the perfect hook,” and they’ve been successful far more often than not. With their most recent (and perhaps final) album Noisemaker, the Lawrence foursome is hitting on all cylinders with an eleven-track offering that seems primed for radio airplay. I count at least nine of those songs as being ready not only for local airwaves, but much more widespread exposure.
 
The Dead Girls (Cameron Hawk and JoJo Longbottom sharing guitar and vocal duties, Nick Colby on bass, and Eric Melin on drums) take their powerpop pedigree seriously, listing Big Star, The Replacements, The Beach Boys, and Cheap Trick among their influences. It’s a lineage they are clearly determined to be worthy of, and Noisemaker provides 33 minutes that are saturated with crunchy chords, rock riffs, and vocal pyrotechnics that are super, super tight.
 
“I’m On a Mission” opens the album with a blast of all the aforesaid ingredients. From the opening moments it’s clear what that mission is—“to rock!”—and that mission is followed to the letter throughout Noisemaker. A bit later, “Downtown on a Nice Afternoon” offers a burst of jangly guitar sounds, but with an underlying sense of urgency, as if the singer has to be somewhere important… but, well, we’ve already started the song and it’s kind of important that we finish this too… so let’s get it done already! Those opening chords are reminiscent of the sound of early MTV commercials, which is a nice touch, and … oh, I’m sorry, I should explain: “MTV” is a television network that used to play music videos 24 hours a day, and … oh, right: “music videos” are brief vignettes that were made to give television viewers visual connections to the music they listened to.
 
Everybody caught up? Good. On we go.
 
“That Shit Gets Old” is a straightforward rocker that shows me hints of Gruff Rhys on vocals, which is never a bad thing. Perhaps if Hawk or Longbottom was Rhys’ younger brother it would make perfect sense. “Dress Up Dress Down” has almost a summery-surf quality, like it would be the soundtrack to a midnight drive along the beach. “Calling You Around” is a primer in how to blend powerpop guitars with classic-rock arrangements, and “I Don’t Wanna Hafta Hold Your Hand” closes the album with the most uptempo song of the lot, as the band realizes that it’s time to put the guitars and drums down, jump in the Barracuda, and head off to the next adventure – maybe that’s the midnight oceanside drive that I mentioned before.
 
Almost without fail, every album has that one song that stands apart from the others stylistically, as if the band is saying “See? We can do this kind of music too.” This doesn’t work for every band that tries it, but with “Sun and Rain” it absolutely works for The Dead Girls. The dual electric guitar and thunderous rhythm section is replaced by gentle acoustic strings, an ever-so-slightly-out-of-tune stand-up piano, sweetly earnest lead vocals, faraway harmonies, and tonal choices that give this song a very Beatle-esque feel. When a song not only offers a change of pace but shows the true musical talent and potential of the band, that’s when you know that said band is bringing its A game. This song does that for me.
 
The Dead Girls offer something special during their live performances as well, which is something that I’ve said before as being a prime factor in determining the legitimacy of a band or artist. Sure, they’re energetic and do their best to connect with the audience, as most bands at least try to do, but there’s something more here—and it’s evident on Noisemaker as much as it is on the stage of The Bottleneck. It’s the simple fact that you just know these guys are having fun doing what they do. They look like they enjoy every second of music making, and that’s a camaraderie that can’t be faked. Their sense of teamwork carries over to a very important off-stage pursuit that the four of them share: every band member is also a top-notch competitive air guitarist. This is especially true of Eric “Mean” Melin, who won the 2013 World Air Guitar Championship. These gentlemen take their fun seriously—and have serious fun doing so.
 
As of this writing, The Dead Girls only have a precious few shows left before going on an open-ended hiatus; Hawk is going to be teaching English to classrooms of eager students in China next year. There’s no doubt that he’s going to do very well—he could use his song lyrics as pop quizzes—but it’s my hope that he brings a guitar with him. I don’t know much about China, but I have a feeling they could use some rock ‘n roll in their world, and they would be all the richer for it.
 
I know I’ve had a blast listening to every bit of noise made by The Dead Girls.
 
--Michael Byars
 
Michael is looking for a handheld Yahtzee game for his mom. Because he cares.
 
 
 
Join The Dead Girls for their last KC show this Friday night at Harling’s Upstairs. Facebook event page. Their final show will be in Manhattan at Auntie Mae’s, next Saturday, December 20 with The Field Day Jitters. Facebook event page.
 

  

December 11, 2014
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Every Wednesday, between 10 and 12 pm, the soothing, dulcet tones of Mark Manning take over the KKFI 90.1 FM airwaves. For 10 years, his program Wednesday MidDay Medley has highlighted a variety of music—both local and non-local, and includes in-depth interviews with bands, local music aficionados, and others in the community. But many of us don’t know much about Manning himself; not only is he a radio personality, but he’s been an active part of the theater community since moving to Kansas City in the mid ‘80s. Check out our Q&A with him, and find out more about one of the most ardent supporters of the Kansas City arts community.
 
The Deli: How long have you been in radio? Give me a little about your background there. 
 
Manning: I started volunteering at KKFI in the spring of 2001 and worked as producer/host/engineer for The Tenth Voice for 8 years. Prior to this, in 1994, I co-produced and contributed as a writer/performer for The AIDS Radio Show with friends Lisa Cordes and Jon "Piggy" Cupit. The show was a radio adaptation of a live show we had done on stage, and was reproduced and recorded especially for radio. It won a Silver Reel Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.
 
The Deli: What other work have you done in performing arts and entertainment?
 
Manning: I moved to Kansas City in 1986 and immediately found a home at The Unicorn Theatre where I worked on 18 professional productions. I was given the opportunity to work as an actor, stage manager, assistant stage manager, designer, and production assistant. I also worked with Paul Mesner Puppets on 18 productions, as a stage manager, technician, and sometimes puppeteer. I've worked as a site manager for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and as a freelance artist and stage manager. I have also worked as an actor for The Coterie Theatre, Gorilla Theatre, Theatre League, Actors Against AIDS, Quality Hill Playhouse, One Time Productions, and The Fishtank.
 
As a performance artist and writer I've created several original pieces and plays including: "Jesse's Dream Our Nightmare," "Every Gay People," "Gay Bash," "It's A Man's World," "Anti-Gone in Kansas," "Slightly Effeminate Men," (with Ron Megee & Jon "Piggy" Cupit) "Straight Marriage," "70's Cocktail Party" and "The Children of Karen Carpenter" (with Sandra K. Davies).
 
The Deli: You also co-founded Big Bang Buffet, an underground performance collective. How has that organization fostered the arts community?
 
Manning: In 1990 I co-founded Big Bang Buffet with my friends Ron Megee and Janice Woolery, a producing organization that worked to provide venues for original works in performance art, spoken word, theatre and visual arts. BBB fostered an underground scene. Founders met at The Spoken Word at Cafe Lulu (until it closed in Oct. '91) and Club Cabaret (a gay bar on Main St, now demolished). Between 1990 and 2005, BBB presented 75 different productions at many venues including American Heartland Theatre, Unicorn Theatre, The Midland, Harling's Upstairs, Quality Hill Playhouse, back alleyways, Unity Temple on The Plaza, The Hobbs Building, Just Off Broadway, The Farm, KC Fringe Festival, Phoenix Books, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, Bang Gallery and Lou Jane Temple's living room. Shows were benefits for the Free Speech Coalition, Human Rights Project, Missouri Naral, ACT-UP KC, Free Health Clinic, SAVE. Core contributors: Ron Megee left BBB to create Late Night Theater; Beth Marshall became Producing/Artistic Director of Orlando Fringe Festival and now runs Beth Marshall Presents; Lisa Cordes is now Director of Artist Inc. and Janice Woolery now runs weekly in marathons. 
 
With Big Bang Buffet, I appeared in over 75 different productions playing roles as diverse as Jesse Helms, Phil Donahue, Tonya Harding, Barbara Bush, George W. Bush and Andy Warhol.
 
The Deli: You started Wednesday Midday Medley 10 years ago. What was the goal of the program then, and is it still the same now?
 
Manning: I was asked by then 90.1 FM program director John Jessup to become a host/producer of Your MidDay Medley. The concept of the show was to play all the different music genres heard on KKFI: blues, jazz, rock, folk, world, electronic, reggae, punk, etc. I really took the "medley" part seriously and I've always loved mixing it up. I remember once when I played gay singer-songwriter Peter Allen followed by Jimi Hendrix. A listener called in and asked, "So this is how it's gonna be on this show?" I wasn't sure in the beginning what the show was, I mainly used it as an opportunity to play everything I loved that I never heard on commercial radio.
 
I started doing more interviews and special shows. One of our signature shows we started was "A Story in A Song," where we invite listeners and writers to share an original short story about a song that changed their life in some way, and then we play the song. The concept is simple but the shows have been some of our best, and a big favorite with listeners. We also have done a series of satire radio shows called "Then He Touched Me Gospel Hour." We produced the first edition on April Fools Day in 2008. The show was inspired, co-written and starring Jim "The Blind Guy" Hoschek, who played a down-on-his-luck, Christian fundamentalist radio evangelist who recently relocated to Sugar Creek with his wife and many children. Their ministry has taken over the community airwaves. A cast of actors plays all of the roles of the family, and we play actual vintage, locally produced Christian music from the early 1970s.
 
I was really inspired by my good friend Anne Winter, who helped me a lot in the early days. Anne had already done "the KKFI thing" but her experience and love of the station was still present. After her death in 2009, I dedicated my efforts with a new direction to continue the work of Anne. I remember holding onto friends Betse Ellis and Kasey Rausch and making a pact with them that we would be there for each other as friend and never forget.
 
I always wanted someone from a record store to have a regular contribution to the show. I met Marion Merritt at Barnes & Noble on The Plaza. Marion has been joining us on WMM for over 10 years, sharing her discoveries and info from her musically encyclopedic-brain. This year Marion Merritt, left Barnes & Noble to pursue a dream and she opened Records With Merritt (1614 Westport Road) in May.
 
The listeners helped make the show what it is today. In my continuing search to tell stories on radio, I stumbled into the story of Kansas City's beautiful music community. The music community never ceases to inspire and move me. Musicians started playing live on the show and appearing for interviews. We interview close to 200 people each year. I started searching for as much locally produced music as I could include, and mix this with the very best national releases that aren't being played on commercial radio. The musicians have taught me. Slowly musicians and artists began to take ownership of the show itself. I remember the day Abigail Henderson told me, "We think of this as our show,” and I couldn't have been happier. For the last 8 years we've been serious about tracking and celebrating the best music in this diverse MidCoastal area.
 
The Deli: Why is supporting local music and the community important to you?
 
Manning: I feel it is my responsibility as a host/producer of a music show on Community Radio. As a non-commercial/educational community radio station owned by a nonprofit organization (The MidCoast Radio Project), we must work to tell the story of what is going on in our culture. KKFI plays over 1000 different songs in a week, we can cover more types of music. You don't have to love it all, but if you listen you will learn, and you will get to go deeper into genre than any other media outlet will take you. Our jazz shows are hosted and produced by many of KC’s best and hardest working jazz musicians. Our blues shows are hosted by blues musicians or those who have served on the KC Blues Society board. The same can be said for our shows that feature the music of folk, punk, reggae, women's music, hip hop, rockabilly, world, Native American, new wave, clectronica, etc. 
 
The Deli: Why should people be interested in community radio?
 
Manning: Community Radio really is radio "of the people." The spirit of this can sometimes be polluted by those with narrow vision and selfishness, but ultimately community radio lives by the idea that the airwaves belong to the people. The station belongs to all of us. It is powered by people who want to hear about their own communities in our media. Volunteers who are willing to give up part of their life to produce and host a weekly show and basically give it all away for free, without asking anything for all of the work, and time and investment. With community radio you can have the freedom to tell the stories that just aren't included anywhere else. This is space that we must hold on to. It is some to the last remaining community space in the broadcasting world. With community radio I know what is happening in my communities and I don't want to have to listen to commercials for breast enhancement or diet pills.
 
The Deli: Who are some of your favorite KC-area bands and musicians?
 
Manning: This is so difficult because I love and respect so many local artists. In the last year we played over 100 local releases and had over 40 artists/bands on the show to talk about their 2014 releases. We had Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear on our program 4 times in 14 months. They always blow me away. I love everything about Schwervon!, Shy Boys, Howard Iceberg, Matt Dunehoo, The ACBs, Sara Swenson, The Philistines, Betse Ellis, Ghosty, Katy Guillen and Claire Adams, The Bad Ideas, Kristie Stremel, Mikal Shapiro, Krystle Warren, Dead Voices, The Sleazebeats, Pedaljets, Jamie Searle, Calvin Arsenia, Hermon Mehari, Amy Farrand, Chris Meck, Jorge Arana Trio, Dedric Moore, Not A Planet, Michael Tipton, Hearts of Darkness, John Velghe, Vi Tran…I could keep going.
 
The Deli: What do you like most about hosting your own radio show?
 
Manning: Every week is different. Each week I'm forced to write a script and put together the puzzle of a radio show. It is an education, I'm always learning, there is always research, planning. It is personal. I love the interviews. I love having an opportunity to make connections. To serve. I try to find equality in music and music that moves your heart and your body. I want to be a good custodian and help open the door. Through the show I've been able to do longer interviews with Tommy Ramone, Lily Tomlin, Laurie Anderson, Krystle Warren, and so many others.
 
The Deli: You are also coordinator for the KCK Organic Teaching Gardens. Tell us more about that and why it's rewarding to you?
 
Manning: In 1998 we produced a Big Bang Buffet show on stage at the Midland as a benefit for a high school student-produced poetry magazine and program in KCK. I left my job as manager of the box office at The Midland and went to work in KCK training and recruiting volunteers for a literacy program. Somehow this led to my work in creating—from scratch—a garden-teaching initiative that has built multiple raised bed organic gardens, at seven schools in the KCK School District #500. Our program is entirely grant funded and supported by the Kansas University School of Medicine’s Office of Cultural Enhancement and Diversity. We serve over 1000 students in classrooms with a 9-month curriculum that involves the students in 3 plantings and 3 harvests each year, and workshops on soil, worms, parts of plants and seeds, sweet potatoes, salsa, and how plants grow. We launched the program in 2000. I conduct 37 workshops each month at seven schools with 25 different classrooms and teachers, serving over 1000 students in first, fourth, and sixth grades.
 
The Deli: What else inspires you?
 
Manning: My partner Caleb who I've been with for 23 years and who has never tried to change me, but only offer me support and a home. His beautiful mom Julia, who lives with us, and reminds me that some of the youngest people I know are in their 80s. My mom and stepdad Arlo. My dogs Maggie and Jack (both rescued from the gardens). I'm a huge fan of David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol, The Factory, Interview Magazine, New York punk, early ‘80s new wave and post punk, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Patti Smith, performance art, Laurie Anderson, LaBelle, local record stores, Broadway, artists, Martin Luther King, LGBT activists, Larry Kramer, Mavis Staples, trees, walking, President Obama, the Grand Canyon, the Atlantic Ocean, Joni Mitchell, George Washington Carver, honey bees, butterflies, gardening, Iris DeMent, vertical files, The Smiths, British music magazines, Bold Nebraska, Rachel Maddow, RuPaul's Drag Race, photography, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Paul Thomas Anderson films, This American Life, homegrown and homemade food, coffee, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Michelle Bacon.
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle is the editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands. She’s also a huge fan of Mark Manning.
 
 

You can celebrate with Mark this Friday at Davey’s Uptown Rambler’s Club, where KKFI will be celebrating 10 years of Wednesday MidDay Medley. The show is a benefit for KKFI 90.1 FM, and will feature performances from The Philistines, Dolls on Fire (who will also be releasing their LP that night), and The Pedaljets. Facebook event page 

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December 09, 2014
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(Photo by Rachel Meyers)
 
“Sometimes I get kind of destructive, and music is part of how I keep everything together.”
 
Cameron Hawk already has quite an impressive resume: he’s been in a number of successful bands, he’s opened up for KISS, he’s organized the annual Lawrence Field Day Fest, and now he prepares to embark on a completely different adventure. In early 2015, Hawk will be taking off to China to teach English for 8 months.
 
“I’m 33 years old and I’ve never lived outside of Kansas in my life,” says Hawk. He’ll be going to China in early 2015 with his girlfriend Rachel, and stepping out of a comfort zone he’s carved out for himself in the 15 years he’s lived and made music in Lawrence. “I’m always going to love this scene and playing here and the music that comes out of here. But I know that as humans, we are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for.”
 
After graduating from high school in 2000, Hawk and his band Podstar relocated from Manhattan to Lawrence. They released two albums on Noisome Records before calling it quits in 2002—right around the same time many other notable area bands broke up, including Ultimate Fakebook, The Get Up Kids, and The Creature Comforts. Hawk recalls, “A huge chunk of people integral to the scene moved away or went on to other things in life right at the same time, and it really felt like a musical ghost town around here for awhile. But that ended up being the best time to start Dead Girls Ruin Everything.” He—along with Podstar bandmate JoJo Longbottom and Ultimate Fakebook alums Eric Melin and Nick Colby—formed the group that same year. “By that time, we cumulatively had a lot of experience with band stuff, and we were all trying to take a more realistic approach to music and how we handled everything.”
 
More than 10 years and a name change later, The Dead Girls have become the area’s most heralded power pop supergroup. They’ve released a number of albums (4 LPs, 3 EPs, and a 7”) and have shared the stage with the likes of Motion City Soundtrack, Dinosaur Jr., and yes, even KISS. Hawk and Longbottom have shared songwriting duties from the beginning, while the entire group composes each song. “We are all such big music geeks that we have very vivid ideas of how a song or album should be,” he mentions. With that type of history, success, and knowledge, he’s learned a lot about being a musician.
 
“I learned how to step up and put myself out there for something I care about. I learned how hard you actually have to work to make something yourself, and how fucking awesome it feels,” he notes. “I learned to try to not rock too hard and to never scream directly into a microphone during sound check.”
 
 
He’s also been instrumental in his other two current bands: Stiff Middle Fingers and Many Moods of Dad. Stiff Middle Fingers injects a heavy dose of personality into their punk rock repertoire, according to Hawk. “We don’t worry about sounding derivative, and we just wear our influences on our sleeves and have fun.” In SMF, he comes up with guitar riffs and sends them to vocalist Travis Arey for lyrics. Hawk considers Many Moods of Dad to be a “psychopop hodgepodge of ideas,” and includes his other Podstar bandmates JP Redmon and Aaron Swenson, who co-writes much of the material with Hawk. “The whole idea behind MMOD was for us to do all the fun/dumb/weird stuff we always wanted to do on a record but never could, because it was always shot down for some reason.”
 
(Photo of Stiff Middle Fingers by Todd Zimmer)
 
(Photo of Many Moods of Dad by Quinton Cheney)
 
When he leaves, Hawk also leaves behind Lawrence Field Day Fest, an event that will be 4 years in the running come 2015. He hopes to continue planning the summer fest from China, and enlisting help from other supporters of the music community. “Even though our [scene] isn’t the biggest or the “hottest” or whatever, I have come to understand how special it really is. There are huge cities—hell, metropoli—that don’t have a music scene of this quality. There should be someone or something around here supporting that.”
 
But regardless of where he’s living and what he’s doing, Hawk will not be ready to give up on music. Since he’ll be out of the country, most of his projects will go on indefinite hiatus (SMF will likely continue with a different guitarist), but Hawk plans to release his debut solo album, entitled Dream You Forgot, in early 2015. “Music is not only what I love to do, but it’s my main source of sanity.”
 
And in this new phase of his life, Hawk plans to apply all of the experiences he’s had through playing and making music. “I think a lot of people lose sight of how every little experience they have in life eventually helps them in some way. We need to actively use all experiences as fodder for learning and growing, and pushing our own limits.”

--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle is the editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.
 
 
 
The Dead Girls will perform their last Kansas City show this Friday, December 12, at Harling’s Upstairs. Deco Auto and Rev Gusto will open. Facebook event page. He’ll also be playing with Stiff Middle Fingers on Friday, December 26 at Replay Lounge. Facebook event page.
 
 
  
December 09, 2014
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(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
 
The Noise FM will be bringing its Noise For Toys benefit concert back to Kansas City for the second year in a row. This dancey indie rock band—currently based in Chicago—started the event in 2008, when brothers Alex and Austin Ward were still living in Lawrence. Since moving to Chicago in 2010, they’ve held the event there annually.
 
“We weren't sure what to expect the first year, other than we knew we wanted to host a benefit concert for an organization that would benefit the community,” says lead vocalist and guitarist Alex Ward. They eventually chose Toys For Tots, and Noise For Toys was born. “If our band is remembered for nothing else, please let it be that we came up with the name Noise For Toys. It's almost too good.”
 
The holiday party includes an ugly sweater contest, costumes, and Christmas tunes, “and usually one of our unfortunate friends dressed as Santa in the same unwashed Santa suit we've had for 10 years,” mentions Ward. “It's pretty gross in that suit, but we usually buy Santa a bottle of peppermint schnapps before the show to keep his spirits high.”
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle is the editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.
 
 
This year’s Noise For Toys show in Kansas City will be this Saturday, December 6, at The Riot Room. The lineup includes The Noise FM, Hembree, Bonzo Madrid, French Horn Rebellion, and music from DJ Sheppa throughout the night. Tickets are $10, or $6 with an unopened toy. Starts at 9:00 p.m. Facebook event page.
 

 

December 04, 2014
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Kangaroo Knife Fight’s new self-titled EP is a soul-searching romp through deep caverns of reverbed out guitars, gospelesque vocals, and flowing melodies reminiscent of Sly and the Family Stone and Kings of Leon. The opening track, “Hold On” is an airy build into a delightful chant-worthy chorus. With the vocals screaming “I don’t think anybody wants to lose,” it’s hard not to sing along the second time around. The song illustrates difficulties everyone struggles with and the sweaty grip people have while trying to hold everything together in life. The challenging nature of the overwhelming instrumentation leaves you asking, how will they make this bigger? KKF doesn’t disappoint with giant swelling vocals and expanding guitars.

 
--Matthew Gratton
 
Editor’s note: Kangaroo Knife Fight was recorded by Kangaroo Knife Fight and mixed by Noah Shain and Amir Jamm. The band was formerly called Little Rosco.
 
Kangaroo Knife Fight is:
Anthony Avis: vocals
Brandon Skeens: guitar
Ian O’Connell: drums
Gus Rechtien: bass, backup vocals
 
 
Check out Kangaroo Knife Fight at The Brick this Saturday, December 6, where they will be celebrating the release of the EP. Bottle Breakers and Morningglories will also be playing. Facebook event page.
 
December 04, 2014
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For those of you familiar with the music of Monta At Odds (a phrase that I’ll be using again later), you know that they have their own ideas of how best to use electronics and percussion and various other tools of the trade to create aural canvases that somehow combine both retro and futuristic influences. Some of their earlier work was described by someone—okay, it was me—as a soundtrack to a 1950s French film noir, only cooler. With their latest release, Robots of Munich on Haymaker Records, their focus has shifted to a cinematically-inspired imagining of a world a bit into the future in which machines are at the forefront—and some have fled to the Southern Hemisphere to pursue their longing to be more like one of us. More on that later.
 
Over the years, the band has made numerous appearances throughout Kansas City and Lawrence, and for a while it seemed as if you might see a new lineup at every other show. Monta has gone through several rosters but is now a muscular seven-piece, if memory serves from their appearance at KC Psychfest (P.S. I checked – memory does serve). Dedric and Delaney, the brothers Moore, remain the stalwarts of the group, with Delaney on keys, Dedric as bassist and bandleader, and both sharing songwriting and vocal duties (according to Dedric, he’s the McCartney of the brothers; Delaney is the Lennon).
 
Another of Dedric’s strengths is his ability to creatively package Monta music in such a way that when you purchase a physical copy, you’re getting something that’s as visually artistic as it is musically. From a CD stored in a very-past-its-prime floppy disc case to a clear vinyl album in a clear plastic jacket, the work of Monta At Odds is not hard to recognize. Robots will continue that tradition with a cover that is stylishly cut and protects a red vinyl album. The interior of the jacket will unfold to go into detail the connections between the music, a well-known sci-fi movie, and a well-known sci-fi novel. It’s a very ambitious undertaking to say the least. As Dedric said when asked about the origins of the album name, “(It) came from the movie Android which was sourced from the same book as Blade Runner. It was a news broadcast that the robots of Munich had been destroyed in their rebellion. It came out the same year as Blade Runner and crashed into oblivion immediately. That started the ball rolling with the concept of a handful of androids escaping and fleeing to South America (where all war criminals end up, right?). We then took inspiration from the theme of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? about where has our humanity gone and what actually makes us human.”
 
A pro-tip before you begin: it’s best to be in a dark place when listening to Monta At Odds. Not dark emotionally—actual darkness. Dimly lit. Illuminationally challenged. At a gig or while driving your car at night would be great. If listening through headphones is a viable option… take it.
 
For those of you familiar with the music of Monta At Odds (told you), you know that vocals are not of prime importance to the band’s output. Instrumentals are the more commonplace method of expression (six of the ten tracks on Robots are sans words), and when lyrics are enabled, their clarity can tend to be lost amid a swirl of waves and swooshes and reverb. This is by design, as the work of Tom Vek of the ultra-trippy Black Moth Super Rainbow is an obvious influence to the production used by Monta. The aim is to make the vocals sound more like an instrument than an individual, and “Salty Air Breezes” leads off the album with just such verbal distortion. The song tells of the story’s protagonist trying to blend in on Earth while searching for an escape to a place touted by a television commercial as a sunny, idyllic refuge. Yearning to leave behind the “beggars, bums, and nuns in the metro transit underground,” she puts “5000 revs on the poor fiat for hours on end” in an attempt to find safety and serenity.

The common theme of robot-wanting-to-be-human is expressed in the next track, “Android Dreams” (voiced by Monta alum and percussionist Mika Tanaya). The song itself is a paradox, as the lyrical desires to “be beautiful / feel love / share laughter / maybe feel pain” are expressed in a very staccato, sterile, mechanical fashion. Such is the dichotomy of the android’s life—if “android” and “life” aren’t themselves a dichotomy when used next to each other. These deep musings are to be contemplated as Robots continues its journey—and our heroine continues her search for existence that transcends zeros and ones.
 
Now, for those of you familiar with the music of Monta At Odds (see?), you know that their music likes to take its time and tell a story, letting development unfold in an unhurried manner … all of which is just fancy talk for “their music is mostly downtempo to midtempo in its pacing.” Which is all the more reason why I cannot stop myself from listening to “Relentless Pursuit” on repeat. This is 130 seconds of no-holds-barred rock, complete with some of the most incredible slide space guitar I’ve heard in a while. I was standing next to recordBar co-owner Steve Tulipana when I first heard this track at KC Psychfest, and it was pretty clear that it was his first time hearing it as well. When the tune got going, he and I turned to each other with eyes wide open in looks of mutual astonishment and approval. This was music designed to be the backdrop of an interstellar chase scene, as if those Dukes of Hazzard boys had taken the Millennium Falcon for a joy ride.
 
Robots of Munich is another leap forward for Monta At Odds and their electronic mission to expand minds. When I heard their set at KC Psychfest (and I think this year’s event at recordBar was the best one so far), I had a feeling the new album was going to be something worthy of more than a little consideration for mentions on some best of 2014 lists. After having heard the finished product, I stand by that statement.
 
I consider myself to be very familiar with the music of Monta At Odds … and I’m totally okay with that.
 
--Michael Byars
 
 
Monta At Odds will be celebrating the release of Robots of Munich at Mills Record Company this Black Friday, November 28. They will take the stage at 7:00 pm, followed by Trogolodyte. Facebook event page.
 
 

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November 26, 2014
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