Artist of the Month

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August 2015
Simply stated, the music of HMPH! could be described with a term like math rock or experimental jazz fusion. But these terms, while accurate, don’t paint a complete picture of the sounds created by guitarist Ryan Lee Toms and drummer Jonathan Thatch. “Just when you think you got the groove, we switch it up, add a few beats, or throw in a chord from another key,” says Thatch, whose mastery over the drum kit is jaw-dropping. And while rhythmically complex, progressive compositions have become a cornerstone of the math rock genre, HMPH! additionally incorporates elements of jazz, ambient rock, alternative, and metal.
On Friday, the duo will be releasing its debut album Headrush (Haymaker Records), a 36-minute instrumental effort that showcases HMPH!’s dedication to push the envelope while keeping its music interesting. Nine of the 10 songs clock in under 5 minutes, keeping a fresh, brisk momentum for the entirety of the album. The listener has a chance to delve in to each song, but is pulled out before it becomes indulgent or formulaic.
Many of the songs start with a basic guitar riff that is bent and twisted in multiple directions, meandering from its original shape but always returning to it. From a polite jazz lick to a climactic rising arpeggio, Toms designs unpredictable, jagged noises with his guitar. “The harder it is for us to wrap our head around a riff, the more fun it is to write and the more enjoyable it is to dissect as a listener.” His combination of intriguing guitar sounds with Thatch’s intricate drum work shows that they’re very much up to the challenge. “Sometimes it starts with a complicated polyrhythmic drum part from Jonathan and I’ll create a progression to that. Other times, I’ll zone out and write arpeggios while thinking of decrepit medieval castles that kind of remind me of all the video games I played as a kid. Then I bring them to Jonathan.”

At the same time, Thatch is creating his own variegated sounds with just a five-piece drum kit. He often provides a countermelody to Toms’ guitar, building upon dynamic layers with odd meters, polyrhythms, subtle dynamic shifts, and rhythmic intensity. “One quality we strive for is to keep people guessing,” he says. This even includes retooling songs on the spot. “Our songs tend to keep evolving over time. We might be playing a song live and try something new, and we like the new sound so we keep playing it that way. Sometimes we don't even talk about it; we just both know how it goes now.” 

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Artists on Trial: Josh Colburn of Little Rosco

Artists on Trial: Josh Colburn of Little Rosco

Little Rosco is one of the newest bands to emerge in what continues to be a growing Kansas City music scene. Though the four-piece rock group only has a couple shows under its belt, it shows promise and willingness to become a force in the musical community. Today, we chat a bit with frontman Josh Colburn.

The Deli: Gun to your head: one sentence to describe your music.  What is it?

Josh Colburn: You know the song that comes on the radio that makes you get a speeding ticket? Like that...

The Deli:  Let’s talk about your latest release or upcoming shows. What can we expect?
JC:  We're are playing a show at Czar Bar on Saturday, August 11 with some other great bands: The Chaotic Goods and The New Imperialism (Wichita). It should be a great show. I know I am ready to throw down and I am super pumped to see the other bands perform! We are just starting out, so for us every show is huge -- no matter how big or small.

The Deli:  What does “supporting local music” mean to you?

JC: Of course you can tell your friends about your favorite local bands, but will they actually take the time to go find and listen to them at home? It's better to take your friends and go to a show and then if you like it, support the band! Buy a t-shirt, CD, sticker, death metal coffee mug for mom, or whatever your fancy is. Getting involved in the local music community is a great way to help and easy to do! For example, one of our members writes concert reviews for a local radio station on a volunteer basis. It may not pay anything, but he gets to meet a lot of great musicians in KC and plug them through a popular medium. There really are lots of ways to help out and make sure the music you love gets out there and doesn't die on the vine. 
The Deli: Who are your favorite “local” musicians right now?

JC: There are a lot of great local bands in the KC area, so it's really hard to just name a few. Some favorites would be Cherokee Rock Rifle, The Atlantic, The Strive and We Are Voices.

The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
JC:  Well, Foo Fighters tops the list, I think for all of us. Also Jimmy Eat World, The Used, The Joy Formidable, Mutemath, Relient K and The Starting Line are all bands that have influenced us. On the other hand, some of the guys listen to bands that we don't emulate as well, such as the Alabama Shakes and Japandroids.

The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?

JC: I don't know if I can speak for everyone, but my personal favorites would be Rockin New Years Eve in New York and the Metro in Chicago. Not lofty, I know. But ever since I was young I've loved the intimate setting of the Metro and the energy of New York. But when it comes down to it, I don't like to be too far removed from our fans during a show.
The Deli: Would you rather spend the rest of your life on stage or in the recording studio?
JC: Definitely on stage. I've never heard of "Studio Fright" and there's a reason. I love the rush and the energy you feel being connected to other people. It's incredible.

The Deli:
 A music-themed Mount Rushmore.  What four faces are you putting up there and why?

JC: Dave Grohl (do I need to explain?), Jimmy Page (again...), Frank Sinatra (there has to be at least one true gentleman up there) and Johnny Cash (again, I don't think that needs an explanation). These guys are legends or legends in the making. Their music and lives inspire musicians daily.
The Deli:  All right, give us the rundown.  Where all on this big crazy web can you be found? 

Twitter - @littleroscoband 
The Deli:  Always go out on a high note.  Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?

JC: Go out and support local musicians. They're your friends or potential friends and they're working hard for you! Find music you love and don't ever let it die because, as Quincy Jones said, "What a harmonious world it would be if every single person shared a little bit of what they are good at doing." We like to think we are contributing to such a world, but we need everyone to join us!

Rock out with Josh and the rest of Little Rosco this Friday, August 10 at Club 906 in Liberty, or this Saturday, August 11 at Czar Bar. They'll be playing with The Chaotic Goods and The New Imperialism. Show starts at 9 pm.

--Michelle Bacon

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