Artist of the Month

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October 2015
The Grisly Hand
"Flesh and Gold
Few Kansas City bands have been not only respected but embraced by critics, fans, and fellow musicians of many genres the way The Grisly Hand has over the past few years. Formed in 2009, the band released the album Safe House in 2010, Western Ave. EP in 2012, and then followed those with the stellar and regionally successful Country Singles in 2013. The latter cemented The Grisly Hand’s position as one of the best acts in Kansas City, and probably should have launched them onto a national stage.
There may be just one slight problem—they don’t exactly fit the mold of any one genre. Typically billed as Americana, the band’s first three releases were undeniably country music. Not the contemporary crap you avoid at all costs on your radio dial, but more traditional twang, with perfectly harmonized vocals, pedal steel guitar, mandolin, a potent walking bass, and shuffling beats. It’s not cry-in-your-beer country, but mainly up-tempo tunes that—like a lot of old-school southern music—contain elements of rock, soul, and pop. Music that, despite its wide local appeal, is not exactly sought after by major record labels.
The Grisly Hand’s latest offering, Flesh and Gold, is a different direction for the group. There is an obvious attempt to lessen the country feel by moving to a more straightforward rock ‘n roll sound than present on previous albums. There’s a bit less twanging and a little more banging, but the songs are still well-crafted. Lead vocalists Jimmy Fitzner and Lauren Krum (Ben Summers takes the mic on the third track, “Regina”) harmonize like two people who have spent their entire lives singing together. The musicianship of Fitzner and Summers (guitar and guitar/mandolin, respectively), along with Mike Stover (pedal steel/bass), Dan Loftus (bass/keys), and Matt Richey (drums) continues to be top-notch.
Flesh and Gold opens with the familiar, beautiful ring of Fitzner and Krum, singing in front of a lone electric guitar on “Get in Line, Stranger.” The rest of the band soon kicks in, and the song proceeds to become what the majority of the album is—a very solid collection of catchy, mid-tempo, alt-country tunes; some of which could be accused of leaning towards (gasp) pop rock.
Possibly the most enjoyable cut on the album is the no-nonsense, driving rock song, “Regina.” Summers’ vocals, though not quite as refined as Fitzner’s, are laced with passion as he sings about the insecurities and immaturity of youth. “You probably don’t want to follow me down, because I’m a fucked up kid without a plan / Shows me why you do the things you can.” The track is vibrant and pulsating—Krum’s backing vocals give Summers’ voice some added depth, and Stover’s killer steel guitar solo supplies just enough southern touch. This could be a very radio-friendly song.
Some risks are taken by tackling a couple of heavy topics. “Brand New Bruise,” a ballad turned barroom blues rocker, is about a woman with an abusive partner. I was prepared for a clichéd country triumph about a gritty woman teaching her old man a lesson. Instead, the song reveals a sad dose of reality; a worn woman who doesn’t know where to turn. “You can say you’re sorry again, you can bury me down in the ground / Just know whichever way you choose…either way I lose.” “Satan Ain’t Real” is perhaps a jab at Christianity and the guilt it causes, or maybe just a way of telling people not to be too hard on themselves or each other. “Satan ain’t real, it’s just what we blame when we can’t explain why fellow men hurt us like they do, without remorse / Just know it’s all in your head, and it ain’t ever too late for you to break away.” The song is also one of the more intriguing numbers musically. Somewhere between a Bossa nova and a Cajun ditty, the relaxing groove, filled with mandolin and steel guitar, implores the listener to set their troubles aside.
“Regrets on Parting,” the record’s final track, is by far the most surprising. It is a soul song at heart, and could be mistaken for something coming out of Memphis in the ‘60s. Fitzner and Krum’s harmonizing is at its best here. The real surprise is the addition of a horn section comprised of Nick Howell (trumpet), Mike Walker (trombone), and Rich Wheeler (saxophone). It’s a fantastic, if completely unexpected, song. Maybe it’s no accident that this is the last song, as it could be foreshadowing of things to come on future recordings. (Editor’s note: Flesh & Gold is the first part of a double album that is slated for in early 2016)
Flesh and Gold is a very good standalone album. There isn’t a single song that isn’t thought out and dialed-in, as any fan would expect. Had I never heard any of the The Grisly Hand’s previous work, I would go as far as to call this output great. However, I know what the band is capable of, and couldn’t help longing for a few of the things that made Country Singles so special. For example: the dialogue between Fitzner and Krum on “(If You’re Leavin’) Take the Trash Out [When You Go],” the infectious energy of “If You Say So,” or the moving beauty of “Coup de Coeur.” Despite this, I understand the need for change, applaud the band for moving outside of their comfort zone, and feel extremely confident about the future of The Grisly Hand.

--Brad Scott  

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Artists on Trial: Nikki and the Rooftop Punch

Artists on Trial: Nikki and the Rooftop Punch

(Photo by Bittersweet Symphony Productions)
It seems like everyone wants to start a side project at some point. When a frontperson does it, the music usually sounds a whole lot like his/her band. Which is great, if you want to hear more of that. But every once in awhile, a combination of creativity erupts into a completely different style. Nikki and the Rooftop Punch—the brand-new duo of Nicole Springer and Tim Jenkins of The Clementines—is plain and simple stripped-down garage rock, in the best possible way. Jenkins electrifies his guitar sound with catchy, bluesy riffs, while Springer pulls a Phil Collins move, only with intense, raw, shattering vocals. We talk with Springer about the band’s imminent debut show (tonight!) and what’s to come.
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?
Nicole Springer: It's loud, raw, high-energy garage rock with a blues edge and a whole lot of attitude.
The Deli: Why did you decide to do this project and how does it differ from The Clementines?
Nicole: Rooftop was an accident waiting to happen. Due to increased boredom, we both decided to form a fake garage band, with Tim on electric and myself playing the most disastrous drum kit of all time. We ended up enjoying it and upon playing it for a few people, realized it was something others could enjoy too. It's way different than The Clementines. It's more in your face, less emotional, more aggressive. It's just an entirely different side of both of us, especially me.
The Deli: Nikki and The Rooftop Punch is an interesting band name. What's the story behind that?
Nicole: Long story short, Tim punched me in the face once (supposedly an accident) and we happen to enjoy rooftops. Weird combo. But it works.
The Deli: You haven’t even played your first show yet and you’ve already recorded a few songs. Tell us about that.
Nicole: We have three songs recorded that we aren't sure just what to do with yet. I think we might hold off on releasing anything until we see how far our songwriting goes, meaning if we write enough material for a full length. If not, we will release an EP. We shall see.
The Deli: Nicole, you play drums in this project and sing all the vocals. Not a lot of drummers do that. Is it a challenge for you?
Nicole: Singin' and drummin'. It is definitely a challenge. I've been playing drums for a few months and for some stupid reason, I've written my vocal parts to be very difficult. I guess I like stressing myself out. Really though, It's a whole new musical experience for me, but I really love it… especially the challenge aspect of it.
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Nicole: Supporting local music means going to see shows, encouraging musicians in general. It means everything to a small-city band to have the support from others, fellow musicians, or otherwise. I know we wouldn't be here without the support we've received. It's crucial and we love giving it back to other bands as well.
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
Nicole: I enjoyed the live set I saw of The Quivers. So good. Trampled Under Foot is incredible. Cadillac Flambe and Grand Marquis are always amazing. Tim really digs Gentleman Savage. We've seen so many good bands though. We could go on forever.
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
Nicole: I really dig the band Haim, the most recent Tegan and Sara album, and then just basically the same stuff I've loved for years. Ben Folds Five, Feist, System of a Down, Radiohead, Rilo Kiley. Tim loves him some Jethro Tull. It's an obsession.
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
Nicole: One where we're headlining? Ha. I think we'd be a good fit to open for The Black Keys or White Stripes. That'd be pretty freaking incredible. Fantasy, indeed.
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
Nicole: Tim and I will split this one. Tim would have Ian Anderson and David Gilmour, and I would have Janis Joplin and Judy Garland. Can't deny my love for Judy.
The Deli: All right, give us the rundown. Where all on this big crazy web can you be found?
Nicole: We can be heard/found at Reverb Nation or on Facebook. Our two available tunes can be found on Reverb.
The Deli: What other goals does Nikki & The Rooftop Punch have for 2013?
Nicole: First goal is to get through our first ever show in one piece. After that, we just want to spread the music, rock as many venues as we can, maybe take this gig out on the road for a few shows. We think this band is pretty fun and might be worth us exploring further.
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?

Nicole: Just keep on supporting local music! Also, take chances with the music you want to create, even if it seems ridiculous initially (like being an inexperienced singing drummer). Do what you love and do it shamelessly! 

If you’re curious (and you should be), check out Nikki and the Rooftop Punch’s debut show tonight at Coda. Tim and Nicole play at 9, followed by The Heavy Figs and The Monarchs. Facebook event page. You’ll also have a chance to see them at The Bay in Warrensburg on August 31 and The Riot Room on September 18. What are you waiting for?


--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor of The Deli Magazine - Kansas City, and also holds down half the rhythm section in Drew Black & Dirty Electric and Dolls on FireShe thinks you should listen to “Throw It Down” by Nikki and the Rooftop Punch cuz there’s some preeeettty sweet tambourine on it. Oh, and the rest of the song is totally not awful.

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