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Various Blonde

Artist profile: Various Blonde

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
The version of Various Blonde I saw live at Czar in 2011 is very different from the band playing this Thursday at Lawrence Field Day Fest. The 2011 iteration, led by guitarist/vocalist Joshua Allen, moved through a set that dabbled a little in the psychedelic while adhering to a heavier rock and punk-based sound. It was a solid set, though I remember thinking the vocals needed something and the melodies hinted at something more. What exactly? I didn't know.
The release of Summer High a few years later illustrated the elusive what hinted at back at Czar years before. I caught up to a very different live band back in November at Apocalypse Meow, and again last week at The Riot Room.
The only element that remained from the band was Allen. His guitar and vocals were still there, but now different from what I remember. There was a new bassist, EvanJohn McIntosh, a new drummer, Mark Lomas, and the addition of keyboardist Eddie Moore. The three-piece had grown, shifted, and mutated into a very different band creating a very different sound.
There is a seriousness to watching this four-piece perform. Like any professionals at work, it is obvious they enjoy what they do. But, also evident is that they are on stage to work, put on a great show, and hone their craft. A lot of the songs they perform create a serious reflective mood, but they cut that stoicism nicely with soulful grooves and melodies that manage to conjure a very difficult thing: movement. I tried to fight the urge to move along with the tunes, but, damnit, I happily failed.
Joshua Allen can sing. His voice shifts effortlessly from an easy tenor to a smooth falsetto that avoids piercing metal clichés. That he is a solid guitarist is as advantageous as it is necessary to VB's sound. He could easily get away with just singing, moving to the music and fronting the band, but thankfully he doesn't. Without him, songs like "Savage Children" would fall into the trap of being a "jam" song. Which is fine I guess, but I wouldn't know, I've never made it through an entire "jam" song. Allen's guitar and vocals dice tunes like “Savage Children” into succinct, building well-rounded songs. While the vocals help guide on "Savage Children,” they truly shine on the danceable, rocking tune “Indigo Children.” The first time I heard that song was literally a WTF moment. A perfect illustration of the elusive what:familiar, yet totally different and new.
The consistent blues infused groove created by McIntosh is unstoppable. Good luck not moving some part of your body. McIntosh's bass lines lead without overstepping, cyclical but never simple. I've been a fan since his days in Cherokee Rock Rifle and am selfishly happy he's found another outlet for his formidable skill set.
I don't know how long McIntosh and Lomas have been playing together (I'm just that thorough a correspondent) but the sound they produce belies whatever actual time they've spent working together. Their styles align perfectly. Nicely complementing each other as the foundation of the tone and mood of this band. Lomas' playing seems unflashy, until you take a moment and try to keep up with what he's doing. Seeing and hearing this guy live as he holds down patterns and changes that would make a drum machine pass out is mesmerizing. And again, good luck not dancing.
The addition of keyboardist and local jazz standout Moore adds depth and changes things drastically for this group. From a songwriting perspective alone, Moore's instrument and playing allows for a myriad of new directions, from sonic to classical to his specialty, jazz. As a musician, Moore's jazz sensibility and musical intelligence lend themselves perfectly to McIntosh’s and Lomas’ rhythmic foundation. Moore knows how to create his own distinctive musical plots and subplots within the framework of the sound already set in motion by his bandmates; he does so effortlessly, and without overplaying.
Obligatory comparisons? You should make your own... while dancing.
With the excellent full-length Summer High already out, I can't wait to hear what these guys build next. Until then, they play at Lawrence Field Day Fest this Thursday, June 25, at the Replay Lounge before taking a little Summer Hiatus.

Video and story by Chris Nielsen 

Artists on Trial: Various Blonde

We will be highlighting some of the artists playing The Deli KC’s showcase for Middle of the Map Fest next Thursday, April 3 on the Seen Merch Stage at The Riot Room patio. Today’s Artist on Trial is Various Blonde.

Joshua Allen is the songwriter and frontman of Various Blonde, a project he’s been involved with for several years, that has a dark, dynamic rock sound. Allen tells us a bit more about the band’s current lineup and what they have going on.
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?
Allen: Bombastic, psychedelic, soul, rock.
The Deli: Give us some background on the band.
Allen: This particular lineup is all new. Middle of the Map will be the sixth show with myself, vox, guitar, sound fx, Evanjohn McIntosh (Sons of Great Dane), Eddie Moore (The Outer Circle), and Mark Lomas.
The Deli: What would you say your biggest accomplishments been as a band?
Allen: Since the bands original conception we've opened up for some of our favorite indie acts from Russian Circles to Dead Meadow. We've also had the pleasure of being a part of the Midcoast Takeover in Austin and have the pleasure of participating in this year’s Middle of The Map Fest.
The Deli: What do you have coming up?
Allen: Well, actually I spent this last year working on the upcoming Various Blonde release Summer High, produced by Ikey Owens (keyboardist for The Mars Volta, Jack White, and Kelis) and am planning to release it this summer. It's literally the hardest I've ever worked on anything so I’m really excited to share it with everyone.
The Deli: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Middle of the Map this year?
Allen: I dunno, I think it would be fun to see Har Mar again. I haven't seen him in like 10 years. He puts on a fun show and always has tons of energy. It would be fun to see them again and it would be cool to catch DEL and Shabazz Palaces too! But honestly there's so much talent involved there's too many to list. I'm definitely gonna try and see my boys in Jorge Arana Trio and the young powerhouse trio that is Bummer, because they slay!
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Allen: I think it means something to the effect of trying to be as active in the scene as possible rain or shine, not making excuses for why you can't do this or that (ie, pay, staying up past 10), giving as many honest listens as possible and getting behind anyone you think has potential. Personally, if I'm not at work I want to go to a show!
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
Allen: I hate using the word "favorite" but if I must, I will choose based on bands that sound like music I listen to in my spare time. The Conquerors, Bummer, and Jorge Arana Trio are all right up my alley.
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
Allen: Temples, Warpaint, The Range, SUUNS, Crystal Antlers, Rubedo, and AAN have all had recent albums I really fancy. Then there are also some things I won't mention, but you can see I listen to if I forget to hit private session on Spotify. ;-)
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
Allen: Queens of the Stone Age, The Mars Volta, and Various Blonde at Red Rocks 2015!
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there? 
Allen: Miles Davis, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Prince. They all brought it and they all changed the face of music inside and outside their respective genres.
The Deli: What other goals does Various Blonde have for 2014, and beyond?
Allen: Tour regionally for the upcoming record and figure out what were doing in 2015.
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Allen: Various Blonde Kicks off Ink's Middle of the Map Fest at Riot Room Thursday April 3 at 7:00. Come out and check out some new tunes, the new lineup, and then stay for more great bands. Cheers!
Various Blonde is:
Joshua Allen – vocals, guitar, sound fx
Evanjohn McIntosh – bass
Eddie Moore – keys
Mark Lomas – drums
Don’t forget to check out Various Blonde at The Deli KC’s showcase at Middle of the Map Fest next Thursday, April 3. They will take the Seen Merch stage on The Riot Room patio at 7:00 p.m. Facebook event page.
--Michelle Bacon
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays bass in The Philistines and Dolls on Fire, and drums in Drew Black & Dirty Electric.

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On The Beat with Josh Enyart


Josh Enyart is one of the most eclectic drummers in Kansas City, proven by his time with bands like Pixel Panda, Maps for Travelers, and currently, Jorge Arana Trio and Various Blonde. We catch up with Josh to learn more about him and his massive collection of drums (see photo).

The Deli: How did the drums find you?

Josh EnyartWell, back in ‘95 at Hocker Grove Middle School (Brett Southard and Justin Tricomi were also in the same grade as me), a friend of mine would play guitar by himself all the time and I would just hang out and watch. so I got a job as a carny for fun services, saved up enough money to buy a drum set in ‘96 and I started my life as a habitual worker/drummer. That is pretty much all I have been doing since. Work and drums!

The Deli: What type of kit(s) do you use?

JE: I have a couple, and each one has had a pretty specific role in each band it was used for. In Jorge Arana Trio, I use a Mapex Saturn series (Manhattan sizes) with an auxiliary Sonor Rosewood 16" floor tom. This is one of my favorite setups!

The DeliBiggest influences?

JEThat question has an odd answer; I missed out on a lot of music culture. Until 1993 we lived overseas (my parents were missionaries) so we got back to the States and I was introduced to Nirvana and Pantera—talk about culture shock! Spirit Fest and The Gadjits were how I was introduced to the live music scene.

How about this, the bands i saw in concert most: Fear Factory, The Urge, Primus, 311, Lake Trout, Drums and Tuba, anything Mike Dillon! Tons of heavy shit back when Adam Mitchell in The Esoteric (love that guy)! In all actuality I would say all the people I have played with have been some of the biggest influences on my drum style. Yeah, definitely! I've had the pleasure of playing with a lot of great musicians. These are the people who helped shape my playing style.

The Deli: Tell us about some of the bands you’ve been in.

JEThat is a long list, so I will name a few. Nocturne Noir, kind of a black metal meets J-Rock heavy sound. Savitar: Middle Eastern-based Mars Volta sound. Pixel Panda: anxiety-driving chaos dance rock. Latin: vocal-driven modern alt rock. Maps for Travelers: heavy indie rock. Capture the Flag: electronic bass dance indie. My current groups are Various Blonde: vintage expressive rock, and Jorge Arana Trio: punk jazz, as described by Jorge.

The Deli: Wow, that’s quite an eclectic list. Is there any style you wouldn’t play?

JEI have also played in country and pop bands. There isn't anything someone could put in front of me that I wouldn't try because you can learn from every style, and that keeps me growing as a musician.

The Deli: Okay, let’s say you get to pick a group of KC/Lawrence drummers to make a drum circle with. Who would they be?

JEThat’s a long list! Separating by genre? Style? Taught or rough on the edges? It would totally depend on what was trying to be accomplished. But one of my top configurations would most likely be Sam Sartorious, Blair Greens, Nick Organ, Justin Tricomi, Drew Little, and Alex Thomas. This is a group I am trying to get in my basement!

The Deli: Anything else you want to share with us about your technique?

JE: I would like to become a jazz drummer. That means I have work to do.

The Deli: What other plans do you have for the bands this year?

JEI bought a van, and this year, and the Jorge Arana Trio is planning on spreading our Gospel throughout the land. We and Various Blonde will be playing the MidCoast Takeover in Austin for SXSW. As far as other projects are concerned, I do have an idea I might start working on, but the trio is my top for sure!

Enyart will join Jorge Arana Trio on stage tomorrow, Friday, February 1 for the second MidCoast Takeover fundraiser at Czar. Then, go to Riot Room on Saturday, February 2, where he’ll be with Various Blonde for the third fundraiser.

--Michelle Bacon  

Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. She owns an Australian cattle dog and a Corgi. The Corgi is the dumbest (but also quite possibly the most adorable) animal she has ever owned.


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Josh Enyart

Photos by Jorge Arana





 Jorge Arana Trio








Artists on Trial: Various Blonde

For the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring artists playing the MidCoast Takeover fundraiser shows, sponsored by Midwest Music Foundation.
Various Blonde is the brainchild of Joshua Allen, formed in 2008 and presenting a dark, experimental, progressive style unique to Kansas City music. The band has opened for national acts like Russian Circles, Thursday, Murder By Death, Fang Island, and The Electric Six. We talk with them and find out more about what they’re up to as well as their plans for SXSW.
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?

Various Blonde: A bunch of experiments with trial and error sprinkled on top.
The Deli: Tell us about what Various Blonde has going on.
VB:We have been chosen as a finalist for this: http://jansport.sonichub.com/artist/various-blonde
It would be awesome to win because if we win, it's also a victory for KC. It's good to bring attention to KC. We also have two EPs up on Bandcamp for whatever people will give us. nd if we are talking promotion, there is always Facebook. Please "LIKE" us on there, but more importantly, come to a show.
The Deli: What else can we expect from you guys this year?
VB: Perform and record as much as possible. Use my axe to chop down a money tree. (sarcasm font)
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?

VB: Promoting and going to shows besides your own.
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?

VB: This is a tough question and I know I’m gonna forget someone, but I really enjoy the Jorge Arana Trio, Sons of Great DaneThe Conquerors are super sick, THE DEVIL, Snuff Jazz, Making Movies fuggin’ slays Latin dragons, obviously Hearts of Darkness! Er’body luv HOD! One of KC's best kept secrets, Clock People (just wait, their first show is March 1 at Riot Room and you should go), Cherokee.Rock.Rifle because they wrote “Black Cauldron,” RADKEY because the guy from Entourage loves them, Janet The Planet (So dope!), MINDEN (even though they moved to Portland will always be KC to me), MONOLYTH!, and The Beautiful Bodies; they've really locked in their sound and are headed for big shit!
The Deli: Congrats on being selected to play MidCoast Takeover at SXSW. Who are you guys looking forward to playing with or seeing there?
VB: Thanks. I'm looking forward to all the KC energy that will be there, but as far as nationals are concerned, I honestly have no idea who is playing. I'll let you know when I know. Andrew W.K.?
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?

VB: Zechs Marquise, No Spill Blood, Bosnian Rainbows, Chelsea Wolfe, Zach Hill, Dot Hacker, Big Sur, Flying Lotus, Swahili Blonde, Death Grips, Tame Impala, Dirty Projectors, The Stepkids, Bailiff, The Budos Band, and Antibalas are all awesome. I was tempted to write dead artists cause none of them are local to anyone, but I don't wanna be a smartass.
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?

VB: A festival with my band, Radiohead (Ok Computer, KID A, Amnesiac set), Smashing Pumpkins (original lineup Mellon Collie disc 1 and 2 set) The Mars Volta (De-Loused in the Comatorium set), Tool (Ænima cover-to-cover set), The Flaming Lips, Jack White, Blonde Redhead, Queens of the Stone Age with Grohl on drums, NIN (Fragile left and right Set), and if were including dead people that should still be alive... Biggie, Tupac, and Wu-Tang with Ol’ Dirty. After-party with Flying Lotus at Shaun White’s crib.
The Deli: Would you rather spend the rest of your life on stage or in the recording studio?
VB: On stage because you're creating a moment instead of trying to capture it. I hate to quote Coca Cola, but you can't beat the real thing!
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?

VB: James Brown (hardest working man in show business, Godfather of Soul), Miles Davis (changed the face of jazz four times over four decades), brown Michael Jackson with fro in tow (King of Pop, indigo child), Hendrix (just ask the Axis).

The Deli: All right, give us the rundown. Where all on this big crazy web can you be found?

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

VB: Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
Various Blonde is:
Joshua Allen – guitar, vocals
Jason Nash – bass
Josh Enyart – drums

You can see Various Blonde this Saturday, February 2, where they will be playing the second MidCoast Takeover fundraiser at Riot Room. The group will be playing at 9:45, followed by Drop A Grand, Maps for Travelers, and Six Percent. Tickets available here. Various Blonde was also one of over 40 KC artists selected to play the 2013 MidCoast Takeover showcase at SXSW from March 13-16 at Shangri-La in Austin, Texas.

--Michelle Bacon

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