Featured Artists June/July 2008: The Ks

So what do you do if you’re a singer-songwriter who’s an incredibly energetic stage performer, and whose musical tastes careen from punk to soul to everything in between? What do you do to harness all the energy? You move to New York City, gather about ten other talented musicians around you, and form the Ks, the Twirl Radio Artists of the Month for June/July, 2008. I interviewed the aforementioned Dan Kilian, and the leader of the K’s horn section, Jon Mossberg, for Twirl Radio on June 7th, 2008.

The K’s formed a few years ago when Dan Kilian moved from Louisville to New York City and hooked up with guitarist Ray Beyda. After putting out a rock album, Dan and the K’s revamped the band, which meant recruiting a horn section, and growing to an astonishing 11 members strong (Dan told me that it was up to 17 at one point!).

Jon mentioned in the interview that he was invited to audition as alto saxophonist for the Ks. He came down to the practice space, and saw Dan doing handstands, backflips, cartwheels, and the like, and really getting into the music–and this was just the rehearsal! Inspired by Dan’s enthusiasm, he instantly knew he had to join.

The K’s are a working band, playing out constantly in the greater NYC area. They honed their chops and their sound in the clubs, so they were completely prepared to go into the studio to record their latest release, Can’t Get It Together in 2007. They knew what they wanted to do, and got it done in a very quick two days of studio time.

So what did two days of studio time buy this self-proclaimed “Frankenstein’s monster of entertainment”? A lot, actually. Can’t Get It Together is one of the most stylistically diverse albums to hit the Twirl playlists in quite a while. 15 action-packed tracks race along at a breakneck pace through punk, hard rock, jazz, and many other genres. And although the Ks traverse all these different styles, at the end of the day, you can still tell it’s the same band, with ringleader Dan at the helm. Here’s what this brilliant disc sounds like.

The title track Can’t Get It Together comes at you fast, and you’d better be ready. Dan snarls the lyrics to this classic teen angst, punky-sounding tune. But you can tell from note number one that it’s different than most punk songs–there is a horn section blasting out the notes in time with the drums. And no, it’s not ska, but these guys do have that kind of upbeat, fun energy. The ominous Last Trip to the Well follows, and again, horns differentiate this band from the rest of what’s out there. There’s some furious guitar licks, and I think some electric piano in here. Throw in a few Violent Femmes-like “bye, bye, pay ya back later’s”, and you’ve got something that you’ve never heard before. 13 Steps, a song about a typical substance abuse program, gets a little bit spiritual (“make peace with my enemies”, “whatever god you accept”), but does not slow down in the least. It too is upbeat, and features some organ and that electric piano again. A little bit like something the J. Geils Band might have done, this song practically forces you to enjoy being rehabilitated.

Eliza Lynn is an intriguing pair of tracks–a punk “bar” version, and a bluesy “saloon” version. It’s a great song, and the guys realized that it needed and deserved both treatments. The punk version clocks in at a brisk 1:23, the saloon version at a poppy 2:59. This second version features a very sinewy trombone solo–something not often found (ok, never) in rock music. Fashion Plan, penned by both Dan and Ray, conjures up images of Billy Corgan in Smashing Pumpkins, augmented by horns. Election Night is told from the point of view of a losing candidate–very good “inside the beltway” insights. I’ll be sure to play this one in November. And finally, a back to back pairing of two really clever songs: jazzy Good Man (Most of the Time), where the lyrics say it all; and rockin’ The Mosquito. Interestingly enough, Dan told me that most of his songwriting doesn’t come from real life experience. In fact, he barely remembers writing most of his songs at all–so when he starts to play them, he tackles them like they’re brand new songs written by somebody else. But The Mosquito is a rare exception. It’s a metaphor about a real life person who made life interesting–and liked the song until she found out it was written about her!

Dan told me that since I Can’t Get It Together came out, the band has been pared down to just five members. Jon is now the horn section. They’re working on new material. My hope is that the next album is at least as innovative and groundbreaking as this one.

I think you’re getting the idea–the Ks are incredibly creative in their approach to music. They are influenced by a host of diverse musicians, but they are unmistakably original. These guys have invented a new sound. The entire album is completely radio-friendly and catchy, and deserves wide airplay (hear that, other DJs out there?) I am happy to call the Ks the Twirl Artists of the Month for June/July, 2008!

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