Local piano-based Americana trio Alright Alright is a mass of contradictions. On one hand, singer/pianist China Kent and guitarist Seth Kent are married parents, as close as people can be. They met when Seth helped China carry her piano into a gig, and that gallantry eventually earned him a wife. When they talk, their words bounce off of each other, but they never interrupt each other. They’re a perfect match.
On the other hand, they’re almost polar opposites in musical terms. China is a classically trained pianist and a self-proclaimed perfectionist. Seth learned to play guitar on a beach in Hawaii, and he’s apt to let the little things go to retain the flow. As a result, the lovebirds have occasionally pissed each other off and torpedoed the band. The pair is currently embarking on a third attempt to make Alright Alright work (with Katelin Champion on drums).
“The second time we tried to do this band, it was 2011,” China says. “We were driving together, and we had this moment — you know, when you can say things because both of you are looking ahead; you’re not looking at each other. We had this conversation, and I don’t remember who said what first, but someone said, ‘I actually don’t really like playing music with you.’ Then the other one was like, ‘I don’t, either.’ So we decided to just be married and parents together. That felt like such a relief.”
That musical break lasted four years, and then the bug to play together nipped them again. Their child was old enough to take out on the road, and their communication skills had improved. This round, the Kents have effectively figured out how to make beautiful music together without tearing strips off of each other.
“It’s not a ‘checking anything at the door’ thing with us,” says China. “It’s everything all together. But we’ve figured out how to balance it out so it makes for a delicious stew.”
That’s great, because the Denver roots scene can really use Alright Alright in it. Nuts and bolts, this is piano-driven Americana music, but there’s a dab of folk in there, some rock, and a healthy dose of vaudevillian cabaret. Think A Clockwork Orange meets Edith Piaf meets Tori Amos. And with that combo of styles, there are few better places for them to be based right now than right here.
The act, which has been gaining traction in town, finally put out an EP, Faraway, in August 2016 and has a followup out November 3.
The bandmates tried their hand at making a music video by themselves, for the song “Budapest," which you can see above. Now, for the group’s second video, for “Like Water,” they’ve upped their game and recruited their friends Emily and David Grauberger, who work in film and photography. The filmmakers, who often do corporate work, wanted to do something creative, and they agreed to take on the Alright Alright project.
“They’d never done anything like this before, but we lucked out with these people,” says Seth.
On August 20, the video will be premiered at the Sloan’s Lake Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, and then the band will play an hour-long set at the adjoining Barfly.
“We get the movie theater for thirty minutes,” China says. “The music video’s five minutes long, so I think we’ll talk about it, maybe have Emily, David and Julie go up there with us for a Q&A. Then we’ll all shuffle out to the bar, and everyone that comes can grab drinks and dinner, and we’ll do our set at Barfly. The set will be mostly the EP, but we'll throw in [other songs] as well.”
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Alright Alright also plans to continue touring; the bandmembers’ preference is for house shows when they’re on the road.
The intimacy of a house show does seem to suit their style — the proximity to the audience, the fact that said audience is more likely to be fully engaged, the money to be made.
“Here’s the deal: A tour of house shows can actually make you money,” China explains. “A tour of venue shows at this level is tough. On this last tour, we played seventeen shows. We played one brewery show, which we didn’t get paid for, but we got free food and beer all night, and we sold merch. We played one venue show in Chicago, a really great venue, but we were opening for another guy, and it was a Monday night. But every house show we did, even the smallest house show with maybe six people, we definitely made $150. You don’t have to share the gross with anyone — no sound person, no door person, no bar.”
Alright Alright video release
7 p.m. Sunday, August 20, Alamo Drafthouse, 4255 West Colfax Avenue, 720-577-4720.