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Denver musicians talk about the local bands that inspire them

Megan Burtt
Megan Burtt
Art Heffron

Every year, we celebrate the impossibly dense and diverse Denver music scene with the Westword Music Showcase and Westword Music Awards. We brought those to a close last week with our awards ceremony; you can find a list of all the nominees and winners at backbeatblog.com. We're starting to think about next year already, considering improvements and, more important, listening to as much Denver music as we can get our hands on. But before we leave the 2014 version behind us, we want to take one last opportunity to recommend a starting place for people who are new to the scene here and to introduce some new bands to veterans. This time, we leave it in the hands of Denver artists, who told us which of their peers they most admire.

We have played with Pale Sun at least three times over the past fifteen months. From my individual perspective, the layered guitars of Pale Sun evoke a powerful form of the ethereal spirit, and the overall effect feels like a culmination in the evolution of Jeff Suthers's projects over the years, as if he combined the dreamlike-state songcraft of Moonspeed with the textures and power of Bright Channel. Brian Marcus is one of the most imaginative-sounding guitarists in Denver. The entire band is pretty wonderful, but what stands out the most to me is the tonality. Listening to Pale Sun instills in me a trance-like state of sonic peace. Though they haven't recorded, they're part of the soundtrack to my dreams. -- Dave Meyer of Emerald Siam

Some people may not know this about me, but my roots are in ska music. A lot of people listened to punk and then got into ska, but, the saxophone being my first instrument, it was the opposite for me. Squidds [trumpet player for The Dendrites] and I used to play in this crazy ska band called Action Shot. Following that, he helped found the Dendrites, and I've been a fan ever since. There were shows at the beginning where I was the only one on the dance floor, and now I'm so stoked that they play to packed clubs all the time. They make me move like few other bands in Denver. For an instrumental band to engage audiences like that these days takes a lot of talent. -- Ross Hostage of Allout Helter

The Kinky Fingers have a sound that mimics [its members'] lifestyles perfectly. When they perform, they all do an excellent job of capturing the crowd and including them in the set. Tayler [Doyle] gets down on his Volkswagen guitar, and I get hooked. I love how the Kinky Fingers describe their genre as "snakeskin boot gaze" rather then "shoegaze," because it's so true. One of the main things that inspires me with their shows and sound is that they create their own genre to describe their sound. That's something that I think we all would like to do as a band, especially with new material.

The best show we played with them was when we asked them to join us for our album release on New Year's Eve. Both of us play well together, because we share a similar fan base. Everyone at our shows ends up having the greatest night, because everyone gets along so well. The greatest part about them is that you could be watching them at a sold-out venue on a Friday night or in someone's back yard at a barbecue, and it will still be an amazing show. There's no need for a huge act with them; it's all just a really good time.
-- Jake Supple of A Band in Pictures

I really respect Coral Thief's work ethic. Beyond their Colorado-meets-Southern-California sound -- I've had the chance to hang with them at their studio -- their knowledge of the music business really separates them from the rest, in my opinion. -- H*Wood

 

The Yawpers are rock and roll, through and through. Their music is dynamic, compelling and danceable. It's very clear that the Yawpers aren't afraid to let themselves go. It makes for a very passionate performance and sets a sort of "no rules" atmosphere, something we consciously try to create every time we go on stage. The songwriting seems to lend itself to that. Just simple, raw, country-rock songs.

For us, it's important to realize that less is more, being that we're a two-piece band. Every time we see the Yawpers, we are made aware that they live by this philosophy. The first time we played with them was when we opened for them at their CD-release show in Boulder. We'd never heard of them and had no idea what to expect. Seeing that band for the first time, you can't help but smile. We knew our two bands fit perfectly together. On the ride home, all we were talking about was when and how we could play with them again. 
-- Eric Riley and Nate Valdez of In the Whale

I think Megan Burtt is the epitome of the modern-day troubadour. She loves music, she writes from the heart, and she travels around sharing it with anyone who will listen. She is the quintessential songwriter's songwriter, and she just keeps getting better and better. I love to hear her solo, because she's a darned good guitarist, too. I'm inspired to be better because of her. I want to dig deeper and say things in a way that catches people by surprise, like she does. 
-- Katey Laurel

It is pretty easy for me to love all that is Emerald Siam. Kurt Ottaway's latest band is a great continuation of some of the greatest bands to ever come out of Denver. Both Twice Wilted and Overcasters were definitely my favorite bands in town when they were happening, and [my band] was always fortunate to get to share some bills with both of them. Kurt's got a great sense of that larger-than-life shoegaze sound that I just love, and each of his bands approaches it a bit differently.

Emerald Siam turns that musical idea a bit more garage-y, with the organ sounds adding to the overall sonic architecture that the band creates, and that is a really cool thing. They have gone through some changes in their short life already, paring two drummers down to one, and they have also added a second guitar player just recently, which I think really helps fill out the overall sound and make everything a bit thicker without making it overly heavy.

I would have to say my favorite Emerald Siam show so far was the very first after they changed to a single drummer, back around early March. That show had an immediacy and energy that was even a bit more above the high energy that the band normally brings, and it was at the hi-dive, which is a great venue with a great sound system. There was less rhythmic confusion with the band only using one drummer; that made things tighter and crisper, and a couple of the new songs really soared. With the addition of the second guitar player, I think this band has really got it happening. I can't wait to see what they give us this summer once it all settles into place. 
--David DeVoe of New Ben Franklins

I like how Kalyn [Heffernan, of Wheelchair Sports Camp] doesn't give a fuck and likes whatever she likes. She hit us up early on in our career and said she really respected what we are doing, and ever since then, we've been great friends. Now we play with her and have toured with her, and we all are like family. We all are just on the same page; we do what we do and we have fun doing it. It's inspiring to meet like-minded people. We all know the corporate agenda is taking over music, and people like Kalyn remind us that we are not alone and our side is strong. Fuck the corporate agenda. Music is too important to be relegated to just selling junk food. -- Gregg Ziemba of Rubedo





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