The Knew on how playing what you want and taking the "less-thinking road" is always the best
The Knew has been kicking around Denver for roughly eight years, having played its first show on New Talent Night at Herman's Hideaway in 2005. Since then, the quartet has carved a bit of a niche for itself as strong rock-and-roll band, respected not just for its solid songwriting, but also for the manner in which these guys conduct themselves about town. If you've been around long enough, you've probably bumped into either singer/guitarist Jacob Hansen, guitarist Tyler Breuer, bassist Tim Rynders or drummer Patrick Bowden at a show, and, if so, you know the guys are always engaging. The band's music could be described as power pop akin to the sort of thing Billy Bragg or the Clash might do, but without the emphasis on politics and less grounded in folk.
Live, these guys are consistently energetic and play with a real belief in the material. If the group's latest album, Man Monster, is any indication, that faith in self is well placed, because what you hear is the sound of people excited about the music they perform. We recently had a chance to sit down with Hansen, Breuer and Rynders and talk about the new album, how the local scene has evolved in a positive direction and having a little faith in your own creative impulses.
Westword: Why are you doing two nights at the Lion's Lair for your album release for Man Monster?
Jacob Hansen: We were talking about the "next step" for our CD release, and the question is often, "Oh, are you doing it at the Bluebird?" It sounded so foreign -- that's what a lot of people do for their next step, and that's fine. But it seemed to make more sense to us to do it at Lion's Lair across two nights. Just make it two bands and a comedian and have fun with the crowd. We've been having a lot of fun playing with crowds instead of just doing our thing.
I think that's why this album has turned out so well. There was a lot of spontaneity and not a lot of thinking. We had good rapport with Chris Fogal. When you listen to it, you can't define all the little ideas and changes, but you just know it's more what you're going for. We went in there with more of an overall attitude as opposed to a set of ideas and changes that we knew we wanted to do. We just went in there with a certain mindset, and we just knew the ideas would come. And they did.
You're one of the few active bands in town that have been fairly prolific and have stuck around for more than five years, and you haven't changed your name or re-formed.
JH: We've talked about changing our name or whatever we think would get a new wave of something. But it always comes back down to the fact that we've always played what we wanted to, and if we have a new album and we want to sound completely different, that's what you do. Nobody cares. You don't have to have a new package. Bands do it all the time. I don't see a problem with keeping the same name. The less-thinking road is always the best way because it's always more peaceful. Lose fans, gain fans -- you don't let yourself get too wrapped up in that.
It's funny how basic it is and honest it is, and it sounds so cliché to say, "Oh you're in a band. You should do what you want." Every little decision and the outfit you put on when you play a show or what songs to put on or leave off an album, to not think of anyone outside of the band is really hard. You always think back to, "What would the band I really love do?" It's really hard to just say, "Nope, I'm going to do what I want to do."
Tim Rynders: "We lose people every time we do this, but I really like this part."
JH: Yeah -- "Every time we play this live, the crowd hates it, but we really love this part." So you end up wondering if you really like a part or because someone was into it at a show. It's hard to keep those lines clean.
Tyler Breuer: Over time, it's more manageable. I feel like a few of the bands we played with, like, five years ago, the ones we might have thought had shitty attitudes -- we were probably one of them. Nowadays when we play with them, they're so much more relaxed and so much more supportive.
It feels so much less competitive now because there are no longer really any big fish in the pond like there were then.
TB: I think people realized this is all that we might have right here and we're going to have to fucking deal with some shitty venues and whatnot, but support each other and make it worthwhile.
JH: It's turned more into the bands versus the venues and versus periodicals. The bands are in it for the same thing, and different periodicals have their priorities and limitations, and everybody has a boss. If you're a good band, it's going to come out. No one's ever not going to hear about you if you're a great band.
TR: Maybe we're just getting into a better spot in seeing the genuineness in other people playing music.
JH: That's for sure. I never used to be this relaxed about music. I used to get so freaked out about playing the right show or CD release or whatever.
Why did you call the album Man Monster?
JH: A lot of the lyrics had to do with the balance between the two. You have who you want to be and who you really are. "Man" is pretty direct and pretty literal. "Monster" is kind of what you think of yourself when you want to be without responsibility, go out at night, see a show, get amped up, do whatever. You want to tap into what comes right into your brain and not think about it. It just seemed like those two things and calling that portion of you a monster went together well. It's a balance of what people go through their whole lives -- who you should be versus who you really want to be; it kind of transfers to some parts of the album. Even though in that sense there's no man, just monster, because it was just, "Let's do what we want on this album without thinking about it."
I guess the rationale was believing you couldn't be told shit. There are rules you need to follow outside of writing your own stuff. When we worked with Fogal, we were pretty open to discussing what we thought would fit and what wouldn't. Hopefully it gets even better because those next songs we have? I would love for it to take a month. This one was good but it probably took too long.
TB: That's how we've often worked. If we record an LP, it takes a year. With an EP it takes a month.
For this album, did you explore any other themes even within the overall dichotomy of man and monster?
JH: Most of the lyrics on the album have to do with nightlife, love or the apocalypse.
TR: Most people experience all three simultaneously.
Other than the obvious, looming December 23rd Mayan calendar end date, why the apocalypse?
JH: It's just a topic that seems relevant to every generation. What you hear in the news in your twenties and thirties of your life, someone is going to convince you it's a sign of the end. Every generation thinks it is, and it never is. Until it really is and then you're like, "Fuck, I was right!"
Those three topics are the only three things I ever really think about. Hopefully though, it isn't the end of the world. A lot of great music came out in 2001. So if it's any kind of record of what will happen, the post-not-end-of-the-world will have some great music to offer us.
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