How the Knew Learned to Stop Worrying

The Knew will celebrate its new record, Schmew, with a release show at Ratio Brewery on Saturday, September 19. The band will be playing alongside Wheelchair Sports Camp, High Plains Honky and DJ Clark Continental.

For the past ten years, the Knew has developed the kind of rock music that, refreshingly, doesn't fit strictly in a subgenre, even though it has elements of power pop, punk and blues rock. Whatever the origin of ideas that bubble up through the band's music, its energy and honesty is undeniable.

Though the title of the new album is not a nod to Harry Nilsson's 1971 masterpiece Nilsson Schmilsson, there is a similarity of spirit.

“We've never been happy with names, and this is mocking that,” says guitarist Tyler Breuer. “And we've tried to come up with another band name for a long time, but nothing came up. And we tried to come up with a new album name and nothing came up.”

The Knew has toured more extensively and more often since drummer Andy Thomas (also a Westword contributor) took the place of Patrick Bowden in 2012. The band has also been playing shows at more unconventional spaces, from DIY venues Club Scum and the defunct Unit E to playing a warehouse space in Alaska and a pizza joint after hours in Denton, Texas. It's all been in the name of a more spontaneous approach to booking and playing shows instead of a standard, limited approach.

“It presents to your face what you never wanted to buy into with music,” says vocalist and guitarist Jacob Hansen. “And it shines it back, and you think, 'Fuck I didn't want to do this, and it's not working out!' You do that climb from smaller venues to the Bluebird and then go back to find out what you really wanted to do. And that's why we pick these venues. Everybody has a gut feeling of yes or no. We used to debate plan or theory, and now it's knee-jerk yes or no.”

The Knew isn't “over” playing clubs or larger venues; the group is just trying to vary its experiences and keep things fresh, because a decade in, it has to be fun even if you're writing the best music of your career. The songs on Schmew qualify.

“I just don't get tired of these songs,” says Hansen.

While the new set of songs are steeped in heavy listening to Ty Segall, Queens of the Stone Age, Royal Headache and Diarrhea Planet, they are still very much grounded in what has made the Knew a band worth listening to from the beginning, what Thomas describes as “an insouciant approach to music.” 
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.