"We're at a Tender Age": Residual Kid on Relating to Its Older Audience

At the Underground Music Showcase last summer, I watched as three small, skinny and awkward-looking kids from Austin took the stage at 3 Kings Tavern and, as the crowd adjusted to the amount of distortion coming from the amp, announced that they were Residual Kid. The group is made up of seventeen-year-old vocalist/guitarist Deven Ivy, seventeen-year-old drummer Ben Redman, and Ben's fifteen-year-old brother, Max, on bass. They really are just kids.

For anyone who has been to the UMS, it’s a weekend full of music, Illegal Pete’s margaritas and sweaty, overcrowded bar venues. By the time Residual Kid’s 9 p.m. set time rolled around, it was obvious that they would be playing for a room full of drunk music junkies who were either trying to escape the summer heat or genuinely looking for a good band to settle on after bar-hopping all day. It’s safe to say that 3 Kings at that moment was a tough crowd for any band to play for, but within minutes, Residual Kid had people moshing and the audience was ready and willing to carry Ivy all around the room.

It’s clear why Residual Kid so quickly won over the audience at 3 Kings, and since it wasn’t even the band's first UMS, why it continues to win over the same caliber of fans week after week, headlining shows from Denver to SXSW: This is no kid music. The “garage grunge” music that Residual Kid plays is geared for more mature audiences. Seymour Stein, the same record executive responsible for signing the Ramones and Madonna, recognized that fact when he signed Residual Kid to Sire Records through Warner Bros. Records in 2015, and Residual Kid’s manager, Bart Dahl, says it’s been a strategic part of working with such a young band. “It’s appropriate, first of all, for them to be playing for older crowds, because they don’t play music for kids,” Dahl says. “They’re playing music that’s beyond their physical frames.” 

Since becoming Residual Kid’s manager, Dahl says, he’s worked to book the band in venues with “bearded, tattooed rock people,” because up to this point, that's been the crowd that’s been the most accepting of the group’s music. Residual Kid is preparing for its Salsa EP release party at the hi-dive this Friday, April 8, which will be the band's first “almost” all-ages show. For his part, Dah is looking forward to seeing members of the bar crowd, which has opened its tattooed arms to Residual Kid, bond with their own teenagers over the music of their past — Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr. and Soundgarden — while listening to Residual Kid. The band's members are just excited to see faces in the crowd that look like theirs.

“I’m so used to playing with old bar crowds, and I love our Denver homies and our bar-scene homies, but I really enjoy playing with people my own age, too,” Ivy says. “It’s pretty crazy, because I can’t really relate to you guys that much.”

Despite a deal with Warner Bros. Records/Sire Records, Residual Kid is still a bunch of teenagers making music. When they’re done setting up after sound check, the band's tour-mates may head to the bar, but Residual Kid heads outside to practice skateboarding. Boyhood is evident on the track “ICSTW” from their new EP, with lyrics like Some days we’re sixteen/Some days we smell like gasoline/But who are you to say/We have to be sixteen today?

“We’re at a tender age in our lives, just being teenage boys,” Ivy admits. “There’s always drama and bullshit to get through, but with us it all just falls back on the music.”

Ivy is balancing songwriting, skateboarding, a record contract with Warner Bros. and his after-school job at Chipotle. “I’m nearing the end of high school and driving and I’m feeling like I’m getting a taste of being a young man,” Ivy says, adding that up until this point, he hasn’t necessarily felt taken over by Residual Kid’s record contract. “I mean, it’s pretty surreal, but it hasn’t consumed my life as I imagine it will some day. I’m not out of high school yet, and for now [the music] is an outlet for a lot of feelings I have, and we love playing at all of these places.”

While the Salsa EP release party at the hi-dive is eighteen and up, Dahl says parents can bring their kids if they are at least sixteen. This aspect is something that Ivy is especially excited about. “I’d love to play in front of more people our own age, because I like to think about all the people I could be friends with, like if we went to the same school, if I just lived in their town,” Ivy says. “I’m just as happy to be somewhere else. I’m a little more nervous to be playing in front of people my own age, because they think like I do. But it’s exciting for sure.”

Residual Kid plays with Bud Bronson & The Good Timers and Slow Caves on Friday, April 8, at the hi-dive. The show starts at 9:30, and the first 100 through the door will receive an EP with individualized artwork on the cover. 
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Lauren Archuletta is a contributor for Westword's arts section, covering Denver's health and wellness scene. Follow her work for tips on cheap workouts and which yoga classes include mimosas and beer.