Kangaroo Knife Fight isn’t kids’ play
Kangaroo Knife Fight wastes no time on its new EP, The Dark. The four-piece band charges through the gate with ready-to-rumble rock that’s meant for arenas and sweltering summer festivals. Despite the band name — a homage to lead singer Anthony Avis’ home country of Australia — there is nothing silly about this band. Kangaroo Knife Fight takes its music seriously. And by the end of The Dark, so will you.
There’s something in lead single “Sky Falls” that recalls mid-aughts Kings of Leon; perhaps it’s the bombast, or the energy that never lets up. But there is nothing stale or derivative about the character Kangaroo Knife Fight infuses into The Dark’s four songs, and Avis — with a tender sort of grit that demonstrates both edge and ability — is the driving force throughout.
Ahead of the band’s EP release Saturday at the Tank Room, I called bass player Gus Rechtein to chat about the band’s origins.
The Pitch: Your lead singer, Anthony, is Australian. So he moved to Kansas City to start a band with guys he’d never met? That just sounds strange. Give me a little background on how you guys came together.
Rechtein: [Laughs] So, originally the drummer and I were together in a prior band called Little Rosco, and the guitar player who’s in our band now — Brandon Skeens — he was my guitar teacher. I was the bass player in Little Rosco, and we decided to get a different singer. We asked Brandon to join this new project, and we started looking for a singer, essentially online. While we were searching online it was just sort of a general online search for singers looking for bandmates, and we came across one that happened to be in Australia. [Laughs]
It was a really broad search, but we came across this guy and didn’t realize he was Australian at first. We contacted him anyway, because he indicated that he was looking to make a big change, and it turned out, as we talked, that he was married to a girl from Kansas City. Then it became more feasible, you know, that this might actually work. So he sent us some songs and we sent him some songs, and over a period of six or eight months, he ended up moving to Kansas City and started working with us. He moved in early 2014 or late 2013, and our first show as Kangaroo Knife Fight was in July 2014.
You guys are all in your 30s, you all have jobs and most of you have families. And yet, you’ve got this huge rock sound — it feels really ambitious. What can you tell me about the balance between music and home life?
Every single one of us has been doing this since we were kids. Even though we are all adults, none of us have ever stopped playing music. Three of us are married and one of us might as well be married, but our spouses and significant others entered into the relationships with us knowing that music is part of who we are, and we’re not likely to give that up, because we wouldn’t be very happy without it.
Our drummer, Ian [O’Connell], for example, was on a major label and had a million-dollar record deal with J Records and toured with a band for nine years. Fall Out Boy was opening for them, and he was co-headlining with All-American Rejects. He lived sort of a rock-star lifestyle in the past, and so this is almost more of a settling down for him. Brandon brings a lot of engineering skills to the band. Anthony, having come from Australia, didn’t really know anybody, so this gave him some connections. For me, it’s just a continuation of what I’ve always done, which is balancing work and music. I do a nine-to-five job and we get practices in once a week, and I do as much music on the weekends as I can.
Do the rest of you feel the way about the band that Ian does, that it’s a settling down?
Well, relative to Ian’s former life, I think this is calmer. I wouldn’t say that we all consider this to be a settling down. We hope to turn it into something. We’re talking to the guy in L.A., Noah Shain, who mixed our record, about shopping it to labels and seeing what we can do to turn this into something bigger and the band into something bigger, and what that would look like.
But the music business is difficult, and we have to be in the position where we can make the payments on our houses, you know, since we aren’t kids that can move out of our bedrooms in our parents’ houses and go on the road and not make any money. Anything that happened would have to be a deal that would be profitable for us, and those are hard to come by these days, I think.
As a band, we focus on trying to write songs that have broad appeal. That’s our goal as a band, as opposed to just trying to write music that is just for ourselves, I suppose. It’s not just for fun. It’s what we love.