KB : Shining Through...
I'm standing in the Elbo Room, a local Chicago haven for new artists. I look around me and it's a typical Friday night...drinks are being served, good times are being had and there is a concentration on the stage as the band sets up its gear. One of the things I love about small bands is seeing them put up and rip down their own equipment. I also love little clubs where people over six feet are relegated to stand in certain areas (because if they don't, their heads will go through the ceiling above them). The Elbo Room, a basement club in Chicago, is just like this. It's small; you go down a stairwell that is anything but safe after the consumption of a few brews...but people forge ahead blindly because of their love of music and the excitement to see something they may never see again. Many bands play a few gigs and they never go anywhere. Other bands play gigs and move onto bigger and better things. Over the last year, I have been fortunate enough to witness a few shows with extraordinary songmanship by the up and coming band, KB.
KB's music is rooted in the music of the late 60's and early 70's. The good news is that unlike certain fads and fashions, KB's music is entrenched in the best classic rock. I'm not talking about Boston or Frampton, but ELO, Beatles, Tom Petty and The Byrds. KB's influences infect their music like a virus, and I couldn't care less about how original it is because the lyrics are multifaceted and stir you. Originality goes out the window as they do what the best rock 'n rollers have always done...invade your soul.
KB may not be a pioneering band like Marilyn Manson or Pink Floyd, but remember, neither was U2 when they first took those inaugural baby steps, eventually leading them to play stadiums around the world. KB has been able to mix the best of their influences and infuse it into their songs. After watching the new formation of the band rock through sets at the Beat Kitchen and Martyr's, I asked band founder, Keith Betti, about his influences:
Lennon - No one has influenced me more than John Lennon. His songwriting craft and sound during and after The Beatles has had a major impact on me. Without his inspiration, I probably wouldn't even be playing. Of lately, I've been really big on Jeff Lynne, creator of ELO...lots of great, underrated stuff going on with that guy. He was like the Beatles and George Martin (Beatles producer) rolled into one. Vocally he's been a great influence. He's like (Roy) Orbison &(George) Harrison blended together. The ultimate guitar influence is Hendrix. I learned to play guitar with Axis Bold as Love...literally hours in front of a CD player!!! Not copying his licks, but creating my own with him.
There is an excitement in Keith's voice, the way his eyes moved and his hands fluttered as he imitated the guitar when talking about Harrison and Hendrix. Too often when I talk to musicians, they are either full of politically correct answers or show about as much emotion as a politician. Not Keith, you can tell every inch of his body is devoted to the great love of his life, music. He talks about his heroes as if he was inducting them into the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame. He's the kid who had rock 'n roll infect his system at a young age and the disease has never left. I asked him about why he chose old school rockers as his major influences instead of modern day men in flannels and leather pants...Keith smiles and looks at me and says "For me to be 'influenced' by someone, I need the total package; great songwriting, big guitars, strong vocals...all the stuff that made my influences so great. I mainly look for inspiration and influence through someone I relate to. Someone who's a writer/performer. I'm really picky when it comes to who I listen to."
There is freshness to KB's music that I have not heard in awhile. There are plenty of local metal bands that have impressed me on the Chicago circuit, but I have seen few bands whose influence is channeled from the rock Gods who forever changed the music we now love. KB channels the likes of Lynne, Lennon and Petty. Unless you are a metal or alternative band, it seems like you are ignored nowadays. Songs like "Tonight" and "As The Days Go By" are the types of songs Steve Van Zandt (of Sopranos and E Street band fame) would play on his Underground Garage radio show. There is an intensity to the songs, a virginal quality that beckons back to a golden age of rock 'n roll. KB's songs are naked and bare at their core. Once you start listening to the transcending lyrics, they haul you in. The musical integrity of this band is what brings the music full circle. Keith Betti, the Billy Corgan of KB, writes all the songs. Keith's writing is so refreshing and poignant; you wish other acts would take a cue from him and also write songs in this vein. His songs remind me of a genre that has passed us by, from the likes of the Beatles, Stones, Doors, and Yardbirds. I almost wish vinyl was still in as this would be an album you would sit back and stare at the cover, read the liner notes and rock out the incendiary music.
The band is fleshed out by the great rhythm section of Dan Nawrocki who bangs away on the drums while newcomer George Kikos keeps the beat, both are always in the background, but they are essential as the foundation of KB lies on the simplicity of their talents. A new addition to the band, Scott Fischer fills in the gaps on keyboards helping each stroke painted by the one time foursome look more colorful. He fills in the spots around the edges to give us all a more complete picture. Keith's' right hand man, Sean Godvick lends out on guitar and backing vocals. Sean not only is a first rate guitar player, but he also has an incredible voice. The harmonies churned out by Keith, Scott, and Sean completes the picture rendering a great three some breathing life into Keith's lyrics.
The song "As The Days Go By" is especially unequaled by anything else in their young catalog of songs-it rocks out with big guitars, pounding drums that make your ribs vibrate and a chorus that shake you like the songs from those early years of rock 'n roll. However, even though their influences may be a few decades past their prime, KB is not interested in whether or not their music is in vogue. They care about the songs...the first and main priority of this band. I have always come from a school of 'a good song is a good song'. It does not matter if it is alternative, pop, metal or straight ahead rock, if it's good it will shine through. When you see KB in concert or listen to their debut album, "Prelude", with the astonishing track "Tonight", you know you are listening to music that has soul. The amount of development between the first songs I saw the band perform a year ago to the new ones on "Prelude" is nothing short of miraculous. I knew the songs had great promise when I saw them performed live twelve months ago, however, hearing them fully mixed and mastered delivers on that promise as they have officially pushed themselves to that next level as musicians. "Easy Street" has gorgeous Harrison melodies flowing throughout it. "Life" reminds me of a song I would hear on classic rock radio, much like a vast sounding song produced by Jeff Lynne. The opening chords to "Shine" are sweet, melancholy and romantic, it even gives me that feeling when I hear "Little Wing" by Jimi Hendrix. I truly believe the vivacity of these songs will make them shine through to those who can take this band to the next level. KB is more than just another band trying to become celebrities; they are group of musicians who put great care, detail and handling in their songs. This is music for everyone. Just remember you heard it from me first after they break big.
People can pull the blinds down all they want, the stream of sunlight will burn through them until this band has been heard from.
-Anthony Kuzminski 2004