Better Know an Artist (Vol 36): Stephen Beatty (of Un Chien)

Un Chien is a Fort Worth band with a sound owing debts to 90’s alt rock (a la Smashing Pumpkins) and modern psych rock (think Black Angels or Tame Impala). Bandleader Stephen Beatty (formerly of Stella Rose) assembled a talented band of respected local musicians (Rachel Gollay, Kris Knight, Jerrett Lyday, and Taylor Craig Mills), and set out to attain a more experimental sound with his music. After a self released EP in early 2013, they signed to Hand Drawn Records and issued an impressive self-titled debut album later that year. Their sophomore effort will be released later in 2016, but Stephen sat down to answer some questions while we wait.

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

SB: I first got into music around 4th grade when we could join the school band. I played saxophone. Marty McFly was probably my main reason for wanting to play guitar (I watched Back to the Future at least once a day when I was a kid). Begged my mom to get me a guitar around 11 years old, got one for Christmas, and never stopped playing (or buying) them.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

SB: I usually just tell people, “Alt Rock” because I hate trying to describe my own music.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

SB: Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins were my gateway bands which opened me up to bands like Sonic Youth, Pixies, and Jesus Lizard. I love bands that balance chaos and noise with a good melody. I also respect the underground/punk mentality of bands like those. Brian Jonestown Massacre is another huge influence musically.

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

SB: We have a song called “Amarillo” that’s going to be on our new record.  We’ve played it live a few times.  I was in a long-distance relationship (she live in Amarillo) that ended badly.  It’s about that.  Writing that song was my way of coping and closing that chapter of my life

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

SB: Dead: Nirvana, so I could see a Nirvana show
Alive: Queens of the Stone Age

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

SB: Jetta in the Ghost Tree

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

SB: Smashing Pumpkins “Gish”

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

SB: I love that everyone knows each other, I hate that everyone knows each other’s business. It feels like a big dysfunctional family.

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

SB: Lola’s, because I’m OG.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

SB: umm, Un Chien, *wink wink

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

SB: I’m much, much nerdier than you’d probably think. I’ll leave it at that.

Many thanks to Stephen Beatty of Un Chien. I’m really looking forward to hearing new music from this talented batch of musicians with a pretty unique sound for the area. Check out Un Chien’s debut album below, and look out for the sophomore record later this year.

Photo Credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography

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Better Know an Artist (Vol 35): Jared Caraway

The dream of the 90’s is alive and well in the DFWd, and Jared Caraway is here to help you reflect on those times. Channeling hometown heroes like the Toadies and Tripping Daisy, along with Weezer, Green Day, and all the other anthem singing heroes of the day, Jared drives home that angsty, crunchy sound you’re looking for. He took the time to sit down and answer those pesky questions we’re always throwing around and it went a lot like this. 1,2,3,4:

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

JC: Music has always attracted me like a magnet – I’ve always loved art in general, but music in particular has always had the strongest pull on me. I think it’s fair to say I’m obsessed with music – I’m a music fan before I’m a music maker – and my compulsion to create is a natural result of that. It’s my passion. As a music fan, I’ve been under no illusion that “making it” as a musician is an easily achievable goal. I remember reading interviews about touring bands – superstars, in my eyes – that were lucky to break even touring on a shoestring budget to pursue their dreams of making new fans while bringing a great live show to their current fans. I think I’ve known my whole life that not only writing, but performing music is something I WANT to do for a living, but it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve had the resources to start taking real steps to make it happen. (The “for a living” part is as of yet a glint off in the distance.)

What drove me to play guitar was my desire to get that satisfyingly crunchy, dry distorted tone produced largely by Pro Co RATs and Boss DS-1/DS-2s – great example is “Possum Kingdom” by Toadies, which contains one of my all-time favorite guitar tones (and which I cover on occasion). I was also a big fan of the tones the Kinks managed to get out of their amps. I was sorely disappointed, though, when I got a beautiful green, shiny American Fender Strat and a tiny Pignose battery-powered amp…but no distortion! (My desire for distortion was finally satiated when I got a little Peavey practice combo I could crank the drive all the way up on.) For years, I played acoustic guitar because I couldn’t round up a band, but recently I’ve finally been performing with my Strat onstage and building up a pedal board to increase my aural palette. My friends Arik Harris on bass and Frank Gonzalez on drums are very talented musicians, and I’m luck to have them on my team.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

JC: It’s catchy, simple, usually about love or heartbreak (two of my specialties), and often in a major key. My sound is largely influenced by 90’s alternative rock bands, like Foo Fighters and Weezer, with some pop punk, alt-country, and folk elements weaved in. There are almost no solos (although I’ve got one in the works that will feature my first solo when complete). My creative output is just a mashed up version of all the stuff I’ve listened to over the years manifesting itself as something new. To describe my music most generally, I’d call it pop rock or alternative.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

JC: Although it might not be obvious in my songwriting, I was heavily influenced in my early childhood by late 80’s/early 90’s pop country like Diamond Rio, Hal Ketchum, Shenandoah, Clay Walker, Garth Brooks and countless others. Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was a huge record for me – an addictive blend of angst and accessible tunes which I might dare call a masterpiece. Definitely Weezer circa Weezer (the blue album), Green Day circa Dookie, and most popular rock produced in the mid 90’s (Everclear, Harvey Danger, Lit, blink-182, Tonic, Sublime, and so many more).

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

JC: I’ll say “Weather Me,” which is the title track off of my upcoming debut. It has multiple meanings weaved together into one sort of narrative. It’s one of the quickest songs I’ve ever produced from start to finish, one of the first to prominently feature a picked melody rather than just chords, and it just encapsulates the way I felt at what I now realize was a pivotal point in my life on several different levels. I know that’s kind of a vague answer, but I’d rather leave the specific events and things and people forming the basis of this one up to the interpretation of the listener.

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

JC: Probably Brand New. They’re one of my all-time favorite bands, and it would just be an honor to be able to share the same stage as some of my heroes (though it looks like that might not happen unless it’s before 2018 rolls around)

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

JC: I love Animal Bar, based out of Denton. They’re still a pretty new band, pretty young (all under drinking age), but they rock way harder than I probably ever could. Really talented kids – great songwriting and musicianship across the board. If you haven’t checked them out yet, I recommend that you do so. LeQube and Thrill Bill also put on awesome live sets.

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

JC: I could agonize over this decision for hours, but I’ll just go with the Toadies’ Rubberneck. Crunchy, gritty, dark, and weird. I can listen to the whole thing from start to finish (and start over again) with ease. 20+ years later, I’m still not tired of it. Alicia Keys’ Songs in A Minor and Saves the Day’s Stay What You Are are a few other candidates.

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

JC: Least favorite thing is how saturated the market is, which means you’ve really got to grind and make connections if you want to get noticed and bring people out. But as a music fan, this doubles as a positive – a ton of music for me to consume and enjoy!

My favorite thing is how supportive everyone is of one another, from supporting acts to venue management to sound guys to fans. The music market in DFW is obviously extremely competitive, but it’s not cutthroat. We all want to succeed, but in my experience, most of us also want to make friends and just have a great time, so a lot of us tend to have each other’s backs.

I’m also really impressed with the quality of work and the passion and drive I see coming out of the Dojo (and Team from Nowhere). Donny Domino is a high school classmate of mine, and I’d say his love for music easily rivals mine. Those dudes at the Dojo are making music nearly 24 hours a day. If someone hops off the computer, someone else is jumping on to work on a project, or someone’s stopping by to lay down a few verses. Such a cool vibe. Donny, -Topic, Bobby Sessions, KoolQuise, Xes, Zyah, Sam Lao, all those folks…I’ve got so much respect for what they’re doing.

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

JC: Favorite place to play is probably Sundown at Granada. Their brisket tacos are incredible. I love that they have amps available for use, sounds great, staff are friendly…it’s hard to find a negative. Not coincidentally, Granada is still probably my favorite place to see a show, even though I haven’t been there in a few years. I need to go back soon. The sound’s always great there, and it’s hard to find a bad spot in the house.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

JC: I will mention RTB2 every chance I get, because Ryan Thomas Becker is such an incredible guitarist, songwriter, and performer, and their live shows always kick ass. Animal Bar. – Topic. Bobby Sessions. Sealion. Moon Waves. Pearl Earl. And Ashley Somogyi – her songs are very rhythmic and hooky, which I can relate to.

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

JC: I was captain of my high school spelling and vocabulary UIL team. I made it to regionals every year and competed in state finals my senior year. I’m a total word nerd.

Thanks a bunch to Jared Caraway for the time. He’s got a bunch of shows coming up under his new band moniker, Jared and the Jewelers. You can catch them this Friday at the Foundry in Dallas with Pearl Earl, and Saturday at Taps & Camps in Denton. There’s a few more later this month and next and you can find those here. Keep an eye out for his debut album and check out his track, “My Calypso”, below.

DFWd Hype Project: Jake Robison “Blue and Trains”

So, Fort Worth has built up a fine community of songwriters who are always there to reach out and help each other and support each other at the various Open Mics and Songwriter Showcases around town. One of the guys in that community is a young man named Jake Robison. While he just plays music on the side of his full-time job, his debut record, Como Mansion, that dropped last year, is a record that really tugs at the heart strings. Today’s featured track is a lovely little song called “Blue and Trains” that makes me cry every damn time. Anyways, grab your tissues and enjoy. You can check out my Better Know An Artist interview with Jake here and go check out the full album here.

Better Know an Artist (Vol 34): Katrina Cain (TOMKAT)

TOMKAT is a band out of Denton, Texas, making dreamy electro pop with touches of jazz and soul. They’re fronted by the golden-tressed and golden-piped Katrina (AKA Kat) Cain. Her voice melts on top of the textured electronics to create a slicked up pop dreamscape. Katrina took the time out from dying her hair to answer our questions. Enjoy!

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

KC: The first time I performed in public, I was four years old. I knew pretty much immediately that I wanted to be a professional musician, and specifically a vocalist. I’ve always known it’s what I wanted to do. Throughout my childhood, I played quite a few different instruments and sang everywhere I could (I was a band, orchestra, choir nerd). I eventually majored in Jazz Studies at the University of North Texas, which is how I started actually gigging and making money. It’s also where I met all the guys in the band. All of us moved to Texas to study music at UNT, and we’ve ended up staying here because of the DFW music scene.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

KC:  I’ve always had trouble classifying our music because I feel like it could fall into several genres. I like to say it’s electro groove pop. We hope people can dance and chill out to our music.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

KC: My early songwriter self was influenced by artists like Tori Amos and Fiona Apple. But this current band, TOMKAT, is a mix of all of our influences. I would say we are influenced by artists like Little Dragon, Banks, Polica, and Haitus Kaiyote.

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

KC: Our song, “Big Love”, means the most to me because it’s the first song I wrote for this band. Well, the first song I wrote for us that ended up recorded and performed. It’s actually not about love and not about drugs (like it seems), but it’s a metaphor for the music industry. Basically, an obsession or addiction that I can’t stay away from, but sometimes it feels like it’s killing me. My current favorite song is “Icarus”, which we haven’t recorded yet, but we open every show with it. It’s pretty much the story of Icarus, and again just a huge metaphor for being excited/scared to pursue your dreams. The last lines of the song are, “What if I fly, and if I fly too high, what if I fall?”

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

KC: Oh, damn. “Dead or alive” makes it hard to narrow down…if we could open for Little Dragon one day, I would be on top of the world. That’s when I’ll have achieved my definition of success. They’ve been one of my favorite bands since I first heard them…I was maybe 18 or 19 when a friend told me to check them out. It’s great to see their progress and how far they have come. In my opinion, they are one of the freshest, most innovative bands out there– without being so “out” that it drives the mainstream listeners away. They do a great job of balancing unique sounds and concepts with feel good grooves. Everything they release just blows me away.

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

KC: Our guitarist’s new band, Terra Collective, is blowing us away recently. Sorry for the plug, but they’re doing some cool things. Polica is a band from the twin cities up in Minnesota. They’ve been around for a few years, but don’t get as much credit as they should. I’m excited to see where they go. I look up to them a lot.

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

KC: I honestly don’t want to answer this question, because there are so many records I could name.

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

KC: I love how different each scene is- I truly feel like Denton, Dallas, and Fort Worth each have a unique vibe and their own unique fan bases to offer. I love Deep Ellum. I love how much studio work there is here. Any negative experiences I have had here, I have also had in every other city we’ve played, so I’m not sure that there are any negatives about the DFW scene in particular. Houston has so far been the least welcoming city as far as other bands/artists, venues, booking shows, etc.

I will say in general: I wish more people were willing to go out and see live music, to tip the musicians and/or just pay the cover charge. I’m a big spoiled because my “day job” is also playing music (at swanky restaurants and weddings), but honestly it’s a bit ridiculous to think that we should offer our profession for free anywhere. Even when it’s original music….especially when it’s original music! No one ever says, “Oh, I thought that haircut and dye would be free. No thanks, then.” So why do people turn back around when they get to the club door and there’s a small cover charge? I promise you it will be worth the $5!

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

KC: So far, Trees takes the cake. We had the opportunity to play during the Pin Show’s preview event at Trees in December of 2015 and it was amazing. Really hoping we can play there again. Every show I’ve seen there has been incredible. They book some of my favorite acts, and the sound is always fantastic. I also want to give a shoutout to Jimmy at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton for being the best sound guy I’ve ever worked with. He’s also the crankiest, and you can tell him I said that, he knows I love him.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

KC: Absolutely in love with the band Relick, and have always loved hearing Isaac Hoskins play. We also adore playing shows with Rat Rios and Sudie, so check them out as well!

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

KC: My name is Kat, but I like dogs. I am left-handed. I have never done karaoke.

Many thanks to Kat for taking the time to do this for us. I don’t think TomKat has any local dates upcoming. They’re in Houston and Austin the next couple days. For now, you can listen to their track, “Big Love”, below, and pick up the EP here. Keep an eye out for TomKat dates here.

 

Better Know an Artist (Vol 33): Nicholas Altobelli

Whether the Observer wants to show him the love or not, Nicholas Altobelli is, without a doubt, one of the most gifted songwriters in the DFWd market. He crafts simple and wonderful pop songs with intricate and personal lyrics, and even throws in a key change every now and then. We had Nicholas sit down and answer our usual questions and this is how that went. 🙂

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

NA: I first got into writing music after I graduated high school. Before then, I spent my time playing drums to top 40 country radio in my bedroom. But after high school, I picked up the guitar and started writing terrible alt-country songs.

I knew it was something I wanted to pursue after I performed my first official show in 2007. I was opening for the newly formed Somebody’s Darling at a little coffee shop in Addison. The live setting hooked me in and I wanted to do it over and over again.

I’m not sure if I’m playing music for a living. I tried, but it never really worked out. Once I made the decision not to pursue music as a career, I started making more money and getting more press from it — funny how that works out. But I have other interests such as writing and teaching that I’m doing now that I’m really excited about.

Music has evolved into a side gig that I do to keep from going insane. So far, it’s working okay — on good days.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

NA: A panic attack wrapped inside a catchy, yet familiar melody. I don’t claim to be doing anything new. I’m not reinventing the wheel, I’m just keeping it spinning.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

NA: That’s a hard question because I’m influenced by everything. I’m mostly influenced by non-music things such as seasons and landscapes. I usually write about the season I’m currently not experiencing. That’s why Searching Through That Minor Key sounds like autumn, because I wrote and recorded it during the summer.

Southern California also influences my music a lot — it’s okay to say that, I used to live there. I have a super secret plan to move back out there if an opportunity arises. If that happens, my catalog will transition quite nicely.

Also, anything by Nick Lowe.

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

NA: This changes a lot, but right now, it’s a song called “Pile of Leaves” on my last album. It’s the perfect autumn song, in my opinion. I was reading about the afterlife in the Wikipedia wormhole late at night; I read somewhere that there is a theory that the afterlife is whatever you want it to be. I’m not religious but that was something I could get behing. I asked myself, “What would my afterlife look like?” And that’s what this song addresses. I also love a good chord progression that walks down and this song really nails that out of the park.

I’m also really fond of “L.A. Rain.” It’s the typical story of someone going to Hollywood to chase their dreams, but I flipped the perspective and wrote it through the point of view of a family member/friend/partner back at home questioning their decision to move to California. It was also one of the first songs I wrote on piano, which is probably why I like it so much.

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

NA: I would love to open for Electric Light Orchestra. I love all things Jeff Lynne. I think he’s a genius. I’ve also been really getting into ELO lately — I forget how many great songs they have. So, yeah… ELO at the Hollywood Bowl… somebody make that happen. Like 78% of things I do in my music career, I’d do that gig for free or for a $20 IHOP gift card.

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

NA: I really don’t listen to new music very much. I sound so pretentious saying that, but it’s true. I mainly listen to 60’s/70’s soul, R&B, Motown stuff. I really think that’s the golden age of music. If that’s something you’re interested in, I got you covered — I created an eight hour playlist called “Nicholas Altobelli’s Jukebox” on Spotify. Just turn on the random button and hit play.

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

NA: Probably a live anthology from the Grateful Dead, so it will last a really long time. Or, if I wanted to end my suffering, I’d pick an album from one of those new folk bands — that would be the much needed motivation to drown myself in the sea.

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

NA: My favorite thing about the local music scene is that there are still venues out there that will book me. Honestly, it’s amazing I can still get a gig. I don’t exactly put asses in the seats. I’m that artist who you book where you’re a dozen away from a sellout and you need that extra boost to push you over. I’m a professional support act and I’m okay with that — I actually really love doing it.

My least favorite thing about the music scene are those yearly music awards and the bands who give those ridiculous thank you speeches.

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

NA: I have three favorite venues: the Kessler, Dan’s Silverleaf, and the Live Oak. All three have very friendly staffs and the best sound guys. Also, parking is a breeze at these venues.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

NA: Where do I begin? Brian Lambert has a new album coming out and I was lucky enough to be in the studio while he was recording some of it — it’s pretty damn great. Look out for that one.

Daniel Markham’s new album is amazing. Matthew Gray is always doing amazing things. Salim Nourallah and his boombox are a force to behold. John Dufilho has 1,389 bands that are incredible. I hear Rahim Quazi has new songs that I’m excited to hear. The Blondettes are killing it in Dallas. Vanessa Peters’ new album is her best.

I know there are more out there and I apologize if I left a few off this list. I think the music scene is the best it’s been since I began in 2007.

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

NA: I have this weird phobia of looking up. It freaks me out.

Also, my older brother and I go on these strange adventures. We have done storm chasing, ghost hunting, hosted a short lived radio show, made a found footage Bigfoot movie, and much more. I’m currently writing these adventures out and maybe I’ll post the stories on my website or find someone to publish them — they are incredible.

Big, big thanks, to Nicholas for sitting down with us. I featured his latest single, “Exit Polls”, last week, and you can find it here. You can find another recent track, “Everybody Knows the Truth” down below. Fort Worth peeps can catch Nicholas at the Live Oak this Thurs, opening for Matthew Gray. Dallas peeps can catch Nicholas at the AllGood Café on Friday for a song swap with Taylor Young (the O’s) and Sean Russell (Cut Throat Finches). If you can’t make those, he’ll be playing at Salim Nourallah’s Open Mic at Sundown at Granada on Jul 26 and at the Local Brews Local Grooves at House of Blues on August 6. Now that I’m a Hype Machine featured blog, you can go favorite “Exit Polls” here.

 

Better Know an Artist (Vol 32): Seth Reeves (Siberian Traps)

The last Siberian Traps record, Blackfoot, was a pretty solid little chunk of jangly post-punk with some film score aspirations. I hear the new one, Stray Dogs, is going to be a little more straight forward, but we’ll know more this Friday when it drops. Check out a couple preview tracks down below. They’re pretty frickin’ great. I sat down with the Traps’ mastermind, Seth Reeves, for the usual questions.

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

SR: I first got into music in my parents’ living room at three years old, spinning Beach Boys vinyls and putting on a “concert”, complete with air guitar. That’s the first music I remember hearing that spoke to me. I’m still a huge Beach Boys fan. I don’t know that there was a moment of epiphany where I knew I wanted to make my own music. It was an inchoate idea that slowly became something I put into practice as I learned to play guitar. I’ve always loved singing. That probably goes back to the Beach Boys.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

SR: Post-punk and jangle pop doing the twist together at an old-fashioned dance hall.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

SR: The aforementioned Beach Boys, for all of the aforementioned reasons. I love harmony in music because of them. Also, the early R.E.M. records from the IRS years have been a huge influence on me. That’s simply some of my favorite music ever made. What a cryptic stew of post-punk energy and rural Americana-ism. I also love Neil Young, because maybe more than any other artist who has endured for decades, he has shown how to follow your own muse and how to create a sense of mythology about the stuff you write. I buy into it completely when I hear a Neil Young song.

While recording our new record, Stray Dogs, I also found I was listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac, particularly Tusk. They have a knack for writing a hook that burrows under your skin in about 30 seconds flat, but at the same time, it has staying power. If I try and visualize what their harmonies would look like, I see a light teal-colored halo around the notes. Their voices in harmony are smooth and almost airless. I love it.

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

SR: “Songs I Don’t Write”, on the new record, is to me, the most meaningful song I’ve written. I wrote it about my Dad, who passed away in 2011. It took me a few years to even begin to address in a song the loss I feel. He was a World War II history buff. That was probably his favorite subject in the world. I picked up an interest in it from him, but I especially began to fixate on the Eastern Front, on the horrific bloodshed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and on the powerful human narratives that emerged from that awful conflict. I had this ridiculous idea after we finished Blackfoot, our previous record, that I would make the next record one of fictional World War II-era Red Army patriotic songs. I was pretty much half-joking about it. But then my Dad passed and I spent a few years wondering if I’d ever manage to express how I felt in a song. I eventually wrote one about how I was never going to write those silly fake Red Army songs, but also about how I could try to write one for my Dad as a tribute. The words come to me all in one piece. The first time I heard the finished recording of it, I sobbed like a baby.

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

SR: In a time machine, I’d travel back to 1986 and open for R.E.M., just so I could see them show me how it’s done.

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

SR: I’ve recently gotten into Steve Gunn. He has a remarkable sense of rambling motion in his songwriting and guitar playing. Beautiful stuff that feels familiar and bizarrely new all at the same time. His new record, Eyes on the Lines, as well as his 2014 release, Way Out Weather, have been in heavy rotation for me lately.

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

SR: Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. It’s as close to a perfect record as anyone has ever made.

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

SR: I love the diversity of bands/artists, not only here in Fort Worth, but also in DFW as a whole. I actually think my favorite city to play around here is Denton, because folks seem to listen the most closely there.

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

SR: Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton is maybe my favorite venue I’ve ever played. The sound onstage is second to none. And the crowd seems to really appreciate what you’re doing. It’s a beautiful room for music.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

SR: Earthchild Imperius are doing some really interesting things. Our drummer, Peter Wierenga, has been recording some tracks for them recently, and from what I’ve heard, it’s far out. Those guys are a wellspring of musical ideas. I also really dig Natural Anthem and can’t wait to hear anything they release in the future.

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

SR: I have large swaths of Hamlet committed to memory. It happens when you’re an AP English teacher and teach it every year. You asked about desert island records earlier. My desert island book would be Hamlet, because it’s the closest approach to infinity that any writer has achieved.

So many thanks to Seth Reeves of Siberian Traps. Be sure to go grab the new Traps record, Stray Dogs, this Friday, June 17. Check out a couple preview tracks of the new album down below, and you can catch them live at the Foundry, July 30 (that ish is free). So, get out there and support a excellent local band.

Better Know an Artist (Vol 31): Kris Knight (Un Chien)

Un Chien is a fantastic psychedelic band out of Fort Worth, led by singer-songwriter Stephen Beatty, formerly of Stella Rose. The band also includes Kris Knight on keys, Jerrett Lyday on drums, Rachel Gollay on guitar and Taylor Craig Mills on bass. Their sophomore release, Where We Belong, is due later in the summer, but the debut single off of that record, “Amarillo”, drops tomorrow. I had keyboardist Kris knock out our usual slate of questions. If you haven’t voted yet, Un Chien is nominated for Best Rock Band in the Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards.

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

KK: When I was 16, I saw the band, Ozma, open for Weezer on a national tour. They were maybe 17-18 years old at the time and I remember saying to my friends, “we could do that.” So we started a crappy high school band.

I got started with Un Chien when Beatty called me on a random Sunday morning and asked if I want to play keys.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

KK: For people in my parent’s generation or older, I describe it as a cross between Pink Floyd and when the Beatles started doing drugs and playing experimental songs. For the people my age or younger, I would compare us with the Black Angels or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

KK: Ozma and Weezer got me started. Beach Boys, the Beatles and the Zombies for just great pop rock writing and vocals. Radiohead, for their ability to adapt and always make beautiful creative songs.

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

KK: On our first record, “A Heavy Hand”, is probably my favorite because playing it live , we all kind of let loose and really get into the emotions of the song at the end. On our upcoming record, “Where we Belong”, for really the same reasons.

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

KK: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I think our music is similar enough to where we could gain a ton of fans.

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

KK: Locally, Quaker City Night Hawks, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, Holy Moly, and Jetta in the Ghost Tree are my favorites. I know those bands aren’t new, but I’ve been friends with their members forever and love listening to their music and seeing their success. Gollay and Mills & Co aren’t too shabby either. Also, check out Bear Ghost! Not local, but incredible.

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

KK: [Radiohead’s] OK Computer

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

KK: Favorite would have to be the people. We are all working to do the same thing. My least favorite would have to be the middle man “booking”, taking money off the top, and doing zero promoting or trying to promote competing shows for the same night.

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

KK: The Grotto or the Chat Room are my favorite places to play. No booking agent, just a hand shake with Carney or Cody. Everyone gets paid, gets drunk and has a great time.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

KK: Un Chien (duh)

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

KK: I’m completely self taught and play by ear. I don’t know what chords I am playing. I just play what sounds good.

Many, many, thanks to Kris for taking the time. Honestly, he popped this sucker out fast for me, so much appreciated. I really look forward to hearing the new material from one of my favorite Funkytown bands. You can catch up with them live at the Crown & Harp on June 27 with Cutthroat Finches, the Hollow Ends and Tawaine Noah. The new album drops later this summer, but for now, you can check out the first one and today’s new single, “Amarillo”, below.

Photo Credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography