Chemistry determines quality. This is apparent in cooking, where bad timing or getting a portion slightly wrong can throw off an entire dish. In relationships, lack of chemistry is a death sentence. In music, chemistry is the immeasurable element that makes it good. Without it, all you have is a mass of sound and fruitless effort.
But when it works, you know. You just know.
Half the time, accident has no small part in turning a decent song into one that gets you high. Kihei rock and roll outfit A Kettle Prime has a chemical equation that works well enough to get them booked solid on 6th Street in Austin during South by Southwest, the music conference and festival that inspires a global pilgrimage by serious music fans. (Except for me. I have to work.)
A song doesn’t make A Kettle Prime’s repertoire without unanimous band approval. For them, a song is a collaboration among the four musicians who make up the band, each of whom puts his own “stamp” on it. For them, a song is a conversation.
They call themselves a jam band, but their sound is more complex than that.
True, their songs are long—at a recent show they even strung together a few of them for a 20 minute-plus jam they call “The Sandwich.”
True, lead guitarist Peter Hamilton strings together rambling improvised guitar solos, sometimes switching it up with a moog or keyboard lead.
True, Hamilton, rhythm guitarist Lake McClain and bassist Tim Rausch have a few dozen effects pedals among them; some they use sparingly and others, like the wa-wa and the delay, they use quite a bit.
But their original tunes marry jam band grooves with a darker, I might even say almost metal-inspired, sensibility.
McClain’s deep vocals verge on Jim Morrison-esque, but it’s obvious that he’s not imitating; it’s just the way his voice sounds. And unlike most male vocalists of his ilk, he doesn’t do that Eddie Vedder thing where you add unnecessary r-sounds at the end of each phrase, which is probably the most overdone vocal effect in the history of rock and roll.
Rausch’s solid bass lines are what give A Kettle Prime’s tunes their weight.
Overall it’s a sound that’s inspired; a sound that derives from a musical concept that is, paradoxically, formless yet tangible.
Their influences are diverse. Rausch lists the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as the Doors, Floyd and Zeppelin. McClain, originally from the South, places Robert Johnson and Widespread Panic among his many musical progenitors. Drummer Jonas Troxell was at first inspired by punk, but has delved into rockabilly, among other things. Hamilton says that he spent most of his youth delving into Bob Marley, the Grateful Dead and Phish, which comes through clear as a bell when he plays.
All this makes for a pretty dynamic (and trippy) sound, a sound that caught the ear of an Austin-based music promoter.
Austin is a long way from where A Kettle Prime began. They formed on Maui, and their first jam space was a small pavilion outside the Kihei VFW. They couldn’t play after dark and were often met with the disapproving stares of the vets that would go outside to smoke. Now they play about once a month (a number of band members have families, work full time, etc.).
They venture to the Lonestar State in mid-March. Ahead of their departure the band will hold a fundraiser from 4pm-midnight at Mulligan’s on the Blue in order to offset travel costs. Musical acts slated to play include Erin Smith & The Throwdowns, Ryan Robinson, Kanekoa and others. MTW