Thursday, August 30, 2001
One of rock's unspoken rules is that bands led by brothers (Oasis, The Black Crowes, Van Halen) tend to squabble once in a while.
"We're not that bad," Chet Kueffer, bassist for Clint K Band laughs. "But we have no problem with being honest to each other. There's a high amount of information exchanged, very rapidly and very loudly."
"We fight sometimes," his brother, vocalist/guitarist Clint Kueffer adds. "I mean, any brothers do. We're not perfect; we get along pretty well. We have our moments."
"I think it would be pretty funny if we videotaped a practice, arranging a song," Chet says. "Someone watching it would go, 'Man, they're gonna kill each other.'"
The members of Clint K Band (the Kueffer siblings and drummer Jason Green) probably won't be killing each other anytime soon. With a sparkling new CD ("Three Man Show") just released, gigs lined up months in advance and an ever-expanding fan base, the Lawrence-based trio is probably too busy these days to sweat the small stuff.
Clint Kueffer debuted in 1997 with a solo effort "Clint K," where the singer/songwriter/guitarist was backed by an assortment of area musical pals. Though the effort offered mere traces of the Clint K Band sound, tracks like the running-to-stand-still bluster of "Send Daddy Home" showed the bandleader's burgeoning ability to match poppy hooks with lyrics that walk on the dark side.
With an album under his belt, stars in his eyes and a handful of new tunes in the works, Clint began searching for the perfect backing band. Former No One's Judge drummer Jason Green fit in nicely with Clint's pop rock vision, adding rhythmic snap and weight in all the right places. Finding someone to hold down the low end proved even easier.
"He didn't have to look very long to find a bass player," Chet deadpans. "He never really looked. I just sort of stepped in. It was hard for a while because when we started, I was still in high school. I was in sports, and it was like I had a meet or Dave had a basketball game or there was a Valentine's dance. It was just a fun thing to do, but it sort of blossomed."
Coming up with the right name for the newly formed outfit proved a more arduous task.
"It was gonna be Clint K and the whatever -- Clint K and the Hot Rod Corn Pickers," Clint explains. "But we never really settled on that, it was a little too country for us. Clint K Band just stuck so we went with it."
Clint K Band took to the local music scene with determination and persistence, making sure it got a gig somehow, somewhere at least every few weeks. That strategy allowed the trio to hone its skills in a live setting, solidifying its sound with each new show. Within a couple of years -- despite the lack of a "real" record -- Clint K Band was showcasing at prestigious gigs like Kansas City's annual Spirit Fest and winning local battle-of-the-bands contests.
"It didn't really kick into high gear until 1998," Clint says. "We've been doing close to between 40 and 50 shows a year for a couple of years. When we first started, it was like a show a month. We've never missed a month since we started, we've had at least one show every month since August of '97."
Forty to 50 gigs a year might have seemed daunting at one time for the group's frontman, who was forced early on to overcome the biggest obstacle in achieving musical success: stage fright.
"I had very little (performing) experience prior to this," Clint says. "When we first got going, I was sick before every gig. I'd go to the bathroom and puke like six times. I used to be shaking."
"Just like anything in life, the more you do something, the longer you do it, you're gonna see signs of improvement," Chet adds.
When Clint K Band entered Mercy Studios last year to record its debut proper, the previous months of rehearsals and gigs paid huge dividends. Recorded in one week of 10-hour days, "Here We Go" announced the presence of a rock solid unit with a style and flair all its own. From the opening notes of the first track, "Angels Met," it was clear that Clint and company had turned a musical corner, concocting a confident batch of tunes that recalled the better moments of U2, Everclear and Soul Asylum set to the group's own expansive three-part harmonies and arena-ready choruses.
"Usually the theme and the melody come all at once," Clint says of his songwriting process. "It might just be the chorus, maybe it's a verse or maybe it's three different songs that turn into one. Usually the main theme of the chorus line hits me and I fill in the blanks after that. If I don't have a theme, I don't have anything. I just can't sit down and say, 'OK, I'm gonna write a song," and write it. I've gotta have some inspiration first."
Some of Clint K Band's inspiration undoubtedly comes from its Christian background, which isn't manifested directly in the group's lyrics or music, but in the spiritual vibe that runs throughout -- an aura more akin to Live or "October"-era U2 than overtly religious acts like Jars of Clay.
"We're three Christian guys and we just play music about life, sometimes about our faith and try to be a positive influence on anyone we can," Green explains. "But we're trying to keep it secular. We don't want to be limited to just playing Christian venues. The Christian industry is as much of a business as regular music. We want to definitely be on the mainstream side, we feel like we can reach more people."
The king-sized power chords that kickstart Clint K Band's latest self-released work, "Three Man Show," were custom-designed to do just that, marking a titanic leap forward in the group's sonic history. The trio worked for approximately 100 hours at Mercy (with "Go" producer Brad Koehler), recording and mixing "Three Man Show." The time was well spent with all members agreeing that the release marks their strongest showing yet.
The infinitely hummable quality of stick-to-the-cranium songs like "Best Friends" and "Runaround," matched with the trio's propulsive energy, make it one of the more strident releases to come out of Lawrence this year. Rather than playing it cool and aloof, Clint K Band barnstorms with unabashed enthusiasm as if nothing else in the world were more fun than playing this song, right now.
"I'd say we've just gotten more comfortable with each other and we're getting more of the sound we want to get," Green says. "It's kind of hard to describe because you just play music until you get to the spot where you're at."
Take it to the stage
Fans also have taken to "Show," packing The Bottleneck last month for the group's CD release party.
"We had a great turnout there, especially for not having the students back yet," Chet says. "We were totally freaking out because we didn't put up flyers really. We had 400 kids; I was shocked."
For Clint and crew, the live setting is the best place to get a taste of the group's many charms. One of "Show's" most headrushing numbers is titled "Take it to the Stage," chronicling a group "kickin' over amps" and "breaking glass with a bloody guitar," a fair description of your average Clint K Band concert.
"I think our sound's improved a lot, but I think our performances have improved the most out of anything," Chet says. "I think our performance is by far our best attribute. Not to degrade the record or our other attributes, it's just something we're proud of."
"The record is a lot softer than we are live," Green says. "It's a lot more mellow."
Though musical acts with less energy and less interesting material regularly tour the surrounding states and beyond, Clint K Band hasn't ventured far outside of the Lawrence/Topeka/KC region. Partially, according to Clint, this is due to lack of record company support.
"It's really difficult to book a tour when you're not on a label," Clint says. "You have no credibility to them whatsoever. They don't want to waste their time or money. You send them a packet and it gets put in 'the stack.' It's like, you can just stay home and work and play shows here. As long as we can do it on our own and be successful, we'll do that. But at the moment someone comes knocking on our door with a bigger, better opportunity, we're gonna listen."
Not that there's anything wrong with the Lawrence music scene, which has more than welcomed Clint K Band into the fold.
"For a town of its size, it's unbelievable," Clint says. "It's gotten better and bigger,"
"It's a good place for now," Chet adds. "Eventually, it might be good for us to move because we're one of the few bands locally that kind of sounds the way we do. There's not many bands in our genre in this area. I'd say we're straight ahead pop-rock. Most of the bands around here are more ... this is a crude term, but 'indie rock' or 'emo.' It's amazing music, but a lot of the regular people who come to shows come to hear that type of music. So maybe someday it might be beneficial for us to move where there's a market for our type of music."
For now though, Clint K Band is firmly committed to maintaining its high profile right here in Larryville.
"There's so many bands," Chet enthuses. "Because we're here, we don't realize how big some of them really are and what they're doing for everyone else -- bringing a lot of attention to this area. The Get Up Kids, Ultimate Fakebook, The Anniversary and Appleseed Cast are doing really well. Shiner, Kill Creek -- you can go on forever. It's great to be a part of it."