It was a hot summer night in Joplin, Missouri, as thousands of music lovers descended upon Landreth Park to attend a concert by the band Kansas. Little did the crowd know that they were actually going to get two concerts by Kansas ... sort of.
Some explaining is in order. Four-fifths of Kansas’ current lineup — Phil Ehart (drums), Richard Williams (guitar), Billy Greer (vocals/bass) and David Ragsdale (violin) — have started a side band called Native Window. In Joplin, Native Window were the opening act.
When Native Window took the stage, many in the crowd looked perplexed. The guitar player brandished an eye patch and the violin was featured heavily in the music. The band, however, was not Kansas.
Native Window played on and the crowd watched with an inquisitive curiosity. During a break between songs, drummer Phil Ehart addressed the crowd saying, “We are Native Window. It has taken us 35 years to become an opening band. We were able to meet Kansas backstage before the show. They are really nice guys, but they are much older-looking than I thought they would be.”
Those in the know enjoyed a good laugh, while those discovering the band for the first time enjoyed a nice surprise.
Goldmine caught up with Kansas/Native Window drummer Phil Ehart before the show to discuss how Native Window came to be, what the four musicians hoped to accomplish and why they needed to create a new band outside of their day job.
While Kansas remains the headline act, Native Window is not easily blown off the stage. This musical foursome has created a strong album of melodic rock that stands proudly on the shelf next to the Kansas catalog — and that, in itself, is saying a lot.
Native Window releases their self-titled debut June 23 via StarCity Recording Company.
Native Window is a unique project. Why did you decide to put a new band together?
Phil Ehart: It was done out of necessity and frustration, of not having any new material for so many years. Instead of waiting for Steve [Walsh] or Kerry [Livgren] to come up with some material, we decided to do it ourselves. We decided to do our own band so that Kansas can be its own entity, and Native Window can be its own entity.
While it started out of frustration, it is not like we had a bunch of songs written. We didn’t have any. I had found a couple of outside songs, and I said, “Lets go into the studio and see what we sound like, the four of us.” We liked what we heard. We started collaborating with other writers, and we started writing our own songs. Over a period of two years, it all came together.
There is a picture on the CD sleeve that I think really is worth a thousand words.
PE: Is it the picture of us sitting in a circle?
That is the one.
PE: That picture really shows the essence of what this project is about. It is us, in a circle, trying to come up with something. It was a challenge because Steve and Kerry had always written everything. Now it was on our shoulders. We feel that we rose to the occasion and that it came out nicely.
Why start a whole new band? Why not make this a Kansas album?
PE: Steve chose not to write any songs and Kerry was going to, maybe, submit a new song or two. It was easier for us to just do this on our own, instead of forcing those guys into something they really didn’t want to do. Native Window was something that the four of us really wanted to do.
Steve has been very, very supportive. I went and sat in his house and told him what we were going to do, and he said, “I wish you the best, I really do.” It was that simple. There is no stress with Native Wind