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Kitchen Dwellers stand by their eclectic jam, with influences as vast as The Band to Pink Floyd

The Montana outfit Kitchen Dwellers release the new album, 'Wise River,' produced by rhythm guitar ace and production wizard Cory Ward.

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By Ray Chelstowski

I first got looped into the remarkable talents of Kitchen Dwellers with their 2018 EP Reheated, Volume 1. There, across four tracks, this quartet from Montana delivered one of the most inspiring takes on some of The Band’s best tier two hits. This may sound like exaggeration but I let those four tracks run through about a dozen full cycles before someone told me to move on to something different. This band understands better than most the music they tackle and the spirit it’s intended to convey. That has helped fuel a following that turns to them to bring forward a sound that’s not only unique but that rings with an individuality that makes them impossible to define. That’s perhaps best represented by Reheated Volume 1’s follow-up that wraps its arms around three songs by Pink Floyd and demonstrates the acoustic dexterity that these songs inherently possess. Kitchen Dwellers (Shawn Swain, Torrin Daniels, Joe Funk and Max Davies) bring a fresh approach and sense of curiosity about the possibility of where things we call “common” can commute.

Kitchen Dwellers, L-R: Shawn Swain, Max Davies, Torrin Daniels, Joe Funk. Photo: KD PR

Kitchen Dwellers, L-R: Shawn Swain, Max Davies, Torrin Daniels, Joe Funk. Photo: KD PR

Appreciation for the band only grows when you have the opportunity to speak with guitarist Max Davies. The delight the band has in creating music is evident in both their studio and live material and Max finds a way of describing their collective approach that shows how big a team effort this output truly is.

They’ve just released a new album, Wise River. It was recorded at Creation Studio in Minneapolis, home to big record releases (Taylor Swift, Steve Miller, etc.) and produced by rhythm guitar ace and production wizard Cory Ward. There they celebrate what might be their most personal expression of “home” to date. On the heels of this release they had the opportunity to open for the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir and John Mayer in Montana and are about to launch a fall tour that finds them canvassing the country. Goldmine caught up with Davies and covered the new record, the role that the state of Montana plays in their creative process, and where they are headed when the tour ends.

Kitchen Dwellers, "Wise River" 

Kitchen Dwellers, "Wise River" 

Goldmine: How do you think the state Montana influences your sound?

Max Davies: I think that the arrangement of the instrumentation reflects that. We’re an acoustic band but on this last record we did add a lot of extra instruments. But what we really do love is just crafting a song and when it comes to Montana a lot of the people who have come from here are cowboys and we sing to the state’s history and the heritage of that cowboy. The place affects our songwriting because we talk about its people and the environment here. Every part of the state holds a special place in people’s hearts.

GM: What is the songwriting process like then for you? Does it begin with a story, or lyrics?

MD: Every member of the band writes songs, which I think is really cool, and they each have their own method. So when anyone brings a song forward it will eventually get “the band treatment.” What typically happens is someone will arrive with chords and lyrics and we together just dive deeply into it. I’m much more of a musical person so I try to create the music first and then put some words to it. Swain is very lyrically oriented and he usually writes some really powerful words and we together put chords to it. It really depends on the person and the song.

GM: The new record is labeled by Apple as “Country.” Muir Maid is called “Alternative Folk.” How do you describe your music?

MD: I think it’s something that can only be created by the four of us. Everyone brings such a different element to it. For example, Torrin taught himself how to play banjo and so he doesn’t play the instrument in the traditional way. We have elements of punk. We also have the “country story teller” vibe. Lastly, we provide really percussive, rhythmic textures in our sound. So I would call it “indie acoustic folk”? Some people call it “Galaxy Grass” because of the extended improvisation that we do live. I don’t’ know.

GM: When do you decide whether a record is going to lean more toward “Bluegrass”? Does that happen before you enter the studio or when you are cutting tracks?

MD: A little bit of both. Whenever someone brings forward a new song or we are talking about new music we talk quite a bit about what kind of theme or vibe we will be going after, as in will this be a harder-driving bluegrass song, or a slower songwriter song? We have also had songs start out as slow bluegrass music and they then turn into acoustic rock. That comes often from playing the song multiple times, playing with the rhythm and seeing things just change. We’ve always tried to get better at bluegrass because that’s where we started and I think that’s why we do so many songs in that genre. But we also are just exploring what we can do as a group. So the goal is to be playing blue grass and letting it do what it inevitably does, which is ultimately come out as something slightly different.

GM: Cory Wong produced the record. What was it that made him feel like the right choice for this project?

MD: Cory has his hands in so many different things and he is just a powerhouse in the world of production. In the past we’ve recorded albums with so many people who have spent their time touring and on the road. This time around we wanted to work with someone who has spent a lot of time in the studio. We sent him a bunch of songs that were already cut down from a longer list and he went through them and cut them back further which is what you want. You need someone who can whittle down what you are trying to say into a highly condensed version. Cory is just very true to that process.

GM: Is this the first time you have recorded in Minneapolis at Creation Studios?

MD: Yes, this was our first time. We were super excited about working there because it was Cory’s recommendation. Given the history of Creation and all of the awesome records that have come out of the studio and the bands that continue to work there it was really special and we knocked it all out in just four days. Though, if I had had my choice we would have spent two weeks there. It just really comes down to how long you can have the studio and have Cory. With every record I think we’ve always wanted just a little more and that’s one of the things Cory was really great at. He kept us very on task.

GM: When do you know when its right to bring another instrument into the mix?

MD: Going into the studio we already knew that there were a few songs where we wanted to add a few instruments. We recorded all of the tracks and then left a little room here and there to add some pedal steel, or double up the melody with some piano. So after the fact we had some people come in like Kevin Gastonguay who plays in Cory’s band and he recorded a bunch of piano and organ for us. We also had someone record some drums on a track. And lastly there was some production stuff that we added for texture.

GM: You just opened for Bob Weir and John Mayer. How did that come about?

MD: That was special. It was just outside of our home town at this place called Pine Creek Lodge. It happens to be right next to John Mayer’s house. We had really bad flooding earlier this summer and many of the roads that take you into Yellowstone were wiped out. So they closed the north entrance of the national park and that impacted a lot of local businesses; that’s their bread and butter because they make all of their money in the summer months. So John did something super awesome by setting up three benefit shows, all at Pine Creek. Only about a thousand people were able to go to those shows so he was able to raise a bunch of money for the town. We’re really good friends with the owner of Pine Creek and he was charged with booking openers and picked us to do the first one. It was just a special and very cool night.

GM: The Reheated EP sessions first offered your take on some songs by The Band, which is a “natural” for you guys. The second session tackles a few classic Pink Floyd tracks. It’s very ambitious and creative. How did you decide on that kind of follow-up?

MD: One of the things that I really love about our band is that everyone lends an open ear to each other’s different musical tastes. Pink Floyd was my favorite band for such a long time. So since we like to do things that live just outside of the box we started to do these “Reheated” sessions. We didn’t want to do their best-known songs, but “Welcome to the Machine” is one that I’ve always wanted to do because at its core it’s an acoustic song. They of course add so much extra to it, but I knew that it would be such a cool song to interpret and because we all have effects that can help capture a little of what they were doing.

Kitchen Dwellers. Photo: KD PR

Kitchen Dwellers. Photo: KD PR

GM: You are about to head back out on tour, kicking things off at Red Rocks. What’s next after the tour ends?

MD: Believe it or not we are talking about getting back in the studio and doing another record. We have a really big fall planned with a lot of dates in the midwest. We are also starting to plan out our festivals and a spring run. But the big thing is figuring out how we make another record together as soon as we can.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Date Venue Location Opener

SEP 17, 2022 Red Rocks Amphitheatre Morrison, CO NA

SEP 24, 2022 The Wilma Missoula, MT NA

SEP 30, 2022 - OCT 2, 2022 Hillberry: The Harvest Moon Eureka Springs, AR NA

OCT 5, 2022 Old Rock House St. Louis, MO Daniel Donato

OCT 6, 2022 Ludlow Garage Cincinnati, OH Daniel Donato

OCT 6, 2022 - OCT 9, 2022 The Moonshiner's Ball Livingston, KY NA

OCT 7, 2022 Beachland Ballroom Cleveland, OH Daniel Donato

OCT 8, 2022 - OCT 9, 2022 The Caverns Pelham, TN NA

OCT 11, 2022 Barley's Tap Room Knoxville, TN Daniel Donato

OCT 12, 2022 The Ramkat Winston-Salem, NC Daniel Donato

OCT 13, 2022 Salvage Station Asheville, NC Daniel Donato

OCT 13, 2022 - OCT 16, 2022 Suwannee Roots Festival Live Oak, FL NA

OCT 14, 2022 Terminal West Atlanta, GA Daniel Donato

OCT 18, 2022 Lincoln Theatre Raleigh, NC Daniel Donato

OCT 19, 2022 Southern Café and Music Hall Charlottesville, VA Daniel Donato

OCT 20, 2022 5 Points Music Sanctuary Roanoke, VA Daniel Donato

OCT 21, 2022 The Ardmore Music Hall Ardmore, PA Daniel Donato

OCT 22, 2022 Union Craft Brewing Baltimore, MD Daniel Donato

OCT 23, 2022 Park City Music Hall Bridgeport, CT Daniel Donato

OCT 26, 2022 Higher Ground South Burlington, VT Daniel Donato

OCT 27, 2022 The Sinclair Cambridge, MA Daniel Donato

OCT 28, 2022 State Theatre Portland, ME Daniel Donato

OCT 29, 2022 Putnam Place Saratoga Springs, NY Daniel Donato

OCT 31, 2022 Woodlands Tavern Columbus, OH Daniel Donato

NOV 2, 2022 Kenny's Westside Pub Peoria, IL Daniel Donato

NOV 3, 2022 The Stache at The Intersection Grand Rapids, MI Daniel Donato

NOV 4, 2022 High Noon Saloon Madison, WI Daniel Donato

NOV 5, 2022 Turf Club St Paul, MN Daniel Donato

DEC 7, 2022 - DEC 11, 2022 Strings & Sol Puerto Morelos, Q.R. NA

DEC 30, 2022 The Commonwealth Room Salt Lake City, UT NA

DEC 31, 2022 The Commonwealth Room Salt Lake City, UT NA