Kangaroo Knife Fight, a soulful Kansas City-based indie rock band, will grace the Crossroads KC stage twice this summer. They are playing Middle of the Map Fest May 6th and the Spirit of KC Fest August 12th. Kangaroo Knife Fight is Antony Avis (vocals), Brandon Skeens (guitar), Ian O’Connell (drums), and Gus Rechtien (bass, backup vocals). The band recently discussed how Kangaroo Knife Fight came together, why they love the Kansas City music scene and advice to musicians just starting out.
What was your earliest musical memory?
Gus – I grew up on a farm so records were my only escape. I was probably 7 or 8 and I ordered the U2 War record from the record store because I read about them in a magazine. It took over a month to come. I think they had to ship it from Ireland or something. I listened to it over and over after school every day and started at them standing in the snow on the inside cover.
Ian – When I was five I really wanted a drum set, so my parents got me one. I balled because it was an electric Mickey Mouse drum pad and I wanted a real drum set. I finally got one and took out my revenge.
Brandon – I had this record player as a kid that had Michael Jackson’s Thriller cover inside the lid. I remember popping that thing open and pining thru my Mom’s records.
Anthony – My earliest memory is probably back when I was 10, listening to Highway to Hell with my Dad.
What was the first album you bought?
Ian – Dr. Feelgood.
Brandon – Guns ‘N Roses Appetite for Destruction.
Anthony – Boys II Men.
Gus – Since I already gave you U2, I’d say Michael Jackson’s Thriller was probably not far behind.
How did Kangaroo Knife Fight first get started?
Brandon – Gus had come to me for guitar lessons, he was playing guitar in Little Rosco and was looking to improve his chops a bit. He asked if I could join them for what turned out to be their final show. We kept on working on music together and started looking for a singer to round out the project.
Anthony – On a reply from Ian, our drummer, to a craigslist ad from 9,000 miles away.
Gus – Essentially Little Rosco had come to an end due to a lack of coherence in direction and objectives. I asked Ian if he was cool with bringing my guitar instructor in. In my mind it would put 3 very experienced players together and in a position to pull a solid singer. We started writing some stuff that was pretty heavy on the rock side of the spectrum while we were searching. Kansas City singers auditioned, but no one really blew us away. There were a couple in Austin I was talking with when Anthony came into the picture. He seemed like a very unlikely long shot, but he had the pipes. As discussions fired up, he advised that he was married and she was from Kansas City originally. That was the game changer. It took a really long time, like 6 or 8 months for him to get here. We actually gave up on him coming. Then one day he just called and he was here. We’ve been jamming ever since.
How did the song “Sky Falls” come together?
“Sky Falls” was born out of all of us jamming in a room and forming a structure once a grove was established. Musically it was a group effort that came together quite quickly. Lyrically, there were infinite rewrites of the song. To some degree it was always about partying and burning the candle at both ends. Anthony once described it as the “antecedent to “Shattered Head.” It’s the party.”
What do you enjoy most about the music scene in Kansas City?
Ian – That there are so many good bands that all respect each other.
Brandon – How many great bands we have in town and how all the musicians work together to build a great community for all.
Anthony – Having the opportunity to play amongst great local, national and international acts.
Gus – The music community here is strong and really fun to know if you take the time to get involved the people in it. For me the “music scene in Kansas City” is the people that keep the music alive. I agree with my mates that the bands are great, but we are nothing without the local promoters, music foundations, radio, TV, bar managers, talent buyers, papers, bloggers and people that come to the shows. This seemingly random group effort of so many variables is what makes the music scene here so great.
Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
Absolutely. “It’s all about the song.” We prioritize songwriting as the primary objective. If it sounds good, get back to work! Our countermeasure is a belief in setting deadlines. This results in occasional sacrifices being made for the sake of progress, but they are calculated sacrifices. Anthony also strives to live everyday like he’s on vacation. Whatever. We are working on that.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Ian – Getting dropped from the record company in my previous band. Brandon – I think, for a lot of us musicians, the biggest challenge to overcome is that tiny voice of doubt in your head.
Anthony – Finding musicians that are willing to commit to the long journey towards super stardom!
Gus – Writing the undeniably GREAT song. That’s the real challenge. Connections and financing to get the song out there will, I believe, follow if you have such a song so even though those seem like big challenges, I think the song is the real challenge.
What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
Anthony – Always hold gratitude for the ones who have helped or supported you along the way! Because it’s all about the fans you have and it always will be!
Ian – Practice, practice, practice and if you’re a drummer, hit me hard. Brandon – Put the work in. The music industry isn’t easy, so set yourself up for success by holding up your end of the musical bargain. If you’re good at what you do, someone is going to notice.
Gus – Dang! The world has changed since I was just starting out, but master your instrument whatever it is, surround yourself with people that are better than you so you have to get better and network hard or put yourself in a position where people have to network with you (example – concert writer, talent buyer for school, etc). Contacts are extremely important, especially when you don’t have the break out song yet.