By Bella Savignano | May 17, 2022
Montana-based bluegrass-meets-psychedelia-meets-folk band, Kitchen Dwellers, is cookin’ up something good. The group describes their music as “galaxy grass,” which doesn’t tell you that much, but the vast ambiguity of the term might be as fitting as it gets–it’s hard to put a solid classification on their sound. Their third studio album, Wise River, came out in April 2022, and it’s chock-full of twang, warmth, and bona fide outlaw spirit. Kitchen Dwellers have staunchly emphasized, however, that it isn’t a bluegrass album. Their mandolin player Shawn Swain stated in an interview with Americana Highways that the album was approached with a “classic rock mentality.” Discovering what this album truly is requires a deeper dive into its tracklist.
The album opens with the title track, “Wise River.” The song is written in dedication to the Montana mining town, referencing the wild west cowboys and ghosts of coal mines past who take up residence there. It has a definitive country leaning yet cinematic quality–if you close your eyes, you can almost materialize an outlaw riding through a sepia-toned desert on a horse, kicking up dust as he gallops along. “Drowning (… Again)” embodies the classic rock lens that the band wrote the album through. The verses maintain the twangy Western energy, but the chorus runs much more rock ‘n’ roll with starts and stops and long, stirring vocal runs. “Stand At Ease” is lush, sunny, and anthemic, the kind of song you might play driving down the freeway with the windows down. “What It Takes” is a laidback ballad with a rockabilly leaning and bluesy piano runs. The 10-track record closes with “Their Names Are The Trees,” a sturdy, classic Kitchen Dwellers track (if a definitive sound can even be pinned down) featuring banjo player and vocalist Torrin Daniels’ expressive growl.
The album is a metaphorical pin on the expansive map of Kitchen Dweller’s varying style. They adventure down every path, sometimes even forging their own trails. Without ever going to one of their shows, you might be less convinced of their aural diversity, but live, they’re really a jam band with a propensity for the instruments of Southern and Western America. The proof is in the fanbase– their show at Mercury Lounge in May pulled a spectrum of listeners, many donning tie dye Dead and Company or Phish tee shirts. Elements of psychedelia, folk, rock, bluegrass, and blues are sprinkled throughout their discography and come through clearly, so long as you can overcome the impulse to pigeonhole string instruments into their historically narrow classification.
Kitchen Dwellers embody the spirit of the West, leaning into its mysticism and heritage while also making music that feels tangible and resonant with all listeners, regardless of their locale.
Kitchen Dwellers also answered a few questions for the groovement:
What was your first concert?
Paul McCartney at the United Center in Chicago.
Where are you from?
The band was formed in Bozeman, Montana while we were attending Montana State University.
How did you first get started?
[Torrin and Shawn] met in one of their first college classes and decided to start a band together. After playing open mic nights around town, we started to play bar gigs and grew from there.
How would you describe your music – either by genre or general vibe
We are a string band who utilizes effects. We are generally high energy with some slower numbers mixed in. On any given night, somebody will hear traditional bluegrass and folk to psychedelia and punk rock. We have a lot of influences.
Who/what do you draw inspiration from?
We draw a lot of inspiration from all the other amazing bands that are out touring right now. There’s a strong folk/bluegrass scene currently, and we are just one thread in the fabric. We also draw inspiration from the music that we were turned onto when we were younger. If we are in a certain city, we will draw upon their history and incorporate that, whether it’s Kentucky bluegrass or Seattle grunge.
Who do you hope to inspire?
We had a 6-year-old come to soundcheck recently who learned songs off our latest album. That is the coolest thing ever. If we can inspire a younger person to pick up an instrument, that makes us happy. Our music deals with a lot of mental health and well-being, so if we can have a positive impact in that realm, we hope we can be a voice for that.
What’s your dream venue to perform at?
The Greek theater in Berkeley, CA or Jazz Fest in New Orleans. We played Red Rocks in 2019 and are so fortunate to be playing again this September.
What’s your favorite city to tour?
New York is at the top of the list. Honorable mentions include; Portland, Maine / Austin, Texas / Denver, Colorado / Madison, Wisconsin.
Describe your most memorable night out in NY?
We stop for pizza every time. New York is so unique, there really is nothing like it. The people and the diversity. One of our most memorable nights was getting attacked by a pack of rats on our very first trip there.
Connect with Kitchen Dwellers on Instagram, Spotify, Youtube and their website.
📸: shot by Rachel Rodriguez