File Under This: A Don't-Miss CD Release Party for the Ken Kase Group!
J. Gordon
7/18/2008 1:55:21 PM

The Ken Kase Group has quite a legacy, both in St. Louis and throughout the Midwest. The KKG has come full circle in terms of band members, with family members and connections with bands such as the Groupers, Sun Sawed in ½, and the Civiltones. Clubbing around St. Louis, Chicago, Memphis, Milwaukee and Kansas City, front man Ken Kase says “we worked three or four nights a week in St. Louis. It didn't matter what kind of gig it was. We played originals, but we would play a bunch of covers if it was a three- or four-hour bar gig, because you could make money that way.”

The KKG got a lot of radio back in the mid-90s--which was weird, even then, says Ken. “It would be virtually impossible now to get the amount of commercial airtime that we did back then. We did well and it was fun. After three years, I needed to move on and do some other things. We had gotten as far as we could. [The band] goes back to 1995, which is thirteen years ago. It was a tight band, and that's where it all started.

Still tight today, KKG is getting ready to release, “Shiner,” its first single in eight years.

“There are three songs on the disc, and "Shiner" is the lead-off cut,” says Ken. “Shiner,” and another song, “File Under This” both saw their genesis around 2002 and 2003, but weren’t finished until this past year. Ken Kase’s music has always been very clever with implied, alternate meanings, and "Shiner" may be one of the best examples of this. The audience is captured by this happy, bouncy thing and yet, at the end, it turns dark with the realization that there's another meaning to "shiner"--the black eye!

"’Shiner’ is a song about friendship and encouraging someone when they're not feeling one hundred percent about themselves and reminding that person that they actually have a lot of value,” says Ken. “The black eye metaphor worked well, because essentially what the song says is that you're going to have to go through a lot of stuff, a lot of unpleasant things, but ultimately you have the staying power to endure.

“I wrote that for a very dear friend of mine, but I realized after awhile that I was writing it about and to myself in order to get the confidence back to make music again. I don't know if there's any rationale behind the imagery or the phrasing. It's always just been stuff I wrote. I always just naturally gravitated towards that, whatever "that" is.” [View the video for "Shiner", directed by Todd Mattson.

The musical confidence had taken a hit, Ken explains, during a tumultuous period that included a divorce, changes in the band members, changes in the regional club scenes, and the return to school for a bachelor’s and master’s degree in communication.

“I was fortunate to be able to come back, and it's been a long hard road to get there. And a lot of that stuff is like anybody else--it's just personal stuff that's not very exciting to listen to. But there was a period of five or six years when I had to make a lot of changes, and now that I've made those changes I feel a lot better and here we are!”

Additionally, the ‘single’ includes "Chocolatown," a rocking, stomping, gritty, blues-infused number, documenting true tales of band adventures in the Windy City. Featuring local celebrity, Tom "Papa" Ray from Vintage Vinyl doing a nice piece on the harp, “The song has a kind of bluesy sound to it, and a lot of great blues records feature disasters, and train disasters specifically, so that seemed to fit,” says Kase.

“He did a great job on the harp. I wrote that song very quickly. If the two other songs on the disc had five or six years to gestate, that one didn't. I wrote it about a week after I got back from playing in Chicago in April and I recorded it in my girlfriend's bedroom on my laptop. There were no other Ken Kase Group members. I just had to get this song out. I thought I was just doing a demo, but when Kate and I listened to the tracks, it was like, ‘Wow! This is really hotter than hell somethin',’ I didn't think I could do that performance again. I couldn't take it to the band and say, ‘We need to do this!’ And even they said, ‘Well, that's pretty much the performance there, isn't it?’ So I was really happy with it and I got the idea of asking Tom, [who co-owns] Vintage Vinyl and he's a DJ on KDHX--the "Soul Selector". He plays all those great R&B records and a friend of mine. I asked him if he'd like to do it and he said yes. So I took my computer and my mobile recording gear right to the Vintage Vinyl offices and recorded him doing the harp solo right there at lunchtime. It came out pretty good. I'm really happy to have Tom on there. He did a great job, and I could just hear somebody playing a hotter-than-hell blues harp on there, and what he played pretty much jived with what I heard in my head.”

The third song, "File Under This" is bitterly fun--a little bit of an F.U. to people who wanted Ken to buckle down and "get a real job."

“Yeah. I think vitriol with the right trajectory can be fun and thrilling. I was very conscious of the fact the song is about being an indie musician. People are always asking, ‘What kind of music is it? What does it sound like? Does it sound like something I know?’ People are very well-meaning when they ask these things, but they don't realize that when you're me, you have to hear that all the time.

“I don't have a ready-made answer for what kind of music I play. When people ask you that question, it's a very innocent thing because they're really interested and they really want to know. But it's also the same question that the music industry asks because they're trying to put you in a box. It doesn't feel very nice to be put in a box, and it feels even less nice to put yourself in a box. It's a question I try to avoid, and I always say, ‘Why don't you listen to it yourself and make your own decision about what it is?”

The Ken Kase Group CD release party is at Cicero's in University City on Saturday, July 19th at 10 PM. Don’t miss it.


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