Leading up to our interview with Austin electronic-leaning rock band Knifight, I was given the impression by a couple of friends/co-conspiritors of the band that the group would either go all-out goofy on me or get surprisingly serious. Neither sounded entirely appealing, and when they were a comfortable mix of both, I was relieved. What was obvious was that the four-piece were genuinely interested in hanging out with one another - not finish-one-another's-sentences close, but clearly the guys are friends.
Knifight is working up to two big releases - an EP coming out in May called In The Fire featuring songs that will show up on their debut full-length Dark Voices. Consider Fire an appetizer to a big meal. On the 18th, they'll play the indoor room at Stubb's after M83 performs outside, and we spoke to the band, all four of them - lead singer John Gable, keys/sax player Patrick Marshall, John Hetherington on bass and keys, and guitarist Nick Garrison - about their formation, the importance of a "beat," and hear an amusing story about a 'stolen' guitar.
How do you go about deciding to be in an electronica/rock band? Seems like kind of a big commitment before you even start...getting a bunch of keyboards up front and everything.
Patrick Marshall: The hardest thing is deciding how to translate it to a live setting. A lot of people do it and it's done, and they put it out and then all of a sudden it's like, "Shit, I have to play this live."
Any big missteps you guys have made learning how to play live?
Marshall: The toughest time we had was when we would bring our own mixer. We tried to run everything ourselves and not give the sound guy enough freedom to do what he was doing. We inadvertently made it sound really terrible.
Are there multiple songwriters in the band?
Marshall: Yeah, we all bring in different parts, and it develops as we share ideas.
John Hetherington: Before Knifight we were all kinda singer/songwriters in our own way, so it's kind of a weird dynamic - Knifight to me is like a certain taste in music, and whenever I write a Knifight song, it's informed by that particular taste in electronic music. It just has a certain feel to it.
Marshall: It really helps that we all have such a deep variation in our backgrounds, musically, and what influences we have. We have pretty strikingly different influences, and sometimes they cross over, but it makes an eclectic mix for us.
You seem unusually flexible to be able to write together without a lot of headbutting.
John Gable: There's some headbutting...healthy.
Hetherington: I've seen way worse.
Marshall: If something turns into an argument we usually break and then reconvene over gelato or something.
Gable: Um, I'm lactose intolerant...does this mean you've been meeting without me and eating gelato?
Do you hang out with all of the other Darkwave musicians in Austin? Do you meet at Switched On and hang out?
Marshall: Oh, we'd love to. But we're not as involved in the vintage-synth type community. We just don't have the means...but we hang out with other electronica bands, A Sky Jet Black, Art Institute from Houston...bands like that.
But you do see a scene?
Marshall: Absolutely, yeah.
What is something that seems to happen when you come together to play or write - is there one particular artist that you come to, or a style?
Gable: No. We just write the songs...we might do something, or I'll be influenced by something. One of our songs was pretty heavily influenced by the song "Forest" by the Cure and I went home and tried not to completely rip off the beat from that song.
Marshall: Sometimes he and I will come up with a vocal harmony, and it just happens where it's like, "Oh man, that's pretty Duran Duran." Something that is binding, and is the most primal part of the song, is the beat. And we're pretty good about making songs where that one beat is the signature of the song, and we combine over that.
Hetherington: Our parts are less from the brain, I think, and more from the fingers. As lame as it is to say, it grooves.
Gable: I'd like to say the heart, and not the fingers. (laughs)
I heard from you guys there's a story behind the name?
Gable: Some friends and I were at a show at a Christian venue, and one of the guys said that there aren't enough knife fights at Christian shows.
And can you tell me the story of the "stolen" guitar?
Gable: Nick almost stole a guitar on accident.
Garrison: In my defense, the case that guitar was in looked exactly like our bass case...
Gable: Bass case? You're a bass case.
Garrison: ...I grabbed what I thought was John's bass, thinking I was being helpful and not starting shit with people we didn't know. I put the guitar in the car and just left and went on my merry way.
Gable: He left us to have to deal with these kids accusing us of stealing their shit.
Marshall: This was at the Rock the Republic festival in Bryan, on the second story of a bar with no elevator, and there's this giant staircase.
Gable: We just played to like three people at a fuckin' douche Irish pub place in fuckin' Bryan, Texas, and we were just wanting to go home.
Marshall: These kids come barreling down the stairs like, yelling at us.
Hetherington: They took it really personally, too.
Garrison: We still have the guitar. We never gave it back. (laughs)