LA Band The Knitts Are Ones To Follow


THE KNITTS play The Hi Hat Feb. 15 photo: Hadas

The Knitts are a tightly-woven band of three brothers and two of their childhood buds. Their music, oscillating between genres like garage-rock and post-punk, with influences from Blur to Sabbath and beyond, is less close-knit, but just as wonderful. Catch them at The Hi Hat in Los Angeles on Feb. 15.

With a new EP, Simple Folk due out this week, and a full album later in the year, The Knitts are in the midst of a magical time for any band, a metastasis where excitement and exuberant innocence are still mostly intact. This was frontman Justin Volkens’ first phone-interview, not apparent in his thoughtful answers, but in his easy laugh, palpable passion for all things music, and a doting love for his band. It’s this essence The Knitts wanted to capture on record before they lose it.

“The album is mostly songs we wrote about four or five years ago. We have at least enough material to fill four records, but this is the one we really want out. I think you have to maintain an adolescence. That learning curve. Writing music without it being a job yet. There’s an innocence to it from when nobody else was involved.

“We didn’t want any songs to fall under the radar because we know they’re good and people do enjoy them. Even though we’re sick of playing them live already [laughs], we always try and remember that when we first wrote it, how good did we think that song was? And the album speaks to that. I mean, you have someone like Lorde who wrote an album where she’s talking about not knowing what a diamond looks like, and now she has to write a follow up record? What the hell is that going to be about?!”

Do they fit neatly in a genre-descriptive box? No. Have people asked them to change their name (which, across the Atlantic means head-lice)? Yes. At any point in the near future are they willing to kowtow to the big bad music suits? Definitely not.

“The more attention you get, the more people are invested and feel sort of entitled to the process. When someone comes in with three years of us already working the circuit and tries to get us to change things, it’s like, ‘No. This is the identity.’

“I’ve seen a lot of bands change their name. All of a sudden, the venues they want to play don’t remember who they are. Our name is fitting for us. My brother Charlie worked at The Knitting Factory for years before it closed down. We were the kids who hung out there, so The Knitts, it sort of stuck. Not everybody can start off as Mookie Blaylock and still get to turn into Pearl Jam.”

The band intrinsically has the mentality of the San Fernando Valley that bred them. Fittingly, The Knitts have created a place in the LA music scene as unique as their homebase. Their mercurial music says, “this is who we are, this is what we do, if the rest of you guys don’t like it, we’re here anyways.”

“We all grew up listening to ska and punk, you know that San Fernando Valley scene, but we also each come from different genres of rock music. There’s metal fans between Charlie and Brandon, Victor is really old-school 70’s rock like Zeppelin, Sabbath, so it’s a vast array where each of us sort of found our footing and we all bring different styles to the band.

“We try to approach each song in a different format or structure. It’s frowned upon by most record execs. We don’t do the typical verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. It has to come organically. You try and allow the song to write itself, and if it doesn’t repeat that way, then so be it.”

This diversity keeps their music fresh, and is a testament to their studiousness. The Brit-rock slink of “Knives” sounds like it’s coming from a totally different band than the sunny fun of “Vamanos Mexico.”

“We’re music fans, we’re not just rock fans per se. I’ll listen to a hip-hop track and be like, ‘Ooh I like that structure,’ and I’ll try and incorporate that into what we’re doing. I just started listening to Os Mutantes, the Brazilian garage-rock band, and it’s like, ‘Oh dang! This is fantastic.’ We sort of study music as well as write it. We like to learn from it.”

This musical mixed bag can make live shows an interesting dilemma, but again, Volkens looks to the greats.

“The trickiest part for us about not really nailing down a genre is developing the set. Every now and then I like to watch Ziggy Stardust and Spiders From Mars, just to see how he (David Bowie) turns it into a performance instead of just a show. He can breakdown in the middle of the set and play “My Death” and then do like, a rock ’n roll instrumental next, so I’m looking to see, how is that so easily transitioned? We look at each show as a journey, and who wants to come along with it?”

As far as “making it” Volkens remains charmingly optimistic, citing LA as a land of competition, but also vast opportunity.

“There’s the negative part where there’s so many bands and it’s hard to get booked a certain night because there’s just no openings. But there’s also no shortage of people you could meet. You could meet anybody at any venue.

“We play The Sugar Mill in Reseda all the time. That’s like a Dave Grohl hotspot and Tenacious D warms up their set over there before they go out on tour.

“We always made sure to take any offer, even if that meant upsetting other venues. I still don’t think we’re allowed at The Troubadour because I think we owe them $800. They’re like, ‘Hey, sell these presale tickets’. So, we took ‘em and gave them all out for free [laughs].”

How very rock-n-roll.

The Knitts’ sophomore EP, Simple Folk arrives on store shelves on February 12 via Knitting Factory Records.

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