By SARAH ELSON, UW News Lab
“We’re Kithkin! We hail from the kingdom of Cascadia, and you’re our people!” screamed Kelton Sears as he pulled on a sparkly blue mask. The band member wore the mask for only one song, but even without costumes Sears and the rest of the band were absolutely animal-like as they thrashed around the stage during their set at Seattle Weekly’s Reverb Local Music Festival last Saturday in Ballard.
Kithkin was one of 50 local bands that played the event, which was held on nine stages in the Ballard Avenue area. Their set at the Salmon Bay Eagles Lodge, an old, wooden building with creaky floors and popcorn ceilings, drew an impressive crowd. The room was packed with flannel-clad hipsters who happened to be walking by and as well as other fans who came specifically to see them.
Comprised of Seattle University seniors Sears, Ian McCutcheon, Bob Martin and Alex Barr, the tribal rock group has become one of the most buzzed about local bands since they released their first EP, Takers and Leavers, in January. They’re currently working on their first full-length album, which they say will be released sometime next year.
“I’ve never seen them before, and I liked them,” said Adam Mackinnon after watching the show. “My friend told me I should check them out, so I got a beer and went up there. It was really cool, very energetic.”
Energetic is putting it mildly. The guys went wild as they pounded through songs from Takers and Leavers, keeping up their crazy antics and mildly frightening facial expressions through the whole set. Drummer and vocalist McCutcheon spent most of the set running through the crowd, his blue cape flying out behind him. Before the last song an out-of-breath and very sweaty Sears asked the crowd, “All right, who wants to percuss?” He then tossed several maracas into the audience so they could join in, creating a hippie drum circle gone wild.
As their online biography notes, Kithkin combines hyper-rhythmic tribal drumming with shouty, back-and forth-vocals. The result is indie world rock music that is delightfully chaotic and uninhibited. Takers and Leavers is percussion-heavy, but the full-length album promises to be even more rhythm-dominated and have a hip-hop feel.
“We’re really percussionists,” McCutcheon said. “We all play drums. And we wanted to strip down the percussion and make it even more bare-bones so people can tap along. So in that way it’s a lot like hip hop where it’s kind of simpler, heavier beats.”
As for the inspiration behind their music, McCutcheon said it’s 90 percent trees.
“Trees and the animals that inhabit them,” Sears said. “Including us.”
(SARAH ELSON is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)