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Knife the Symphony (Profile)

Opportunities and rewards have been plentiful for Post Hardcore trio

By Brian Baker · September 8th, 2009 · Locals Only
Three is an important number for Knife the Symphony. The Post Hardcore band’s three members — guitarist Jeff Albers (ex-Ampline), bassist Robyn Roth, drummer Jerry Dirr (both ex-Theraphosa) — assembled three years ago and are currently preparing to release their third album, the visceral yet nuanced Dead Tongues.

“The idea of marketing and making sure you look a certain way and reach a plateau of press has infiltrated the underground until bands like us are an anomaly,” says Dirr, owner/operator of Phratry Records, home to KTS and a growing roster of like-minded bands. “The idea that we’ve done three records in three years or the idea that we’re playing shows and not strategically saying, ‘We need to do this or that,’ all the people we grew up listening to did that and were inadvertently setting the standard for what we’re doing, and that standard is be yourself and just do it.”

The past three years have been a relative whirlwind for KTS. The trio has managed to play upwards of 150 local/regional shows to date while maintaining day jobs and outside activities (including Dirr’s label responsibilities and Roth’s gorgeous artwork, suitable for framing or toeflips; she paints exquisite images on paper, skateboard decks and skin). As far as the band members are concerned, these shows and the attendant opportunities to meet bands and fans from a variety of scenes have provided the most satisfaction, including their recent booking and promoting of a show with ex-fIREHOSE singer ed fROMOHIO.

“You listen to these guys when you’re young and then you’re drinking a beer and hanging out with them,” Albers says. “I’ve met more people through this band than in the 15 to 16 years I’ve been doing this.”

As relentless as Knife the Symphony has been in writing, recording and touring during the past three years, the trio engages in little or no proactive planning to achieve results.

The band prefers a more organic approach to all facets of its work.

“It’s whatever comes out, just throw an idea together and see where it takes us,” Albers says. “I don’t think we’ve ever consciously planned out a song.”

“Nothing we’ve ever done has been the result of planning,” Dirr concurs.

Dead Tongues didn’t evolve differently from the band’s previous releases (2007’s eponymous debut, 2008’s Crawler). The band notes that the new one, still influenced by the Dischord/Touch & Go Indie/Punk/Hardcore scene of the ’80s and ’90s, could be seen as a blend of the first two. That doesn’t mean that KTS takes the process for granted after three years together.

“I’ve always been surprised at how quickly we’ve written songs, sometimes all in one sitting, from beginning to end, with the exception of vocals,” Dirr says. “There’s not a whole lot of screwing around.”

“We just spontaneously … I don’t like to say the word ‘jam’ … play,” Roth says. “And then we’ll hit this part that we all like and it goes from there. And when we write something we like, we want to play it and we’re excited to finish it and make it happen.”

The single most important aspect to Knife the Symphony’s success is the fact that all three members share a vigorous work ethic and are driven to move forward in all phases of their creative lives.

“We’re so busy that for us to sit on a song for weeks at a time just doesn’t jive with what we’re doing,” Dirr says. “It seems like we’re constantly playing shows or we’re out of town or we’re in the studio. In three years, I think we’ve done more than a lot of bands do in twice that time.”

Part of that drive may cycle back to the one conscious decision made when they coalesced in 2006. All longtime veterans of the Cincinnati music scene, the members felt like their ages might prohibit them from continuing indefinitely, so they made a pact at the very start.

“We made a conscious agreement that our time is limited, so let’s just do this now,” Albers says. “We made that conscious effort but subconsciously it still goes. Even though we don’t talk or think about it, it’s how we approach things. We just try to keep the ball rolling and the momentum going and see where it takes us.”

KNIFE THE SYMPHONY (www.knifethesymphony.com) celebrates the release of its new album, Dead Tongues, at 9 p.m. Friday at Bikehaus in Over-the-Rhine. The $5 cover also gets you a CD, which can be exchanged for a vinyl version (containing bonus material and a CD version) for an additional $5. The Read, Swear Jar and Antilles also perform at the all-ages event. Get event and venue details here.



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