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Locals Only: : Fifths and Knifs

Whiskey, lifelong bond inform The Pernicious Knifs

By Sara Yaste · November 21st, 2006 · Locals Only
  The Pernicious Knifs

The Pernicious Knifs

Brothers, some by birth and some by association stick together in this fair city. In the Pernicious Knifs' case, these guys have known each other their entire lives. They've reached a state of near telepathy -- they know exactly which brand of whiskey to bring to the table.

Tonight, that table seats a couple of Porters between a couple of brothers, guitarists Max and Seth Bender. They watch the crowd roll in as drummer Andrew Jody beckons them from the doorway. A nearby friend giggles, imagining Jody with wands, waving planes down the runway.

Bassist Jesse Ebaugh (who also plays in Pearlene with Jody) is off somewhere, making peace with his stand-up.

And so this is how the boys go, rumbling around the city late into the evening. Their music is hard and their drinks harder. A bit of psychedelic twinge meddles somewhere in the middle, like a kid brother tugging on a sleeve. The music itself placates a drop-swagger, bombastic touch, reminiscent of Ultra Vivid Scene.

Their name means they're evil dicks, yet their love for each other belies the strident front.

"We've spent a lot of time together, even outside of music," Ebaugh explains.

Seth gets up to buy everyone another round. He returns, chuckling about sibling rivalry. "It gets a little personal sometimes," he says.

Jody cuts in. "We all drink, we all bicker, but it's just like an extended family."

The younger Bender brother, Max, compares their creation to the abstract technique of throwing paint at a wall. His big brother Seth builds the foundation; the rest of the pieces fall into place.

"He comes with a sketch, and then we finish the painting," Jody explains.

They claim they're just winging it, feeling it as they go, but their musical backgrounds don't hurt. Max and Seth's father, John Bender, has played in solo projects since the '80s. Although originally trained as a drummer, he learned the secrets of everything from synthesizers to concertinas.

The elder Bender says he taught his sons everything they know, but modestly does not claim total responsibility. He knows that each brother contributes to music differently. Max is classically trained, but Seth is a songwriter.

"Max can pull it off because someone wants him to do it, but Seth is much more in the context of the music," Mr. Bender says.

At age 5, Max started playing violin with the Suzuki Program at Sands Montessori. Ten years later, he scored a record deal with Albuquerque-based label Pelado, while playing bass in the Chemo Kids.

Meanwhile, Seth played with the punkadelic band Marzipan in San Francisco. But Ohio's long arm brought him back to Cincinnati. He soon joined up with guitarist John "Slow Fingers" Blackburn, as well as his kid brother on bass. Max was also touring with Thee Shams, so sometimes Ebaugh would fill in. Local legend Jody rounded out the rhythm section. Together, they would quench their kaleidoscopic fix as The Pernicious Knifs.

Despite Blackburn's eventual departure for the Windy City, he still made his mark on the Knifs' self-titled debut. The album will be released on local label Record Sluts. It is due in December.

For now, they gear up to practice at the Covington Lodge. The brothers argue about typical band stuff. The liquor store across the street beams "whiskey" into their window. But now their lineup is solid; they can all breathe again. For them, the camaraderie provides more than music.

THE PERNICIOUS KNIFS (perniciousknifs.com) play a double-header Friday. They take over Covington's Rumble Records at 6 p.m. before trekking to the Northside Tavern for another free show that night.


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