At the same time, the band has tweaked its approach, as Lynn set aside his guitar to concentrate on his frontman skills at the mic. This has allowed Glistovski to take up the guitar slack and become more inventive, which has subsequently tightened up the Ittle/Lambchop rhythm section.
“I play (guitar) on a few songs on the record, but the way we were writing, a lot of the mentality was what the song needs, not what we want,” Lynn says in the production studio of ClassX Radio, prior to our broadcast interview on Eddy Mullet’s Kindred Sanction local music program. “I might want to play guitar because it’s fun, but we don’t really need it; Rémi’s such a great guitarist. The performing energy on stage is an instrument, too. It’s just made us more creative.”
Another shift on Show Yr Teeth is The Kickaways’ decision to record outside of the area. America! America! was tracked by Cameron Cochran and released as a free download. For Show Yr Teeth, the band chose to make the trip to Benton Harbor, Mich., to work with Bill Skibbe and Jessica Ruffins at their Key Club Recording Company, where the likes of The Fiery Furnaces and The Kills have recorded.
“A good producer doesn’t tell (you) what not to do,” Lynn says. “They’re very encouraging and they trick you into doing something you don’t want to do and make you feel like it’s your idea. There’s a reason why (Skibbe and Ruffins) are so successful; they’re really great people, great storytellers and a joy to be around.”
“Maturity” is not a word that a young and boisterous Rock band typically wants to hear regarding its sophomore album, but it’s a fitting description of Show Yr Teeth.
America! America! was a perfect document of a Garage Rock band whose membership was largely under the legal drinking age at the time. On Show Yr Teeth, the quartet still careens from song to song with a swaggering, freewheeling energy, but they also sound more focused and deliberate in the process.
“We were in the early stages of being musicians with America! America! There are always things that influence you, but I think it was about … finding a sound we liked and making it our own,” Ittle says.
“We were show-offs when we first started. We were so young,” Lambchop says. “We liked shredding and doing as many fills and riffs and tempo changes as we could. All that stuff still happens but the motto we had for this album was ‘Less is more.’ It was, ‘Let’s find the one thing about this song that will stick in people’s heads and make it catchy and no more show-off stuff.’ ”
One of The Kickaways’ stated goals after America! America! was to have a serious road presence beyond the Greater Cincinnati area. After securing a Nashville, Tenn., booking agent, they were able to check that off their to-do list with a vengeance, spending the bulk of this past summer on a relatively relentless club circuit that took them all around the Midwest and as far north as New York.
“We didn’t have any air conditioning in the van,” Lynn says. “It’s a black van with black tinted windows. It was a hotbox.”
“We went all around for about four months straight,” Lambchop says with a weary laugh. “We just got done in July. We were about to kill each other. But there’s something about us every time we go out on the road, even if we play shitty shows. We’ll come home that weekend and go, ‘Even if it sucked, we just went on vacation with our three best friends.’ It’s different than just going to play a show in Cincinnati. It definitely brings us together.”
While expanded touring was a concrete goal, winning the 2011 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best Rock Band wasn’t necessarily on The Kickaways’ agenda. But it wound up being a nice dividend to all the attention paid to the release of America! America! Oddly enough, the band was also nominated for Best New Artist, but took home the CEA against their well-established competition (Buffalo Killers, Brian Olive, The Prohibitionists and The Greenhornes) in the Rock category instead of the newbie awards.
“It made our parents really proud,” Ittle says.
“It was a shock,” Lynn adds. “(The competition were) bands we listened to five years ago when we were in high school. It’s like playing a club where Black Rebel (Motorcycle Club)’s poster is still up on the wall … it’s one of those little stages where you don’t have heroes anymore. I think it’s an important stage when you take the posters off the wall. It was a verification.”
“We were on a definite high that night,” Lambchop says. “At the same time, we said, ‘We can’t let this get into our heads. We’re still where we are and it’s the next step.’ It looks good on the résumé.”
The Kickaways’ strategy this time out is to press copies of Show Yr Teeth, moving away from the free download model of their first album. As they prepare to release the album at their MPMF showcase this week, the members readily admit they haven’t thought a great deal about their expectations for the new album. They do feel like they’ll ultimately adhere to a slightly more traditional marketing path.
“We’ll self-release it,” Lambchop notes. “Over the course of the next year, we’ll try to shop it as much as possible and see what comes of it.”
“We put money into this record so we’d like to get paid for it this time,” Lynn adds with a laugh. “We don’t really know how, other than to sell it at shows. We’re open to offers.”
THE KICKAWAYS perform at the MidPoint Music Festival 8:30 p.m. Friday at The Drinkery. More: mpmf.com.