The Seed: Kitchen Dwellers Go From Local Picking to National Touring (Q&A)

An appropriate ode to their humble beginnings, the Kitchen Dwellers‘ namesake is pretty straightforward. While attending MSU, friends would get together in the evenings after class and just kind of hang out with their instruments… often times in someones kitchen. Eventually it thinned out into the four current members. Fast forward to 2020, and the guys have taken their music far beyond the culinary confines of Bozeman. They’re now a well established name in the bluegrass music scene, playing from coast to coast, headlining their own tours and they recently recorded their most ambitious album to date.

Like something out of a movie, the galaxygrass quartet will find themselves back in Bozeman, Montana. This time for a sold out, 2-night stand at the Rialto… a fitting way to celebrate their career thus far. With that said, we thought it was time to talk to the guys a bit more about their journey…

Are you all from Montana?

Torrin is the only one that grew up in Montana.  The rest of us met there while attending Montana State.  Joe is from Alaska, Max is from Illinois, and Shawn is from Colorado. A healthy mix of place.

At what point did you decide to take your talents to the stage? What made you decide that you want to do this professionally?

You can only spend so many hours pouring over Youtube videos of your favorite bands before you say ok I need to give this a shot.  Music has made such an impact on our lives, it is only natural to want to give that to other people. We probably also wanted to belong to a community of people making music and having fun and share our excitement for the songs we play. We didn’t start doing full tours until a couple years in and even back then it was loading up the van with a very loose plan and no information on music venues to play shows that were booked by either us or a friend.  We never really knew what we were getting into.

We’ve had a discussion in the office of whether you’re still a “local” Bozeman band or not… given that you now tour nationally. Do you still consider yourself a local Bozeman band?

This sounds like a fun office to be working in.  We all live either in Bozeman or Livingston so we still consider the Bozeman area to be our home.  Now that we tour so much we are only able to play Bozeman a couple times a year. It always feels like a homecoming when we play there and we still have a connection with so many local friends and musicians I think we’re always going to be a local bozeman band that’s out there on the road playing shows.  If you were at Pine Creek last summer when the power went out… that’s about the most “local band” thing that could have happened.

What’s been the biggest highlight in KD’s career so far?

There have been so many amazing moments.  We’ve been very fortunate to do some incredible things.  We played Red Rocks last year, which was just unbelievable.  I will never forget that day as long as I live. Playing the Wilma, the Capitol Theater, and the main stages at festivals like String Summit have been major highlights.  We’ve met and played with some of our biggest heroes and had them record on our albums. We kicked off the new year by going on Jam Cruise and joined members of Moe. and Nicki Bluhm for a pretty special set.  And our most recent album Muir Maid feels like an accomplishment and a major highlight thus far.

Muir Maid was essentially fan funded, correct? How does it feel to have that sort of support from your fans?

Yes!  Muir Maid was completely fan funded.  The excitement that people had for it and the response has us feeling so grateful.  It could not have come together without the support from our fans. They give us so much.  It’s hard to put into words because it really could not happen without them. We have nothing but love for everyone that was a part of it.  It was really fun to be talking to people about what kickstarter package they were getting. We had a lot of fun with the setlist package. It got us to play some songs we never would have otherwise, No Doubt’s Spiderwebs was one that joined the repertoire. It was all very fun and positive and we are so thankful that we were able to do it.

What sets this album apart from the rest? How was it recording with Chris Pandolfi?

The album showcases more refined songwriting and playing by the band.  The album sounds like us, the Kitchen Dwellers. Chris really wanted us to embrace what sets us apart, which is our energy and synergy as a band and I think we harnessed it.  We feel like we have our own sound and it came out in the recording process. Working with Chris was like band boot camp. He was the right man for the job. He was so engaged throughout the whole process and brought every song to life!  It’s pretty cool to work with someone you respect so much and then have them exceed all expectations.

Did everyone write songs for the album?

Every band member wrote songs for the album.  Most song ideas come from one member and then are arranged and worked on as a group.

What was the inspiration for the album name/title track? Is there a theme throughout the album?

There are themes throughout the album.  The album name and title track, Muir Maid, is derived from the boat that Joe’s dad navigated from Seattle, up the Inside Passage through British Columbia, all the way up to Alaska where Joe was born.  The song is the saga of their harrowing journey. A lot of the songs are story driven with narratives including landscape descriptions of the natural beauty of our country. Aside from the wild places we like to write about there are also songs involving the struggle of life on the road, addiction, and relationships.

Besides Montana, where do you think your biggest fan base is?

We’re treated pretty well wherever we go!  Besides Montana, we have strong ties to Colorado, the northeast, and northwest.  We’ve been getting to the southeast more which has been really nice and for New Years we were in Salt Lake City.  So we really appreciate every part of the country!

What did it mean for you to land in the Top 10 Bluegrass Albums on Billboard?

It’s an honor to be among so many accomplished musicians and bands.  It’s great to have so many people enjoying the music and gives us some positive reinforcement.

Do y’all have a favorite meal you eat on the road?

Depends on which band member you ask!  Home cooked meals are always the best and we have been doing a good job of incorporating that into the tour schedule.  We are always trying to get the local food too. This whole last run in the southwest we were eating tacos and green chili.  Now we’re in the northwest so it’s Ramen and lots of coffee.

What’s the longest drive you’ve had to take?

We once drove from New York back to Montana in one shot.  This run we’re on right now is about 5,000 miles in two weeks and we’ll be back in Montana doing shows at the Rialto before we make a quick jaunt over to Pittsburgh.

Do you have any pre show rituals?

We have a pre show chant that many friends and musicians have been a part of through the years. There’s a routine of changing strings, drinking coffee, writing set lists and setting up merch that is just a part of daily life that has become a ritual.

You’ve been together for a long time now… What’s the secret to getting along?

Respect and understanding.  Respect that someone may be feeling sick or off or having a rough day.  Respect for another person’s opinion and personality. Also understanding that what we are doing isn’t easy and to not take ourselves too seriously.  We take the job very seriously, but not ourselves.

Do you have a dream artist you’d love to collab with?

We have varied tastes in music but we would love to do something with Sam Bush!

What’s your favorite Kitchen you’ve ever Dwelled in?

So many great Kitchens!  We just had our first ever international dwelling in Mexico on Jam Cruise.  It’s hard to pick a favorite but any kitchen with food or good people is where we want to be.

It’s pretty sweet that you got to work with our longtime house photographer Jeffrey Neubauer on the “Shadows” video, and we know y’all are friends. How was it working together?

Working with Jeffrey is always a blast.  He’s so creative and we go way back so it’s always a fun process.  He’s been a big supporter since the early days in the kitchen and has had his share of days in the van.  It’s great to see the success he’s had with the camera.

Jeff Wood, who we heard you’re a big fan of, did your current tour poster. Did you just reach out and ask if he’d like to do it? Did you have a relationship beforehand?

You have really done your homework!  We didn’t have a relationship with him before.  We’re so excited to be involved with Jeff and BJ Cochran at Conscious Alliance.  We have worked with Conscious Alliance before and have built relationships with the people there.  We are so happy with how the poster turned out. Everyone should grab one at the merch table, it goes to a very good cause!

Who came up with the album artwork? What about the inside sleeves for the vinyl?

We are fortunate to have some artists in the family.  Torrin’s dad did the artwork for our last album Ghost in the Bottle and Joe’s mom did the artwork on the inside of our vinyl and CD cover.  She used the themes from the album and references some lyrics in her piece. There are Coho salmon coming out trees, the Muir Maid going into Ford’s Terror, and a Comet in the sky.  She even added a nod or two to Ghost in the Bottle. People who funded the album also got a poster made with the album artwork. The cover of Muir Maid is an actual photo of the boat Joe’s dad took to Alaska.  When we saw that photo of the Muir Maid it was the perfect album cover.

There’s a lot of up and coming artists in Montana. Do you have any words of wisdom for them if they want to tour nationally and record professional records like you have?

“Professional” should be used loosely here…  All kidding aside, it is so cool to see bands coming out of Montana on to a national scene.  We’ve been lucky to get to know and play with so many wonderful local musicians. Every band is different and what works for one may not work another.  Our best advice is to do what makes you, you. Take care of your vehicle (330K miles and counting), each other, and most importantly yourself. The road isn’t always a piece of cake but in the end it’s worth it.  Meet other bands out there trying to make it happen and play shows together. What’s good for them will most likely be good for you too. Drink tons of water, get as much sleep as possible, and play as though your life depends on it.

What’s it mean to play a 2-night run at the Rialto in your hometown!?

We’re so excited.  We always try and do something special for our hometown.  The first night we’re being joined by Pillow Talk, a very special Valentine’s Day band, and the second night we have Armchair Boogie out of Wisconsin who are just some of the best guys that we’ve met on the road.  Doing two nights also makes for a really fun atmosphere. Sleeping in your own bed after the show will be the icing on the cake.

I’m sure you see a lot of familiar faces in the crowd. Does that give you some extra zest on stage? How does it influence the performance?

It just adds to the magic.  The music definitely benefits from it.  We feel like we are a part of the community and the music we play is driven by where we live and our love for the people and surrounding area.  Everyone is so supportive it’s hard not to play your butt off. A lot of the people coming to the Rialto we’ve known for years and have attended shows with, so there’s always a certain level of excitement in the air.  There’s nothing quite like playing a hometown crowd!

Anything else you’d like to share?

We’re just grateful for it all.  Thank you to everyone that has supported our band.  We are proud to represent Bozeman and Montana and look forward to celebrating our new album and having some great times at the Rialto.  Dancing and live music is good for the soul and more important than ever. We can’t wait to get down with everyone this weekend.

The Seed is Logjam’s blog dedicated to all things up and coming artists, both local and regional. Here, we’ll feature band interviews, videos, special features, new music releases, and more.