Missoula Band Transcendental Express Added as Support for Kitchen Dwellers at The Wilma (Q&A)

It’s only fitting for a local band to open for Montana’s very own galaxygrass wizards, the Kitchen Dwellers. That’s why we’re stoked to announce that Missoula’s psychedelic funk fusion quintet — Transcendental Express — has been added as support for the Dwellers show on Saturday, September 24, 2022!

Relatively new to the local music scene, we wanted to learn more about the up-and-coming band before their debut Wilma show. Check out the Q&A below and grab your tickets ASAP for this unmissable Montana-made music party!

How’s it feel to be playing at The Wilma for the first time?

We are so excited to play at the Wilma. It has been a staple of Missoula for so long and is a beautiful room to make music in. Growing up as a musician in Missoula the Wilma was always the one place you wanted to play. We like to stretch out and use a lot of dynamics in our music, and bigger rooms tend to allow us more freedom to do so. We cannot think of a better first Wilma show than opening for the Kitchen Dwellers as they are an inspiration to the Montana music scene. Transcendental Express was made to melt faces, so we are ready.

What brought the 5 of you together?

Long story short, the community of local musicians in Missoula brought us together as we have all played in a number of local projects. Our drummer, Joshua Chai, and keyboard player, Kiavash Adibzadeh, met while in college in Los Angeles. They decided to move back to Joshua’s hometown which was Missoula and pursue music. Once in Missoula, they started playing in Ocelot Wizard where they met Sean Burress. This led to Sean asking Joshua Chai to play drums in Red Onion Purple where he met bass player Cole Grant, both of whom still play with the project. It was Cole who proposed that himself, Joshua and Kia form an instrumental trio to focus on musicianship and improvisation. This was how Transcendental Express was originally formed.

We played some shows and started working on an EP as a trio. We realized that while we had a strong foundation and some good arrangements, we needed more melodic expression and fullness in our sound. Before recording a short set for the Hellgate Music Series, the trio called guitar player Chris Duparri. He had been playing with a great Missoula band called Locksaw Cartel who had recently decided to go their separate ways. We asked him if he would be interested in joining the band, and also asked if he would want to join us for our set hours later. Chris agreed and bravely held his own as we mouthed chords and transitions at him. He moved forward as a permanent part of the band. We had been pursuing saxophone player Lhanna Writsel as we had seen her amazing talent with local groups. Most recently, Lhanna played in Letter B and when they also decided to go their separate ways, she felt like she had some time and space to try out Transcendental Express. From the first time the five of us played together, we knew we had something special and shared similar musical goals. Being an instrumental band also gives you a lot of freedom to play out in ways that might not fit with singing, so that excited us.

You released 10.30.21 earlier this year. Where was it recorded?

10.30.21 was recorded at our drummer Joshua’s best friend’s house. Joshua lives at the house and there is a big shop space detached from it. The title is simply the date of the show. We have had a number of house shows there and wanted to do something special for Halloween and a friend’s birthday, so we put on a show. We decided to record our set and see if we could make a live album with it. We were really happy with the way it came out and it was an awesome night.

Who wrote the music?

Everyone in the band has contributed to the song writing process. Although, Kia brought a good number of the original ideas to the band which have been organized and arranged by the entire band. Cole, Chris, Lhanna and Joshua also have songs or original ideas they share. It usually starts with someone in the band presenting an idea or simple song structure and the rest of the band working together to make it into a full song.

Did anything in particular inspire the album?

We wanted to have our music recorded, but were not sure we could capture the way we interact with each other musically with a studio album right away. Many of our arrangements change depending on the day and we like to make sure we are able to respond to what is happening in real time. We felt that capturing a raw live album from one of our shows would allow people to still feel this energy. We are an instrumental band and just love to interact with our audience while we are playing.

We would like to record a studio album someday. We just want to make sure we are able to maintain the integrity of our sound while doing so. Each member of the band is pushing themselves musically and that reflects in the group. This pursuit has led to a number of new songs and our sound is still growing.

Which artists have had a big influence on your sound?
As a band we love instrumental jazz and funk music, which includes artists like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Billy Cobham, Stanley Clarke and Kamasi Washington. However, we do all have different musical backgrounds and like many different styles. Some of the biggest influences for members of the band have been The Grateful Dead, Phish, the Dave Matthews Band, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Tool, Stevie Wonder, Trey Anastasio Band, Stuff and The Meters. A lot of the bands mentioned here are able to mix structured songwriting with jams and improvised moments. We love being able to have both of those elements in our sound, although we do not have any singing.

What else have you been up to as a band? Have you been touring? Practicing? One-off shows?

We stay pretty busy as a band and in our personal lives. We have not been touring officially, although we have been playing shows out of Missoula in places like Billings, Bozeman, Helena and Idaho. We have been working on new music as well as playing for other events or projects. Lhanna has been filling in for March Fourth and has toured with them recently. She played at Burning Man with the group and Cole was a part of a jazz cafe camp there. Joshua, Lhanna and Kia teach music lessons for Maestro’s school of music. Kia started the music school in March of 2019 and it offers lessons for piano, drums, guitar, cello, vocals, bass and saxophone. We also get together with some of our other friends and musicians to play music together in the woods each year. It almost acts like a music retreat and gives us time to recharge and connect with the beauty of Montana.

What are your plans for the future? New Music? Upcoming shows?

We are hoping to go on tour sometime in the next year. We have a particular interest in the Mountain Northwest region of the country and feel like our music fits so well here. Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California are all places we would like to explore soon, as well as playing as much as we can in Montana. Colorado is the first place we are hoping to tour to and we have some connections there already. We are currently working on new music and are hoping to have quite a few new tunes added to our sets in the near future. We have thrown around the idea of taking a band trip where we get away and give ourselves time to focus on being creative without outside pressure or distraction.

What’s the best part of being a band in Missoula? What’s the most difficult part?

The best part of being a part of a band in Missoula is the community. It is small enough to where you can meet people, but big enough to have opportunities and there is not a lot of competition or ego between local artists. Missoula has a beautiful community of support and people really do love music deeply. The most difficult part could be the location and weather at times. You have to travel quite far to play in major cities or even other venues in Montana. With harsh winters and high travel costs you have to be creative when figuring out how to gain exposure.

How should concertgoers prepare for a TE performance?

They can bring their dancing shoes because both bands are made for dancing! We love when people feel free to express themselves through dance and interaction. I would also say get ready for something truly special as this show will have a lot of quality musicianship, and as always invite your favorite concert friends!

Anything else you want to share?

We just wanted to thank Logjam for giving us this opportunity. Montana has become a destination for a lot of great artists to travel to and that has not always been the case. Logjam has brought many artists to Montana that we thought we would never see in this beautiful place. We just want to say that we are happy to be part of the vibrant music community in Missoula and hope that there are more opportunities for us to share our music with you all. Thanks again to all who have supported us.

Saturday, September 24, 2022 — Kitchen Dwellers headline the Wilma for the first time and Transcendental Express make their debut at the historic venue. Don’t miss it!