It was another rainy night in Cleveland for These Knees EP release show. As I walk in, The Whiskey Hollow is sound checking for the night. Everyone was running a little behind so we kicked back and mingled with the likes of Cleveland Sofar Sounds and Cleveland Music City to discuss our excitement for the upcoming show. We all came to the same conclusion: this was not a show to miss.
When the show finally started, it opened up with a duo acoustic act. The Whiskey Hollow, an alternative acoustic-rock duo with folky undertones and vocals from the depths of hell reincarnated as angel’s song, can assure you’ll feel the pain of their music. The Ohio native, Madeline Finn, works at The School of Rock and rightfully so. Her voice makes you cry or wish you could sing like her. With sweeping to staccato guitar styles and bass lines to back her up, she bangs on her bass drum perfectly in time. For a moment you get lost in a trance of The Whiskey Hollow and forget you’re not actually drinking whiskey, but they’re just intoxicating enough to make you think you are.
Then, what we were all waiting for, These Knees jumped on stage and rocked the house with their indie rock pop. They did a nice mix of their originals including a majority off the new album and a few covers to fill up the night. The band held tons of energy and the singers voice pops out of nowhere making you wonder how the hell that came out of such a small person.
These kids deserve all the attention they get! They appeared very professional, friendly and worked very hard on all aspects of their stage presence. You wouldn’t guess that by watching them perform; it seemed to come naturally to them. The energy they bring to a room is massive and I enjoyed the hell out of it. At one point Stephanie jumps off stage with an acoustic guitar and starts singing an old These Knees tune with another member of an older version of the band and the crowd couldn’t get enough.
The album itself is a fun mix of Tegan and Sara like vocal patterns, sprinkled with poppy hooks and a dash of rock and roll. My favorite song off the EP is “Good Luck” which is a playful ode to old school rock and roll. I feel it rings true to traditional Cleveland Rock and Roll City music sounds.
I was fortunate enough to be able to interview These Knees and mini session interview The Whiskey Hollow. Check those out below!
THESE KNEES :
How was the process of writing this EP, and is it one writer or do you all collectively write the songs?
With Night Fires as well as our previous releases, I’ve done the majority of the songwriting. Typically I’ll demo a song and bring it to the group with guitar, bass, keys, vocals, and the overall vibe pretty well formed. Our drummer (Rob Hassing) has the biggest influence of the group given I play drums at a very basic level, so my demo drums are basic, leaving him with a lot of freedom to come in and add great parts and great value to the songs. Jesse and Bryan bring their own flare and style to each song, even when I’ve written the parts. One of Jesse’s great contributions to Night Fires is the lead on the song “Get Lonely.” It’s sort of a counter melody to the main vocal and is a perfect fit.
What is your favorite song off of the EP?
It’s cliche, but they are all my babies! It’s very hard to choose. I like them all for different reasons.
What are your main musical influences?
I grew up on Cleveland’s WMJI (105.7), so feel-good oldies are in my blood. I would count Butch Walker, Tegan and Sara, The 1975, Jack’s Mannequin, and Paramore as my biggest modern day influences, though I’ve noticed I’m more influenced by individual songs rather than artists these days. A good song can come from any genre, so in that way I feel like I find influences everywhere.
Where did you record the EP?
We recorded Night Fires with Dave Piatek at his studio in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood (Dave Piatek Recording). Dave has a great ear and we clicked creatively. We recorded our EP while he was also working on individual libraries for his drum sampling company (Room Sound), so there were days he would go from recording a metal drummer to recording a song like “Believer.”
Are you all from Cleveland and do you identify as a Cleveland band?
We are very proud to be a Cleveland based band! Rob, Jesse, and I are all from the same hometown (the Nordonia Hills area), and Bryan is from Mentor.
What was your favorite city to play so far?
Our trip to Chicago this year was really great. There’s something about driving around together that just bonds you. I’ve known Rob for 16-17 years and I only now discovered his road rage on our trip through downtown Chicago. The crowd howled at us instead of cheering, which I kind of want to encourage everywhere because it was amazing and hilarious. Plus there’s just something special about the midwest. A “je ne sais quoi” quality. We’re really looking forward to heading back there in 2016.
Where does the band name ‘These Knees’ come from?
I have had knee problems since I was very young. I found a kind of silver lining in the pain I was having one night, and that was how blessed I am to be someone who can walk and more freely with just minor restrictions. Through sports injuries and knee surgery, I’ve always bounced back, and I took that as a life lesson. There are some things in life that are going to slow you down and hold you back, but what matters is that you keep moving. So These Knees is a representation of that forward movement for me.
What do you have coming up in the future?
We are in the planning stages of our regional shows and trips for this spring and summer. Now that the album is out and my head is clear of the logistics of releasing a record, I’ll probably start writing again.
THE WHISKEY HOLLOW :
How do you like playing acoustic music vs what you were doing before?
I loved envoi don’t get me wrong. It was super energetic, really fun. I’ve always felt my voice has had sort of a bluesy twangy tone to it so I think it suits me a little bit better and it’s so different than what we had been doing that its such a breath of fresh air. I feel like I have more of an opportunity to speak my mind, I think it is very true to me.
How did your collaboration with DJ Scrilla come about?
I work with a recording engineer which is how I met These Knees, Jim Stewart who has done a lot of work for me. He did all of my high school rock off stuff. Every time he has someone who needs a feature he would be like ‘Hey Maddie come hang out’. So he talked to DJ Scrilla who he does all the tracking for and was like ‘do you (Maddie) want to feature on this?’ I was like ‘yeah of course I would love to.’ DJ Scrilla was awesome he gave me the track and I wrote my own part so I wrote the hook and I sang which was a lot of fun.
What is your genre? Are you experimenting or is this going to be a long term sound?
The genre is very off, its not like it’s acoustic rock or strictly blues or anything like that. On tour Joe and I came up with the term cocktail punk but it’s not true to what we’re doing, its just funny. Honestly I think I’m playing me, just doing what comes naturally. I’m taking a lot influence from Civil Wars and Mumford and Sons so you can almost call it alternative acoustic rock.
What are your top three influencing musicians?
Okay, top three: obviously Paramore. Haley Williams was just this random girl seventeen years old, her voice is incredible. Then she comes in and just rips it and she comes with such confidence as this tiny little seventeen year old girl. And I’m just like ‘wow’ so it inspired me a lot. Lacey Mosely from Flyleaf actually inspired me when I was younger. She inspired me to keep playing music and keep doing what I’m doing. Her sound is not what I’m going for but just the passion she has awoke in me is insane. And more lately I’ve been taking a lot from a local artist named Jane Decker. She’s from Cincinnati and she was on The Voice . It’s cool to find someone so genuine about what they’re doing and it makes me feel like there is still hope and there is still a reason to play music.
How do you feel about the Cleveland Music scene?
Oh my God, you know when I was in high school it was good. Then it kind of dropped off a little bit, but I feel like in the past like 3 years it’s really started to gain more traction. You know we had 21 pilots and they’re huge. Then bands like These Knees, By Light We Loom and the Lighthouse and the Whaler. The Cleveland music scene is so diverse and I think that is what I enjoy about it.
How do you feel about the scene after touring other cities.
I teach at the School of Rock so a lot of students ask me the same question. You know I’ve toured the west, east, south, and north, I don’t think anybody can touch what we have here because it is so diverse and so passionate. You know I go to NYC I love it there but people aren’t as passionate about music as they are here. I mean I just had a group of sixty people stand here and watch me and they’ve never heard me before that doesn’t happen in Boston or New York. Cleveland is a home city, people listen to music because they love it.
What advice do you have to offer to up and coming musicians?
I’ve been in the scene since I was fourteen when I won the Tri C high school rock off in 2010 and if I had any piece of advice it would be to keep going no matter what obstacles hit you. Keep going and keep honing your craft, strive to make the world a better place.