Around the kitchen table
Shotgun Kitchen strips down and releases a new album
By Rev. Adam McKinney on February 16, 2012
Here's a slightly embarrassing little peek behind the curtain: This year, for Christmas, I got a ukulele with the expressed purpose of learning how to use it, so that I might utilize it in late night jam sessions with my talented friends. So, uh, there's that. I've always been jealous of people who can pick up an instrument and just fuck around on it with their friends until something amazing starts to come out in the wee hours of the night. In the forming of Shotgun Kitchen, guitarist and vocalist Joe McInnis clearly had a similar appreciation for these casual jam sessions.
"We're just a group of friends that like playing ‘kitchen music,'" says McInnis. "You know, music from people just sitting around a table in the kitchen."
"Shotgun Kitchen wasn't really something that was planned," says John Sommer, percussionist for the band. "It was just an amalgamation of people who wanted to make music, and sort of turned into a thing. We've had a rotating door with musicians, and this is just the current iteration of Shotgun Kitchen. ... When I first saw them, I was living with a few of the people who were in the band, and it was all electric at the time. They had a full stage of people, and back-up singers, and a guy playing organ. It's definitely been trimmed down since then. Now, it's just a four-piece."
It's a trend that goes against the grain, this simplification of one's band over the years. Typically, you'll see a band grow and grow as the years go on, adding more elements until the product is as massive as the band's history itself. Sort of like rings in a tree. With Shotgun Kitchen, the band found a more humble sound suited them better.
"I really wanted to go stripped-down, back to an acoustic sound," says McInnis. "That's the sound I really like, and that's where we are now. We've just finished a CD, and it's almost all acoustic. The bass is the only thing with amplification."
Conceptually, this acoustic sound certainly fits with the whole feel of Shotgun Kitchen. The band has always leaned in a folky direction, drawing inspiration from people like John Prine, Woody Guthrie and Randy Newman. Like those artists, Shotgun Kitchen makes songs with a lyrical bite to them, although never quite in a preachy way. These are lightly satirical takes on life in Tacoma, and life in general. Shotgun Kitchen's new record, Trouble On The Urban Fringe, is already out online, but will have its proper CD release party at Tahoma Tea & Co. (formerly the Den) March 3.
"They're true-to-life songs," says McInnis. "The songs are generally stories about some real life occurrence or somebody I know or something I heard about happening. I try to put maybe an amusing edge to it."
Shotgun Kitchen's song "Down in my Basement," with its cheerful exploration of psychotic desire, is reminiscent of those early, sneakily sinister tunes like Tom Lehrer's "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park." It sounds so lovely that it takes a minute to finally hear how strange it all is.
Like music being made in a kitchen, very late at night