Kiven aren't really what you'd call a proper OC band. For one, only half of them grew up here. But geography aside, they've never been able to be boxed into any particular segment of the local rock spectrum. The closest bands we can measure them against are Irvine contemporaries like Young the Giant and maybe a little bit of Thrice thrown in. But beyond that, elements of the blues and progressive rock makes the taxonomy a little murky. Best to just dive in cold and let the shock of explosive guitars, dynamic song structures and howling vocals wash over you. That kinda seems like the point of their current video "I Can Take It," a track which happened to be produced by At the Drive-In/Sparta drummer Tony Hajjar--guess they're doing something right.
But even if they're not garage rock, or skate punk, whiteboy reggae, or whatever else people tend to define as the OC sound nowadays, they're definitely deserving of some hometown love when they come through the Constellation Room tomorrow. We spoke with guitarist Danny Schnair and bassist Matt Cohen about their humble beginnings and where they plan to go as a band.
OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): Describe how you guys met before starting the band almost five years ago.
Danny Schnair: We all met at school. Some of us went to music school and some of us studied business and stuff. Tyler and I met in a guitar program around junior or senior year of high school, kept in touch and ended up going to school together. Then we met Matt and Jake and we've been playing throughout college and hit the ground running when we graduated college.
Matt Cohen: I grew up in Irvine and Tyler grew up in San Juan Capistrano. Growing up I was a huge Thrice fan, I went to school with all the Young the Giant guys and I was into the OC heavier music scene that was big in the early 2000s, same with Tyler. It comes across in our music as well.
How much influence does the OC music you heard growing up influence your playing now?
Danny: I think it's cool that we incorporate music from different regions based on where we grew up. There's very different influences among us and then the common threads like Led Zepplin and all that. I grew up listening to blues and classic rock and I took jazz classes in school. Our drummer has a doctorate in drumming and he's a crazy jazz drummer. And then we have Matt and Tyler who come from this heavier background and you sort of have this really cool mesh of sounds. So I'd say Orange County really does have a huge influence on the music, but in context of everything else we listen to as well.
You guys also got to work with Tony Hajjar on "I Can Take It." What was that like?
Danny: Yeah, Sparta was a huge band for us. They are one of Tyler's favorite bands and one of the first bands that he and I bonded over. As soon as we started playing together we did a music swap where I said here's all my classic rock and blues records and he says here's all my OC hardcore and heavy music. And Sparta and Thrice were the first ones we connected on. So to work with someone like Tony, it was pretty cool.The video for that song makes it look like you spent a lot of time getting good at dunking your head in the water.
Matt: That was our second underwater video so I guess we were veterans by then. Our first was for "Hope and Smoke," which was a lot more fun to shoot. For that one, we just threw a big black backdrop in Tyler's pool, it was heated and nice. "I Can Take It" was filmed at about 6 or 7 a.m. out in the freezing cold water in Venice in the winter.
Danny: We'd just played a residency show and gotten home around 3 a.m. and then had to roll out of bed and go out to the ocean at 6 a.m. and jump in. It was interesting. I'm happy with the product.
What kinds of things have you guys noticed about your ability to attract an audience? What's the biggest challenge when it comes to that?
Danny: When we started playing music seriously, it was mostly synth oriented bands playing a shows around us and we didn't really fit with anybody. But we kept going, we said it's the music we want to make. It translates live and people are connecting to it. Over the last couple years I've noticed that rock has come back. People are starting to jump into more live instruments, fewer tracks and they're craving something more out of the live experience that I think we're able to give them. It's nice to feel that energy live and having people reciprocate it.
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Matt: We've been a band for almost five years now and we've continued to have the ability to move forward, thinking ahead. You have to do what you do and don't listen to what other people think you should sound like. We weren't even signed and people were telling us "oh, I don't hear the radio single on your record yet." But we put it out anyway and we were lucky to get it placed on KROQ and it was played for 3 weeks. Give it time and people will catch on.
Kiven play tomorrow night at the Constellation Room with With Verdell & This Time With Feeling. 8 p.m. For full show info, click here.