Greg Johnson of the Kettle Drivers Get Atmospheric

[Editor's Note: Spare Notes is a new Weekly music feature highlighting outtakes and personal stories from bands who just finished working their asses off to put out new music.]

Guitarist and Kettle Drivers main man Greg Johnson has every reason to feel buoyant. His band's latest release, Digital Demons and Black Luck, is a remarkable effort from the already accomplished group, moving from enthusiastic celebration of the surf-n-twang lineage of instrumental rock and roll on their earlier What a Thrill to something more varied and striking, even as only an EP. Mixing up some vocal efforts courtesy guests as well as from drummer Shane Thompson to moody, eerie instrumentals that feel like cousins to ambient black metal, it's a heck of a winner. Thompson himself singles out one key track in particular:

“Best Laid Plans” would probably be my choice. We can play around with it live, and I think it's the longest one on the album. That's us as a trio, that's us just riffing on a vibe. It helps segue into the Black Luck stuff later in the album, while it also creates a mood for Shane's song on the album, “Crystal Cathedral.” It helps set the overall feel for the record while the other ones can all kinda stick out a bit.

“It was a conscious decision going into it to sound a little different from before, but it also evolved. We try to be on a schedule, do at least one or two particular records a year. We're in the middle of work on Shane's debut as a singer-songwriter, so we had to put him on the record, while we also recorded music for a film, the Black Luck songs. For the next LP itself, we're working with a variety of performers, so it may be more like a Booker T/Stax thing, where you had the MGs backing guys like Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett, something like that!

“When I was approached to do Black Luck, I was listening to a lot of Daniel Lanois at the time, hearing how he and Brian Eno molded a lot of ambient sound underneath the pop songs of a band like U2. It's something I like to do, I always like to play with color and I always like to play with feel when it comes to records. As a producer, I feel like that's the main thing. Storytelling and craftsmanship, that's great stuff, and that comes with individual performers; with my role, I like to play with tones and moods, sounds and textures. It's really easy to get lost in ambience because there are no rules!”

Digital Demons and Black Luck can be found at
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