“The town we’re from is a very Christian town,” tells John Gable, “and it’s usually Christian hardcore bands playing at churches.” Not being of that ilk, the musician’s early hometown shows never went well. “So a friend of mine at a Christian show is like, ‘Hey, you know what there aren’t enough of at Christian shows? Knife fights.’” And from that quip came the idea for a band.
The congregants Gable had appalled from the pulpit were the townsfolk of Tyler, Texas. His four Knifight band mates are all Tyler natives themselves, an affable ensemble of self-proclaimed “normal guys” and “music nerds,” comprising keyboardist Patrick Marshall; guitarist Nick Garrison; bassist John Hetherington; and new-found drummer Nick Cogdill—added late in 2012 to, as Gable phrases it, “(give) our music balls.”
Knifight will coronate the debut of their first full-length release, Dark Voices, on June 8 at Red 7. The nine-track album awakens like a slumbering beast with its ominous, droning prologue; reminiscent of Coppola’s aerial shots of Captain Willard’s swift boat snaking the Nung River in Apocalypse Now; creeping with mounting trepidation, ever deeper into the heart of darkness. That haunting precedent remains fixed, waxing and waning without betraying tonal fidelity across the album’s brisk, but rich, procession.
Neighboring tracks “Peace Cry”—a veritable force field of synth—and “Cosmonaut” juxtapose each other splendidly and resonate a hair above the pack; forming the nucleus of an album predicated on vignettes of sorrow, isolation, and fear.
“I think there’s kind of some general themes going on there—I think that’s pretty unavoidable,” says Gable about his songwriting on Dark Voices. “For the most part it’s a collection of individual ideas.”
The sum of Dark Voices with the band’s first three EPs—2012’s In the Fire being the last—imbue Knifight a shared ethos with electronic-rock artists Light Asylum, Future Islands, Active Child, and Joy Division—to name a few. But artists often bristle at defining their work through comparisons, and, ironically, Knifight is no different: “To me, hanging out with these guys, I don’t get a dark-wave, post-wave, post-punk feel. We’re just normal guys. We’re not trying to fit into that, we’re just an indie-electronic band,” says bassist John Hetherington.
“We’re influenced by such a wide grouping of bands that it’s tough for us—even if we tried—to make similar songs that fit into a certain genre,” adds keyboardist Patrick Marshall.
The original four members of Knifight migrated to Austin in the summer of 2010—leaving behind some unsympathetic townies and trading one makeshift recording studio inside Hetherington’s apartment for another. In the ensuing three years, the band has cranked-out over one hundred live shows at Texas venues near and far: netting themselves a reputation as an unhinged and forceful live act.
Conversely, the performance and production of Dark Voices projects an exquisite polish that makes the album’s black jacket pop like pricey leather. In effect, Knifight—who Gable somewhat jokingly characterized as “A blend of empathy and testosterone”–basks in double identities.
“I feel like the record is completely different from the live experience,” says Hetherington. “The record is super refined. The live experience is open to dirtiness and abrasiveness. One thing that I think we’re doing as we play together more is bring the two closer together.”
Like Knifight’s previous EPs, Dark Voices doesn’t feature a live drummer—as Cogdill joined the band during the album’s post-production phase in December. For years, Gable had been adamant about blacklisting drummers before discovering Cogdill at a show: “Part of that was from so many people telling us, ‘You guys need to get a drummer. You’re not going anywhere without a drummer.’ I was like, ‘Fuck you, we can do it without a drummer.’ And then I saw Nick performing with a band, playing to a click, and he was playing the backing tracks and just killing it.”
Now a five-piece whose apparent cohesion as friends mirrors their integrity as band mates, Knifight has the merit and air of a group on the cusp. And though their sound is a shifting fog of pathos and high-mindedness, the guys are paradoxically jovial and unpretentious; conspicuously grateful for each new milestone in their collective evolution.
“We chose to move here with a specific purpose in mind, and Austin was the city to go to for music and to grow what we’ve been working on. It’s grown more than we thought it could the past three years,” says guitarist Nick Garrison. So, I’d say, three years from now with the band, we’ll all have opened our own food trucks and do music. I love the momentum we have now and love what we have going.”
— Watch the new music video for “In The Fire” from KNIFIGHT’s debut full length album, Dark Voices. Celebrate the release of Dark Voices on June 8 at Red 7 in Austin. Visit www.knifightmusic.com for complete tour dates.