Americana Roots highlights the freshest and most original Americana and bluegrass from across the pond in the US. It covers everything from brand-new, just out of the box bands, to cult favourites, to established acts who have yet to reach the UK’s shores. If Pink Floyd went on an extended camping trip in the mountains and reinvented themselves with string instruments you would have the Kitchen Dwellers.
Name: Kitchen Dwellers.
For Fans Of: Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band.
Hometown: Bozeman, Montana, USA.
Band Members: Max Davies (guitar), Torrin Daniels (banjo), Joe Funk (bass), Shawn Swain (mandolin)
Discography: ‘Ghost in the Bottle’ (2017), ‘Muir Maid’ (2019)
Background: “It seems that roots and Americana music becomes popular in times of economic struggle or social doubt,” explains Kitchen Dweller mandolinist Shawn Swain. “We’ve obviously been through it this last year and the several years leading up to it were also wrought with chaos.” Even in a world wrought with chaos, the Kitchen Dwellers and their psychedelic newgrass, that they have dubbed galaxy grass, are an oasis, a refuge, a place to go and dance, and forget your troubles.
The Kitchen Dwellers first met in college a decade ago. Swain and bassist Joe Funk were poised to be roommates their sophomore year. “We ended up getting to know each other and it turned out he knew another guy who was into writing folk songs,” says Swain. “The three of us started playing together after class and pretty soon it became a regular thing after I met Torrin. He owned a banjo at the time but didn’t play much.” The group coalesced around regular jam sessions they held in the kitchen. “We were getting together to play covers and traditional music and old-time tunes for fun after school, and everything else just really evolved from there,” says Funk. Taking their kitchen jams to the stage, the group decided to test out their live chops at an open mic where they played under the name the Kitchen Dwellers. Things went well for the band and Swain says, “The rest is history.”
The group’s sound evolved from an acoustic approach to rock ‘n’ roll that they overlaid with their bluegrass tendencies. “We take parts of what was done in the past and we tend to fuse it with our modern influences. That’s how we get the galaxy grass sound,” explains Swain. For Swain he was also heavily influenced by the legendary Telluride Bluegrass Festival held in his hometown every year and the All-Star roster of progressive bluegrass pickers who play each year. “The festival house band is always made up of those most legendary bluegrass musicians like Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Stuart Duncan, and others,” says Swain. “Watching those guys perform those sets every summer impacted me in so many ways and I’m incredibly grateful to have gotten to grow up with that.” That experience combined with the Kitchen Dwellers forward-thinking, experimental take on traditional bluegrass has created a sound that fits in perfectly among fellow jamgrass brethren like the Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, and Leftover Salmon. Like those brethren it is in a live setting where the Kitchen Dwellers music really takes flight and is best experienced.
For the Kitchen Dwellers, even with their non-traditional approach, the heart and soul of their music echoes the roots of the music that first emerged from Appalachia. “I think people tend to look at what’s simple, a little bit down home, when things get tough,” says Swain. “It keeps us leveled a bit to hear the sound that comes from wood.”