Q+A with Max Davies of Kitchen Dwellers
By Breton Spiller
Kitchen Dwellers are a Montana-based bluegrass-rock-funk fusion quartet made up of Max Davies (acoustic guitar), Torrin Daniels (banjo), Joe Funk (upright bass), and Shawn Swain (mandolin). I had the pleasure of talking with Davies as he and the group prepare for their performance at the inaugural Sacred Rose Music Festival in Bridgeview, IL, this weekend.
Continue reading for a Q+A full of talk about food, collaboration, festivals, music, and more!
Q: Okay, Kitchen Dweller, what is your go-to dish/recipe when in the kitchen? Do you actually find yourself in the kitchen often, or are you an “order in” or “go out to eat” person?
- A: When we are home from the road, everyone in the band likes to cook and make our own meals. Sometimes we go so long without making home-cooked meals it takes a couple days to relearn the kitchen. My go-to has always been a carbonara or risotto. I love cooking Italian food. We did recently add all the ingredients and a cutting board to make guacamole at the venue, so we make that when we can.
Q: How does it feel to be a part of a brand new festival? What about that makes this different from other festival performances?
- A: I’m excited to play Sacred Rose because it’s not too far from where I grew up. I’m excited to see what they do with the grounds, and I think the thing that makes this festival stick out from some others is the lineup. It’s a pretty diverse group of bands, and there’s plenty of stuff I can’t wait to check out.
Q: Pull quote from the group’s website: “Since we weren’t on the road due to COVID-19, the music we wrote was different,” Max reveals. “It was more introspective. There were a lot of ties to Montana.”
That said, location and surroundings clearly impact your music; how do you think the environment and energy at music festivals like Sacred Rose impact your performance? How does it differ from, say, a city or club-like venue?
- A: Festivals feel different because you’re playing to a crowd of people that have probably come to see other bands and not just you, so you want to deliver a strong performance. The sets are also typically shorter, so you want to pack in everything they would get in a full club show to one set of music. The energy is usually through the roof, people are always having a great time, and it’s most likely lots of folks’ first time seeing us, which creates a fun vibe.
Music and Band Related:
Q: From what I’ve gathered, Cory Wong somewhat recently came on as your producer; what has it been like working with him? How has the group dynamic changed, if at all? Can you talk about the “evolution” your band has had with this addition?
[Note: Cory Wong is a Guitarist, Bassist, Song-writer, and Producer, most commonly known for his work with the group Vulfpeck]
- A: Cory really taught us how to take a microscope to the music and filter everything down to “what are you trying to say/how is this serving the song?” He taught us how to be efficient in the studio and use certain tactics and tricks in the recording process. Working with him was a ton of fun and inspiring. We hope to do it again soon and can’t wait for his set at Sacred Rose.
Q: I found this quote interesting when browsing your website: “It used to be a thriving place with many prosperous mines, but now it’s practically dried up. There’s a hell of a lot of melancholy. In our mind, it symbolizes the overall feeling of being in slowed-down Montana life.” What musical motifs, techniques, etc., do you use to represent this “melancholy” or slowed-down life?
- A: The music we write attempts to speak straight to the listener, and each band member and their respective upbringing seeps into the music. Torrin grew up on a ranch, and Shawn grew up in an old mining town. ‘Wise River,’ the title track, is a story about a mining town in Montana; the music we wrote was an attempt to reflect the people still there. Being an acoustic band certainly helps us get straight to the point with some of the lyrics as well.
Q: Lyric from ‘Stand at Ease’: “I can’t stand to see what you’ve done to be free.” What does this mean for each of you? Are you willing to open up about any struggles/experiences you or your team have had that make this chorus line much more meaningful to you? What goes through your head when performing/recording this song?
- A: This is a song that Joe wrote about a few different people. We lost some friends and heroes that meant so much to us, and it was hard to make sense of it all. As the pandemic rolled on, it took on an even more powerful meaning as the loss and devastation continued. Above all, it’s a song about mental health and suicide prevention. I love playing this song. It’s for the people we’ve lost, but perhaps more importantly, those of us still left here to grieve. When someone takes their own life, we may not have been able to say goodbye, and that’s really hard. When we play this song, I can see and feel people thinking about someone or having some kind of moment, and that’s a beautiful, positive thing.
Post-Pandemic and the Future:
Q: Advice for up-and-coming bands or artists? Especially emerging from the pandemic, how do you think things may be different now for artists who maybe started crafting their sound during the pandemic?
- A: People are hungry for music and entertainment, and we’ve seen that they are ready to go out. It’s never been easier for word of mouth to spread like wildfire, so if you were just getting started, go out on the road and start playing as much as you can. It’s also never been easier to put out recordings and videos, and I saw a lot of people dive deep into that during the pandemic, which they are still able to utilize. We’re still dealing with some venue closures and so many bands wanting to tour at the same time, but there are ways around that. Team up with other bands, the old adage “we are stronger together” is certainly true of the independent music scene.
Q: Post-pandemic plan? What can we expect to see from Kitchen Dwellers in the next year or so? What has been your process as we slowly climb out of the pandemic slump?
- A: We’re touring heavily the rest of the year and have some incredible shows and festivals planned. Coming out of the pandemic, we are just trying to be smart about how much we are on the road and want to continue to write the music that moves us. We’ve been so fortunate thus far and are just grateful for everything we’ve been able to accomplish.
You can catch the Kitchen Dwellers at Sacred Rose on Sunday from 2:15 pm-3:30 pm at the Dreamfield stage!
Find out more about the Kitchen Dwellers here.
Listen to their newest album, ‘Wise River,’ here.
Connect with the Kitchen Dwellers.
Find out more about Sacred Rose by reading our preview article here.