Often times, yoked with the present of opportunity is an inherent element of pressure. But Denver’s Kettle Black is in no way seeing the space in front of them as an anchor of restriction.
To the contrary, they are enjoying all the ebbing and flowing that is involved in the ride of rising to the surface.
A relatively new band, Kettle Black (Corey Teruya, guitar, vocals, harmonica, lap steel; Jeff Mann, bass; Jimmie Dean, drums and percussion; Ian Short, violin, keyboard; Luke Mossman (who’s main band is Achille Lauro), guitar, keys, glockenspiel; Drew Koelemay, guitar, lap steel) has managed to create a playful sound suffused with all the complexities that their multitudes of instruments can afford. In step with Americana, the band has diligently worked within a genre that promotes organic sensibilities, but they have not been timid about exploring heavy electric arrangements. As a result, the pressure to conform and stand under one spotlight has been splayed on account of their unique and mature sound.
Frontman Corey Teruya’s Japanese/Pacific Islander background probably has had an influence on the band’s blindness to the pressures around them. At once laid-back and highly motivated, it was Teruya’s history that stands as the impetus for the band’s formation and subsequent rush into the spotlight.
Having served as an intern for House of Blues Concerts, Teruya was queried about the fact that he played music. Resultantly, he imparted a demo. Some time later the grand hand of fate intervened as the Senior VP of HOB (Jason Miller at the time) called Teruya in for a meeting. The consequence of the conversation was that Teruya won a slot to open for national acts that were going to be playing the House. Immediately, Teruya was thrust onto the stage where he learned how to stand at attention; play with his heart and forget about the clacking knees and jell-o fingers.
A short while later and as Teruya’s confidence grew – Kettle Black was formed.
And while the foundation and songwriting for the band was Teruya’s brainchild, the cohesion that was felt between all the players in the outfit seemed to be a gift. For as Teruya brought his mates the songs, they fleshed them out in way that is more akin to hunting than traditional songwriting – in other words, they don’t try to force anything.
Now, only a year later, the band is winning over audiences night after night. This is, in part, because of the band’s compositional and textural fashioning which enables their audience to come, full-tilt, to the stage in a way that is rare – in any genre, in any city. In essence, Kettle Black has a sound that is widely accessible. It hits with a poppy punch; with an ease and a joy. But the thick and smoky room where Teruya’s lyrical content comes from explores something altogether different from what one may find in the band’s sound. Teruya’s songs are filled with statements about ethical maturity and sound judgment. It recalls those moments where everybody is prone to failure – in the face of love; behind the hand of time and leaving; and in the backwaters of change.
The song “Something So True” is a dark and winding weave of corduroy roads and the slanted paths of slippery slopes. The song battles the notion that, while you may fall off your path in working forward – there are redemptive calls coming – even from the dark of the woods, in the form of whispering voices and plucked strings.
Kettle Black's rootsy, eclectic sound provides a Lazy Susan of revolving possibilities for the band to play with a wild array of compositional and tonal dynamics. In the breadth of their work, the notion that there is something truly alchemical in the creating of songs rings out. No one man is capable of creating that kind of fluidity where sadness can meet joy and then turn to fear and a dark walk in the trees – all in one song. For while Teruya provides the basis and direction for the songs and its lyrical content, the end product is the work of several hands – with each of the players lending fingers, heads and hands to the entire work.
But it is at the end of a session where a listener may find the hottest clue as to what is happening in the music – in the band’s name: Kettle Black (which unfortunately might have to change due to a Canadian band called The Kettle Black). Calling a kettle black is the same as looking into a mirror and seeing one’s self in something different. And whether Teruya and the boys know this or not, this notion is imparted, in the lyrics and in the instrumentation.
Having finished an acoustic EP, the band is currently working with Harry Antibus (DJ Harry) and Ian Hlatky to record their first full length with an anticipated release date lingering sometime later this year. For the time being, however, the band is making its rounds; and hitting all of the local venues with a rapidity that should alter their fan base and media interest in a very short time. Dedicated and blossoming with a mature and accomplished sound, Kettle Black is on the short track to standing atop Denver’s pantheon of musical talent.