Kentucky Knife Fight's Van Is A Real Flavor Saver.
Behind every great band is a great van. And when these former church vans, daycare buses and plumber's work vehicles have racked up enough miles on the road, they eventually start being thought of by the band as another member of the team. Hey, we get it: It's hard to spend so many hours with bandmates (both human and machine) without a few things getting broken, a few good fights taking place and lots of great memories being made. We hope that, by exploring these stories, we might get to know some bands from both North Texas and beyond on a more personal level. Check out this feature's archives here.
Over the past few years, we've seen St. Louis hard-edged blues rockers Kentucky Knife Fight so many times (read: at least a couple dozen) that we sometimes forget they're not locals.
In fact, it's not until they express a little too much enthusiasm for regional delicacies like Lone Star and Whataburger that we're reminded that they really aren't from around here.
Listening to frontman Jason Holler, guitarists Curt Brewer and Nate Jones, bassist Jason “Mr. Cool” Koenig, and drummer James Baker talk about the local brews and BBQ joints they'll be indulging in over the course of their next few tour dates, though, one gets the feeling that there are probably handfuls of people all over the country that think of this band as semi-local entities much in the same way that we do.
As anyone who's seen Kentucky Knife Fight perform live can attest to, that's a feeling that comes pretty naturally. Not only do the boys roll through town fairly often during their relentless trips across the country, but their dueling guitar licks, frenetically hip bass lines and fist-pumping choruses just have a way of drawing the listener in.
This week, we found the boys at Dolly Python the morning after their Double Wide show on Sunday night. In between trying on platform boots, flip-shades and sombreros, they even obliged us in some conversation about their extraordinarily dependable van.
Band Name: Kentucky Knife Fight.
Van Name: The Rage Cage.
Year/Make/Model: 1997 Dodge Ram 3500.
Mileage: “It's close to 300,000 miles. It had just under 200,000 when we got it.”
Where did your van come from? How did you acquire it?
Mr. Cool (bass): “It was some dude out in the counties of St. Louis, I think.”
Jason Holler (vocals/harmonica): “Yeah, it was some guy out in the suburbs of St. Louis. I don't know what its original purpose was, unfortunately.”
What makes your van special? What are its best and worst features?
Jason: “I would say, personally, its worst feature is probably the material that the seats are made out of because it just absorbs all the stink in the van.”
Mr. Cool: “Especially when things get left in the van that stink.”
Jason: “We had been driving the van for awhile on tour and noticed after we had left Texas that we started smelling something really awful. We just assumed it was like body odor or something that had been trapped in the upholstery of the van. So we had the thing shampooed out and cleaned out and thought maybe that took care of it. We would line the van with air fresheners and things. This went on for probably about three months. One day, we were getting ready to leave and I was loading up some stuff and I just kind of bent down right by the passenger seat and caught a whiff of something horrible. That's when I realized the source of the stink was coming from under the passenger seat. I looked and, tucked in the back, I could just see the top of an ingredients list. That's when I knew we had been mother-fucked. I got a paper towel and reached back there and pulled out what used to be a container of black forest ham.”
Mr. Cool: “At that point, it was just black.”
Jason: “Holding it upright, it had become just one inch of black slime. We had toured with that thing in the van during that incredibly hot summer you guys had in Texas. It was over 100-degree weather every day with that thing just rotting under the seat. I'm pretty sure [Whiskey Folk bassist] Jack Russell is responsible, but he's never fessed up to it.”
Who usually does the driving?
Jason: “We split it up.”
Is anyone not allowed to drive?
Jason: “Well, [Mr. Cool] scares us, so, possibly him, although we give him a chance from time to time.”
What makes his driving so scary?
Jason: “Well, we almost got killed one time in Kalamazoo.”
Curt Brewer (guitars): “It used to be the distraction of smoking and driving at the same time.”
Mr. Cool: “I woke up hungover and we were going to breakfast and I pulled out and there was a car coming. I shouldn't have been driving because I had just woken up. Not a good time for me to be driving.”
Do you have any good breakdown stories?
Curt: “[Our van] is incredibly dependable. It's really only broken down twice — one was a battery and one was a belt. That's it.”
Jason: “It runs like a tank. All of the mechanics that we take it to drive it around and can't believe that it has so many miles on it and runs so well. We just had a tune-up within the last month and the mechanic noted that everything that he had replaced was all factory.”
What are your best memories from being in the van?
Curt: “We had a gentleman from London fly in two years ago and go on tour with us in the Deep South for 10 days. Conversations we had with him in the van while he gaped at all the people outside.”
Mr. Cool: “My favorite part was when we were at a convenience store and he just said 'Those are the fattest people I have ever seen in my life.' And it didn't phase any of us.”
Curt: “Because they weren't the fattest people we had ever seen.”
Jason: “It was good to have him around. It was a good tour because it was good to hear his perspective on the Southern United States — and the United States, in general. He had never been any farther south in the U.S. than St. Louis, and we went through Texas and New Orleans and Alabama and Florida.”,
Curt: “We pulled up to a gentleman in Mobile, Alabama and he rolled down the window and in his British accent asked, 'Excuse me, is this Mo-bile, Alabama?' That was hilarious.”
What are the best modifications you've made to the van, decorative or otherwise?
Mr. Cool: “Somebody spray-painted our hubcap once.”
Curt: “When I first joined the band, we had been given a pair of titties that functioned as dice hanging from the mirror.”
Mr. Cool: “They disappeared somewhere along the way pretty quickly.”
Jason: “We have a Dale Earnhardt air freshener. We have a Mexican votive candle for luck.”
Mr. Cool: “Mostly, we've just had a list of modifications we've wanted to make eventually — like a bookshelf, bread box, hat rack, etc. — but we've never gotten around to any of them.”
Curt: “There are stickers on the dash. There's a big one that says 'Someone in Texas Loves Me.'”
Jason: “And a copy of The Notebook.”
Do you have a DVD player in the van, then?
Jason: “Not at all.”
Curt: “We have a band book in the van that's been destroyed. It's Our Band Could Be Your Life.”
Every van should have a copy of that book in it.
Jason: “Agreed. It's really inspiring to read these hard-luck stories and realize you don't have it that bad.”
Curt: “We don't have to hit on chicks so they'll buy us French fries. That's a Black Flag story.”
Jason: “We have cell phones so we can contact the venue and we're not driving around aimlessly from payphone to payphone.”
Anything else we you'd like to tell us about your van?
Curt: “One time, Whiskey Folk's bassist Jack Russell had a peeing contest with a guy named Johnny E. and Johnny E. was standing on top of The Rage Cage and Jack was standing on top their van, Jeremy, and they were having a piss contest at and on each other and onto the perspective vans. I don't know who won and I don't actually know how you'd measure that.”
Mr. Cool: “I think everyone's a loser in that story.”
Kentucky Knife Fight performs November 8 at Queen City Music Hall.