Bent Knee

Bent Knee is an uncompromising band. The Boston-based band seamlessly connects rock, pop, and avant-garde to create its own unique statement. Say So is the debut album by Cuneiform. The band emphasizes the sound of surprise. This is rock for the thinker. The lyrics of the group are dark and heavy, with themes that focus on personal demons and unwelcome situations, and the difficulties of conquering them. Its unpredictable sound is in keeping with its subject matter. It’s an aural rollercoaster ride that will make listeners wiggle their hands in excitement as they interact with the arrangements. Steve Smith, The Boston Globe, stated that “Say So” demonstrates the growing refinement and confidence in a group that doesn’t quite fit any traditional pigeonhole. It has emphatic crunch. a knack for complex, mixed with lively humor.” “Live, Bent Knee projects visceral joy, meticulously harmonized, and wholly infectious.” Bent Knee was founded in 2009. The band is a democratic entity that has high standards and is determined to push the boundaries. Courtney Swain, the keyboardist and frontwoman of the band, is renowned for her acrobatic, multioctave vocals. Ben Levin, guitarist, alternates between hauntingly melodic sounds and dissonant tones–sometimes in a single verse. Gavin Wallace Ailsworth, drummer, and Jessica Kion, bassist, deliver thunderous grooves that are full of interesting ornamentation and deep, thunderous beats. The band’s sound is further enhanced by Chris Baum’s melodic overlays, atmospheres, and driving rhythms. All of this is superbly processed by Vince Welch, sound designer. Since its formation, Bent Knee has been on a steady upward trajectory. Consequence of Sound and Innerviews have hailed its last two albums, Shiny Eyed Babies (2014) and self-titled 2011, as important art-rock achievements. To date, the group has performed over 300 shows in the U.S., Canada, and Japan. This year, they will embark on their first European tour. They have also performed at major festivals and venues such as ROSfest, Tulsa Center of the Universe and Campbell Bay Music Fest. Welch says that Bent Knee fuses avant-garde and pop music. “We believe that these things aren’t as mutually exclusive, as most people think,” Wallace-Ailsworth continues. It’s also the most bizarre thing Bent Knee ever did. For example, “Leak Water” is a fairly straight-forward rock song by our standards. “Eve”, however, is a sprawling epic with many twists and turns. The album’s lyrics reflect the diversity of our musical personalities.” Baum explains, “On Say So we’re looking at a bigger picture and trying to figure out where we stand as individuals and how we can find meaning in this vast universe.” The album artwork captures this idea as well. It features a figure in the woods looking out at the light, but surrounded by darkness. This perspective is beneficial to both the listeners as well as the band. Swain says, “I’ve had listeners approach me and say Good Girl’ from Say So is an important statement against women being oppressed or patronized and that hit me really hard.” It’s possible to see those lyrics in this context. That perspective helped me connect with the song even more. The way people see our songs can enrich and refresh them as we perform them over the years.” Bent Knee’s adventurous arrangements are one of its most distinctive features. Each track is an experience. In fact, pieces like “Eve” and “Counselor” are so diverse they reflect an almost “songs-within-a-song” approach. Kion says, “We try to not repeat ourselves within our buildings.” We’ll stop creating patterns like landing in the loud section, then ramping into it and landing in the soft section immediately after it. We don’t want boredom. We want to be a surprise and an intrigue to listeners. We are always looking for new arrangements.” Levin adds, “Another thing we like about Say So is the increased dynamics in each section.” On previous albums, there was a lot of dynamic variation between sections. Songs would alternate between long builds, quiet passages and explosions. You’ll find a lot more loudness and quiet, fullness or emptiness and ambience, dryness and warmth within each section of Say So. It would look a lot like a Rorschach Inkblot if you were to draw the dynamic arcs of some of these pieces. Say So’s unusual decision to record some songs in an unusual space adds to its intrigue. Baum says that a friend pointed us to a million-square-foot, unlocked industrial complex in Boston. “We went there to record it so that we could discover its unique sonic ambience. It was like zombies could jump out at any moment. It was a dark and foreboding location that gave the session a dark feel. “We captured some wild, reverb drenched background vocals that way.” Before hitting the studio, Say So’s material was road-tested at over 50 gigs. Swain says, “It was very valuable to see the pieces go over with audiences.” Swain says that playing live gives each of us an in-depth understanding of our positions in the song’s registers, which allows us to adjust the position of the instruments in the mix. We also need to be able to hear how the lyrics sound. The songs would be presented 70 to 80 percent complete to the audience, leaving us room to improve the approach before finalizing it.” Say So is a top-notch album at every level. In their determination to set new standards for themselves and others, the band obsessed over every detail. Welch says, “We live in an age in which almost anyone in the West has access to the vast majority recordings online.” The competition for musicians isn’t just the one down the street. There are bands as large as Radiohead. You must aim to be as good as possible to have any chance of success. Even that is not enough. It takes patience and hard work to build your audience, as we have done over the past seven years. Susan Rogers, one of our mentors, told us that slow growth was real growth. This journey has brought them into Cuneiform’s circle, which is a move the band is delighted with at every level. Levin says, “It’s a huge honor to be part of Cuneiform due to the high standards set by the other artists.” It’s a world that treats music as art. Cuneiform allows us to make the music that we love and connect with many like-minded people. It’s fantastic to be in such great company, both in terms of the musicians they work with, as well as the uncompromising vision the label adheres to.” from

Leave a Comment