I’ve been a fan of nerd-rockers Kirby Krackle for a couple of years now: the band released their fifth album, Mutate, Baby!, and more recently, released a new video for their track, ‘We Had A Good Run’. We chatted with them about their music and rocking out to geek culture.
The band pulls their name in from an artistic convention used by legendary comic artist Jack Kirby:
In the 60’s Jack Kirby began to draw clusters of round black dots to depict enormous but not necessarily directed energy, often of a cosmic nature. This simple graphic technique was so effective that it has been picked up by other comic book artists and can still be found in comics of today. The device has been given the name Kirby Krackle.
The band’s music is rife with energy and enthusiasm for what they sing about. Their music covers just about everything, from Nintendo cheat codes to zombies to binge-watching, spoilers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Green Lantern, superheroes, and quite a bit more. As ‘geek culture’ has gone mainstream, they’re the defining soundtrack for it.
Mutate Baby! is a fun album, opening with what’s become a trademark sort of KK song about the minutia of superhero woes: The Day My Powers Arrived.
The rest is entertaining as well: there’s tracks about spoilers, Geek Culture, and stories like True Detective, Guardians of the Galaxy and Titanfall.
We recently chatted with the band’s frontman, Kyle Stevens, about what’s gone into the band and how they’ve come to make rock music out of geek stuff.
You guys are known for your songs about comic books, movies, games and all other types of geek stuff. What sent you down the path to write about this sort of ‘geek culture’
My comic book and geek-culture obsession began a few years before the Image Comics boom in the 90’s, and in a lot of ways now looking back I feel that set the stage for what I’m doing with Kirby Krackle as a 100% independent nerd-rock band going on 6 years now. Those artists took a giant leap into something that hadn’t been done before, and that combined with what was happening in Seattle at the time in music those two factors really burned into me what can be possible when taking a creative risk.
When I started Kirby Krackle in 2009, there really was no one doing comic book and geek themed music that took the genre seriously. Up until that point, rock and rap artists would drop a little Dr. Doom or Spiderman reference now and then but I felt that music treating those characters and themes was underrepresented. I come at KK with the angle asking myself what if I was a fan of the band what would be exciting to me. That has worked so far and here were are 5 studio albums later. We’ve also had some amazing opportunities working with our heroes as being one of the few bands to ever open for Weird Al Yankovic and creating musical content for companies like Mondo, Cards Against Humanity, and Disney / Marvel comics.
Your style of music isn’t exactly what you’d hear on a top 40 station, but you seem to have attracted a considerable audience. How has that come together?
Before Kirby Krackle, I would submit my music to record labels and the thing I would here over and over again was, “Your style is too all over the place genre wise”. First and foremost I’m a songwriter, and though I understood where those labels were coming from as a business, I wasn’t ready to compromise that part of my music. With KK, our fans celebrate that variety in our style song to song, album to album, and the common thread is woven together in geek-culture themes. I’m very thankful to our audience that they allow me to express my music in that way and that it adds an excitement to keep them guessing to what we’ll do next. I call Kirby Krackle a “nerd-rock” band; songs about comic books, games, geek-culutre, and more often than not that description will make people stop to see what KK is all about.
Who is your primary audience? How do they relate to your music?
I like to think that our audience thinks a lot like I do! I have a huge passion for comic book and geek culture, and I just like to see people realize their dreams by creating cool content and art. From 6 years of touring North America and Australia, I can safely say that also represents a lot of the KK community, lovingly referred to as “Krackleheads”. More often than not I am one of the very few musicians at comic book conventions and geek themed events, and that thankfully makes us stick out amongst the sea of vendors very often competing for the same customer. My audience enjoys something they haven’t heard before, and that’s what I do my best to provide for them. If it makes me laugh, tug at my nerd heart strings or when the little critic inside says, “No Kyle, you can’t write about that”…then chances are high our fans will dig it, too.
Your latest album, MUTATE, BABY! is your fifth geek-flavored album. How have you changed since your first?
I always tell people who pick up our entire catalog at conventions to make sure they listen in order or else it sounds like we forgot how to rock! Our albums get harder musically every time we put a new one out, and I think that has a lot to do with the kind of songs we’ve seen work well live and how our style has refined itself from 6 years of touring. The first album was me alone in my home studio as a big experiment, and as time has gone on we’ve formed a full-band that has had the opportunity to find a producer in long-time collaborator Don Gunn in Seattle who helps make us a pretty tight and oiled machine. We know what we sound like, and taking that concern off the table opens up energy for more experimentation both musically and stylistically that I think you can hear evolve throughout our records. I know the songs have gotten more fun as time as gone on, and having started with mostly character-driven referencey songs I’ve really been inspired to evolve our themes into more geek-cutlure en masse commentary. I know this has a lot to do with how geek-culture basically has become pop-culture. It’s a very interesting time and I’m very curious to see if that will always be the case. Maybe the world will become obsessed with baseball cards again…weirder things have happened!
Looking back, what’s your favorite song from your back catalog?
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but if I had to choose 2 they would be from taking a risk that I wasn’t sure would work out that then would go on to become a fan favorite. I had a really hard time with math in school growing up, and I thought it would be fun to write and record a song talking about that a la a “Schoolhouse Rock” type delivery. The song is called “Booty Do Math” and it’s one of the weirdest songs we have in that the video follows a butt-person going to tutoring taught by R. Kelly. I love that our fans let enjoy that kind of randomness as much as I do! A fan-favorite (and one of mine) is “Ring Capacity” from 2010’s E For Everyone album. I’m a big Green Lantern fan, and as one you can imagine how cool it is to have hundreds of nerds sing the oath right in your face when we play this every night.
You guys launched a Patreon channel recently: how has that been going, and has it allowed you to do things that you couldn’t before?
My Patreon supporters are the life-blood of Kirby Krackle allowing me to concentrate on creating more songs and content than I would otherwise be able to do. They have allowed me to focus on my music and write and record full-time now for the past year and a half, and in many ways I feel like the campaign is just getting started in where I want it to go. The concept of Patreon is still new, and I always suggest that people think of it as an on-going Kickstarter.
By supporting Kirby Krackle or like independent-artists, supporters allow us to continue to create more of the music and content that you already love while at the same time receiving exclusive content only provided to Patreon supporters. I run my campaign in the form of the “Kirby Krackle Music Fan Club” and for as little as $4 a month members receive 2 Fan Club-exclusive songs each and every month not found anywhere else. It’s also become a very fun way to stay topical in getting music out addressing current themes that might not make it on a 12-song album. It’s really grown into it’s own community for what I do, and I encourage anyone wanting to be a part of the fun to learn more by visiting www.patreon.com/kirbykrackle. I’d love to have your aboard.
What do you guys have coming up next that we should look forward to?
As I enter my sixth year of touring with Kirby Krackle, I am driven more than ever to share my music with everyone who hasn’t heard of Kirby Krackle or nerd-rock before. There’s so much out there vying for our attention all the time, but I now more than ever believe our music will find whose who are waiting to receive it. What we do best is play live, and this year we’ll be doing a lot more of that and taking our live show to the next level with some surprises we have up our sleeve. I’m looking forward to returning as a guest at my favorite cons across the US, Canada, and Australia and seeing all the fans. That’s the best part of what I do; seeing all the faces that come up to say hi letting me know what their favorite song is, etc.
As an independent band and business a lot of my time is spent sitting at a computer alone trying to make things happen, so getting out to my people is the thing that keeps me going. I’m having a lot of fun with making videos lately as well, and in the past few months have put out “The Day My Powers Arrived” and just this week “We Had A Good Run” both from our new album MUTATE, BABY!. We also had another opportunity to work with Disney and Marvel this past summer and I’m looking forward to the time when we can share more about that. It’s a great time for nerd-music and more than anything I want to do my part in spreading the word it’s here to stay and bring it the respect it deserves.
Mutate Baby! is now out in stores.