Bryan Calhoon, Sarah Bartko, Shawn Dillard, and Bill Gibson (left to right) of Kill Tango
The downstairs of the Kodiak Bar is not an easy place to find. As you walk in the walls in the main room are covered in mirrors, making it look bigger than it is and obscuring the entrance to the secondary room. Then a patron must go past the bar in the second room, around the bathrooms and find a small door next to the janitor’s closet that leads—eventually—to the cramped, underground, living room-style, band room. But if the Kodiak continues to have shows like it did on Saturday night it is well worth navigating the maze.
Local favorites Kill Tango headlined a show with friends T.I.A. Saturday night and the Kodiak downstairs was full of music fans. T.I.A. played first and opened the show with Pixies’ classic “Where is my mind” and later also covered Eminem’s “The way I am." In between they played originals that had the crowd jumping and pulsating to the skanky, behind-the-beat rhythms reminiscent of Long Beach Ska legends Sublime, with a trumpeter weaving melodies with a punch in a way that brought to mind Sacramento’s Cake. They ended their set with a song in which they asked audience members to repeat the chants of their singer.
Kill Tango took the stage next. With Bill ‘Tango’ Gibson’s and Bryan Calhoon’s sweeping—often distorted, delayed, and spacey—guitar play, and Sarah Bartko’s driving drumming, Kill Tango had the crowd mesmerized. Their style can only be described as original alternative hard rock. Sometimes gritty and full of pain and angst, but often pretty and subtle, Gibson’s voice matches the dynamic tone of the music.
Before their performance I was able to ask Bryan Calhoon of Kill Tango some questions about the band:
Andrew: You guys are playing at the Kodiak tonight. Have you guys played there before and if not what do you expect the crowd there to be like compared to the places you typically play?
Bryan: We have never played at the Kodiak before. I expect the crowd to be a handful of our friends and then random drunks who filter in-and-out of the place as the night goes on. Probably will not be as big of a showing as Koots or a bigger venue but fun nonetheless.
Andrew: Kill Tango has a unique sound. Who are your biggest influences and who do you think you sound like if anyone?
Bryan: A lot of people tell us we sounds like mix between Silversun Pickups, Placebo and Kill Hannah. I guess we agree with that, we just try to make people dance. We have a lot of influences but some of our favorites are Placebo, The Mars Volta, The Knife, Smashing Pumpkins, as well as just life in general. A lot of our songs are based off moods or how we all are feeling at the moment.
Andrew: A few months ago KT made it to the finals of the battle to play in the Warped Tour, which was eventually won by Dopiate. Explain what that experience was like and what you think the judges were looking for in a band.
Bryan: It was a good experience overall. We had tons of fans come out and support us during all the rounds. It is always reassuring to get to the finals of something like that because it lets you know that at least someone likes your music. The downside is that music is subjective so no matter how good/bad you play or how good/bad your music is it just takes one person's opinion to decide your fate. I think the judges were looking for more traditional "rock," which is what Dopiate does. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not what we are about; we like to bring something new to the table.
Andrew: Do you have any aspirations to travel out of state to play? What do you see as the challenges and or benefits of doing so are?
Bryan: I think we all would love to get out of Alaska and play. Most of us have jobs that we don’t want to have forever and would love to make music for a living. The challenge would be sticking out in the huge "sea" of bands that are out there. Also we have to think about the rigors of traveling with 4 people month after month touring. The benefit would be to reach a much larger audience than we can now. Our goal is to have shows in Japan, Europe, and Australia one day.
Andrew: You have a new album called "Seven Sisters." Describe what is on the album, how you came up with the name, and how the recording process went.
Bryan: The cd consists of 5 of our favorite songs. Correction, it consists of our favorite songs at the time of recording which was in January of 2009: “Panic,” “Persistence,” “2005,” “Sleep,” and “501.” The name of the album came about because some of our biggest fans happen to be a group of sisters: Joy and Chariessa Bartko (sisters of our drummer Sarah) as well as Gina, Bridgette, Mia, Gabrielle, and Dominique Pasquale. So we decided to show them some love and name the album after them. The recording process was quick. We played a show with the once local band Delmag in December of 2008 and their guitarist liked us enough that he offered to record, mix, and master an 8 song demo for us. The only catch is we had to do it live and within an afternoon. So basically we setup up shop, mic’ed everything, and did two takes of every song live. Bill (Gibson) went in 2 weeks later and did all the vocal tracks within a few hours. We are pleased with how it turned out with the little time we had.
Andrew: What shows do you have that we can look forward to seeing in the future?
Bryan: So far we have a show at Bernie’s Bungalow on the 12th with our good friends Sunbury , and we are playing a battle of the bands at AL's on the 26th in the hopes of winning some neat prizes. Also Bill is doing a cover set at the downstairs on (September) 18th that shouldn’t be missed!