Incline District (Profile)

Smart Cincinnati trio braves the Indie hill with rolling Rock

Beaming, I announce that I can quote the movie Red Dawn. They tell me I’m a good person.

Here, the coolness factor is a little kooky. We agree on Beastmaster — that guy was ripped with a huge, mysterious belt. Hell, maybe the pyramid was made of plywood, but it’s still a classic.

On the movie convo, the wicked humor of these wordsmiths becomes obvious. Mix that with overall natural, well-crafted Rock that drips with bare, honest grit and the Incline District train is beyond intriguing.

Their consistent sound burns out with a steady, soft, slow spark. Breathing room and heart. Tuned in, they’re all about the details — drummer Charles Hemlock busts out the names the Beastmaster’s ferrets.

Northside Tavern’s back room. Just us. Dark and creepily romantic. Low, colored lighting, goofy, psychedelic wall artwork. Quiet. The scene has that feel — a subtle nervousness, as if something’s about to happen. Like we’re all waiting for the story. They order drinks. Someone’s got the patchouli going on.

From Piqua, J.W. Mitchell (lead vocals, lead guitar) has kind eyes, an easy smile. At music since he was a fetus, he began on piano and sax. Later, he studied theory and guitar at Miami University.

“I didn’t fit in there at all, but I liked it,” he says.

A writer, Mitchell notices things; his words are layered and loaded. When it comes to quick connections and coolly delivered jokes, he’s a hawk eye. He likes a beard that makes him look like he “just got out of jail.” He’ll describe the shoe styles he’s worn since grade school.

When Hemlock signed up, the band was named after his Price Hill home. With short hair and big, questioning eyes, Hemlock appears perpetually curious. Starting on drums at 12, he played in a slew of bands, settling in with the Incline.

Hemlock states, “I finally found the band that I fit in, music-wise and friend-wise.”

Frederik Kire (bass, vocals) has longish, straight hair, a sensitive spark in his eye and one lone diamond earring. He could easily pull off a mustache. Not to miss anything, we talk about his actual childbirth. Moving on….

At 16, Kire played violin, cello, trumpet and then guitar. All self-taught.

“I graduated to bass when I met these guys,” he says.

With pseudo-innocence, all three can hold straight faces until they’ve made their mark. Both in words and music, the band’s key strength rests in the timing. Listen, and you’ll give them a mental high-five on delivery.

Mitchell’s voice subtly drifts out and he doesn’t do the piercing falcon scream. Rather, he grabs at the middle zone; the vocals are deep, slightly throaty, but oddly soothing. Guitars blend and flow with a working, quiet energy anchored by intelligent drums. No crazed, angry force here. They’re a Rock band, but there’s clever delivery. This tiger doesn’t roar; it growls.

More Songs About Waiting and Nothing, their debut release, a 12-song album recorded at Ultrasuede with John Curley, is nearly finished. The official release show is scheduled this fall in the very room where we sit.

In recording, they aimed for laid-back, live realism.

Mitchell explains, “(Curley) set the lights down really low. We just played our set … it’s not clean, it’s real different.”

Kire adds, “I like that you can’t describe it.”

On the vibe, Mitchell says, “It seems like a lot of our songs flow really well together, but they don’t necessarily sound the same.”

It holds a consistent mood, an “album feel.” Mitchell continues, “That’s the absolute truth. We try to keep our stuff smart.”

The band doesn’t rage through issues, but there’s a definite peculiar edge. An informal trio with an underlying, humble, focused strangeness, their welcome, weird stage presence makes them somehow more endearing. Live, they’re accessible, focused, and they seem relaxed. Professionally, they’re just doing what they do in the vein of a more mature band.

Hemlock explains, “We’re there for us, and if the people like it that’s even better. We love what we’re doing musically … we’re not out to impress anybody, just having fun, and I think it shows when we’re up there playing for each other.”

With steady gigs booked, from here they hope to telepathically communicate with animals, hit the tracks and head on up the hill. On and off stage, there’s something underground, cloak-and-dagger mysterious about Incline District. Whether it’s the hidden, off-the-wall vibe or just the rolling tunes, it’s well worth checking out this top-secret beast.

INCLINE DISTRICT next plays June 22 at Northside Tavern. Check out music by the band at