New Kids On the Rock

Cincinnati’s Kry Kids want you to dance and think … and dance

There’s considerably more to a Kry Kids gig than you would expect from a Rock-centric Electronic band. When the local group began as a duo conceived by ex-Chalk multi-instrumentalist Dave Rohs and Culture Queer’s Jeremy Lesniak in 2009, it was probably exactly what you’d expect.

“There were a lot of wires,” Rohs says while chatting at their rehearsal space at the famed “Sprout House” in South Fairmount. “So many wires.”

“We played out once at The Comet,” Lesniak recalls. “It was laptops, hitting space bars and us playing along on three keyboards, guitar and bass. It took longer to set up than we actually played. It wasn’t that good.”

Rohs and Lesniak realized they’d have to increase their numbers to grow beyond their limited resources. Lesniak knew bassist Brendan Bogosian from their stint in Ether Bunny (“We were trying to be Noise Rock but it turned into a bad Jam band,” says Lesniak) and Bogosian knew drummer Brent Donaldson.

“I told Brent that Jeremy and Dave were looking for a drummer and his caveat was, ‘I’ll join but you have to join with me,’ ” Bogosian remembers. “I thought, ‘Oh, shit, what have I gotten myself into?’ ”

Rohs and Lesniak auditioned others but settled on Bogosian and Donaldson (the fact they’d been in six bands together previously may have been the convincer). Kry Kids has been a quartet for two and a half years now. The wisdom of the decision to bring in more musicians is evident on Kry Kids’ debut EP, the digitally-released Happy Tomato, officially available as a download through The All Night Party the night of their release party at the Northside Tavern.

“They’re hosting the site where people can download it,” Donaldson says of the assistance from All Night Party, the forward-thinking promotions and digital music outlet that has released music by Cincy Indie faves The Sundresses and Fists of Love. “We’re not putting out any CDs. It’s download codes, which I think is the first time any of us has done that.”

ANP’s marketing concept stays true to the organization’s mission to offer high-quality digital releases with alluring perks. When fans download Kry Kids’ songs and artwork (check


for details), they’ll be directed to a tag for a button, T-shirt or other dividend.

“You get a doo-dad instead of a CD,” Lesniak says. “There are songs available to listen to on our Reverb Nation and Facebook pages, and also MySpace, but we’re trying to phase that out. We hate MySpace.”

On a more positive note, Kry Kids love their myriad influences, the building blocks of the band’s powerful Electronica-with-a-Rock-beat pulse. Employing a wide variety of inspirations, including Devo, David Bowie, Roxy Music, The Faint, Brian Eno and Sparks, Kry Kids’ organic process reflects the band’s influences through the members’ own unique, creative writing and performing prism.

“We all come from a Rock background, for sure, but the Electronic influences are there,” Rohs says. “People of our generation tend to be influenced by a lot of stuff and I want to let it all hang out. I want to hear a little Joy Division, a little Faint, a little Sly and the Family Stone.”

“Me and Dave set out to be an Electronic Dance group,” Lesniak says. “But our Rock influences beat down our Electronic influences.”

Whichever side attracts new fans, the Kids’ rallying cry is for their whole audience to hit the dance floor. Given the band’s infectiously stilted polyrhythms, that can be easier said than done, but it makes for some entertaining attempts.

“More often, we’re telling people to dance,” Donaldson says. “We always seem to get one couple — and it’s not the same couple every time — that seem like they have ballroom dance training but they’re so drunk, they just start flailing all over the place. That’s nice.”

“I like the idea of having the Dance songs, and then having songs like ‘Happy Tomato’ and ‘Madness,’ where there’s a slightly different mood,” Bogosian says. “It’s not totally homogenous. There are a few other styles in there.”

One of Kry Kids’ live trademarks is a structural complexity that finds everyone but Donaldson moving constantly between instruments and roles. Like a well-choreographed but also intuitive ballet, the switch-ups are planned and practiced but come across graceful and natural enough to not be a momentum killer.

“(There is) actually a theatrical level of stage production with us,” Donaldson says. “I get to sit there, but these guys are constantly switching instruments. That’s why we write out set lists. We spend forever getting the songs in the right order so we don’t have people crossing the stage every time.”

“It’s like blocking a play,” Bogosian says.

“It’s a lot of changing and remembering presets and dialing knobs,” Lesniak says of the complexities that come with frequent onstage instrument-trading. “It can ruin a whole song if you don’t have the right preset or you’re delayed. It’s a challenge. Sometimes I wonder, ‘Does the audience know how hard we’re working?’ ”

In many ways, the greatest challenge and the hardest work for Kry Kids is coordinating everyone’s schedule for rehearsals, writing/recording sessions and shows. Each member has a day job, Lesniak is in school and three Kry Kids have additional musical responsibilities — Rohs in Sea of Storms, Lesniak in Culture Queer and Bogosian in The Tigerlilies. Donaldson has the ultimate alternate career.

“I have two kids and a wife who works nights,” he notes with a weary drag of his cigarette.

Even with their swirling disruptions, the quartet makes time for Kry Kids because they love the sound that emanates from the four of them when they get together. They’re looking forward to playing out of town soon (as schedules permit) and hopefully begin working on a full-length album. And if The All Night Party’s strategy of corporate promotion should pay off with some lucrative TV placements, Kry Kids have a pretty good idea where they fit.

“We’re more CSI than Grey’s Anatomy,” Bogosian says dryly. “We’re more wormhole camera in the bullet hole … ”

“Than pretty people complaining about themselves,” Rohs interrupts, finishing Bogosian’s thought.

KRY KIDS host a free release party for their new EP Saturday at Northside Tavern with special guests Abiyah and SS-20: Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.