Music: Hot Knifing

Jerry Dirr gets his music fix with his new band Knife the Symphony and his rising Phratry label

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Robyn Roth


Knife the Symphony and Jerry Dirr's (left) Phratry Records follow D.I.Y. lessons learned from the underground music scene of the '80s and '90s.



When Jerry Dirr began considering names for the label he started two years ago, he knew it would have to reflect the spirit of camaraderie and unity that he felt within the local Indie/Post Punk scene he wanted to document. He hit upon the word "phratry" (pronunciation guide: freight-tree), which is defined as "a group of similar clans within a tribe which retain their individual identities," and Phratry Records was officially christened.

"I've always been inspired and influenced by early labels like SST and Dischord, where they were very community centered and it was very much the feeling of 'us against them,' " says Dirr in the office of his Norwood home. "I see a lot of potential in this small area and I just want to get all these bands involved because I think if we work together we can achieve so much more than if we try to work by ourselves."

And when Dirr, his former Theraphosa bandmate and bassist Robyn Roth and former Ampline guitarist Jeff Albers brainstormed names for their new trio early last year, they used the same deliberation to come up with a meaningful name. They quickly settled on Knife the Symphony.

"It sort of represents our approach to music," says Dirr, the band's drummer. "It's not about looking at sheet music and being structured in a classical sense. It's more about the visceral feeling of making music."

Whether you consider Dirr's efforts with Phratry or his work with Knife the Symphony, it's clear that the label owner/drummer is on the fast track with both endeavors.

Since launching Phratry in 2004, Dirr has released CDs by area bands (The Strongest Proof, Covington, Humans Bow Down, Caterpillar Tracks), as well as an out-of-towner (New York City's Blue Velvet), and gotten a fair amount of positive press for all.

Knife the Symphony has coalesced just as quickly. After knowing and playing with each other for years, Dirr, Roth and Albers convened with the idea of starting a band just over a year ago. Within weeks the trio had written songs and was booking gigs. In August, they finished recording the five tracks that comprise their self-titled debut EP. They're currently working on setting up a spring tour and filling their calendar with any local shows that come up. Some bands can take months to evolve to the point where they gig consistently, years before they record and tour, but Dirr and KTS were clearly focused on attaining their goals quickly.

"It's a very old-school approach and that's just because of who we are," says Dirr. "We never sat down and said, 'OK, we're going to do it exactly the way they did it in '85.' (But) that time period is what got us excited in the first place, so it's the natural thing to do. No screwing around, no sitting around with our heads up our asses trying to work out a marketing plan or figure that the market is ripe for this sound now or we need to wait two years from now. Screw it, just do it."

The bedrock foundation of Phratry — and KTS by association — is a combination of Dirr's work ethic and his down-to-earth philosophy about his and everybody else's place in the food chain.

"I'll be the first one to tell you that the last thing this world needs, as much as I love music and all of this, is another Rock band," says Dirr with a laugh. "It's all just bullshit anyway. It's music. You're playing in a band. It's not the end of the world. I say this tongue-in-cheek, but there's a serious tone to it. With all the crap going on in the world — war, poverty, genocide — nobody needs to be taking themselves that seriously in a Rock band."

Dirr began considering his own label over two years ago with the dissolution of his previous outfit, Theraphosa. He and guitarist Steve Billups had started Save Your Servant, a label set up basically to release their own work. The end of the band meant the end of the label, but Dirr was intent on coming up with another entity to take its place. Energized by the contacts he'd made collaborating on the 2004 Organelle compilation (a dual release with like-spirited local label, Tiberius), Dirr forged ahead.

"I'd made a lot of new friends and I was getting really excited about some of the new bands that were here in town," recalls Dirr. "In all my bands, I always took a backseat approach to things. Not to say I never took part, but I was never the go-to guy. For me it was just a personal challenge to see if I could start something on my own."

Even as he dealt with the demands on his time necessitated by running the label, monitoring the bands and working a full-time job, Dirr was still confident that he would find himself in another band situation. By the time he'd been running Phratry for a little over a year, he, Roth and Albers started talking about the possibility of putting together a band.

"I'm not the type of person to randomly go out and join a band without knowing the people first and being friends with them — I think you're more productive that way." says Dirr of assembling KTS. "The cards just fell into place. Robyn and Jeff and myself found ourselves in the position where we felt that, with all the other things we're doing, we would have time for a band. It took me a good couple of years to realize."

With Knife the Symphony, Dirr and the band have the kind of reasonable expectations that accompany any new band; they want to play out of town more, build their local rep and continue working on new material. With Phratry, Dirr's goal is to continue to seek exposure for the bands he believes in. His motivation in both regards comes from a similar mindset.

"I do it first and foremost for myself, but there's something to be said for recognizing that sometimes it's better to do something larger than yourself," says Dirr. "These bands could make CD-Rs and I could sit here and listen to them in my house behind closed doors for the rest of my life and never do anything outside of my home and come home from work and sit down and watch a movie and get fat on the couch. But that's not who I am."



KNIFE THE SYMPHONY (

 
Robyn Roth


Knife the Symphony and Jerry Dirr's (left) Phratry Records follow D.I.Y. lessons learned from the underground music scene of the '80s and '90s.



When Jerry Dirr began considering names for the label he started two years ago, he knew it would have to reflect the spirit of camaraderie and unity that he felt within the local Indie/Post Punk scene he wanted to document. He hit upon the word "phratry" (pronunciation guide: freight-tree), which is defined as "a group of similar clans within a tribe which retain their individual identities," and Phratry Records was officially christened.

"I've always been inspired and influenced by early labels like SST and Dischord, where they were very community centered and it was very much the feeling of 'us against them,' " says Dirr in the office of his Norwood home. "I see a lot of potential in this small area and I just want to get all these bands involved because I think if we work together we can achieve so much more than if we try to work by ourselves."

And when Dirr, his former Theraphosa bandmate and bassist Robyn Roth and former Ampline guitarist Jeff Albers brainstormed names for their new trio early last year, they used the same deliberation to come up with a meaningful name. They quickly settled on Knife the Symphony.

"It sort of represents our approach to music," says Dirr, the band's drummer. "It's not about looking at sheet music and being structured in a classical sense. It's more about the visceral feeling of making music."

Whether you consider Dirr's efforts with Phratry or his work with Knife the Symphony, it's clear that the label owner/drummer is on the fast track with both endeavors.

Since launching Phratry in 2004, Dirr has released CDs by area bands (The Strongest Proof, Covington, Humans Bow Down, Caterpillar Tracks), as well as an out-of-towner (New York City's Blue Velvet), and gotten a fair amount of positive press for all.

Knife the Symphony has coalesced just as quickly. After knowing and playing with each other for years, Dirr, Roth and Albers convened with the idea of starting a band just over a year ago. Within weeks the trio had written songs and was booking gigs. In August, they finished recording the five tracks that comprise their self-titled debut EP. They're currently working on setting up a spring tour and filling their calendar with any local shows that come up. Some bands can take months to evolve to the point where they gig consistently, years before they record and tour, but Dirr and KTS were clearly focused on attaining their goals quickly.

"It's a very old-school approach and that's just because of who we are," says Dirr. "We never sat down and said, 'OK, we're going to do it exactly the way they did it in '85.' (But) that time period is what got us excited in the first place, so it's the natural thing to do. No screwing around, no sitting around with our heads up our asses trying to work out a marketing plan or figure that the market is ripe for this sound now or we need to wait two years from now. Screw it, just do it."

The bedrock foundation of Phratry — and KTS by association — is a combination of Dirr's work ethic and his down-to-earth philosophy about his and everybody else's place in the food chain.

"I'll be the first one to tell you that the last thing this world needs, as much as I love music and all of this, is another Rock band," says Dirr with a laugh. "It's all just bullshit anyway. It's music. You're playing in a band. It's not the end of the world. I say this tongue-in-cheek, but there's a serious tone to it. With all the crap going on in the world — war, poverty, genocide — nobody needs to be taking themselves that seriously in a Rock band."

Dirr began considering his own label over two years ago with the dissolution of his previous outfit, Theraphosa. He and guitarist Steve Billups had started Save Your Servant, a label set up basically to release their own work. The end of the band meant the end of the label, but Dirr was intent on coming up with another entity to take its place. Energized by the contacts he'd made collaborating on the 2004 Organelle compilation (a dual release with like-spirited local label, Tiberius), Dirr forged ahead.

"I'd made a lot of new friends and I was getting really excited about some of the new bands that were here in town," recalls Dirr. "In all my bands, I always took a backseat approach to things. Not to say I never took part, but I was never the go-to guy. For me it was just a personal challenge to see if I could start something on my own."

Even as he dealt with the demands on his time necessitated by running the label, monitoring the bands and working a full-time job, Dirr was still confident that he would find himself in another band situation. By the time he'd been running Phratry for a little over a year, he, Roth and Albers started talking about the possibility of putting together a band.

"I'm not the type of person to randomly go out and join a band without knowing the people first and being friends with them — I think you're more productive that way." says Dirr of assembling KTS. "The cards just fell into place. Robyn and Jeff and myself found ourselves in the position where we felt that, with all the other things we're doing, we would have time for a band. It took me a good couple of years to realize."

With Knife the Symphony, Dirr and the band have the kind of reasonable expectations that accompany any new band; they want to play out of town more, build their local rep and continue working on new material. With Phratry, Dirr's goal is to continue to seek exposure for the bands he believes in. His motivation in both regards comes from a similar mindset.

"I do it first and foremost for myself, but there's something to be said for recognizing that sometimes it's better to do something larger than yourself," says Dirr. "These bands could make CD-Rs and I could sit here and listen to them in my house behind closed doors for the rest of my life and never do anything outside of my home and come home from work and sit down and watch a movie and get fat on the couch. But that's not who I am."



KNIFE THE SYMPHONY (knifethesymphony.com) releases its self-titled debut CD this Saturday at Covington's Mad Hatter with openers Caterpillar Tracks, The Strongest Proof, Ampline and Steve Wethington.

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