The Guitars (Profile)

'60s Pop with a modern twist

Oct 14, 2009 at 2:06 pm

The Cincinnati music scene is incestuous. If you had to listen to someone list what bands they’re in now or what bands they’ve been in and with whom and then what bands that person had been in or was currently in, you’d probably get bored.

Whatever the reason — elitism, inability to make new friends, etc. — it seems you can’t go to a local show without seeing a repeat face onstage. Like every group’s a supergroup.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The relatively newly formed The Guitars are no exception to this musical formula. Each member is currently involved in another project: Drummer/showboat Matt Ayers is in Brothers and Sisters, singer/guitarist/bassist Mark Van Patten plays in the Mt. Pleasant String Band and Motorcycle Tapedeck (which includes organist/guitarist/singer Russell Morris and a member of The Tillers) and bassist/guitarist Kane Kitchen is in a yet-to-be-named group with Dan Majesky, from Black Charlemagne.

But The Guitars don’t sound like any of these bands. This combination is an easy-to-listen-to Pop band with organs, Surf Rock drums and vintage appeal like the Beach Boys but with an anachronistic modern-voiced singer. Which is the opposite of the louder past projects that Kitchen and Ayers are known for like No Arms, No Legs and Death in Graceland, the Hardcore barf Punk dance band.

“I guess the idea is now we’re like, ‘Hey, guys, we paid our dues in our Punk bands, right, so now you have to accept us automatically,’ ” Kitchen says. “So even if they hate the music, they’re all nice to us. … We really don’t fit, but we’re buds with everybody.”

And judging by the way Kitchen and Ayers finish each other’s sentences you can tell these two are buds, too, and have been.

“We’ve been wanting to start this band since we probably met each other,” Ayers says. “But it just took about seven or eight years.”

“We actually really like this music,” Kitchen says. “It sounds like a ’50s/’60s idea. That’s what we’re going for. We’re making it just Pop. Pop over Rock, but Rock hangs out, too.”

Inspired by session musicians like the Wrecking Crew from L.A., the Funk Brothers (famous for backing Motown Records recordings) and musicians who played on the Phil Spector records, The Guitars try their best to re-create an authentic ’60s Pop/Motown sound by using old techniques on their instruments and avoiding digital recording.

“It’s not over-tuned, it’s not over processed,” Ayers says of their recent recordings.

“Mark looks up a bunch of stuff about how they used to record, and we’ve been trying ideas like that,” Kitchen says. “Like the drums are in the background. We don’t have each drum mic-ed. We have a full sound coming around from the drum set.”

They’ve also been running their tracks through a tape machine, creating an intentionally warm sound.

“It’s mid-fi,” Ayers says. “Not hi-fi, not lo-fi.”

“Yeah, you know, snaps and pops and shit,” Kitchen says, laughing.

But they still want their music to sound timely, or maybe timeless. While none of their voices necessarily have that crooning Motown appeal, they treat their songs like Pop standards with simple arrangements and purposely accessible, genderless lyrics.

And as they’re only coming up on their ninth and 10th shows, back-to-back, they’re still experimenting with their live performances. Sometimes they’ll add a modern touch like a projection screen, sometimes not.

Either way, The Guitars is a new band featuring very active Cincinnati musicians, which makes it worth your time to come and watch them figure out their live persona.

“A bunch of our friends were saying they liked what we’re doing even if it caught them off guard,” Kitchen says.

“No one said it sucks,” Ayers says. “Well, of course,” Kitchen says. “Who’s going to say that?” “That’d be awesome if someone just came up and said my band sucked,” Ayers says.

THE GUITARS play Molly Malone’s in Covington Friday (details here) and the Mad Hatter Saturday for the Pat Rice (Punk Rock Grandma) documentary release (details here).