Kitchen Dwellers’ Montana Galaxy Grass

Max Davies is eating his lunch at Fonda Mexicana restaurant in Kansas City, Mo., on the back end of a cross-country, co-bill with Colorado’s Magic Beans, as he recounts the start of Kitchen Dwellers.

Kitchen Dwellers first evolved in 2009 at Montana State University in Bozeman as a loose collective of friends who jammed together in the traditional gathering spot of mountain homes.

“We started playing in the kitchen and slowly moved to some of the bars in town, making fools of ourselves.”
–Max Davies

“We started playing in the kitchen and slowly moved to some of the bars in town, making fools of ourselves,” says Davies.

What started at open mics in tiny dives such as Haufbrau House has grown into a national touring act that packs Bozeman’s classic, live-music venue, The Filling Station. As undergrads, the boys used to see top-notch string bands such as The Infamous Stringdusters and Trampled by Turtles perform for energetic, intimate crowds.

March 15 | 10 p.m. | Crystal Bay Casino | Crystal Bay, Nev.

“It’s a legendary spot,” says Davies. “A huge hanger with tin walls and license plates everywhere. It’s been around forever, a mile or so outside of town. It’s got a vibe of anything goes.”

There is a history of quality, acoustic music originating from Big Sky Country from Mission Mountain Wood Band and Rob Quist in the 1970s to modern groups such as Kitchen Dwellers and The Lil’ Smokies out of Missoula.

“It’s a place that draws you in,” says Davies of his home state. “Everyone takes their freedoms to heart and you can pretty much do whatever you want. That comes out in the music I think. We’re given that free space. It’s something that helps us when we’re off the road back in Montana, staying up with friends living in the mountains with no cell or Internet service. There’s running water, but it’s pretty far removed from anything in town. It’s easy to write and play all day. People go home back to that environment and it promotes their own creativity.”

This space and freedom has led to the creation of a genre that Kitchen Dwellers’ fans call Galaxy Grass.

“Sometimes we totally leave the form on the songs and start making weird noises,” says Davies. “After the show, people don’t realize that strange sound was coming out of a banjo.”

Early in their trajectory, Kitchen Dwellers made several instrumental, weekend trips to Colorado where they connected with other up-and-coming jam bands that soon became close, musical companions.

They recorded their 2017 debut album, “Ghost in the Bottle,” at Mountain Star Studio somewhere between Nederland and Blackhawk in the lost heart of the front range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, working with artists such as Leftover Salmon’s Andy Thorn, Little Feat’s keyboardist Bill Payne and Greensky Bluegrass dobro player Anders Beck.

In 2018, the quartet delivered an EP of material by The Band.

“We did it because there are so many thing we love about The Band,” says Davies of the iconic group. “Their songwriting, their Americana sound. They incorporated so many things into the music and it was always their own sound. Everybody was a multi-instrumentalist, they shared a lot of the songwriting duties and there wasn’t necessarily a leader or frontman.”

Sound like another band you may know?

Early this year Kitchen Dwellers were in Denver recording their anticipated follow-up LP under the guidance of guru Chris Pandolfi.

“He brings a lot of stoke and excitement,” says Davies of The Infamous Stringdusters’ dynamic banjoist. “He’s keeping us on track. He’s very, very positive and focused. It’s something that we’ve started to call the Panda Effect. Seriously, I hang out with Chris for a day and I’m playing my instrument better than I ever have before. He has this weird thing with the way he is with music that makes you that much better.”

As they polish up the record and hit the road hard for another big year ahead, Kitchen Dwellers are working at writing new material and upping the production quality of their shows.

“We want to put our best foot forward, have fun and try to give the best we can,” says Davies. “Not everyone is given these chances, so we’re not taking it for granted.” |