Kithkin Puts Down Roots, Branches Out

Kithkin is a Cascadian “tree-punk” band with its roots in Seattle. This Friday, April 11, they are kicking off their West Coast tour with a show very close to home.

The band, which formed at Seattle University in 2010, will be playing at Neumos to celebrate the release of Kithkin’s new music video for “Altered Beast.”

Kithkin is made up of four Seattle U alumni: Ian McCutcheon on drums and vocals, Kelton Sears on bass, drums and vocals, Alex Barr on guitar and drums, and Bob Martin on keyboards and drums.

The band characterizes their rhythm-driven sound as “tree-punk” or “Cascadian rock.” Their music combines elements of punk, psychedelic, African music and other genres while incorporating fantastical and philosophical lyrical themes.

“It’s kind of where hippie meets punk culture,” McCutcheon said. “That’s what we’re trying to do sonically: something that’s got the aggression and passion of punk music, but that also brings in more psychedelic and communal elements.”

The band incorporates a strong rhythmic, percussive sound in all of their music.

“It’s really loud, kind of thrashy, very shouty, and it’s all about humans’ relation to the Earth,” Sears said. “It’s like a band that imagines what would happen after the apocalypse in this make-believe Northwest [Cascadia].”

The Neumos show is the first stop of Kithkin’s West Coast tour.

“We’re just excited for the chance to drive around and scream at people about trees,” Sears said. “It’s a blast.”

The show will coincide with the release of the band’s music video for “Altered Beast,” a song about the destructive nature of humans and how creation can come out of ruin.

“Humans are naturally kind of destructive, but it’s about what you do with that destructive energy that is important,” Sears said.

The video features women dressed as witches violently beating a pile of garbage with bats and other weapons. Seattle U alumna Kaillee Coleman was the art director and producer of the music video, which was filmed by Altrac Productions, a group comprised of Seattle U alumni.

The video, which does not include footage of the band, symbolically addresses the idea of what happens after personal or apocalyptic devastation. The group went into filming the video without planning exactly what would transpire.

“Usually, music videos are very planned out and that kind of takes magic out of it,” Coleman said. “Something that made this different from other music videos and more along the lines of performance art was that we didn’t know how it would actually end up happening.”

The filming process was a powerful experience for everyone involved.

“Once the energy got started, all the women were just exuberant,” she noted. “They were so excited to be releasing this tension and all this energy and power they had for
so long.”

“It was so successful and really heartening and inspiring,” Sears said.

“I think all the women who were part of it feel a lingering sense of power from it,” Coleman said.

On Friday, the first 150 people at the Neumos show will receive a zine made by the group outlining the conceptual backing of the music video and featuring still-shots.

“We’re getting to do creative things that are associated with the music video,” McCutcheon said. “We’re making this show a really atmospheric and collaborative experience for audience members.”

“Altered Beast” is a single from Kithkin’s first full-length album, “Rituals, Trances & Ecstasies for Humans in Face of The Collapse,” which will be released May 20 on Pesanta Urfolk.

“The label likes it enough that they’ve given us the opportunity to make it something special,” Sears said. “We’re all really excited to finally see it manifest in reality.”

In addition to recording an album, Kithkin also performed at Bumbershoot last summer and in Iceland last fall. This May, they are scheduled to perform at Sasquatch!, a gig they had previously only dreamt of playing.

“I went to Sasquatch! every year that I attended SU,” McCutcheon said. “Now, to be playing is just totally shocking and really exciting.”

The band is also planning their first nationwide tour for this upcoming July.

“It’s always a little exciting to venture into new climates and new regions,” McCutcheon said. “But every time we come home from a tour, the first time we start seeing the Douglas Firs cropping up and the mountains and snow caps in the distance, we know we’re home.”

Kithkin’s music video release show is April 11 at 8 p.m. at Neumos. The band will be joined by Wishbeard, Fauna Shade, and Thee Samedi. Tickets are $7 in advance.