Just south of us in the Mountain State of WV there is a busy sound lab. KR-3 are the technicians (Tim Boyd – guitar, vocals…Shane Lundy – guitar, vocals…Travis Hoard – keyboard, vocals…Ian Varlas – bass…Steve Fullerton – drums). They make way cool music and their latest concoction “Fractures and Sparks” has dropped on the public lap.
We all dig comparisons because it gives us a reference starting point. Using the new record I’ll give you my best interpretation of KR-3. Songwriter-guitar player Tim Boyd sings like Richard Thompson and KR-3 draws similarities to the Swedish band, ‘The Soundtrack Of Our Lives” and flirts with “Phish” stylistically.
The title track, “Fractures and Sparks” kicks off the trip. A cool running piano line reminiscent of early Phish records meshes nicely with the Boyd-Lundy guitar combo. It’s a hippy solemn number and a wise choice to bring you into KR-3 lands. Once you’re in, “Agora Honey” is the meeting place, with funky guitars, washed out licks and electric piano lines from Travis Hoard. Fullerton and Varlas are a workmanlike rhythm section so careful when you look under the hood…it might be a bit toasty. “The Bardo Of Becoming” and “Down” dovetail nicely together with “Down” offering their strongest chorus hook and radio potential.
“Grime” turns a corner sonically bringing choppy clean tele-strat sounds, a groovy bassline and Boyd singing in a higher voicing or maybe a guest singing spot here from one of the guys. There’s a difference between being a straight jam band and songwriter act. KR-3 does a bang-up job bridging the both. “Jailbreak” leans toward the songwriter side and really sounds like a Trey Anastasio penned tune. Quirky in its presentation and eventually building into a cool outro ending. “Old Man, Young Man” starts off with a dirtier guitar sound and lacks the warmth the other tracks do but works nonetheless with its Neil Young-like chorus.
The oxymoronic “Desert Is An Ocean” sounds like a B-Side track and introduces a little brass with some sax fills. Boyd appears to whisper this one out and not bring the confidence he does with the previous takes. It’s a well written song but could’ve used a little more special attention. The acoustic based “Metaphor Man” rises up with organ swells and gets KR-3 back on track with the earlier brilliance. The vocals again could use strength with an extra db in the mix to bolster the hook. Fractures and Sparks closes out with “The Last Glass”. Good ideas throughout this tune especially in the middle section breakdown with some killer Dead-ish guitar work from Boyd and Lundy.
KR-3 should learn a few things from this release. First being they can write some formidable songs and secondly they have ear candy sounds. Personally, I would’ve released “Fractures And Sparks” as an EP. The first 5 songs are worthy and will withstand the test in the music critic arena. In early conversations with guitar player Shane Lundy I learned KR-3 records almost all their tracks independently. This is a luxury and occasionally a burden. Luxury being that you’re not feeling the pressure of hourly rates and creativity can flourish. The disadvantage of being an artist/producer is switching hats. In the process some songs change fingerprints and don’t fit with others due to engineering differences, EQ-ing and timing. I foresee KR-3 making great records as they plod along and continue to put on stellar live performances. Great musicians that love to play never fail. KR-3 is here to stay.
I caught with KR-3 and tossed a few questions at them and they hit it outta the park!!
Q: Can you give us a “rig run-down”? (guitars, bass, drums, keys, amps, pedals and gear) We love these!!
A: Tim plays a 2012 American Strat through a modified 74 Fender Twin fitted with Weber California speakers. His pedal board includes cheap Chinese knockoffs (a Biyang Tone Fancier and Joyo 808 clone) as well as classic pedals (a 72 Colorsound wah, Carl Martin kick/boost, BBE Two-timer and a Korg sdd 1000 racked). Shane prefers a Gibson Midtown played through a 72 Fender Twin fitted with Weber Chicago speakers. His pedals include a JHS Superbolt, TS-9, MXR boost and Korg SDD 1200 dual delay. The Admiral plays a Ludwig kit with a 60’s Slingerland snare.Travis plays a Yamaha MO-8 and a 70’s Fender Rhodes. Ian uses a Fender Jazz bass played through a BBE Sonic Maximizer and Ampeg SVT IV Pro head.
Q: I’m impressed with your melodic sensibility. Who brings the ideas to KR-3 or do you guys just belly up and start writing together?
A: We have no working formula for how songs are written or how pieces come together. Sometimes the songs are written to near completetion by members of the band, other times ideas come from jam sessions.
Q: What new or old music have you been listening to?
A: We’ll just go ahead and confess that we’ve been listening to tons of Dead shows. How about that Playin’ from Tampa 73? Perfect for watching the Appalachian mountains drift by from the comfort of our van.
Q: Who were your childhood rocker heroes?
A: Most of us we’re huge fans of Kurt Cobain and Lou Reed.
Q: “Fractures and Sparks” is a mind bender record. When did you realize it’s potential and begin formalize the idea to package the project.
A: Fractures was the album that almost stayed on the hard drive. It was completed in the basic stages in July of 2012 with Alex Wudarski on bass, Eric Stone on drums, Tim Boyd on guitar and vocals and Travis Hoard on keys and vocals. When Wudarski and Stone departed, the album was shelved. It was brought out of hiding and the bass was retracked by Tim who also added a second guitar. The final version of Fractures features only two members of the current KR-3 lineup, Tim and Travis.
Q: Do you have any goals in the upcoming years that might blow our minds?
A: We’re already back in the studio working on a new record. It also appears we’ll be seeing a lot of the US as we prepare to tour.
Q: How do you like Pittsburgh guys?
A: The City itself is beautiful and has a lot of potential. The music scene is locked down by a grouping of greedy promoters who are willing to stifle artistic processes in the name of money. (this will make for some interesting conversations w artists and promoters moving forward)
Q: What band would you guys like to tour with?
A: Led Zeppelin.
KR-3 is a 5 piece original Psychedelic Jam Rock band hailing from Wheeling, West Virginia. Since their foundation was built-in 2004, KR-3 has played more than 200 mind bending shows, sharing the stage with artists like Tim Reynolds, The Pimps of Joytime, Kofi Burbridge, John the Conqueror, and many others.The band’s sound is a soul grabbing, mind expanding, psychedelic, funk, and blues inspired jam, mixed with prevailing three-part vocal harmonies, which you can hear all throughout their latest album “Fractures and Sparks” and at their live shows.
Besides playing music festivals through the Northeast alongside notable artists such as Rusted Root, The Werks, and Ekoostic Hookah, KR-3 is currently touring up and down the East coast of the United States playing to packed houses hundreds of miles outside of their hometown. KR-3 has a supernatural ability to improvise together as one brain. With the powerful and moving lyrics of Tim Boyd, strong vocal harmonies of Shane Lundy and Travis Hoard, raging guitar solos over the power and energy this band’s rhythm section puts forth during each live performance, leaves audiences yearning for more.
Rob Eldridge – Writer/Editor