THE KNOTTIES | Photo Courtesy
It only takes one show to recognize The Knotties’ talent. Their explosive sound blending southern rock, psychedelic, and funk with overarching gritty blues rock entrances their audiences. “When you’re seeing people in the crowd with their eyes rolling in the back of their heads, but like in a good way, that’s what I’m living for.” Founding member, lead guitarist and vocalist, 20-year-old Channing Minnema mused.
The band formed very organically. Bassist Michael Mooridian and Minnema reconnected at the very coffee shop we conducted our interview in. Minnema was playing a solo set at the Red Raven Espresso Parlor when the two caught up. Minnema had played in six different bands over a span of a mere three years, and was ready for something new. He was almost to the point of hiring studio musicians and simply releasing a solo record when the pair met up.
Minnema’s dream was to find a group of guys that he loved and trusted to play in a band; and after the two reconnected it seemed like the start of its realization. Mooridian said it was pretty instantaneous, “The first time Channing came over to my apartment, I had this riff that I’d been sitting on for about a year and I had shown my band and I had shown other people, but no one found a way to make it work. And Channing, the very first thing he played; he listened to it once and plugged in and started playing over it and we were like that’s it.”
Rhythm guitarist ‘Pop’ Wilcox and Minnema had history playing together in a band called The Dicks, and was soon roped in.
The band was rounded out with drummer Jonathan Hunter, whom Mooridian knew from playing a show together in Duluth. Hunter periodically would remind Mooridian to let him know if he ever wanted to do something together, but Mooridian admitted he was hesitant, “I was honestly kind of intimidated by Jon. I was scared to call him because I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with this guy.” Mooridian continued, “As the four of us, it was kind of like there was a little gravity hole somewhere and all of us kept getting pulled closer and closer to it; and once we were all there we were like ‘Oh, this is it.'”
It only took one practice for the band to realize they really had something going. “The first time we all played together I was late to practice. So I plugged in a got my guitar strapped up and I remember I was like ‘OK so the first song-‘ and Michael was like ‘Channing. He’s got it.’…we went through the first three songs in like fifteen minutes…and he played the drums EXACTLY the way I wrote them in my head…he did that and then some.” Minnema added that even he played like he never had before, “And I had never played guitar that well. I remember soloing and going ‘Oh my god. What am I doing?’ Like, I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it. The dopamine released was f—ing insane. Since then it hasn’t faltered it’s only grown.”
There shows aren’t flashy. There are no elaborate light shows, costumes or face paint, just four talented musicians exuding passion on stage. They make it clear that they love their audiences, but admit that they are playing for themselves more than the crowd.
Minnema shared his frustration with the obsession today’s popular music has with over-the-top concerts. He feels the 80’s with their glam rock, big hair, and over-the-top onstage antics were used to distract from artist’s lack of skill- a trend we have regrettably yet to pull out of. “There is so much bullshit today surrounding music…that’s still the new artists that are playing Coachella. That’s what it is. There is no music there. There is nothing.”
Everything down to facial expressions and leg movements witnessed during a Knotties show is purely the artists’ feeling the music and it’s emotion (not a mental illness). Most shows are performed under a steady red light with no “disco ball s—.” As Mooridian put it, there are “no frills” when it comes to The Knotties. It is just four guys onstage playing music and feeling something. “Our big motto is ‘Join The Revival.’ This is our revival because we are trying to bring back that whole thing about going out and seeing this band, feeling something, becoming a fan or a follower and not for the wrong reasons,” Minnema explained.
Mooridian clarified, “The thing is, we want to share it with as many people as we can because we love that; and every musician’s dream is to live off of their art, whatever type that may be. BUT we put on the same show down at the church when we are rehearsing as we do at The Aquarium. We get just as sweaty and drink just as much.” Mooridian continued, “One of our songs “Broken Boy” which is this long heavy jam; the weirdest and darkest it ever got; after that take at the church we all just kind of looked at each other and were like ‘That got WEIRD.’ And that wasn’t for anybody else, that was just for us.”
For Minnema, playing music with his Knotties bandmates is a way for him to exorcise his demons. All of the songs are based on personal experiences in Minnema’s life and he admits to the vulnerability of exposing a lot about himself onstage. “I’ve had people ask me ‘Well how did you write this?’ and I’m just like ‘trauma.’ Whatever. Let it be what it is, but this (playing in The Knotties) is so therapeutic in a way. After a show, I always say it feels like I’ve been through chemo. It’s weird. You’ve just drained a lot but it’s because it’s transferring energy to a crowd.”
Laura Ellen Brandjord (LEB): This one’s for you Michael. I think it can be generally agreed that bass players are the most under appreciated member of a band. What do you do to ‘leave your mark’ and ‘make yourself known’ in The Knotties?
Michael Mooridian (MM): No big surprise that Flea is my favorite bassist and its not because he plays amazing slap and funk lines. He does that exceptionally well. It’s because not only can he play amazing slap and funk lines but he also knows when to play just straight sixteenth notes, like in “Parallel Universe.” Listen to that song and just listen to the bass. It’s just steady sixteenth notes for four minutes…and he finds a way to make the song groove whatever it takes. He talks about how the spirit of bass is the spirit of giving and supporting.
Sometimes that means shining through, but then sometimes when it’s Josh’s turn to sing or Channing to do a solo or Jon with a drum fill, I need to hold down the rhythm so they can do that. My thought is that I don’t have a philosophy that I know of, but all I try to do is listen and find out what works. Sometimes that’s something really flashy, and sometimes its a whole note; just drop “D” tuning and just fill the room with a “D.”
Channing Minnema (CM): Hmm. Weird note. Let’s go with “A.”
LEB: I always like to end my interviews with fun questions. The first I have for you is your desert island record. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only listen to one record for the rest of your life, what would it be?
MM: “Stadium Arcadium”
CM: Yeah. Yeah that’s the f—ing s—.
LEB: I mean, maybe you’ll be stuck on the same desert island together?
CM: Oh God, I hope we have just a big ol’ sound system.
MM: Well, if Channing and I can both bring one, I’ll bring “Stadium Arcadium” and he can bring “10,000 Days.”
CM: Oh yeah. F— yeah. “Stadium Arcadium” and “10,000 Days” on repeat.
LEB: Favorite cover song?
MM: We kind of know one cover? And that’s “Consoler of the Lonely” by The Racketeers. When I say “kind of ” I mean whenever we have to bust it out we all look at each other, shrug are shoulders and say “Here it goes.” and we see where it goes.
CM: It’s fun. I mean I’d like to do, like, maybe not a cover but a tribute. Like paying an ode to our influences, like maybe do “Voodoo Child” or something or “Hey Joe.”
MM: We’d love to get some Audioslave in there.
LEB: What is a band you think everyone should be listening to?
MM and CM: Rival Sons.
MM: You can pick something else.
CM: Ah, f—. Why do you keep picking my answer? What the hell.
MM: OK, fine. We will pick two more then. Josh “Pop” would pick Catfish and the Bottlemen.
CM: Greta Van Fleet is really doing some cool stuff. I hope they don’t sell out.
MM: Oh I’m sorry, I’m sorry I’m going to change our answer. The entire band is going to say The Marcus King Band. He reminds me a lot of Channing. He’s a redheaded 20 year old that can wail on guitar and vocals. So, Greta Van Fleet, Rival Sons, and The Marcus King Band is our final answer.
LEB: One job you would never do no matter how badly you needed the money?
CM: Probably anything to do with spiders.
CM: If I had to f— with a spider? Never. God no. I’d rather be a Mike Row “Dirty Jobs” guy except for any spider business.
MM: I’d have to say either a surgeon because I wouldn’t be good at it, or a bank teller because its way way too proper.
LEB: Anything else you’d like to add?
MM: I’m teaching bass guitar lessons at Gruber Guitars now, so if anyone wants to learn the electric bass or flute.
CM: Are you really doing flute lessons, too?
MM: You know, why not? If anyone wants to learn flute, I can teach it.
LEB: Get some ‘Anchorman’ jazz flute going?
CM: (mimics beatboxing flute from movie)
MM: I can’t teach you to beatbox and play flute at the same time.
CM: Stay Classy… Fargo.