New Haven, Connecticut — besides being the home of that bastion of higher education Yale University — has a much clearer and more respectable distinction: the birthplace of the single greatest, wordly observed, modern invention known to humankind: New Haven is the birthplace of the hamburger!
And heavy-handed, hair-thin segues aside, the next beefy global export that will be seen as truly monumental that has matured on the uterine walls of the fair Elm City is the angular, guitar-based power trio known as Kimono Draggin’.
The band — Joseph Nolan (guitar and main vocals), Joshua Hatton (bass and backup voice) and Chris Swirski (drums and even more backup vocalizations) — recently dropped a couple of simultaneous CDs, the shiny new We Are The Dudes, and the remixed release of the previously recorded but never released Space Orphans.
The tunes rocked and showed such originality and quirky prowess that a brief interview was mandatory. So when not releasing albums or playing in front of thousands in Germany, Josh was tapped for a quick Q&A.
Which came first; the name or the band?
The band came first. I was, and still am, a total Sparks freak and love their Kimono My House LP so I suggested we call ourselves either Kimono Gold or Kimono Draggin’. Kimono Draggin’ stuck.
How did y’all get together, and when was that?
We first got together as Kimono Draggin’ in February of 2003. We’ve all played in bands together throughout the years. Chris and I were in a little band called Council of Five Nations back in the mid-’90s and Joe and I were in a band called Leaves of Lothlorien in the mid–to-late ’90s. Kimono Draggin’ first started off as The Plastic Zodiac Trio with Joe, myself, and [mutual friend] Jeff Wilcox. Jeff left the band and we needed a drummer; I suggested Chris, and then the magic started.
And you’re all the original members?
As far as Kimono Draggin’ is concerned, yes.
How do you think y’all stay together and not get all “ehh” and bitchy the way so many bands do after being together for some time?
We all just get each other and are very open to compromise. We’re not scared to tell one another, “Hey, that’s all wrong,” or, “Man, that’s just dumber than dumb.” It’s like we’re in a good marriage…without all of the banging.
What was the first impression after you played together for the first time?
Pure Magic, The Gathering. Kismet.
What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?
Not sure about Chris or Joe, but when I was six my uncle got me a Ramones LP and Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album. After that, I know that I saved up enough money to get Ramone’s Rocket to Russia.
What was the first album you heard that made you say, “Daaaaaaamn! That’s some awesome shit!”
The two albums mentioned above. Oh yeah, I really dug my dad’s John Fahey albums.
What is this Zappanale thing? ‘Splain it to me.
Zappanale is a fest set in Germany which hosts bands which either cover Zappa (or Beefheart) music or are obviously influenced in some way. This year the Zappanale will be celebrating their 21st fest.
How’d you get involved in that, and what was it like to play it? Are you gonna do it again?
Joe used to play in a Captain Beefheart cover band called Dr. Dark and they got onto the Zappanale bill a couple of times. We played the fest in 2007 partially because of Joe’s involvement in Dr. Dark and because the Zappanale folks just plain dug us. We were hoping to play again this year but our press pack made it to them too late and they already booked some larger acts — people who used to actually play with Zappa — who have larger guarantees than we do.
So what’s up with this new/old record, Space Orphans? Why the delay in its release?
Man, this is a long story. I’ll try to give you the reader’s digest version — man, we were so pumped about this album! We had just written a whole slew of new songs, we had gotten the green light on the 2007 Zappanale, and we wanted to have new music to bring to the fest. In short, we stepped all over our toes in the studio, during the mixing section, and fucked it up. Plain and simple. We almost threw out everything. Matt Thomas [friend/former bandmate/mixing and mastering] convinced us back in 2007 or 2008 not to throw out the recordings. They wanted to do something with it. After a while we finally said…okay. And man, did Matt and Bill Readey [mixing/mastering] work some fancy ass magic! They gave us a fun album indeed!
Music hacks are always so proud of penning new terms and stuff to describe what a band sounds like (the old “sounds like this band on this drug playing this other bands music” equation). How would you describe the Kimono Draggin’ sound?
A while ago, we called our music Bukkake Rock. Then we realized that some people either did not know what Bukkake was or they knew what it was and were slightly disgusted. People refer to our stuff as avant-rock which I think is cool. Part of me wishes to bring back the Bukkake though.
Do you get to play out often and where?
Much more now that Chris’ shoulder healed from a horrible Aikido accident. New Haven is our favorite place to play, such a great scene with lots of great local bands to play with, New York, Massachusetts. We’d like to go back to Europe again soon.
Who writes the lyrics and who writes the tunes?
Joe writes the lyrics and the guitar stuff — we take what he brings and write to his stuff and arrange it all as a band. It’s all guitar-driven stuff.
What’s ahead on the Kimono Draggin’ schedule?
We’re working on recording an album of all Zappa and Beefheart covers. Oh yeah, tomorrow we’re finishing up a video for the lead track on We Are The Dudes.
Catch up with Kimono Draggin’ at www.kimonodraggin.com