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The BanjoTotin’ Oddball on Being Shunned by Traditional Bluegrass Festivals, Going Solo & Taking Artists Liberties

Kendl Winter can exist in many worlds at once. In the last decade, the Olympia-based banjoist has served as one of the main songwriters behind the celebrated bluegrass outfit The Blackberry Bushes String Band, the chaotic folk punk band The Pasties, and the alt-country band Southern Skies. Along the way, she’s wailed in party punk bands, MC’d in humorous hip-hop groups, and played second guitar in a surf band. While recording her latest solo album, she was training for an ultra-marathon. When we talked, she was on her way to South by Southwest (SXSW) and serving as the nightly entertainment for a pants company’s traveling road show. “Britches, Booze, and Banjos,” is the slogan of Tour de Pants, a road show put together by Red Ants Pants, a Montana-based company that makes work pants for women. Touring around the U.S. in an Airstream trailer, Tour de Pants’ shows take place mostly in living rooms full of women with outdoor and manual labor jobs. The tour is, “like out of a Tom Robbins novel,” Winter says. Though she’s not new to life on the road, being on the road as a solo musician is new and a bit of a fresh start for Winter, after years of playing in bands. This past fall, after eight years of playing and touring with The Blackberry Bushes, she left the group to put more energy into her solo music. While she’s never stopped recording solo music, she’s never focused on it until now. Her upcoming

K Records release, It Can Be Done!, is the result of that focus. “It was really deliberate. It was the first time I’ve got to work on a solo album as my primary project,” Winter says. It Can Be Done! is her third outing on the legendary indie label, which is most well-known for spawning a very particular brand of lo-fi indie rock in the 1980s and ’90s. Winter’s new album, a more fleshed-out and higher-energy affair than her previous two K releases, works as an interesting crossover piece between two worlds that rarely interact – namely, indie rock and bluegrass. It’s what makes her music so unique and also what makes her an oddball in both indie rock and bluegrass circles. At SXSW, she says she probably stands out not for her music, but as “the dirty girl over there.” At SXSW, “Everyone just looks really good,” Winter says, “and sounds really good and everyone is really polished in a way that I, um... well, I don’t pretend to be polished.” And perhaps it’s, in part, that lack of sheen that makes her music a natural part of the K Records family. While there aren’t many albums in their catalog that have bluegrass or country leanings, the majority of their releases value the heartfelt and powerful over the produced and polished. In a catalog that has included a huge range of music - from Beat Happening and Mirah to Modest Mouse and Beck, punk and folk to funk and hip-hop – Kendl Winter’s love for creating music of all genres also makes her right at home at



Performer Magazine: July 2013  

featuring Emily Wells

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