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The Kids Are Alright
Cherchez Kahuna showcases The B-Sharps no-nonsense rock n’ roll
By Ben Larson
Fort Wayne Reader
Cherchez Kahuna, the title of the debut CD from The B-Sharps, is a half French, half Hawaiian term that essentially means “find the big wave.” In a way, the term seems fitting in the sense that the local quintet provides the kind of straightforward rock n roll that many fans of the genre are always on the lookout for. The album will be available February 28th, and I sat down with the boys to discuss the process of making it.
In terms of writing, it appears that The B-Sharps have something of a dark horse in their midst. Bassist Nick Allison is the principal songwriter for the group, but he was surprisingly humble when I asked him about this. While acknowledging that he composes the songs, Allison made sure to say that this in no way means he should get all the credit. “The songs are the songs,” he told me. “But they wouldn’t sound the same without The B-Sharps.” Or, as guitarist Mitch Fraizer put it, “it would be like seeing Cameo if he didn’t have the rest of his band.” If you know Mitch, hearing this analogy kind of makes sense. Kind of. Having seen the boys live as many times as I have, I cannot disagree with Nick...but I’ll come back to this later when we get to the finished product.
The instrument tracks were recorded between September and November of 2008 by Uncle Tony, owner and operator of The Sound Shack in Columbia City. “We probably went up there 5 or 6 times,” drummer Alex Allison said, and they actually recorded the album no less than 4 times during the sessions. The reason for this is that, whenever they had something laid down, Uncle Tony would then have an idea for a way to improve the sound, which would then entail another recording session. The tracks were all recorded on analog equipment using 1-inch reel tape to give the album that old school, warm sound that is so difficult to capture using modern digital equipment.
The boys then enlisted the services of Larry Pester at Studio 1102 to record the vocal tracks, as well as the mixing and mastering of the finished product. Vocalist Keith Owen, who is sporting the “young Obi-Wan” look these days, made no bones about his feelings for what Pester did for the album. “He’s a magical man,” Keith said.
For all you gear heads out there, I’ll also give you a quick rundown of the equipment the boys played on for the album. Nick Allison played an Epiphone Rivoli 2 bass through an Ampeg B115 amp. Fraizer used a ’59 Gibson Les Paul Special Reissue with P-90 pickups (the envy of many a guitar player in town), a Vox AC30 amp, and a Full Tone 70’s fuzz pedal. Guitarist Timmy Oberley played an ‘86 Gibson SG with a single humbucker pickup, a ’65 Fender Deluxe amp, and a Boss BD2 Bluesdriver pedal. To round it out, Alex Allison used a standard 5-piece Gretch Catalina drum kit with Gibraltar hardware and all Zildjian cymbals.
For the CD packaging, the band was lucky enough to have the services of two of the area’s most talented and notable men. Matt Kelley did the layout and artwork, and the photography was done by Joel Faurote. When I asked how they were able to get that caliber of talent for their first album, the guys were as dumbfounded as I was. “He appeared like the angel Gabriel,” Nick told me with hardly a hint of irony. It appears that Kelley volunteered his services for the project, which is something that should spark envy in anyone familiar with his work. Local photographer Joel Faurote similarly offered up his services to the band, and Keith wanted to make special mention that they all appreciate the fact that Faurote risked frostbite to photograph the band outside on one of the coldest nights of the year.
Finally, the CDs were pressed and packaged by Discmakers. Alex told me that they went with them simply because “they had a cheap, reasonable package.” “Like Mitch,” Nick then added.
OK, now that you have the story on how the album was made, I’d like to take the rest of this time to offer up a quick review of Cherchez Kahuna.
First off, the choice to use all analog equipment to record the album seems to me to have been the right choice. This kind of rock, in the spirit of Chuck Berry and early recordings by The Who and The Rolling Stones, just sounds better with that familiar hint of tape hiss in the background. You know how sometimes you hear an album and it simultaneously sounds both new and familiar? That’s Cherchez Kahuna, and it just wouldn’t be the same if it had been recorded digitally.
The album also offers a chance to showcase the quality of musicianship found in The B-Sharps. Nick Allison’s bass goes from the rolling, groove-laden sounds heard on tracks like “Count Me In” and “Geneva,” to threatening to leap out of the stereo and pummel you on “Small Fire.” Oberley’s guitar is velvet-covered gravel, and in a way sounds like the most fun instrument to play in the band, especially on “B Minor” (my personal favorite on the album), where the temptation to dance around like a fool while playing must be undeniable.
The drumming on the album is nothing short of what it has to be like to harness thunder, and Alex Allison spends the whole time channeling Keith Moon with almost disturbing results at times. Speaking of Keiths, Keith Owen has a raw, soulful voice that you can enjoy for just for the sound of it. His best moment on the album, in my opinion, comes on “Too Tall,” where he seems to threaten to lose it at any moment. Lastly, Mitch Fraizer’s lead guitar work is just downright insane. It could start fires. That’s all I’m going to say.
That’s the story of Cherchez Kahuna. The CD release will be February 28th at the Brass Rail, where the guys will be joined by the alt-punk group M.O.T.O. Be ready for one crazy night.
Oh yeah, before I sign off, the guys wanted to me to tell you that they want to make sure and thank Kenny Taylor, Matt Kelley, Joel Faurote, Larry Pester and Tony Zeilinski for their help in making the album happen. Thanks, guys.