Last updated: 08/20/2009 12:00:00 PM
KEVIN TRUCKENMILLER – VOCALS
MATT KIRBY – GUITAR
JUSTIN BONHIVER – GUITAR
DROO HASTINGS – BASS
BRANDON LANIER – DRUMS
Don’t talk to Quietdrive vocalist/chief songwriter Kevin Truckenmiller about the convenience of Pro Tools or other hi-tech recording gadgetry. For the making of his band’s major label debut, Truckenmiller relied less on high-priced studio toys than he did on a simple 14 home answering machine.
“That’s where I stored the majority of the album’s melodies,” he says. “Lyrics and song ideas come to me whenever I’m running errands or driving around, so I carry a cell phone with me at all times. Whenever inspiration strikes, I just call home and sing to my machine.”
“It’s a system that works really well, but can be pretty embarrassing sometimes,” laughs guitarist Matt Kirby. “We’ll all be at a movie or standing in line at a store and Kevin will whip out his phone and start singing at the top of his lungs. People just stare at him like he’s crazy while we pretend that we don’t know him. It’s hysterical to watch.”
Truckenmiller and Quietdrive stay dialed-in throughout their hook-laden Epic Records debut, When All That’s Left Is You,. Produced by Butch Walker (Avril Lavigne, Bowling For Soup, The Donnas) and Matt Kirkwold and mixed by Chris Lord-Alge (Green Day, Switchfoot), this sharply penned album of volcanic, guitar-driven rock introduces Quietdrive as an electrifying pop-savvy band with musical smarts well beyond their years.
The disc finds the Minneapolis-based quintet (rounded out by guitarist Justin Bonhiver, bassist Droo Hastings and drummer Brandon Lanier) breaking from the gate with a meaty monster-sized sound and, thanks to a few hundred thousand ravenous MySpace Music users, an equally Godzillian-like buzz. They built the latter the DIY way, creating a profile on the mega-popular site and then reaching out to find similar-minded fans through message boards and emails. “We did that every day for weeks and the response was mind-blowing,” says Kirby. “We had about 10,000 people looking at our page every day and wound up being the top artist on the MySpace main page for over a week.”
The big draw were two bright and shiny irresistible nuggets: “Take A Drink” and “Rise From The Ashes,” each an exhilarating mix of buzzsaw guitars, chiming melodies and hard-to-shake hooks. To date, the two songs have been downloaded a combined 400,000 times. “That’s pretty amazing when you consider that it happened without the push of the label or any kind of advertising campaign,” says Truckenmiller. “The fact that it was a completely organic process of fans and friends turning each other onto our music makes us really proud.” “And they’ve only had a taste,” adds Kirby. “We still have a whole album of songs to give to those people.”
Quietdrive fully deliver on WHEN ALL THAT’S LEFT IS YOU, a perfectly paced record of sumptuous pop hooks, raw rock thrills and beautifully warm, open-hearted melodies about faith, hope and love. Against a musical backdrop that draws as much from Elton John and Nirvana as from Zeppelin and Matthew Sweet, Truckenmiller tackles politics of the heart, sifting through the wreckage of old relationships (the intoxicatingly tuneful “Maybe Misery”) and holding out hope for the one that got away (the soaring “Rush Together”). In between, he parties with friends (“Take A Drink”), pays homage to Cyndi Lauper (with a stunning rendition of “Time After Time”) and vows to keep his eyes on the prize (“Rise From The Ashes”).
“I think I can speak for everyone when I say that making this record was an experience none of us will ever forget,” says the vocalist. “I remember my mom and family being at the studio for some of the mixing sessions, which was a big deal for me. She heard the songs for the first time and started to cry. My parents never told me not to play music for a living, but they did tell me to stay in college and come up with a back-up plan. I think they had a hard time accepting my decision to pursue a career in music, which is understandable because there are so many hardships and obstacles to overcome. But watching my mother listen to those songs and being moved to tears was a really emotional moment. I think both she and the band finally realized what we’re really capable of. It was a turning point for all of us.”
Quietdrive’s roots can be traced back to Minneapolis in late 2003 after Truckenmiller posted a few MP3’s on a local music site. Lanier, who had been playing with Hastings and Bonhiver since grade school, heard the tracks and called. The group was completed when Truckenmiller brought in former college classmate/poker buddy Kirby (a self-proclaimed shark who can spot a fish a mile away). As Kirby tells it, he and Kevin spent the majority of their school years writing songs and playing Texas Hold ‘em (and not always in that order). “We pretty much paid for all of our college expenses, as well as guitars and gear, with poker winnings,” he laughs.
With lineup intact, the quintet spent the next year and a half sharpening their sound and playing any hole-in-the-wall that would have them. “We’ve had more than our fair share of strange gigs,” says Hastings. “I remember one show that included a room filled with senior citizens who sat there and ate dinner while we played. That was interesting.” “Then there was the time we played a venue with no backlights,” adds Lanier. “So we went to Wal-Mart, bought a few dozen flashlights, put Quietdrive stickers on them and gave them to people in the front row. We told them that they were in charge of the evening’s light show. They wound up doing a pretty good job.” The band quickly developed a rep for their energetic live show and began making serious noise on the Midwest club circuit. Gigs with the Donnas and a stint on Warped Tour 2004 came next, followed by a head-turning demo and a deal with Epic.
“You could say that everything’s happened relatively fast, but we’ve worked really hard to get here in a short amount of time,” says Bonhiver. That includes making the tough decisions, with one of the most difficult revolving around the band’s name. Last year, the guys decided they needed a new moniker, even though they had just spent a small fortune on an order of several hundred QD t-shirts. Rather than let the freshly printed swag go to waste, the band donated the duds to their local Salvation Army. “It seemed like the right thing to do,” says Kirby. Naturally, they changed their minds a week later. “After a few days of going back and forth, we realized that Quietdrive was the name we all liked best,” laughs Bonhiver. “And though we felt awful about it, we obviously needed our shirts back.” But they were too late—the tees had already been shipped to stores and shelters across the country. Fortunately, the group remains focused on the positive. “The bad news is, we’re out a few hundred bucks,” shrugs Kirby. “The good news is, we now have one of the largest homeless followings in rock and roll.”