Oh Oklahoma....Thank you for bringing us KIRRA
TRR: You guys first came together in the middle of 2013. Dax, you and Zach were the first 2 to get together from the band. How did you guys meet?
Dax: We met through a local photographer named Freddy Salazar, he knew both our parents and when my parents put the word out I was looking for band mates, Freddy related it back to Heath (Zach’s Dad) and then we jammed together soon after.
TRR: Right from the get-go, did it feel like you guys were band brothers, like this was a meeting that was destined to happen?
Dax: Yeah, it really did. It was really cool because we just gelled from the get-go. We shared the same goals, which was great. If the guys in the band don’t share the same goals as you, it can be very counterproductive in the long run. I know some other bands that have some of the most talented members in them but not all have the same goals to be professional musicians so the band becomes stagnated.
TRR: That probably happens more often than not.
Dax: Yeah, life happens and it honestly comes down to making a choice and it’s not easy.
TRR: So then, you guys put an ad on Craigslist, looking for a bassist and singer. That’s pretty brave. I’ve advertised on Craigslist before and have sold some things on there and let me tell you, some of the people I’ve met could have been right out of the DMV.
Dax: Yes, that is true. (laughing) I’ve had the same experience.
TRR: Craigslist is like playing a game of dice. You roll those dice but you never know what your going to get.
Dax: It’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolate (laughing)
TRR: How many other guys besides Ryne and Jessie answered that ad?
Dax: I don’t know exactly but there were some others. I’m just glad Ryne and Jessie were two who did answer the ad.
TRR: The first time the 4 of you played together, you jammed a bit and then wrote “Drown”, which is a pretty cool song.
Dax: Thanks. It was really cool, not knowing each other. Zach and I still didn’t know each other all that well yet. It was just really cool to be able to come together and we learned a few cover songs so we had something to play when we all got together and we decided to try to write something, to try to jam something out. We got the chord progression and we kind of rolled with it. I said, “Zach, throw down a drum beat.” Then Ryne put down the bass line, I put down the guitar and out of nowhere, Jessie started spit-balling melodies and I was like, “oh crap, we’re writing a song right now.” And, it was at that moment when it was like, this is band brother stuff.
TRR: I was going to ask you if the song developed from Ryne’s bass-line but you explained it and that’s pretty cool how it all came together.
Dax: Yeah, it was a cumulative thing, like hey, we’ve got a beat, we’ve got a bassline, now we’ve got some chords. It was really-cool. A lot of the songs on Runaway, which is our first record, were built in a very similar way, where someone had a riff, or a drumbeat and we just built around it.
TRR: It’s really cool when things just fall into place like that.
Dax: Yeah, it really is. We just build upon what the other guy is playing, and it’s worked for us.
TRR: You’re all from Oklahoma City. I know Hinder and The Flaming Lips are 2 big bands to come out of Oklahoma City.
Dax: Zach, Ryne and I are from Oklahoma City. Gabriel (the new singer) is from a little town in Kansas.
TRR: What’s the music scene like there these days?
Dax: You know, if it’s country it’s doing really-well. If it’s rock, honestly, it’ beginning to come back from where it used to be but were now starting to build a scene, where the promoters are continuing to push shows, so it doesn’t die out.
TRR: What were you listening to while growing up? Rock, country?
Dax: You know, I was listening to what my parents were usually listening to. It was usually something like NSYNC, Pink, all kinds of really poppy stuff.
TRR: That’s not what I was expecting to hear. (laughing).
Dax: (laughing) Yeah, I know. But, you know, music is music. It’s all good.
TRR: What eventually guided you away from the pop music to rock?
Dax: Once I heard Audioslave’s ‘Like a Stone’ around 2002, I was like, “woah!” It had this really cool vibe and this atmosphere that nothing I had been listening to had and I got really attracted to that dark, mysterious kind of sound and sure enough, my love for rock just blew up from there. From that moment, that’s when I started finding bands like Alter Bridge and Shinedown, Sevendust, all those kinds of rock acts that became my favorite bands.
TRR: And, moving forward to 2019, you get to share a tour with Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge) and Sevendust. How cool is that? You go from listening to those bands as a fan and now get to do a tour with some of them. That had to be a thrill.
Dax: It really was, and those guys were really cool to watch and be around.
TRR: It’s really cool how a lot of those bands will do smaller venue tours and have some young, up and coming bands join them on tour to help get them exposure.
Dax: We were fortunate to be on this tour and we learned a lot and had a great time.
TRR: We had an opportunity to interview Mark Tremonti and Clint Lowery (Sevendust) a few months back and talking to them, they emphasized how important it was to them to help bring younger bands into the mix, to help mentor them and help them get that exposure, kind of like passing the baton, which is pretty cool. Do you agree?
Dax: Absolutely. And, speaking of that, and Sevendust in particular, one of my favorite bands, a new band called ‘Nothing More’. I remember I think it was around 2009, they were on a tour with Sevendust as well. It really is cool how those bands like Sevendust help the new up and comers that they really like get a start. I don’t know if you’d call it “grooming” but helping those young bands like us, to get that exposure is cool. Now, ‘Nothing More’ are headlining their own tours.
TRR: In my opinion, this is really helping to re-introduce rock music to fans and capture younger fans. Especially with the large festivals, where so many up and coming bands get to participate.
Dax: Absolutely. It really does and gives people the chance to discover some new stuff. It’s a great atmosphere to be around. We’re hoping to do some big festivals this year too.
TRR: In 2015, you guys put out your first record, “Run Away.” How long did that take to record?
Dax: To record, it probably took us about 3 or 4 months. The first 4 songs we all wrote together are on the record. They were actually the first 4 songs we had as a demo that we’d sell at live shows. And, we had 4 other songs that were on an EP. So, with Run Away, we took those 8 songs and wrote 4 more new songs on top of those and that’s how we got the full record. That first record is really like an evolution of our sound over a year and a half.
TRR: Then, you did a CD release and promoted that album in a show with Puddle of Mudd. How was the record received?
Dax: We did a show at the “Farmer’s Market” which is like a big venue down in Oklahoma City. They host a lot of weddings and stuff like that, but they also do rock shows. That was a fantastic night for us.
TRR: How was Wes [Scanlon, lead singer of Puddle of Mudd] doing then? I know he’s been battling a lot of demons over the years and has done some really crazy things the past several years, some really off-the-wall stuff in public.
Dax: (laughing) Honestly, we were a little worried. Mr. Scanlon does have some “interesting” history with some very odd public behavior. (laughing).
TRR: Yes, he does. (laughing)
Dax: I think it was the night before our show when he was in the Denver airport and jumped on the baggage carousel and was kindly escorted out. (laughing) So, we were a little concerned that maybe the guy wouldn’t even show. But he did, and right on time. And, he was nice and pretty cool and it was a good night all in all. So, we were worried there for a minute, wondering if he would get stuck in Denver.
TRR: With Wes, you never know what you’re going to get. (laughing)
Dax: Exactly (laughing) He is the box of chocolates! (laughing) You never know.
TRR: (laughing) You never know what you’re going to get.
TRR: How was the record received then?
Dax: It was really good. We did a somewhat tour. We were all working our day jobs so we could really only go out on the weekends but we were pretty much hitting it every weekend for about 4 months, playing OKC, Texas, Kansas, basically all the states around us, to kinda get some buzz out and get people aware that we even existed. You gotta hit the road.
TRR: That’s how it starts. Start in your own backyard and then hit all 4 corners and bring it back in again.
Dax: It’s funny you say that. That was our thought too. And, we still have fans that we met back in 2015 from those 4 months that we still see today who have stuck with us and it’s cool to see.
TRR: Who would you guys say are some of your musical influences? I hear some Alice in Chains, Puddle of Mudd, Sevendust and Candlebox, especially in My Disease and Fly.
Dax: That’s pretty close. Jessie was very influenced by Wes Scanlon and Puddle of Mudd. We all listened to Sevendust and that really brought us together too. I personally really dig a lot of the new Sevendust because it’s very melodic, but it still has a lot of that awesome rhythmic element to it that you really like. That was very influential with the songs we wrote for Run Away and Fight or Flight.
TRR: How did you guys hook up with Pavement Records? I think it’s a great fit for you.
Dax: We kinda did some label searching to see who was interested. When we got in contact with Tim at Pavement, he seemed to really like us from the get-go so we tried to form some kind of deal together so we did an artist distribution kind of thing. It actually worked out great for what we were trying to accomplish at the time. Pavement was great because they helped us get radio play and to record some singles under them. It was really cool and a great relationship because they really believed in what we were trying to do.
TRR: How did it feel the first time you heard your music on the radio?
Dax: (laughing) Very weird. It was really weird because your like, wait a minute, this isn’t our play list. It’s not like someone’s phone is hooked up and your scrolling by the Kirra songs and playing them through your Bluetooth in the car. It’s like, on the radio, and that was really cool. There’s not another feeling like that.
TRR: In January of 2018, Jesse was killed in a car accident in Ohio. That must have been a very rough time for you guys. How did you guys hear about that?
Dax: I was actually at home. My mom was crying, and I asked her what was wrong. She said Jesse is dead. He was killed in a car accident. He drove off a slick road. It was just bad luck. It was really tough because a few days before, we had just gotten confirmation that we were going to go on the road with ‘Nothing More’ in February, which was our biggest tour to date. We had an opportunity to do this tour but now we weren’t even sure if we’d be able to do it. After the funeral, we just thought about it and it was like, this is what Jesse would want us to do because we had worked so hard and it took us so long to get our name out there.
TRR: Did you guys discuss breaking up that band at that point or do you think Jesse would have said, “rock on.”
Dax: Yeah, honestly, the latter in that situation. Jesse had put as much into the band as we had. It was a group effort. We all felt it wouldn’t be right to just give up after all the effort.
TRR: What did Pavement say to you guys when Jesse died? Did they expect you guys to just motor ahead?
Dax: Pavement was very supportive. They called us up as soon as it happened and asked what they could do to help. They were super great during that time. They weren’t being business focused in a sense like, freaking out because we didn’t have a singer. They understood what we were going through and respected it completely. It was great. They were really great with us.
TRR: You had a replacement singer for a little while and then Gabriel came on board last April. Once again, you found him on Craigslist.
TRR: You know, Craigslist really needs to sponsor you guys.
Dax: (laughing) Don’t sleep on Craigslist. Get your stuff out there!
TRR: The new album, Fight or Flight. I think you guys sound really tight and Gabriel’s voice really comes through. Who produced the record?
Dax: Matt Mercado produced it. He’s out of Oak Park, which is a suburb of Chicago. He’s great. I love working with Matt. He’s always trying to be as tight as possible but also always introducing new ideas. It’s good to have like a 5th man to hear because stuff that’s not easy for us because we’re so close to it. It’s good to have someone who’s far enough away from the writing who throws in some ideas like, “let’s try this there or that there.”
TRR: The record really has a cool blend of the 70’s and 90’s and stuff that’s going on now. I think it turned out great.
Dax: Thanks man. That’s what we were going for and when we’re out on the road, that’s what we listen to, a lot of classic rock and 90’s rock. That’s pretty much our bread and butter. When you’re on the road and driving like a hundred hours across the entire tour, you go through all your songlists really quickly so everyone’s gotta come up with some new stuff to listen to. We love to take in new sounds and new influences, whether it’s classic rock or electronic. Right now one of the big things we listen to on the road is a Spotify playlist called Jazz Vibes. It’s really cool with lots of very ambient, jazzy kind of chords with electronic drums in the background. It’s stuff you play when you’re just chillin.
TRR: I saw you guys a few weeks back at Revolution in Ft. Lauderdale with Cane Hill, Lullwater, Sevendust and Tremonti. We’ve interviewed all those guys except Cane Hill. I ran into Mark at the show and he was excited how the whole tour was going and said you guys were great. John from Lullwater really loves you guys too. How’s it been sharing the ticket with all these bands?
Dax: One of the really cool things about this tour is that if there’s anyone who has the right to be really cocky or arrogant it’s Mark Tremonti. But, he’s neither, at all. He’s amazingly humble, super cool. We’re the first band, we open the show each night. But, he makes the effort to come by and shake our hands, say hello, talks to us. He’s just a really cool, down to earth, great guy. We’ll always remember that because it will remind us that if we’re fortunate enough to make it as big as Tremonti, you have to remain humble. And that’s who he is.
TRR: Did you have an opportunity to talk to Mark or the guys from Sevendust, to pick their brain?
Dax: You know, it’s funny. Clint used to offer guitar lessons through Skype and I was actually one of his students.
TRR: How cool is that.
Dax: Yeah. (laughing) And now I’m on tour with him. And, in 2014 or so, I went to one of Mark’s clinics at the House of Blues in Dallas. So, it’s crazy. At the time I’m thinking to myself, it would be so cool if one day I was able to go on tour or play a show with these guys.
TRR: And, there you go.
Dax: Yeah. You know, our thoughts were, you keep working at it and keep aiming for it and eventually if you work hard enough, it can happen.
TRR: And, it’s all because of Craigslist.
Dax: (laughing) Seriously! It’s all because of Craigslist. I’ve gotta give it up to Craigslist. (laughing) It’s so crazy.
TRR: You know, I’m going to find out who you have to speak to at Craigslist and I’ll get you that contact. They really need to sponsor you guys. (laughing)
Dax: If you find that contact, you better text me immediately! (laughing)
TRR: And if that doesn’t work, you go to Angie’s List.
Dax: (laughing) Damn right! I’ll go directly to their competitor. (laughing)
TRR: I think the 5 bands on this tour are great and it’s really a perfect blend. Who’s become like your other band brother’s from this tour?
Dax: John and the guys from Lullwater. Everyone’s been awesome but the one we’ve gotten closest to is the Lullwater guys, probably because we’re the first 2 bands. And sometimes when the merch situation is small, we’re there hanging out with each other.
TRR: Your last show for this tour is this weekend, in San Antonio. What are you guys going to take away from this tour?
Dax: Wow, probably just being super humble and stuff like that. We’ve been really trying to see what our camp may be missing and talking to the other bands and their crew. We feel like we really need a merch person because we feel like we’ll sell more if there’s actually someone at the table while we’re playing instead of having to shut it down while we’re playing and then man it ourselves after our set. So, we’ve asked a lot of questions like, “how do you pay someone like that?” We don’t know what the rates are or what’s fair. We don’t want to rip somebody off. We’ve gotten great intel on stuff like that and that’s been a big takeaway from the tour.
TRR: On April 12th, you head home for a show in Oklahoma City with Saving Abel, Black Oxygen and Wayland and then finish up on May 3rd in Kansas. The show in Oklahoma City should be a lot of fun.
Dax: Yeah, we’re looking forward to that, a kind of homecoming of sorts.
TRR: What’s on the table for the rest of 2019?
Dax: We’re going to do a new record hopefully with Eclipse Records. We’re hoping it’s out in August or September. We only have 2 songs recorded for it right now. We did those 2 with Matt. The rest of the record will probably be about 12 songs or so, maybe a bit more depending on the time frame. We’ll record it at my studio at my house and then we’ll take the drums out to a professional studio to get done because I don’t feel like recording the drums because it’s a pain in the ass. (laughing) So, we’re going to do that and we’re really excited about the new record because having this big shift in the band with a new singer, it’s a really dicey time. We’re really lucky too that our fans have been well receiving Gabriel.
TRR: Do you think that Gabriel was walking on egg shells at first, not really comfortable as the new singer?
Dax: I think there was a time when he…..He came into a situation where we had just let a guy go.
TRR: The fill-in singer after Jesse.
Dax: Yeah. We had to look for a new singer and with all the guys who tried out, everyone would come in and sing our songs and change the cadence of the words and try to make it their own. We told them to just learn the song first as it’s written and then maybe a little down the road, they could add their own little flavor because then they’d have the song down. Everyone came in tried to throw their own stuff down and Gabriel came in and sang the song how it needed to be sung and learned the lyrics really quick and he was just gung ho from the beginning and really impressed the shit out of us, quite frankly. So, maybe he felt that he had to walk on egg shells a little bit but after a few shows, we didn’t feel that he was in any danger of not being in the band anymore. We thought he was a great fit, honestly, from the moment that he first sang in front of us.
TRR: And, the personalities fit.
Dax: Oh yeah. We all get along and we have a great time when we’re on tour which is another big part of it.
TRR: Is there anyone you guys want to give a shout out to?
Dax: Craigslist! I do want to give a shout out to anyone who came out to the shows, anyone who’s been listening to us. I’ve got to thank our wives and girlfriends at home for allowing us to do this and being so supportive. They’ve all been backing us 100%.
TRR: Have the wives or girlfriends had the chance to join you guys at all on the tour?
Dax: Not yet but my since we’re so close to home now, my wife Madison will be driving up tonight to hang out. She’s really not going to be able to make the show because it’s about a 2 hour ride but at least we’ll get to see each other for a little while. It’s been about a month since we’ve seen each other. She’s fantastic. I love her to death. She’s so strong. She just stays home and takes care of things there and is so supportive.
TRR: Is there anyone else you want to give a shout out to?
Dax: Um, shout out to the crew and band from Sevendust and Tremonti and everybody. And a big shout out to you guys at Tru Rock Revival. Thanks for having me do this interview today.
TRR: I appreciate you too. I’m glad we could set this up.
Dax: Absolutely. This has been a very cool conversation.
TRR: When will you be in the studio?
Dax: It will be about 2 days after we’re home so we’ll rest for only a couple days and then right back to work.
TRR: Dax, good luck on the rest of the tour and keep us in the loop when the record is finished.
Dax: Thanks again for calling Kreig. I really I appreciate it.
TRR: My pleasure and I appreciate you taking the time. Tell the rest of the guys good luck.
Dax: Will do brother.
Craig Z Marks
Follow Kirra on: