The Road to CukoRakko: Ryan Keef and Jason Guinn of Permagroove May 5, 2016 10:44
Our latest segment, "The Road to CukoRakko," consists of a series of interviews leading up to CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival next weekend at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. We recently caught up with Ryan Keef (guitar/vocals) and Jason Guinn (bass/vocals) of Permagroove, one of North Alabama's most promising up-and-coming bands.
Recently described by Tim Reynolds (Dave Matthews Band/TR3) as, "...the Allman Brothers x10 on acid," Permagroove is one of the South's most electrifying up-and-coming live bands. Their sound is an eclectic genre-blend, built on tight grooves, top-notch songwriting, and spacious jams with plenty of molten-hot guitar solos and instantly memorable lyrics. Originally from Fort Payne, AL, the band is currently touring in support of their new EP, "Perfectly Broken Machine."
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Permagroove is one of many up-and-coming bands to surface out of North Alabama in recent years. When did you guys officially get this thing rolling? Tell me about the band's early days.
Ryan: I believe we just had our one year anniversary. Jason called me last spring and told me that he'd just gotten Isaac, and asked me to come join. We had all played together in some form or another over the years, so there was already a good chemistry and foundation to build from. I think we had one rehearsal, and it just came together. And we're even friends too, believe it or not. That helps a tremendous amount, actually.
Jason: It officially started rolling the first time Chase (drums) and I played with Ryan and Isaac together. The core between Chase and I was solid, and we had the most dynamic guitar player we could ask for with Isaac, but the one-two combination with the twin guitars took it over the top for us. Chase and I still look at each other when we're playing like, "Damn, these guys are something else." Also, Ryan’s songwriting is phenomenal. I believe everyone in the band was a fan of Ryan well before we started playing together.
Alabama's music scene seems to be constantly evolving. With new venues surfacing nearly every year, the opportunity to perform and build your following only increases. How has Permagroove's schedule shaped up thus far in 2016?
Ryan: This year is treating us pretty well so far. We've got a few festivals on the books, and we're breaking ground into new markets and more premier, noteworthy venues. It can be difficult with all of the new venues opening and closing, but we've made some great strides in that last six months. Doors are opening, and I'm excited to see where the journey takes us.
Jason: Our schedule has shaped up very nicely. We've not only have been invited back to CukoRakko, but also added Jam in the Ham in Birmingham and Riverbend Music Festival in Chattanooga. Hammering the markets in Huntsville, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Chattanooga, and Auburn has started paying off. Our crowds keep growing everywhere we go and it's really exciting for us. We just recently added a run through Georgia in the fall, and we're also heading down to Florida in the Summer. We're always looking for new places to play where people love to hear live music.
Permagroove recently released its latest studio work with the Perfectly Broken Machine EP. Tell me a little bit about how this group of songs came together. How was the recording process different than your previous work?
Ryan: With the exception of the Marley cover we put in there, these were all songs I had previously recorded under my own name. We reinvented and rearranged them in a very fitting way, which set them apart quite a bit. We tried to do most of it live in the studio, to capture the energy. But, there's also some overdubs in there. Overall, it's a pretty accurate representation of who we are as a band, and that's something you don't always get out of a studio recording.
Jason: We are a live band. I know a lot of people say that, but we truly are. We recorded this album with no click tracks, we just laid it down. Ryan has an awesome collection of songs, and he allows us to put our spin on things. I think it comes across pretty well. We weren't originally going to record Could You Be Loved, but Dave Brandwein (from Turkuaz) gave us some encouragement, and I'm glad we did. I am really excited about not only about this recording, but the future ones we've yet to record.
Watch Permagroove perform "Fish Agree" at Zydeco in Birmingham here:
Every band has their own unique way of putting together a set list. What does the process entail for you guys as you prepare for each show?
Ryan: That depends mostly on the venue; different set times and all that jazz. Once in a while, one of us will write out the setlist early in the day and we'll all discuss any segues or different arrangements together. Usually we'll just rattle off three or four songs to start with and see where it takes us. We try to avoid dead air.
Jason: "What do you wanna play?" is usually the question asked about five minutes before we play, and then everyone gives a roundabout. Then, two seconds before start it's "What are the first three songs?" and the rest usually just comes together somehow.
We're coming up on CukoRakko, one of Alabama's young, growing music festivals. Horse Pens 40 is without a doubt one of the most amazing locations in the state. What does it mean to you guys to be back once again this Spring?
Ryan: I have to say, Horse Pens 40 is gorgeous. We're really looking forward to being back. Jamie and Greg, and all the folks involved are all class-acts, and that makes things easy. We kicked off the fall festival last year, but we had to get to another gig that evening. Hopefully we'll be able to spend more time there this year. It doesn't hurt that it's close to home either.
Jason: It means a lot to me. The community that CukoRakko has created is very family oriented and everybody involved are just top notch people. I know Jamie and Greg do not invite back a lot of repeat performers, so I feel very honored for us to get asked back for a second time. The Shultz family do a wonderful job preserving Horse Pens 40, and the scenery is second to none. CukoRakko has gained such a reputation that you don’t even have to look at the lineup to know that the music is going to be awesome every year. I am fired up, and I know the guys are excited to not only play, but be a part of the fellowship that takes place.
CukoRakko will give you guys an opportunity to play in front of many fans who know your music well, as well as many who will be seeing you for the first time. How would you best describe what the crowd at Horse Pens can expect from Permagroove?
Ryan: Endless self indulgence. But no, really. What I love about playing with these guys is that it's always fresh. We can play the same song back to back and it's going to be different. We feed off of each other and the crowd, we listen, and we let the music take us where we're going.
Jason: We're going to give you everything we’ve got for whatever length we are given. There are going to be parts of our playing that are completely spontaneous and off the cuff. You might hear some something one minute that is rooted in country with a blues twist, and the next some rocked out “mountain funk," but whatever it is it'll be us.