Published on October 16th, 2012 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Megan Jean & The KFB Kick Ass on the Lastest Kickstarter Effort
Between plowing through lengthy road trips in their Honda Element, dazzling huge crowds at festivals, and filming fancy music videos with PBS staffers, it’s been a wild and productive year so far for Charleston-based twosome Megan Jean & The KFB, and there’s more action on the horizon — and much of it stems from a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that concludes this week.
Lead singer/guitarist/percussionist Megan Jean Glemboski and banjo player/bassist Byrne Klay are a unique wife-and-husband team. They’ve been playing their clingy mix of gypsy-jazzy blues-rock, macabre-country, and vaudevillian pop for eight years. They landed in Charleston from New York in 2008 and promptly established themselves as an oddball musical duo with a versatile repertoire.
Funded by their first Kickstarter campaign (with modest goal of $3,000), the duo independently released a groovy, graveyard-themed debut in 2010 titled Dead Woman Walkin’, and they’ve toured the U.S. almost continuously since then.
Megan Jean & The KFB did make time to work up and demo a new batch of originals along the way. They plan to record and master the songs their forthcoming collection, The Devil Herself, at the Jam Room studio in Columbia in late November with funds raised from their second, more ambitious Kickstarter campaign. The goal was set at $8,000. This is the final week of the campaign (Oct. 19 is the cut-off date), and the duo has already raised more than $10,000.
Megan Jean & The KFB are due back in Charleston for a Halloween show at the Tin Roof. Megan Jean took time to check in with Metronome this week.
Metronome: How was the late-summer road trip through the Southeast and Appalachians?
Megan Jean: It was amazing. Things are really building for us at live shows and the kind of gigs we’re getting asked to do. I mean, a little over a year ago we were trying like hell to not be homeless in New Orleans. This year, we’re playing some of the best festivals in the Southeast.
Metronome: We heard and read about your stint at the big DragonCon event in Atlanta in September. What are your fondest memories of that gig?
Megan Jean: That was a little mind-blowing. There were 55,000 nerds in costumes in four hotels just going crazy. We were newbies and definitely low men on the totem pole going in. We were part of the Steampunk [magazine] track. They’ve sort of adopted us. Then we headed up to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. for the Millennium Stage.
Metronome: Performing at the Kennedy Center must have been a far cry from the tiny bars and clubs you normally play.
Megan Jean: It was really great to be able to extend an invite all our friends and family in D.C. We came back down for Bristol Rhythm and Roots, which we played with a host of awesome Charleston bands like Shovels and Rope, Sol Driven Train, and James Justin and Co. That was our second year on the festival and the first year on the actual lineup. It was a wild time. I ended up hanging out with Cary Ann and Michael in the hotel parking lot at 8 a.m. because a seven-year-old boy pulled the fire alarm and woke up all the musicians at the festival. It was kind of funny, actually. All these ragged musicians squinting at the light, just hating the sunshine. We had a lot of fun.
Metronome: Do you find yourselves getting bigger and better bookings these days, even though it’s all still very DIY?
Megan Jean: It’s just old-fashioned word-of-mouth and work ethic; no booking agent, PR, manager, or label. It’s just us. I know at this point we could start bringing the industry into it, but we’re really happy being the boss. I want to own my career, you know? I don’t want to pour my entire life and marriage into something and then just sign it away the first time someone shows interest. We’re building it up ourselves, so that whether or not we ever get a ‘break,’ we will have a sustainable little career. I just operate as though the music industry will ignore us for the length of our career (which is what’s happened so far). We get folks from little labels coming out expecting to see a gal who can sing, and we’re just a little too weird for em. Suits me just fine.
Metronome: It seems like winning the Under The Radar competition in September at the FloydFest event in Virginia was your enormo-gig of the year. What are some of the memorable moments so far?
Megan Jean: That festival was the best show we’ve ever played as a band. I never thought it would be that clear, in so many gigs, which one is the best, without a doubt. It was the second, daytime performance for us at FloydFest. We were playing as part of the competition against 15 other pretty amazing bands. It was funny to be part of, because we had been a band for so much longer than most of the other competitors. We were also the only ones that actually made a living from our band…so that kinda put us ahead a bit. It’s voted on by festival goers, and they take it very seriously. They really do vote by who played the best.
Since we’ve been gigging nonstop for two years, we just went in there and acted as though we needed to get peoples’ attention in a bar. Our sound guy was Dave Matthews’ sound engineer, and he made us sound amazing. He pumped my voice out, and it just drew people in. The first night we started off with maybe four or five friends in the tent, by the end it was about 500. We don’t get to play on stages that big or to audiences that big very often, so we just gave it our all. At one point, I broke a string, and we had to change it out really quick. I asked them if they would stay if Byrne changed it, and they just started laughing and cheering. While he was changing the string, I got to tell them our story. I got to tell them we had nearly been homeless just a year before, busking on the street eight hours a day in July, and just a year later, we got to play to the largest audience of our career on the biggest stage we’ve ever played on. They cheered so loud the whole time, asked for three encores. It was unreal. Byrne and I cried onstage, we just hadn’t ever heard applause that loud for our music. It was overwhelming.
Metronome: How have you and Byrne refined or adjusted your songwriting, arranging, on-stage performance, and on-stage demeanor since the release of the last album?
Megan Jean: I’ve really come into my own as a performer. Byrne has been there for quite a while. He just has a masterful, effortless ease. He also practices a lot more than me. Ha! I finally got to a place as a performer where I didn’t care if people like me anymore or thought I was fat or whatever. I started making crazy faces at people and sticking out my tongue and stuff, mostly because I wanted to get people out of their comfort zone. Also, because I like to scare ‘bros,’ as I call ’em. We just don’t really go over with stupid people or folks who are dead inside. They never like us. So, I started making faces at them just to let them know that I could see their disapproval. It changed everything. I just know that because of sheer repetition, I will put on a great show. As long as I connect with my material emotional — theater school, baby — I can connect with my audience. We have found our niche with songwriting.
Metronome: Have you become considerably more confident as a team and as individuals?
Megan Jean: Absolutely. I don’t feel like anything could come between us. He’s my best friend, and we just have to be together all the time. I hit the jackpot with this guy. I am really starting to just not care about negativity and focus on the positive. I used to do the opposite. It’s been tough to refocus a lifetime of though patterns, but it has made everything easier.
Metronome: What’s the next step toward the production of The Devil Herself now that you’ve reached and surpassed your Kickstarter goal?
Megan Jean: We were hoping we could go a little over, at least enough to finally get some vinyl out there. I’m thrilled that we did. We are humbled and touched by the support. We’ll release it on CD, digitally, on vinyl, and as a deluxe art book with Byrne’s artwork, which is really catching us a lot of attention. It’ll have lyrics, blog entries, and photos from our almost two years living on the road. We wanted to do something a little bit more than just another CD.
Metronome: So, it’s on to the Jam Room in November?
Megan Jean: I really like the Jam Room. They know how to get out of the way and make it sound amazing. Looks like the week of Thanksgiving we’ll be in the studio. We’re hoping to track the whole album in a week, which is three days longer than it took for Dead Woman Walkin’. We work really fast since we’ve played all these songs several hundred to thousands of times in concert. And we put 150 hours into demo-ing earlier this year. I’m just thrilled to get back in the studio. I think this record will be a turning point for us a band. We finally get to capture our road-hardened sound and some of our songs that have been around for six years.
Metronome: Tell us about the big Halloween show scheduled at the Tin Roof on Oct. 31.
Megan Jean: We’re doing our fourth annual Halloween show this year with a David Bowie tribute band called Bobby Stardust. The theme this year is ‘Dead Disney,’ or your favorite Disney character, but dead. Or alive. I just want folks to dress up. We’ll have a costume contest, as always.
Metronome: Have you developed any new theories on the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle?
Megan Jean: The key to an honest career in this business is longevity. Just play and play and play for a decade, and you’ll be an overnight success. Don’t ever quit. Where most bands fail is the drugs and alcohol thing. It just ravages you, as much free booze and stuff you get. I’m not really into drinking, thank God, and neither is Byrne. Keeps us focused. We never really use our drink tabs. The bands that party a lot get a reputation for it, which builds their audience a lot faster than a big girl making crazy faces … but then they have to maintain that lifestyle which, tragically, ends a lot of careers and fucks a lot of lives. I hate to see it, but most bands like that have a meteoric four-year-arch. They rise really fast and then just implode. Also, I can now sleep anywhere, at any time. I’m really good at doing make-up in a moving vehicle, and I can change into a dress in a gas station bathroom without my feet ever touching the floor. That’s the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for us. No expectations, show up on time, play your ass off, and load out.
You can contribute to their Kickstarter by clicking here.
Here’s a clip from the Megan Jean & The KFB’s triumphant set at FloydFest 2012:
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