“Music that speaks to me motivates and agitates, makes you want to do something: dance, think, cry, protest, fight, be in a band.”
These sentiments from Red Kate’s frontman and bassist — who goes by the moniker of L. Ron Drunkard — get to the essence of what his band’s music is all about. And just from hearing the opening chords and swells of the group’s upcoming LP release “Unamerican Activities,” there’s an immediate sense of urgency and upheaval.
Fueled by subversive lyrics, bellicose guitars, a relentless rhythm section and a resolute work ethic, Red Kate has galvanized audiences in rock clubs and punk house basements for almost nine years.
“I feel like I’m back to what got me excited about rock ‘n’ roll and punk when I was young,” Drunkard says.
Since the group’s 2013 debut LP “When the Troubles Come” and its 2014 split 7-inch with The Bad Ideas, Red Kate has sharpened its musical focus.
“There’s a lot of really good, interesting punk music out there right now. It pushes us to test our comfort zones, which I think makes us write better songs.”
As a result of this, an evolving sense of collaboration (the band’s current lineup has been together since 2012) and working with engineer Duane Trower at Weights and Measures Soundlab, “Unamerican Activities” promises to be Red Kate’s strongest showing yet. If the album’s two lead tracks are any indication, this effort is edgier, tighter and has a forceful heft to it.
“It’s not something that we made a conscious effort to do. We got to the amount of songs we wanted to release and realized that many of them were a bit harder and faster,” explains drummer Andrew Whelan. “Maybe it’s the political climate of the last couple years.”
Though its music has an anarchistic punk bite and a rock ‘n’ roll grit to it, the group takes it a step further by embodying the working-class punk rock ethos in its approach and actions.
“You want support? You’ve got to give it,” says Drunkard. “A community of any sort requires reciprocity.”
That’s why Red Kate has launched Black Site, a nonprofit cooperative that will partner with local artists to facilitate music distribution and releases. Black Site will also be a resource for bands to network, promote one another and share contacts. Basically, it’s a tool to spur artistic development, established by a band with years of knowledge and experience.
“Unamerican Activities” will be the first record on the Black Site label. Drunkard states the importance of presenting music in a tangible format, in a time where the musical climate is flooded with digital releases. “It’s important for bands to have a lasting manifestation of their existence.”
With this release, Red Kate shows us exactly why it has staying power. “It makes you get off your ass and act,” Drunkard says. “Quit being a passive observer and consumer of culture and go do something, make something.”
Red Kate will be releasing “Unamerican Activities” this Saturday, April 2 at Davey’s Uptown, with support from The Bad Ideas, The Brannock Device and The Pedaljets.
— Michelle Bacon is a musician and writer dedicated to the Kansas City music community. As a staff member at Midwest Music Foundation, she advocates for and helps spotlight music in the area. She also plays with The Philistines and Chris Meck & the Guilty Birds. Her grandma is 102 years old and by far the coolest person she knows.
* Photo Credit: Matt Needham Photography