It’s not like the crack of cheap beer in aluminum or the gurgle of a healthy bong rip haven’t been sampled in pop music before, it’s just in the context of the title track from Kizzy Hall’s rambunctious debut, A Touch of Kizz in the Night, those sounds serve as more than conceptual fodder—they’re field recordings, a part of the post-grad groups’ genetics. They’re sounds that come as natural as the drum beats or the crowded yet melodic verses of wordplay that detail being drunk and bored in the city. That’s not to say they are dunderheaded slackers guided by booze in the basement, but my copy of the LP does include a replica of GBV’s Alien Lanes cover hand-scrawled on the cardboard remnants of a 12-pack. Kizzy Hall is do-it-yourself to the point of being non-artisanal. For the band, the indifference and idiosyncrasy of “alternative nation” is the inspiration, so much so that an album like the aforementioned Alien Lanes is elevated to classic rock status. Plus, the bandmates have too much time on their hands.
“John and I became friends via ‘casual encounters’ on Craigslist,” says guitarist John Grinstead about roommate and vocalist John Herwig. “At first, the band—or what the two of us were doing musically—was just called John. Flash-forward to the last year of living together and we were recording every single night. There was a lot of stuff, and we decided to finally make a record out of it. Last week I archived about 100 songs that did not make it on the album.”
For Grinstead and Herwig, abundance was a given. Endless nights recording bred endless tales of hangovers and the strains that come with actual adult responsibilities. A Touch of Kizz in the Night is a messy collage of Superchunk power chords, wiry Pavement-indebted twists and turns, and lackadaisical tunes that border on Elephant Six-ish psych. It’s a concentrated effort to inhabit the once-louche world of lo-fi—a record that could very well be found in the un-played stacks of a now-defunct college radio station circa 1997. It’s also one that observes the legacy of “Ohio” music with a wide-eyed encyclopedic scope.
“When we started, we only wanted to be an ‘Ohio tradition band,’” says Grinstead. “We like pretty much all of it. From the ’80s Cleveland punk to Brainiac, and then we’d discover Times New Viking and then it was Psychedelic Horseshit. We just wanted to put a notch in that bedpost.”
At the time of our interview, they’d only had a few shows to gush about and there were more copies of the LP laying around than empty beer cans (which is to say a lot). Most of the talk was “making the band” origin stories. There were laughs about how drummer Chelsea Simmons’ drunkenly declared herself the new member after seeing them play for the first time, or Herwig’s pre-Kizzy stint in the Imperial Ska Bots. There were no big goals other than getting to open for Van Dale. It’s earnest and refreshing. “It’s really hard to sell 500 albums,” jokes Grinstead.
Their enthusiasm for the current bounty of Columbus pop was palpable, and only months later, they’re seemingly playing every weekend as an integral part of it all. That pile of records has certainly shrunk through word of mouth; A Touch of Kizz in the Night has become Columbus’ most passed-around recording in some time. Anyone who hears it is undeniably charmed by its web of hooks and indie craft.
But as I’m reminded by Grinstead, “craft [beer] is not the protocol.” No, this is a band that claims to be completely fueled by Busch, or any domestic, so it’s hard to imagine any modicum of success would change the formula or the outlook. For now, just the prospect of another blast of the same colorful pop from Kizzy Hall is enough to get overly excited about.
Members: John Grinstead, John Herwig, Stefan Knuckles, Eric Pacella, Chelsea Simmons
Noise of Choice:
Accumulative Indie Capriciousness
3.9 @ Double Happiness and 3.28 @ Carabar
Listen In: “Hang With You” is where the altimeter tips highest on an album full of sugary spikes that last less than two minutes. The song arrives early on A Touch of Kizz in the Night and serves as a tempo-setting, palate-cleansing, snapshot of the band at their most lucid. It’s the simple tale of boy wanting to “hang” with girl set to tambourines and snaky acoustic guitars. Though the chorus is a campfire sing-a-long, the verses suggest a mood that’s a bit sinister, like tarnish on a gilded innocence. Their cynic wit only grows throughout the album ending with the careening anthem “Hip 2 It.”