Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Between the Rooms


Greg W. Locke

Whatzup Features Writer

Published October 19, 2006

Heads Up! This article is 16 years old.

“Don’t vote for the nunchucks” explained Between

the Rooms drummer Philip Kurut on the topic of his weapons solo during the

band’s memorable semifinals performance in the recent whatzup Battle of the Bands competition. “After

that set, everyone was coming up to me to talk about the nunchucks. It was fun,

but we’d rather finish last than win because of the nunchucks.”

For those who missed what will ultimately go down

as the night Between the Rooms made their mark in the Fort Wayne music scene,

Kris Graft (guitar, vocals) and Kurut edged out three bands that at the time

had much better name recognition, including one of the pre-season favorites,

Moser Woods. All cheeky nunchuck antics aside, Kurut and Graft did it with straight-ahead,

aggressive rock n’ roll music. The martial arts display was just a bonus.

The crowd – part surprised, part thrilled –

erupted louder than they had all season upon the announcement that the Rooms

had advanced to the finals.

It was a moving moment, after all, Graft (who

began playing classical guitar at age five before moving onto an electric in

high school) and Kurut had lost their preliminary round with a score of 73,

just good enough to get them into the wildcard round – which they ended up winning

by an impressive margin. They weren’t supposed to get this far. But there’s

always an underdog, so why can’t it be the “two nicest guys in the room,” as

the duo was once described on these very pages.

Next came the quarterfinals, which saw the Rooms

advancing to the next round by finishing second to I, Wombat.

“[I, Wombat] are the band we connect best with. I

really, really like that band,” said Graft. “We both made it to the semifinals,

but they were eliminated in the next round, and somehow we moved onto the

finals. They [jokingly] made sure to remind us that they beat us in the

quarterfinals.”

The quarterfinal round – which has since been

touted by many as one of the best nights for local music all year – also

featured Swimming into View, who, like the Rooms, made quite a name for

themselves in this year’s competition. (Not only did Swimming into View always

come equipped with twice as many fans as any other band this side of Waking Abbott,

but they had won their previous round by one of the biggest margins in BOTB

history.) Again, Between the Rooms were never supposed to make it to the

finals.

“That night was great, especially considering

that every night we played was the last night to us. We never expected to move

on. Actually, our goal was to make it through the first round – and after that,

we’d be happy,” explained Graft. “Of course, we technically lost in the first

round,” laughed Kurut. “Yeah, we didn’t even make our goal,” replied an

always-witty Graft.

Many onlookers through the battle seemed shocked

by the Rooms’ explosive brand of rock. How could two friendly looking guys make

so much noise?

“We can only really play certain covers because

of our set-up,” said Graft, “so we play mostly originals, and we’re pretty

loud.”

“We do play “Clampdown” by The

Clash and a few Pixies songs,” added Kurut.

Zach Smith of

Definitely Gary, in particular, seemed fond of the band through the battle

season.

“Raucous, that’s how

I’d describe them in a word,” said Smith, who, for those yet unfamiliar with

the band, offers his record store clerk expertise to describe the band as

“similar to Local H and the Pixies, but also a lot like early Foo Fighters and

Queens of the Stone Age.”

Ironically, Smith and

Kurut (who is also currently a member of both lo. automatic and Limited State)

hosted a weekly college radio program while attending Ball State University.

“I met Philip when I was steadily flunking out of

school. We both wanted to get into the college radio thing. We only had one

listener that we know of, but it was fun.” Smith was elated after the band’s

semifinal win, stating that he would “love to be in this band,” continuing, “I

would love to play bass for the… if I had the time.”

“We’re always getting questions about our

set-up,” said Kurut.

“One week someone will tell us that we need a

bass player, then the next week someone will tell us that we’re perfect as a

duo and shouldn’t change anything,” laughed Graft, adding, “Oddly, it’s usually

the same people going back and forth.”

Clearly, they’re perfectly comfortable as a

two-piece. “We’ve been setting up side-by-side lately, and it’s really working

for us,” said Graft.

When asked about his loose, quirky stage

presence, Graft responded with a quick “I don’t know.” Graft – who works as an

editor and writer for Next Generation, an industry news-focused video game

website – comes across as a choosingly apathetic closet-intellectual with an

all-too-snappy wit. Getting back to his unique stage-presence, Graft described

himself and Kurut as “Hams. We’re really just a couple of hams up there. None

of it’s really all too planned, but I’m comfortable, although at a couple of

shows people will tell me about how I need to ‘keep up with that drummer.'”

An example of this witty persona rang most true

in a somewhat awkward, if not completely hilarious conversation between the

Roomers.

“He’s sterile,” quipped Graft before Kurut could

respond when asked about his family life.

“Yeah, I’m drumming for all the men out there

with bad sperm,” replied an in fact non-sterile Kurut. Graft and his wife Anna

have a three year-old son, Hudson, while Kurut and his wife, Christina, have

the funniest answering machine message you’ll ever hear. As for children, who

knows, but when asked about their practice methods, Graft responded confidently

with “we use instruments,” continuing, “We practice in the basement of Philip’s

garage, so I guess you could say we’re a basement garage band.”

Being the music lovers they are, Graft and Kurut

seemed a bit more serious when discussing their influences.

“The major influence for me is, of course, the

Pixies, but also various grunge bands from the 90s and some cool indie stuf…

but nothing too out there. I play on a Jag-Stang, Kurt Cobain’s guitar, so it’s

obvious that I’m influenced by Nirvana.”

A one-time record store employee himself, Kurut

also perked at the talk on influences.

“The list could go on forever, but first and

foremost for me is Elvis Presley; now that guy knew about performance!” He

added, “As far as drummers go, Buddy Rich, Keith Moon, Jojo Mayer, Jimmy

Chamberlain, Neil Peart and so on. Basically, I try to learn and take something

from every drummer or musician I can.”

Before playing “56 shows to date,” according to

Kurut’s mathematical mind, the two originally came together in 2000 while

playing in a four-piece under the name of Nagana Spoof.

“But what about Smiling Politely?” questions

Graft.

“Yeah, first there was Smiling Politely. We

played around [as Nagana Spoof] for a couple of years before the bass player

lost interest and the band dwindled away,” offered Kurut. “Then in 2004, we

went to Lollapalooza and were re-motivated to do a three-piece act, which was

called Nervedriver. We only played a couple of gigs and it never really took

off. Soon after Kris and I just started screwing around with song ideas and

decided consciously not to have a bass player … and here we are.”

Though they don’t yet have an album recorded,

many a (shocked) onlooker has left a Rooms show with a free four-song demo.

“Over 900 so far,” added Kurut, who impressively

knew every detail about his band, not to mention pretty much anything else you

can throw at him. “We take 15 or 20 copies every two or three weeks to the

Wooden Nickel shops on Jefferson and Clinton.”

“Yeah, it’d be nice to have an album to sell, but

if we did that rather than these free discs, only a fraction of people would

ever hear our songs,” calculated Graft.

“Probably only half,” added Kurut.

After a short pause, Graft smiled, “Uh, maybe a

tenth … t’s pretty safe to say that Between the Rooms is in the red right

now.”

“There is talk of an album,” assured Kurut after

some blatant prodding.

“There are people that ask us about doing an

album pretty often,” added Graft before going into a dead-on impersonation of

Left Lane Cruiser’s Brenn Beck; “Hey man, you guys need to do an album

already.”

“We hope to do something soon” Kurut said.

“Sometime sooner or later” echoed Graft.

When elbowed and winked at about next year’s

battle, Kurut seemed ready with a well considered response: “I didn’t really

like the competitive element of the whole thing. We were able to get a lot of

exposure and have fun, but I don’t want to be the band that keeps on doing it

until we win.”

“I think we achieved our share of exposure,”

added Graft.

“And we played to the biggest crowds of our

band’s existence,” laughed Kurut.

If you’ve yet to see these Pixies-loving,

drum-destroying, Cobain-guitar playin’ rockers, head out to The Edge on

Broadway on November 4 for the Benefit for Gary Dager show. Check their Myspace

page for complete “roomers” and details at

www.myspace.com/betweentherooms. Don’t be surprised if you walk away talking

about impossible drum feats and hilarious guitar antics – these guys have that,

and much more. (Those of you still wondering about

the nunchuck skills, Kurut claims to have taught himself. “I studied martial

arts for years – but they never taught us how to use nunchucks,” he said,

adding, “I actually learned from a video.”)

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