Every year the whatzup Battle of the Bands is full ofgreat music, great competition and more than a few surprises. And every year the Battle of the Bandsreveals at least one band that previously had flown under the local music scene'sradar. At the conclusion of another successful year, most would agree thatKan-tis, along with the B-Sharps, would be counted among those breakout bandsin 2007.
Hailing from the suburbanmusical breeding ground of Waynedale, the three members of Kan-tis originally met each other atWayne High School. Guitarist Russell Bankert and drummer Josh Runkle, who alsohad a stint in the Red Barrels, started playing music together for fun.
"We started off as a noisething," explains Runkle. "We would get together and just jam with nospecific purpose in mind." The two added bassist Scott "Scummy"Knepple in 2006. "Scummy and I worked together," added Bankert,"and he and Josh dated the same girl in high school, so we had known eachother for awhile." After Knepple was added, the band started to, in Runkle'swords, "write real songs."
The expression "breakoutband" is a fitting description of Kan-tis in 2007. Though they already have a self-produced albumavailable at Wooden Nickel stores and play out frequently in the area, the bandhas gone largely unnoticed in the local music scene, which may be a blessing indisguise. The band has used their stage time wisely to tweak their liveperformances and help evolve their sound.
Starting slowly, they eventuallysaw their live shows come together about a year ago during a set withDefinitely Gary at Bensons Bar & Grill. "Everything finallyclicked," said Runkle, "and that's when we finally felt like a band.That's when the whole stage show began to be a big part of the act.
So why would Kan-tis, a band which doesn't fit intoany traditional type and had no established fanbase, enter a contest thatusually requires a lot fan support in order to be successful?
"I was in it for themoney," says Runkle jokingly before Bankert redirects the answer. "Weentered the Battle of the Bands just to get our name out. Truthfully, we reallydidn't expect to get past the first round."
If getting noticed was theironly goal, then the band should consider the mission accomplished. Not onlydid Kan-tis get past the first round,they also got past the second round (with an upset win over none other thanLeft Lane Cruiser) and rode their momentum into the semifinals, where theirstrong performance was bested by Knepple's other band, Pleasing Melani, andeventual Battle of the Band winners, The Orange Opera. Though they didn't winthe whole thing, the band let it be known that they have arrived, gaining fansat a seemingly exponential pace at each stage of the contest.
The Kan-tis sound is best described as unique; however, if ithad to be lumped into a category, it would probably be metal. Nevertheless, itis their stage performance, which can only be described as highly energetic andextremely unpredictable, that has allowed the band to escape from thetraditional expectations of metal bands. "We play fast and hard like ametal band, but we aren't really associated with the black T-shirts. We haven'tbeen welcomed by them at all," said Runkle.
The members of Kan-tis haven't allowed the metalalienation to discourage them. In fact, it could be said that it drives themeven harder to become a better band. It seems that the band is more energizedthan ever.
"We love Fort Wayne, and wewill play with any band that has a show, but we fit better into shows thatinclude bands like Definitely Gary because they are kind of goofy like us. Thegoofier the better, as far as we're concerned," explained Runkle. The bandlists the Brass Rail and the former Bensons among their favorite places to playin and around the Fort.
Costumes, masks, capes, Speedosand other props have become a regular part of the Kan-tis stage show.
"We got into [the costumes]accidentally. Scott is one of the goofiest guys ever. His mom actually makespart of his costumes for him. He's the one that got it started, and it kind ofspread to Josh and [me]. I would have never started dressing up if it wasn'tfor Scummy," explained Bankert.
The band will use the studiotime and money they won to record a few songs for an upcoming album. "Thiswill be our first album together as a whole band. The songs are more cuttingedge, and they are fast and loud. There won't be any 8-minute songs on thisone. We have short attention spans," said Runkle.
WillWhatzup puts on good shows, and you can't beat the adrenalinerush of playing on the [Columbia Street West] stage in front of 300 people.We'll definitely be back.
Consider that to be fairwarning.