When a little-known band named Krimsha entered the whatzup Battle of the Bands in 2009, most people barely noticed. The band had played only one gig prior to competing and were still in the midst of developing as a cohesive unit when they hit the stage to vie for the title of battle champion that year. Three months later, when they finished third overall, a lot more people were familiar with Krimsha and their unique brand of music. But that wasn’t enough. The band entered Battle of the Bands again this year, going to the finals once again and finishing a spot higher, at number two. With a lot of buzz circulating about Krimsha these days, it seemed a good time to sit down with the band and find out more about them.
I drove down to the Krimsha compound a few weeks ago to meet with the band, and as I sat in a chair directly beneath a very large, angry-looking cardboard cutout figure of Incredible Hulk, I took it as a sign that I’d better get the story right.
The quintet that makes up Krimsha – vocalist Bryan Barnhart, guitarists Brooks Nelson and Kevin Naber, bassist Cory Johnston and drummer Josh Bleke – has been in and around Fort Wayne’s music scene for a number of years. Former bands include Second Sun, Sirface, Shine Somber, Pleasing Melani, Mob 9, Droplist, Figure 8 and, well, you get the point. Krimsha members either played together in these bands in various combinations or knew of each other through playing shows together and developed a relationship through the years.
“Krimsha had actually been a project of Bryan and mine since we were young,” Brooks said. “We were always trying to find the right people to put it together, but it never seemed to work out. We knew we wanted to do a band with less screaming and more singing, and we knew we wanted that band to have a positive message. When it finally came time to do it, we talked about it for a few weeks and then made it a go. We called everyone up and just put it together.
“Kevin was living in Indianapolis and almost immediately moved back for the band. Cory and Josh were really excited and dropped just about everything as well. Then we just set everything up in a room and started writing.”
“The name Krimsha actually goes back to when I was in the tenth grade,” added Barnhart. “I had the name a long time ago, and I wanted to use it for another band I played drums in, but those guys didn’t like it, so I held on to it. Now it’s finally become a reality.”
Two things making Krimsha unique are their live shows and the message in their music. The live show simply needs to be experienced to be appreciated, with the band displaying a stage presence unlike any other band in the area. The music might be described as “unexpected,” especially for a band with so much raw energy.
“We make music we like listening to,” Barnhart said. “The style we play is unique to each song, but within each song we try to find a way to make a bigger impact, whether it is with the structure of the song, the music itself or the lyrics.
“And, unlike a lot of bands we hear today, we write positive music,” he continued. “We try to write and play music that makes us feel good and music we hope will make others feel good. With so much negativity everywhere these days, not only in music but also in the world in general, we don’t feel the need to add to it. We have a general sense of happiness and trust amongst each other and I think it shows in our songs. If one person who goes to our shows or listens to our CD walks away feeling better about their day or better about themselves, then I think we’ve done our job.
“We all have bands that we listen to when we want to get away from it all. We want to be that band for people. We want to be the band that people lose themselves in when they want to feel better.”
Though they finished second in this year’s Battle of the Bands 7, Krimsha earned the highest judges scores of the competition. Given their success the first time around, I wondered why they would want to enter again.
“The first year we competed just so we could get in front of an audience and get people aware of us and who we are,” said Barnhart. We had only played one show to that point, so we were just trying to get our name out in front of people. This time we entered because we were out to prove a point. We’re good and [people] need to know it. Plus, we figured if we were to able to get to the finals and win some money again, that prize would help us get that much closer to getting the album done.”
Coming so close to winning the Battle of the Bands not once, but twice, might make some musicians feel a bit bitter, but that wouldn’t be like Krimsha at all. They actually have nothing but good things to say about the contest.
“We can’t really say anything bad about how things turned out,” said Barnhart. “Sure, we would have liked to win, but like we said before, that really wasn’t the point of entering. We would encourage any band that [has] thought about competing to absolutely go ahead and do it. But don’t join it to win it; join it for the greater good. Join to improve, make connections and market your band. It’s definitely helped us a lot.”
So what about that elusive album? You know, the one that has been in the works for over a year? Though the band has a four-song EP available for purchase at their shows, it was originally meant to be part of a full-length album to be released shortly after the EP, featuring a lot of the songs the band plays live. “Truthfully, we haven’t been playing out much because we want to work on this album,” said Bleke. “It’s a huge process to get these songs done the way we want them. We do the initial tracking in [the band’s practice facility] and get it as close as we can to what we want. After that we send the songs off to Trevor [Kustiak, producer for Rains and Evans Blue] in Traverse City, Michigan. He listens to what we sent and makes some notes on what he likes and what he doesn’t like about them. When we have the time and money, we make a trip up to his studio to record and re-track everything to get it done right. We have already made a couple of trips up there to record, but we probably need to make a couple more trips before the album actually gets done.”
With a little luck and with the support of their family and friends, Brooks said Krimsha should have a full album done just in time for the New Year. “We’re looking at getting it done this year and releasing it early next year, if all goes well.” With the passion, perseverance and skill the band has displayed so far, there’s little doubt it will be one of the year’s best.