July 7, 2005
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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,"
"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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