Four minutes with Kneebody: Uncovering the covers on new EP ‘By Fire’

9th May 2019

Kneebody, it’s fair to say, have always been there for us in our Jazz-nerd moments, with their complex compositions and a generous helping of noodling. 

On the contrary now, members Ben Wendel (tenor saxophone, effects), Shane Endsley (trumpet, effects), Adam Benjamin (rhodes, synths) and Nate Wood (drums, electric bass, background vocals) have just released ‘By Fire’; a five track EP of carefully selected covers. Their selections range from the recent to the modern classic, including Hiatus Kaiyote’s ‘By Fire’, which the EP is named after, through to Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’ – a track which has had a few Jazz remakes but finds a fresh take here. The Hiatus Kaiyote cover enjoys some rich vocal harmonies, whilst the bands’ fascination with effects creatively trickles throughout the record. 

Rather than being a straight forward covers album however – that would be all too simple for Kneebody – the band invited guest collaborators to record with them. We love the Becca Stevens appearance on the dreamily pacing ‘Sick Talk’. This is the first release from Kneebody since reducing from a quintet to a quartet, with Kaveh Rastegar stepping aside. Now, remarkably, Nate Wood takes on the dual role of drummer and bassist. 

If you’re new to the band’s sound, the EP makes a great introduction to Kneebody. We chat to the band to find out more ahead of their show at The Jazz Cafe in London this month. 

\\ You’ve been interpreting tracks for your new EP; tell us about the urge to re-imagine them and why you’ve chosen the songs that you have? 

This is a time in our development it feels natural and desirable to branch out. We have collaborated with artists in concert for years and the idea to record has been floating around for awhile. For this EP we reached out to the folks we wanted to work with and then picked material that felt right for the collaboration. The guests on this recording; Becca Stevens, Michael Mayo, Josh Dion, Gerald Clayton, and Dawn Richard are brilliant musicians and we’re thrilled to have them on this recording.

\\ Do you think that your experience with this EP will inform how you approach writing in future? 

I think it will. We grabbed material from a cool array of sources; Sound Garden, The Band, Wye Oak, Hiatus Kayote, and John Legend. I’m sure that will leave a lasting mark on original work.

\\ You have another album on the way later this year, what kind of journey will it take from ‘By Fire’?

The release in the Fall is thickly connected to ‘By Fire’. The upcoming full length will feature most of the guests from this EP but, now performing original material. Michael Mayo returns on a song of his own. We brought Gerald Clayton in on a quick studio composition by Shane Endsley. Ben Wendel co-wrote songs with Becca Stevens and Gretchen Parlato. We all worked with Josh Dion to build a song from a Ben Wendel bass line mined from an earlier demo session.

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