Kali Masi exists in a sonic space that seems to meet right in the middle of everything just simply… working. Melodic, emotional, raucous, and impeccably produced, their brand of propellant punk rock leans just as much into the rock side of things as it does the punk, but never veers into parodic or trite.
Even though they’re “signed” to a label - in this case, Take This To Heart Records - their DIY work ethic lets their genuine appreciation for what they’re able to do, and for their fans, take the lead. Now, it’s taken them to the stage and on tour in support of one of the biggest DIY success stories, elder statesmen of the scene, Less Than Jake.
That tour brings them to Top Cat’s - It’s sold out and has been since about 10 days after it was announced. We’ll be covering the show and reporting back, so keep an eye out for that. But for now, we’re excited to more widely introduce Kali Masi- John Garrison- Drums, Sam Porter - Guitar and Vocals, Wes Moore - Guitar and Vocals, Anthony Elliot - Bass and Vocals, to the Cincinnati music scene. I expect we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more of them in the months to come. Below, everyone pitched in to tell us a bit more about the band.
You were in Cincinnati last year, and played with Cincinnati indie/garage rockers Tooth Lures a Fang, but outside of that, it doesn’t seem like you’ve been in the area that much. Can you introduce the band to our readers?
First of all, we love Cincinnati! We try to get out there whenever we can. Sometimes it doesn’t work out but it’s always cool when it does.
Kali Masi has more or less been a band for six years with a few lineup changes. Sam and John have always been in the band, Wes joined a couple years ago, and I joined right after the first LP came out. And we’ve just been going harder and harder since then. The LP is available for free on Bandcamp right now!
It feels like 2018 was a big year for Kali Masi - new album, new video(s), a lot of touring. Can you talk about the experience of those things ramping up and the band kind of coming into its own?
We played over 100 shows in 2018. It’s getting to a point where we’re coming back to cities for a second or third time and people already know the band, know the songs. We’re no longer just the random out-of-towners on the bill. That’s been a noticeable thing. We enjoy touring a ton because it allows us to form personal relationships with the people who listen to our music.
I was struck by something Anthony had said on a social media post - he mentioned the fact that you were playing a basement, some other DIY space, and had just booked another show that day, then you were jumping on a tour opening for Less Than Jake… Punk rock feels very much alive and well. Can you talk about straddling the line between that DIY ethic and the responsibility of the band when touring with someone like Less Than Jake?
This type of tour is a whole new experience for us. As far as responsibilities: when you’re doing everything yourself you’re sort of connecting with people and spaces in real time. You’re more accessible, you’re kind of friends with everybody already. On a bigger tour you have to make way more of an effort to meet new people. It doesn’t come with the territory as much, like it feels more stratified when there’s a backstage area and a green room. And all the relationships with, like, the venue staff and the bands are sort of established before you even get to the venue. At the end of the day, we just want to connect with as many people as we can. We’d rather play a pizza shop and get paid in pizza than have a day off. Just because we’re on a bigger tour doesn’t mean we’re above also playing at a pizza shop. It keeps things exciting.
With Wind Instrumentreleasing in 2017 - and still playing just a well now as when it came out, by the way - what’s next for the band?
Thank you! We’re taking Wind Instrumentto Europe for the first time this May, so that’s a big deal. It just got released over there. Lining up more shows in the USA, too. No slowing down! And we’re also in the midst of writing LP2. Wind Instrument was sort of written before we were “Kali Masi”, so this is our first time all writing music together. We’re super excited about the new songs.
Something I’ll be speaking with each band I interview this year is a favorite charity or charitable organization of the band or band members - do you have any that you recommend our readers check out and support?
Girls Rock is a reallycool thing we support. It’s like a national network of rock camps for girls and gender non-conforming youth (there’s one in Cincinnati- we checked!). Absolutely everybody benefits from music, from the ability humans have to express ourselves and listen to each other. It’s been a really enriching experience for us to be able to create music and it’s an experience that everybody alive deserves to have.
Thanks to the band for answering our questions! Be sure to check out their latest release, Wind Instrument, out now on Take This To Heart Records. If you’re going to the Less Than Jake show on April 11, get there early! Kali Masi opens the whole thing up.