In Conversation: kerosene heights talk Asheville, Friendship, and Their Kickass Debut EP

While many have deep seeded roots in the Tar Heel state, it’s combination of a highly reputable university system, entry level jobs in sectors amenable to the young alumni those schools produce, and cheap rent can lead North Carolina to be a literal state of transition for many in their early 20s. I found myself in Raleigh for two fateful years right after I graduated college, moving down at the drop of a hat without knowing a single person in town. I ended up making some of my best friends in Raleigh as circumstances I couldn’t have possibly predicted helped shape me into the person I am today. The members of kerosene heights seem to be in a somewhat similar situation to a younger Brendan. Each of the band’s four members grew up elsewhere and found themselves in Asheville through one random happenstance of their life or another, and all independently began playing in the local music scene. While Asheville has a pristine reputation in the Carolina’s as a haven for artists, these four soon to be friends saw the dark underbelly of Asheville, who’d rather take care of a hotel full of tourists than an apartment building full of local residents. The gang found each other through a mutual appreciation of one another’s music and a shared love for the emo music of the mid aughts; Each heard the other play somewhere else in another band and realized “damn I gotta be the one playing with them.” 

After forming, kerosene heights quickly went from jamming to putting pen to paper on what would ultimately become their debut EP, no more bad dreams. The band was inspired by the shouty emo bands that became legends in Philly basements in the early 2000s, taking those band’s raw sound and shouty vocals and pumping them with a lightning bolt of enthusiasm. no more bad dreams sounds like it was made to be belted back by a raucous audience as a pack of sweaty 20-somethings playing bumper cars as they dance along. More than anything this is a tape with so much energy, a twelve minute rollercoaster ride where after the gut punching lows and soaring massive highs you’ll be begging for another spin.

kerosene heights waste no time getting started on EP opener “in ur blood”. Lead singer Chance Smith welcomes us with a quick refrain over a single strumming guitar before quickly letting the rest of the band in on the fun for a massive open. While it is clear from the twinkly riffs and shouty vocals that kerosene heights sees bands like Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader as seminal influences, their energy really reminds me of the first time I heard The Libertines and The Cribs in middle school. The band just has an excitement to be rockin and rollin that so much emo music can somewhat unsurprisingly lack. “in ur blood” leads cutely into the next track with someone from the band asking “you wanna just do something about you and then go backwards?” The EP truly could not have been better sequenced. Each song flows effortlessly into the next, more often than not with the riff of the end of the last track seeming to inform or give energy to the riff at the beginning of the next. There is something about “something abt u” that I have not been able to get out of my head since I first heard it. It is pretty remarkable that Chance only shouts “There’s just something about you” once at the beginning of the track because I feel like I have screamed that a million times to myself in my apartment already. “something abt u” again seamlessly flies right into the twinkly riff that begins the EP’s lone single, “tired of me”. This was the first track I heard by kerosene heights and it had me hooked from the first listen. The twinkly riff is the perfect guide for the track, both serving as a bridge and as the pillow behind which Chance belts the track’s massive chorus. The track is huge but not overwhelming, you can just close your eyes and feel the basement show envelope around you if you listen close enough, it just sounds like it must kick so much fucking ass live. What excited me most about a debut like this is I have no idea where the band will go from here. They could lean into the fuzz or polish up their sound or do whatever the hell feels right, all I know is I will be excitedly along for the ride.

I had the opportunity to ask the new band some questions about how the band came together, whether Asheville lives up to its pristine reputation, and the process of putting together this fantastic debut.

Who makes up kerosene heights? What are your names, roles in the band, and how do you identify?

Chance Smith(he/him): singing/writing & rhythm guitar

J Franklin(he/him): I play the guitar
Scoot (They/them):  I play drums and occasional backup vox

Stephen(he/him): bass

How long have you all been playing music, and what was the nexus point that brought you all together as kerosene heights?

C: i’ve always been passionate abt writing lyrics but i picked up a guitar for the first time abt 2 years ago. i was making music by myself that was getting passed around by my friends, that’s how i got in touch with J and Scoot, and Stephen came with Scoot

J: started a band while learning to play guitar at 13 and haven’t stopped since. I heard some of chance’s songs and was like, “this dude and I are going to play music together”. 

Sc:  My first instrument is guitar which I started when I was about 10.  I learned to play drums when I was 14 and me and my friends were trying to form a band and it was unfeasible for us to just be 4 guitarists.  Looking back I realize I was very lucky my parents were gracious and my sister didn’t murder me in my sleep for having a drumset practice space in my room which shared a wall with her.

Asheville has a reputation as a fun, young, artsy town. What brought all of you to Asheville? Is the indie rock scene as good as the city’s reputation?

C: i came to asheville from nashville solely to stay sober after a stint in rehab, i just happened to meet all these wonderful ppl by chance once i got here

J: I came here from Orlando. I think the city of Asheville spends a lot of money trying to spin that exact narrative, but it’s one of the worst cities I’ve lived in in terms of being supportive to artists. But somehow there are still some AMAZING bands and artists that call Asheville home.

Sc:  Agreed with J on the Asheville city front.  We are lucky to be in a community of artists who believe in supporting one another in a city that is very hostile to anything that does not immediately serve the desires of hoteliers and out of state tourists.

You mention seeing yourself as Emo Revival Revival. Who are some of those emo revival bands who really influenced your sound?

C: i’d say bands like Joyce Manor, Glocca Morra, Snowing, and Algernon inspire a lot of what i like to make. the less polished/ shoutier stuff is what i really dig.

J: i think that term is funny – emo never went anywhere – maybe people stopped giving a fuck and paying attention but it’s always been good haha. But I was inspired, like most others, by hearing American Football for the first time as a kid, also Colossal was / is another huge band for me – they are so under-appreciated. Also Snowing, Dikembe, You Blew It!, Cstvt, and Faraquet have all hugely inspired my guitar playing and writing.

Sc:  When it comes to drumming I think a lot of my influences come from outside emo.  I love playing fast, hard, and as spastically as I can while not overdoing it.  Joyce Manor, Pixies, Turnstile, and The Armed are kind of where I get a lot of inspiration for writing drum parts.  Occasionally some other genres kinda wiggle their way in like 90s downtempo or breakbeats, a little powerviolence/grindcore etc.

Who are some of your contemporaries that influence your sound? I would love to hear your favorite bands in the Asheville/Carolinas scene as well as anyone in the greater fifth wave emo universe.

C: idk of too many specifically emo bands here, wednesday’s a really sweet asheville band tho. jail socks obviously. as far as fifth wave stuff i love pdh, teenage halloween, oolong, and just met this really cool band on ig called shag lab, they rip. as well as a bunch of others.

J: stress fractures, jail socks, and Sinai Vessel are some really dope NC emo(ish) bands. Expert Timing, Carly Cosgrove, and Drunk Uncle for non NC. I am still amazed at how Dikembe is able to push their sound and evolve – they’re still one of the best “emo” bands to me. Also anything keith latinen is doing – he’s STILL putting out some of my favorite emo records. Seeing that kind of longevity in a career for both those bands and artists is hugely inspiring.

Sc:  Love Jail Socks.  One of my fav emo bands kind of ever tbh.  Also love Wednesday, they rule.  

While you are obviously influenced by the aforementioned emo scene, your energy and massive choruses reminded me of hearing the first records by The Cribs and The Libertines when I was in middle school. What kind of music did you grow up listening to? Do those early influences bleed through into these tunes at all? 

C: id say the super secret special ingredient would be garage rock. in high school i only listened to powerviolence, crust punk, and garage rock. the simple lo fi music, melodic vocals, and big choruses are a big inspo for me. bands like jay reatard and wavves. i’ve never heard the cribs till rn, you just put me on, they’re sick !

J: I loved and still love really melodic punk rock as well as emo. I grew up listening to hot water music, small brown bike, and leatherface to name a few. I think chance really adds that garage punk flavor to things though. 

Sc:  I listened to a lot of thrash metal, pop punk, and jazz/fusion in high school which definitely created a massive love for fast and energetic music in me.  I am a very distractible and frenetic person and I have learned to love that about myself over the years.  I’ve never been a super technical drummer but I’m always up for playing fast, dynamic, and a little frantic.

Are you all Sugar Ray fans like your bio suggests? Not gonna lie I have a massive soft spot for 14:51, one of the first pieces I wrote for GSC was about that album.

C: that came up during a convo abt potential cover songs, but when fly comes on it takes me back to apartment complex pool parties and bad coming of age movies from the early 2000s and how can you not love that ?!

J: they had a couple good songs. I do think we are literally better, though hahaha, sorry mark.

Sc: I love Sugar Ray.  One of the first songs I ever had an emotional connection to in my early childhood was Fly.  My dad had that CD and me and my sister used to sing it together.

I love the cover for this record, it reminds me of the artwork from Detroit Bedroom pop genius Alice Dreamt. Who drew the cover and what was the inspiration?

Sc:  Z, who is one half of the incredible art duo Ghoul Gate, did our artwork.  We were inspired kind of by their style from the get go which I think blends dreaminess with a tenderness and macabre that’s kind of perfect for emo.  They also make the gayest, most banging techno music in town under the name mordaga.  They’re so talented and they really captured our music so perfectly and effortlessly.  Cannot say enough good things about them.

Do you all have any plans to release this record physically or tour around it? Or are those plans still being worked out? Any dream cities/venues to play or bands to play with?

C: there’s ideas being thrown around abt potential physical releases post digital release, but nothing set in stone. we’ll probably be doing some small regional runs this summer but id love for our music to take us out of the country at some point, that’d be crazy

J: I want to play every city. I would love to play the fest in Gainesville though. I want to tour with so many bands. And I definitely have some Dream labels I’d love to work with for physical releases: CYLS, No Sleep Records, Lauren Records and Counter Intuitive to name a few 

Sc:  I am from Rochester, NY and went to school in Boston.  I would love to play both of those cities just because their strong and unique music scenes had such an impact on me growing up.  Shoutout to the Bug Jar in Rochester forever.  It’s an absolute gem of a venue and playing there would mean the world to me.

What are some of your interests outside of music? What has brought you joy recently, whether it be a tv show, walking in the park, or whatever it may be?

C: reality television, my partner, and our dogs

J: I’m getting married this year – so planning that with my lovely fiancé. Baking. And playing in this band. And the show yellowjackets. Thank you for talking with us and giving us this platform – you’re awesome!
Sc:  It’s not really outside music, but I’ve been building DIY instruments and guitar pedals. I love thinking creatively about the means of producing sound which is much different from playing in a band for me.  I’ve been enjoying reading fiction (currently reading Detransition, Baby and I’m way late but holy shit that book is good) as well as drawing flowers and shapey abstract compositions lately as well.

Follow kerosene heights on twitter, insta, stream them on spotify or apple music, and be on the lookout for more on their bandcamp!

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