Conflict resolution

Sharp attack: "The band has been very fortunate to be able to go on its own path for the past five years without having to compromise anything,” says Kevin Stanford, one of Knives and Daggers’ three guitarists. Photo courtesy of the band
Sharp attack: "The band has been very fortunate to be able to go on its own path for the past five years without having to compromise anything,” says Kevin Stanford, one of Knives and Daggers’ three guitarists. Photo courtesy of the band

Local band Knives and Daggers is many things to many people. But one thing it’s not about is dangerous weaponry — though co-guitarists/songwriters Lauren Carol Brown and Kevin Stanford joke about incorporating knife and dagger imagery into a future show. “A lot of people who come to see us say, ‘We were expecting it to be more hard-core,’” says Stanford. “But I kind of like the dichotomy of the name versus the music.”

Not that the five-piece experimental outfit (with Jonathan Bass on drums, Jeremy Joachim on bass and Sam Hunt on guitar) is entirely benign: The band’s ability to play really loud while also being really melodic is a true double threat.

In fact, the group — which performs at The Mothlight on Tuesday, March 18 — has gone through a sonic evolution since its start in 2006. Founding member Josh Rhinehart (now with Doomster) thought up the stabby name. Brown was reluctant to change it, despite her background in classical music. And Stanford, who’d previously played in shoegaze bands, says the name is what attracted him.

Both Brown and Stanford say the local music scene has progressed right along with Knives and Daggers’ sound. At first, the crowds weren’t there. But as other bands with comparable styles began to appear, local music fans caught on. “I think Asheville became a great hub for us because of the open-minded audiences and the creativity,” says Stanford. “We all gravitated here, and it became our home base.”

He’s from Athens, Ga., and Charlotte. Brown came from Wilmington, where her mother owns a music school. Growing up, she studied piano and violin, performed in the school orchestra and was part of an ensemble. All that has something to do with why Knives and Daggers has three guitars onstage.

Stanford, who grew up influenced by dream-pop and alt-rock bands like Slowdive and Spacemen 3, says he was interested in “all things guitar and all things pedals.”

“Knives and Daggers saw that in me, and they were wanting to expand in that way,” he says. He and Brown compose the band’s songs based on their respective strengths, making room for Stanford’s avant-garde dissonance and Brown’s more classical compositions. “A lot of the melody comes from my orchestra background, and Kevin can do his noise stuff over top of that,” Brown says.

Stanford adds: “There are a lot of guitars and a lot of people. I think that structure is what makes the band work — it’s what makes it come across as beautiful as it does.”

Much of Knives and Daggers’ material is instrumental. That’s another learning curve for some audiences, though Brown says instrumental and shoegaze, both evocative music styles, have gained popularity in recent years because they’re sought out for film scores. Meanwhile, the band has honed its own vision, working slowly but steadily on a follow-up to 2011’s What Hurts the Most. Recorded by Andrew Larson of Telecine, the new record promises to better represent Knives and Daggers’ live performances.

“Our first record was more string-based and stripped-down,” says Stanford. “When people would come to see us, they’d wonder where that was, but it’s really hard to duplicate live.” Expect more guitars and more volume this time around, though Brown plays violin, viola and cello on the new recording.

The release date is still a ways off, but Brown and Stanford are already thinking about the future. Though they’ve been more focused on the studio than the stage, Knives and Daggers is often tapped to share the bill with nationally touring acts (like Brooklyn’s Dead Leaf Echo, who will also appear at The Mothlight). There could be a tour: “We’ll definitely want this record to get heard,” says Stanford. “And then it’s on to more music.”

who: Knives and Daggers
with Dead Leaf Echo and Telecine
where: The Mothlight, themothlight.com
when: Tuesday, March 18, 9 p.m. $5 advance/$10 at the door

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts writer and editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs.

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