I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I prepared to interview The Knee Hi’s via Zoom a few nights ago. I knew they were an up-and-coming rock band from Chicago. I knew their music is a loosely baked sonic stew of 50s doo-wop, 60s psychedelia, and a touch of 70s punk and glam. I knew they were going to be playing Rose Bowl Tavern on April 28th. What shouId I expect?
What I got were four friends, dressed to kill in their finest rock and roll duds, ready to sling answers to anything I might throw at them. This told me they take this rock and roll stuff seriously. It told me they were more than just friends having the time of their lives. They were more than just young people figuring out who they want to be. It told me that they were four young musicians ready to walk the walk for the sake of rock and roll. They could have all worn old concert shirts and jeans for all anyone cared, but no. They knew they wanted to look like a rock and roll band, not just talk like one.
The Knee Hi’s are a rising indie rock band from the Chicago area, making waves in the music scene with their unique sound and style. I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Devin, Chris, Ash, and Alice (band members only go by their first names), who opened up to me about their origins and creative process.
The band got their start by jokingly pretending to play instruments on stage at their friend Andrew’s (and unofficial 5th member of the band) show. However, as Alice explains, the idea of starting a band became more and more appealing as time went on.
“Yeah, so we were just you know, fiddling around these guitars on stage living it up; pretending. We kept having this joke between us like, ‘Oh, we should start a band. We should do this’. It just kept popping up until we said ‘Why don’t we just try?’, said Devin. “I was starting to pick up the bass. [Alice] had already been picking up the guitar a little bit. So let’s join forces.”
“We only had a couple of practices,” Alice added. “I think Dev made a post on Instagram about looking for a drummer. And then these two lovely ladies jumped in [sisters Chris and Ash]. We were already all friends. We had always wanted to be in a band together, too. And so it was like the convergence of all of our dreams. It was cool ‘cuz that’s kind of how we all became friends originally. We met for the first time at a show.”
Their friendship, which started at shows and through mutual friends, has been a key influence on their music and creative process. “It’s made the whole process so much more… fun,” says Chris. “Every time we get together, it’s just like a big sleepover and a party.”
This close bond has also helped the band members to be vulnerable with each other and overcome the fear of performing and making mistakes as new musicians.
“We’re distracting ourselves from the work we need to do because having a good time, but it helps in being vulnerable that we’re all being new musicians together at the same time,” continued Chris. “It’s been scary facing our fears of getting in front of people and being bad at instruments before you can be good at them. And you know, the whole process of just like learning and writing music together. So that friendship as a baseline makes it so much easier to do.”
“All of us were on page one of this journey together and immediately made an Instagram I think that day, we were a band,” chuckled Alice.
I asked them what we could expect from their live show. The band members noted that they often draw a mosh-pit-type crowd, and they enjoy the challenge of playing in front of different types of audiences. “We’re happy to let each other express in any kind of way. Try different sounds, try different genres. We’ve grown so much as a band over the years, so the music we make now is so different than before,” said Ash.
The band has gained a following with their energetic live performances and relatable lyrics. Their debut album, set to release later this year, promises to showcase their unique sound and undeniable chemistry. “We’re all really excited about it,” says Alice. “It’s been a long time coming, but we can’t wait to share it with everyone.”
The band’s music is a reflection of their diverse individual tastes that come together naturally. Each song can be different, and The Knee Hi’s never want to be stuck in any one genre. “We like a lot of stuff. I feel like that just shows through with the music that we make. It’s a little something for everybody,” said Dev.
There is a plethora of movies about all-girl rock bands, and they’ve watched several of them together, including The Runaways and the Joan Jett documentary. Watching these movies made them feel more inspired to be in a band and continue on the road ahead. “If I hadn’t already wanted, to be in a band, after watching those, it would have made me want to be in a band,” said Chris.
It’s clear that Knee Hi’s is a band with a lot of passion for their music and a strong sense of independence. They are determined to make their way in the music industry without relying on labels and are taking control of their career by setting up their own publishing company. This allows them to keep all the percentages from licensing and maintain creative control.
In a week, the band will be releasing a new single, titled “A Better Way”. Alice shares her thoughts on the song, explaining that it’s about how everyone is born with both good and evil inside them, and it’s up to them to choose how to act on it. She believes that it’s not about being inherently good or evil, but rather the choices and experiences that shape a person’s character.
Bassist Dev mentions that they have been talking about doing another one of their famously stylish videos for it, and may work on it during the tour, possibly using an iPhone to capture a documentary-style mockumentary vibe, similar to the Blair Witch Project.
Make no mistake. These young artists mean business. With their independent mindset and passion for their music, The Knee Hi’s will continue to make waves in the business. The music industry better take these four friends having so much fun, very seriously.
The Knee Hi’s with Kangaroo Court and Watermelon
Rose Bowl Tavern
106 N. Race St.
F April 28th; 9 p.m.
Tickets $7 advance; $10 door