Bent Knee releases new single, “Lawnmower”

From L-R: Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth, Chris Baum, Vince Welch, Courtney Swain

After braving the pandemic as working musicians, Bent Knee embarked on a tour last year in 2022 that began with the bittersweet news that founding members Ben Levin and Jessica Kion would be leaving the band. A combination of post-pandemic existential rumination and the physical toll of the road led to an amicable split.

Losing two key members in such a democratic band forced the group to make some tough decisions about moving forward. Should the band seek out new members? Should they try and shuffle instrument duties? Vince explains their decision: “We wanted to see if we could make it work. The four of us have been making music together for over a decade now, and with that you get a chemistry that’s pretty special. Rather than mess with that by bringing in someone new, we wanted to see if we could handle the task of playing the back catalog and writing/performing new material with just the four of us.” With over a decade of band synergy, why waste that momentum? 

So, what’s changed with this new lineup? Well, for starters, Vince explains, the band decided to spread out instrumental duties among the four of them. “Courtney, in addition to lead vocals and keys, also plays bass on a number of songs. Chris and I are constantly rotating instruments. I’m playing a combo of guitar, bass and keys, and Chris is constantly switching between guitar, keys and violin.” How is it going? Vince says that the upcoming regional tour will be the stress test on their instrumental shuffling, “but so far the results have been encouraging!” 

Vince also emphasized that, as far as new material goes, the music has gotten simpler. “I think this is fairly natural with the reduction in numbers.” Drummer Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth adds that the writing has always a fairly straightforward process; “We started by just improvising and finding grooves, sounds, and loops and then building songs out of all that.” 

Their latest single, “Lawnmower”, shows that, despite change, Bent Knee is still highly capable of that same dense, powerful, emotionally cathartic music with a different arrangement of members. Courtney explains how the song came about: ” It started as a jam with strummed bass chords and the line “I bought a house in the country, I never mow the lawn”; pretty much exactly how the finished song starts. From its very beginning the song had a really distinct identity of a nostalgic, quasi-Americana lament. An ode to impermanence, so to speak.”

Courtney, who was recovering from COVID-19 during initial writing days, said the experience of being sidelined during writing was like a  “fever dream of sitting in bed thinking about mortality, work-life balance, guilt, and staying up far too late watching TV shows.” She was left “hyper-emotional and overwhelmed by the whole experience.” The painful melancholy that emanates through her words is apparent: “The blueprint for Lawnmower blurted out of that vulnerable state in a jam, and we molded it into what I think is a really powerful song with help from our friends who added and re-recorded some of the parts.” Will this single eventually coincide with a larger release, such as an EP or album? All the band can say at the moment is “Yes.” 

The aforementioned test of this new lineup will take place starting this Wednesday in Baltimore, as the band prepares to do 6 concerts in the northeast. Is Bent Knee excited to hit the road? Gavin explains that he is both excited and anxious. “I think for any band that has a change in their status quo there’s always a bit of nervousness about going back out on the road. I don’t necessarily mean nervousness in terms of audience reception (though there is of course some of that) but more so in terms of how things are gonna feel different onstage with the new lineup.” Having said all that, he reassures us that they’re all very excited to play new stuff, old stuff, and “just be out on the road again.” 

On the question of shorter, regional tours vs. massive cross-country tours, Chris states that this particular run is primarily motivated by “the sake of [Bent Knee’s] collective psychology.” He further explains, “We’re bringing a brand-new format to the stage for the very first time. It was imperative for us to put dates on the calendar to spark a creative fire. That said, we didn’t want to launch ourselves directly out of band hibernation and into a full-blown national tour. It’ll be nice to play these shows, to feel the allure of the stage and the energy of the audience again, and then pause, catch our breath, tweak things as necessary, and think about what comes next.” 

It’s clear that Bent Knee sees no other way than forward, with new music and concerts on the horizon. Despite the many setbacks and challenges they’ve faced, they’ve made the decision to press on as a four piece and bring music to their devoted fan base, with hopes that their new direction and forward momentum will propel them to even greater heights. In the meantime, Chris states that fans can support their mission by sharing their music with others, subscribing to the band Patreon, and coming to shows to support them live. Said Chris, “We’re humbled and grateful to have such an engaged fanbase and can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on.”

Bent Knee will embark on their tour starting May 17th. Tour dates and ticket links are listed below- click the links to purchase tickets.

Metro Gallery @ 7:00pm
Baltimore, MD, United States

Zone One @ 7:00pm
Brooklyn, NY, United States

Higher Ground @ 7:00pm
South Burlington, VT, United States

Taffeta @ 7:00pm
Lowell, MA, United States

Warehouse On Watts @ 7:00pm
Philadelphia, PA, United States

Fete Music Hall @ 7:00pm
Providence, RI, United States

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