When people think of the central Kenai Peninsula, "mecca of rock" doesn't typically come to mind. Outdoor adventure? Yes. Fishing? Of course. But it's no early-90s Seattle during the grunge explosion.
However, that could be changing with the newly reincarnated band, Men with Guns, and its push to make rock music accessible to the Peninsula masses, especially those in the underage group.
"We're trying to revitalize the local music scene," said Josh Canfield, a keyboardist for the group.
Men with Guns, formerly The Evel Dead, is made up of lead singer and guitarist Lowell Granath, 27, bassist Rik Galley, 21, drummer Cody Kniceley, 27, and Canfield, 24, with all members contributing vocals.
To jumpstart the band and its drive for a local scene, the group has been recording an album with local music producer Scot Q. Merry to be released sometime this summer.
Men with Guns are homegrown Kenai guys that grew up going to and playing at all-ages shows in the area and they want to bring that back for everyone to enjoy.
"The local scene was vibrant. There were places to play," Granath said, remembering bands Better off Jim, Absinthe and The Detention Squad. "Everything changed when there weren't under-21 shows."
"Now there's nowhere to play," Kniceley said. "It's dead here."
Kniceley said that karaoke is killing the local music scene and cover bands seems to be undercutting the groups with original material.
In recent years there were a few attempts to have Peninsula bands play at local venues but "some of the younger kids were not very professional," he said.
That behavior made a bad impression on venue managers, not leaving them very receptive to hosting more bands.
Slowly but surely Men with Guns is finding that places are coming back on board. Kenai's Old Town playhouse recently hosted an all-ages show with local groups Waking Cerberus, A Breath Before Battle, Kronik Onyx, Shotgun Roulette and Men with Guns playing their last show as The Evel Dead.
For St. Patrick's Day, the band planned to play with Pisces at the Triumvirate Theatre in Soldotna for all ages before heading out to a gig at Moosequito's bar in Sterling.
Men with Guns' members said they like to play shows for everyone, not only to keep the kids out of trouble but because the crowd can be more receptive.
"At bar gigs you got some drunk guy yelling "Play 'Freebird'" over and over again," Galley said.
Citing influences spanning from grunge to celtic to country to indie rock, it's clear the band just wants to jam.
"We're not genre specific which puts us in the same genre as Tom Waits," Kniceley said.
Galley said that they could be compared to British punk rockers, The Clash, in that they touch on many different genres.
One thing the members have in common is a shared love of the band The Misfits.
"We're all big fans," Granath said.
In Men with Guns' music, all of these influences come "smashing together into a supernova of sound," he said.
There's three-part, sometimes four-part, harmony to accompany the already big guitars and vocals singing about wookies and zombies.
Merry said that the guys are fun and exciting to be around because they're not snobbish about their music yet they're still serious about it.
"These guys will play anything," Merry said about working with the band during recording. "They have really come around to realize all music has value."
And that's seemingly the message the band is trying to get out to the community: that music is important and needs a place to be presented live.
"We've got some talented musicians," Kniceley said. "There's all kinds of talent so why not give local kids a place to showcase their work."
Granath said that he knows of some local musicians that only headline in their garages because of the lack of venues.
"We're trying to get them to come out," he said, adding that they want to keep having "big, safe events" for all-ages.
"We're just trying to keep everything alive," he said. "If you have a good music scene in town that gets a little notoriety some more people will come down here."
And that's exactly what they're hoping for -- to grow the scene, attract more interest and have the Peninsula blow up with bands and places for them to play.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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