Art imitates life in rock trio 9spine’s lyrics

Not your daddy’s music

Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2005


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  The logo for 9spine, designed around the nine-spine stickleback fish. Cover provided by Dustin Aaronso

Kenai rock trio 9spine (above) recently released their first full-length CD, Dank. Pictured from left to right are, Jeff Bittle, bass and vocals; Matt Churchill, drums; and Dustin Aaronson, guitar and vocals. Dank is sold locally at Copy Cats/Old Town Music and Call of the Wild Music Din in Kenai.

Submitted photo by Tammy Aaronso

“You can’t eat it, it’s kind of prehistoric-looking and once it gets into a pond or lake it kills everything off,” Dustin Aaronson said of the stickleback fish that takes unwelcome residence in Nikiski lakes and inspired the name of Aaronson’s Kenai based band, 9spine. “It’s not a good thing.”

Funny, then, that the band’s original name had a completely different connotation: Jughead. The name couldn’t stick, though. Just as the Four Seasons restaurant in Soldotna became Through the Seasons after copyright squabbles, legal reasoning forced the change. Aaronson never got a call from Archie Comics, but the 15-year old Southern California punk outfit Jughead’s Revenge did, and they lost. Now its Jugg’s Revenge.

“After that happened to them, I figured ‘Jughead’ from Kenai would never make it,” Aaronson said of the band’s moniker from its year of formation, 2001.

It’s a good thing, too. The darker connotation of the prehistoric pest fish fits more snugly into the sound of the band that describes itself as “Kenai’s most progressive rock trio.” Aaronson plays guitar, Anchorage resident Jeff Bittle plays bass and Nikiski’s Matt Churchill plays drums for the group.

Progressive, in this case, does not mean 9spine traffics in the sort of prog-rock peddled by bands such as Rush or Dream Theater.

“Twenty years ago, the word ‘progressive’ specified a genre. The way we use the term is to say that there are a lot of bands out there that play the same crap your dad’s band played, and we just won’t. Enough already,” he said.

That means sludgy, heavy cover songs are all fair game at a 9spine show, though that doesn’t rule out the happy songs revelers go out to dance to.

“We do heavier music than any other trio, I think, in the state. We cover Tool, Chevelle and Saliva, but then again we also cover the Beatles.”

The mix of influences is evident on “Dank,” the band’s first full-length CD. The sound of “Dank,” which is full of songs written in 2004 and recorded in the spring of 2005, falls somewhere in between newer Green Day and Nickleback, punctuated by Bittle’s thick bass lines and Churchill’s driving rhythm work.

According to “Trapper,” a DJ who plays “You’ll Get By” and “Deep Blue” on KSRM-FM, the CD should also delight fans of 90s rock bands like Everclear and Tool fans.

“I like them because they do a lot of different things,” Trapper said.

Aaronson’s lyrics don’t play politics outright like those of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, or wallow in sorrow over maladroit romances like those of Nickleback’s Chad Kroeger, but “Dank” is definitely dark.


The logo for 9spine, designed around the nine-spine stickleback fish.

Cover provided by Dustin Aaronso

“This is a collection of songs that were written during some pretty tough times for everyone in the band,’” Aaronson said. This may come as a surprise to the band’s longtime fans. “We’re probably known for lighter, happier music.”

“Dank” deals with a wide range of topics, ranging from the personal to political with metaphors, purposefully obscure but not so obscure that the meaning can’t be divined, Aaronson said. He also said the next set of 9spine songs won’t be nearly as brooding.

“The stuff we’re writing right now is really happy, so we’ve been coming out of it.”

Maybe the band’s rising profile has something to do with it.

“Usually I get requests for 9spine or [former Kenai band] Clench a few times a week,” Trapper said. “I like to hook up the local guys and give people a chance to hear something new.”

Aaronson said he appreciates the support.

“There’s nothing cooler than being a small town nobody, then turning on the radio and hearing yourself sing.”

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