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Friday December 3rd

Diversions

Q&A with JKutchma & the Five Fifths

Jason Kutchma is the passionate and talented leader of the alternative country and folk group JKutchma & the Five Fifths. The band will be playing Wednesday at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham as a part of Duke Performances’ Music in the Gardens. Staff writer Charlie Shelton talked to Kutchma about his upcoming solo album, his other musical endeavors and the influences behind his career.

Dive: How is JKutchma & the Five Fifths’ tour going right now?

Jason Kutchma: It’s going great — we have covered a lot of miles with this one, maybe 3,300 miles in 10 days. So it’s a lot, but all of the shows we are going to are with people we know well. I would get in the habit before of playing shorter distances with tours but the shows were less meaningful. I had a lot more time on my hands in between gigs, but the downside was it didn’t mean as much.

Dive: What changes has JKutchma experienced since Pastoral, the debut LP, came out last year?

JK: I think what we are doing now sounds a lot grittier than Pastoral. Pastoral is more picturesque “sun rising over a field,” and that suited what I was talking about lyrically very well. With the newest album, Sundown, lyrically, it is a different thing. I have been blogging on Jkutchma.com about the experience in making these albums, and it seems to be grittier which suits the material. I think there’s a lot more rock, and you can hear the gears turning on this album, and I think the group reflects that. It’s great. I’ve got a really good career working now.

Dive: Would you say Pastoral was the blossoming of JKutchma & the Five Fifths and now Sundown is more of the maturity stage?

JK: That may be a possible way of looking at it. I am excited to see what the next album brings after Sundown and what happens with this group. Evan, the drummer, played on Pastoral and he’s been able to re-adapt himself to the material, and I think everybody felt that to an extent without letting go of who they are. Sometimes the material demands letting go too much and these guys have been great to work with.

I am not sure maturity is the way because I feel that Pastoral was also a mature album. I don’t think of it in terms of a life cycle of a living thing, but more like if you were above a city and you were able to zoom in on certain parts of the city, I think that may be the difference between the albums.

Dive: How does your solo project and the work with the Five Fifths differ from your previous band, Red Collar?

JK: Red Collar is actually still going on. We had two shows two weeks ago right before tour, and our guitar player drove in and none of us really wanted to keep Red Collar up if we weren’t able to start working on new material. And in between the two shows we played — they were weekend bookends — that whole week Mike, the guitar player, came over and we started playing, and we came up with about four or five basic songs, so we are hoping to get an EP out by the end of the year.

That explains the difference between JKutchma & the Five Fifths and Red Collar. JKutchma & the Five Fifths, I write the songs from beginning to end and I don’t collaborate on songwriting. I take the songs to these guys and say, “Make these songs as good as they can be.” With Red Collar all four of us have to be in the room to do the songwriting or it doesn’t sound like a Red Collar song.

Dive: There are certain songs on Pastoral like “Don’t It Figure Better” where it seems soothing but talks about grim topics like a dog’s death bed, or even “End of the World” is serene but is otherwise talking about a dismal topic. Is this sweet yet sinister juxtaposition continued on Sundown?

JK: Every day you hear things like “the world is going to end” — one thing it’s the Mayan calendar and then the other somebody has a nuclear bomb. And I don’t believe that at all, but I don’t think it would serve me if I were to talk about these people and the fear that is put in our lives by news stations and leaders, I don’t think it would do me any good to say that we are all going to be fine. I think that with a little bit of cynicism and sarcasm serves what I try to get across. And with “Don’t it Figure Better,” that is just how you feel sometimes.

You are just trying to cross the road and this force, that has nothing to do with you and your choices at all, plows you over and that force isn’t going to stop — it’s not going to say a prayer, it’s going to keep on moving and if anything it’s going to laugh. And there you are just lying in the road and you hope you can at least crawl a little further, but I think the analogy was helpful for me in certain parts of my life.

Dive: When you are touring how does it feel to come back to the Triangle after traveling to Canada or the Midwest?

JK: Normally, it’s a nice release. But when we come home we have a lot of work today. These couple of days we have been traveling — we are in Omaha now, then going to Tulsa, and on to Little Rock, then Nashville and then home. We get home sometime on Sunday, then we have Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the Music in the Garden show. So it’s going to feel good to come home, but at the same time, it’s going to be a sprint to finish line still.

Dive: Well, I am certainly looking forward to the Music in the Gardens show.

JK: Yeah, me too. By the time we get there we are just going to have to run through the set a couple times. We are going to have a horn section for a couple songs, as well as work the sound. But we are going to have Leah Gibson from Bowerbirds doing a couple songs with us as well. I have played with her solo, but I want everybody to play as a band and get used to one another’s chemistry.

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