"I wasn't too enthused at the prospect of Kinch, since their name (a Joyce reference), as mentioned, sounds gross. Plus, they're from Arizona. An out-of-town band getting a residency kind of offended me . . . Has L.A. really run out of bands?" he wrote. "But people started telling me that Kinch was kind of great. So I gave them a shot. And it turns out that Kinch is kind of great. You know — kind of. They're not going to change your outlook on life, or rewire your brain. They haven't invented anything. But, really, they do what they do with such style and vigor, it's truly worth the exertion it takes to shake your ass. The songs I heard them play were pop at heart, but with a constant rollicking edge that kept things more gritty than sweet. Like, for real: that shit rollicked."
Getting in front of verbose tastemakers and important industry types is one big goal of this residency thing. Touring with grunge survivors Local H and Phoenix's Dear and the Headlights, Kinch has seen much of the country. But they haven't yet tapped into the most important market within an easy drive or found a benefactor with the connections to get them signed.
"For some reason, we've barely been over to California," says Coughlin. "We've played Kansas City more than San Diego in the last two years."
Walking down the idyllic streets of Carlsbad, the conversation turns to movies. First, it's cartoon/environmentalist propaganda pic FernGully. Then, someone brings up Waiting for Guffman and Junker makes a cynical but telling quip: "Hey, that's kind of like the residencies!"
Introspective dudes in bands like to think that, at their most pathetic, they're best satirized by This Is Spinal Tap. Not so. Spinal Tap follows the career of a has-been metal band mockable for undiminished indulgence as their career crumbles. In the grand scheme of things, however, the band is still wildly successful compared to 99 percent of their peers. There aren't many 40-year-old dudes in bands who wouldn't take that gig opening for a puppet show in half a heartbeat.
In truth, many local bands are better spoofed by another Christopher Guest movie, Waiting For Guffman. Guffman is about an ill-fated musical developed by a community theater group to commemorate their painfully ordinary Missouri town's 150th anniversary. The delusional director convinces his naively ambitious cast — played by the usual Guestians, including Parker Posey as well as the mom from Home Alone and the dad from American Pie — that a big-time Broadway producer is flying in to scout out the production, which he might want to take to New York.
Spinal Tap is about has-beens largely responsible for their own fate; Guffman is about never-will-bes blissfully ignorant about their hopeless windmill tilting. Get it?
Realism is hard won in the lower levels of today's music biz. The Kinch guys get the joke now, though they'd probably laugh a little harder inside a lawyer's office with pens in their hands. Still, they're miles from where they were when Coughlin, fresh out of high school, told his mom, "If things go according to plan I'll be dropping out of college after a semester, when the band gets signed."
Obviously, that hasn't happened — so few bands get signed anymore, really. But Kinch was just anointed with their second South by Southwest showcasing slot and recently got a big bump from Jimmy Eat World, who picked them as direct support at the Fiesta Bowl Block Party. At that show, Kinch bumped The Maine — the Tempe kiddy-pop band whose album peaked at number 16 on the Billboard chart last year — down to third on the bill. Not a bad way to end the year.
For now, the guys are traveling to tour dates acquired by their recently hired booking agent in an old white GMC van with a heater that won't shut completely off. They're at an intermediate level — smart enough to bring their own foam covers to L.A. because the house mics shocked them the week before, but not big enough to have a sound tech handle such things for them.
Also with them: A burned copy of their all-but-mastered new album, to be called The Incandenza after the family at the center of David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest. Coughlin has scrawled the band's name and his phone number on the CD.
Kinch's goal is to find a quality label interested in releasing the album. Their first record, 2008's Advances, was given away for free as a download, in the spirit of Junker's favorite band, Radiohead. Advances got a lot of acclaim from critics, myself included, but it's not nearly as good as The Incandenza, an indie epic with Eno-esque production that sounds almost arena-ready. Hopefully, the guys say, someone with the power to release it — let's call him Guffman — will see them in L.A. or SxSW. If not, they'll do it themselves.