Kyle Gass describes Tenacious D, his comedic group with actor Jack Black, as a slow-moving dinosaur: “We just plod along, but we’re not always that busy.” Though their mission is to single-handedly save rock & roll, such grand steps take time. To fulfill his need to continue making music between steps, Gass has been performing in other projects for years, most notably in Trainwreck.
What makes the Kyle Gass Band, set to perform Jan. 30 at the Blank Club, different is that this time around, his group offers him something he hasn’t enjoyed on stage in quite some time: the chance to be himself.
The KGB rose out of the ashes of Trainwreck in early 2011. A group aligned with the Tenacious D universe, Trainwreck finally broke up once Gass realized he wanted more out of the group than it could really offer. In hindsight, Gass recalls the advice he once received from a close friend: “You really shouldn’t call your band Trainwreck because you’re just asking for trouble.”
To start fresh, he decided to do what he calls a “page-one rewrite” for a side project. He cut out the mythos, included his name in the band and decided to simply explore the possibilities as they developed.
Starting with two other former Trainwreck members, Gass added singer and guitarist Mike Bray in the mix and immediately saw a new energy emerge. The two proved to be great writing partners, riding a burst of creativity that led to several co-penned KGB tracks. Bassist Jason Keene was another welcome addition. A longtime friend, he and Gass had wanted to play together for years. With the KGB, that was finally a reality.
While he has been involved with side projects for years, Gass constantly encountered trouble when trying to separate his side projects from the D. It can be difficult, after all, to step out of the shadows of being aligned with the self-described “greatest band in the world.” He remembers Trainwreck billings that would include “featuring Kyle Gass from Tenacious D.”
To bypass that constant intrusion, he finally decided to compromise by including his name in the group.
“No one really wants to see your side project,” Gass comically points out. “You have to accept it and just have as much fun as you can. I think people are usually pretty pleasantly surprised by the proceedings.”
Though the KGB is not confined to the world of Tenacious D, it isn’t void of the comedy fans have come to associate with both groups. “I think that comic sensibility just filters through. It’s pretty organic. I just can’t be the total serious dude. [With the KGB], we take the music pretty seriously, but our songs tend to be pretty fun and a little humorous.”
Above all else, the KGB is a chance for Gass to revisit the simple joy that comes from playing tunes with friends. The group is the realization of a concept Gass holds dear: that it’s fun—and fulfilling—to make music with no boundaries. As he admits, he feels comfortable creating music with his bandmates, all of them longtime friends, and is free to see where the ideas lead.
“I’ve always loved the idea that you can just start a band. It doesn’t cost anything and it’s always possible,” Gass said. “I’m lucky to have the Tenacious D thing, but I think [the KGB] allows for a lot more fun. There just seems to be a slot in my life for a side project that I enjoy, and I have some great friends who are really fun musicians.”
During our interview, the word “fun” popped up quite a bit, and the association makes sense. For Gass, a member of the experimental theater troupe the Actors’ Gang, the KGB allows for wide-open collaboration. Within the confines of the D, his creativity is molded by a duo with defined roles. He’s also forced to create music to continue a narrative crafted long ago.
Gass’ main priority for 2013 is getting the band’s debut record out. Once that is finished, writing will resume with Bray and guitarist John Konesky. As for the D, they’re set to tour as a duo once more come March.
“The band for us has really been fun, but we kind of miss doing just the duo,” said Gass. “I think at some point, we’ll start working on the next record.”
Weary buyers may be wise to heed Gass’ final words for his show at Blank Club. “Guaranteed, if you don’t like it, I will refund.” That promise, though, does come with a comic caveat. “Come find me—if you can find me.”
Kyle Gass band
Wednesday, Jan. 30; 8pm
The Blank Club, San Jose