Rock trio prepares for the release of streamlined, guitar-driven new album
The Worn Flints worked hard to sharpen its sound for the forthcoming full-length, Clementine.
Gone are the more exploratory elements of Second Sun, from 2015, including jazzy saxophones, winding piano and graceful violin. In its place, the trio — singer/guitarist Kenny Stiegele, bassist Steve Trabulsi and drummer Jake Smith — has adopted a leaner, guitar-driven approach informed by the months the players logged touring as an opening act for bands like the Alabama Shakes and Catfish and the Bottlemen.
“Before, [the music] was very loose and sprawling and there were piano interludes ... and all these bells and whistles, and I like that stuff, but now we're known for those driving guitar solos and these boom, boom, boom bangers,” said Stiegele, who joins his bandmates for a record release show, dubbed “A Formal Affair,” at Studio 35 on Thursday, April 20 (formal attire is indeed encouraged). “And a lot of that was getting out on the road and seeing what people wanted and getting a feel for what our demographic is. … We wanted something we could shop around, and singles that are under three-minutes [long] and hooky and catchy but still have our personality in there.”
The band's fortunes changed abruptly in September 2015 after Alabama Shakes invited the trio to open a sold-out outdoor show at Express Live — an overture that caused the usually confident Stiegele to break out in stress hives, necessitating application of a prescription steroid in the week leading up to the show. “The biggest show we played before that was the Offramp Stage at ComFest, and that was maybe 250 people,” Stiegele said. “And here we are at one of the biggest venues in the city. And it's sold-out. And it's Alabama Shakes. And you're the only opener. And it's in your hometown. It's like, ‘Fuck, man. What? Are you sure? Are we ready?'”
Worn Flints passed its audition, and Alabama Shakes later invited the trio to open on a string of dates. An extended tour with Catfish and the Bottlemen followed, and over the course of 2016 the band managed to log more than 25,000 miles in its tour van — an experience that informed Clementine tracks like “Cuervo,” which takes its name from a mysterious New Mexico ghost town the band passed while on tour, and the slower, moodier “Shoulda Known,” shaped by the here-and-gone relationships that can be a hallmark of life on the road.
Despite the more stripped-down, revved-up sound, there's still an underlying sadness to Clementine, particularly on the album's back half, as narrators struggle to find a deeper connection. It's a split-personality informed, in part, by the rapid deceleration the bandmates experienced after returning home at the close of a higher-profile tour.
“You go from taking selfies with a bunch of girls and signing things and being this hot commodity to being a nobody, which is fine. I've been nobody my whole life. I'm used to that,” Stiegele said. “It's the other part I'm still trying to get used to, and the transition between the two. I never talk to people about depression … but if you listen to my songs you can learn a lot. That's my platform.”