It was just another summer day in 2017 when I picked up my 13-year-old son Riley and a few of his friends after a movie. On the drive home, they made the decision to call their buddy Quinn Sforza, known as a bad-ass on the bass guitar, to invite him to join their new band. The offer was quickly accepted. Fast forward a few weeks, and a new band dubbed Uncle Kurtis was officially on the bill for a showcase performance organized by Asheville’s Experience Music (EM) at one of the city’s premier music venues, Salvage Station.
For the parents of young, aspiring musicians, EM is a dream come true. Dedicated to supporting the development of young musicians, EM’s principals and mentors — drawn from the vibrant local music industry — engaged Riley as a drummer for his first band, Breaking Point. Over the previous year, they had rocked stages at Salvage Station, The Grey Eagle and Pisgah Brewing Company as the headliner for several bands comprised of kids ages eight through 16.
The new sensation was all set to feature Riley, Quinn, drummer Graham Barrineau and guitarist/keyboardist Jackson Lee (son of EM co-founder Chuck Lee). Since I had turned out to photograph, record and promote every Breaking Point performance, Riley issued clear directions for the first Uncle Kurtis show: No video. I mostly complied with his directive, but it wasn’t easy; by all accounts, everyone who experienced that debut Uncle Kurtis show on Aug. 24, 2017, was blown away. The material was completely original, and the combination of skill, confidence and showmanship was incandescent.
To honor the boys’ commitment, all the parents — and many music community all stars from the U.S. East Coast — have gone all in. This week, our most ambitious plans are coming together. The boys’ debut album entitled “Let’s Kill Uncle Kurtis” drops this week, courtesy of Girth Records in New York. It was recorded late last year in Atlanta by Jack Kiefert of Rex Recording Studio, and mastered there over the course of this year. Radio airplay that sparked up late last year thanks to Asheville FM DJ Steven Howard is cranking to new heights, and in the next 72 hours, an album review will appear in the iconic alt weekly Mountain Express, written by acclaimed music industry journalist and author Bill Kopp. There’s more: On Thursday, August 16, Uncle Kurtis will host its album release party, along with their friends’ youth bands, Over the Edge and Seven and a Half Giraffe.
By mid-September, Uncle Kurtis will also have appeared at PULP under The Orange Peel, Isis Music Hall, The Mothlight, and at the Living Asheville Arts Festival. All of which aims a big spotlight on four young men about to enter their freshmen year in high school. Having the opportunity to contribute, support and learn from the members of Uncle Kurtis — and Sophia Miller, their muse and art director — continues to be a phenomenal experience for yours truly.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Sophia Miller.
Featured Video: Courtesy of IamAVL, “Uncle Kurtis @ Salvage Station 12–2017”