In the past two years, while the city has been locked away and festering inside itself, new life has been brought into KW and sunk its teeth into the underground scene.
Somewhere in the heart of KW is a basement. Like most basements, it is made entirely of concrete and cold, with a steep stairwell leading to it.
The room is named The Study Room and it is a popular venue in the local punk scene. Jake, Jackson, Nate and Ali are all proprietors of the space.
“There’s a really true, honest thing that’s happening here in the shadows,” Jake said. “Ever since Nate and I have been buds, we’ve always wanted to run our own house show venue. In the early years, coming up [with places like The Study Room]…it’s something that’s really beautiful and intimate that can be found in those four walls,” Jake said.
“We all find each other very inspiring…Everyone brings positive energy to the table. It’s effortless,” Jackson said.
Ali, Jackson and Jake, being prolific artists apart, perform together in a band named Dead Friend Collective. Their Bandcamp page describes them as being inspired by misguided hatred, self-loathing and all the anxiety, despair and uncertainty that is born when people hit their mid-twenties.
Nate is the founder and head of No Funeral Records, he acts as a tastemaker for music in the region. The pandemic influenced his and other musicians’ decisions on how they created and shared music.
“I interned for a label back in 2017, then I moved on to my own thing. I’ve been booking and releasing little things here and there,” Nate said.
“I got to finish an album and put it out…Without the pandemic we probably wouldn’t have done that. We would have just kept playing shows, doing the same thing. I feel like it was an excuse for people to really [push themselves], record music and write new shit without focusing on performing so much,” he said.
The pandemic also prompted self-reflection and rediscovery. It gave many artists the chance to step out of their comfort zone and try new things, especially as the pressure of performing shows was removed. Without anyone to clap and sing along with them, the artists within The Study Room were forced to stop and look inward.
“Why am I doing it? Is it something that’s a creative outlet for myself, something that I want to do as a career? Do I just want to make music, like what exactly I want to do with it [became the question]. I know I was doing a lot of side projects and kind of fucking around with music a lot,” Ali said.
“We got to take our time with our recording process, it was like all the pressure was taken out and just enjoy what we’re doing. I think a lot of appreciation sunk…all the bullshit is out of the way, so you have to realize why you’re doing this,” Jake said.
But as the world begins to move forward again, the artists are coming out of the woodwork. So, The Study Room has become a place where a community gathers and some of KW’s finest come to show off what they created while everyone had to quarantine.
“I don’t think I’ve met anyone as passionate and genuine about art as people in this city, honestly. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else; it feels good to be in the heart of it,” Jackson said.
“There’s not a lot of artists here that aren’t in the grant circuit, I don’t think money gets thrown around here too much. So [the industry isn’t] watering it down, everyone is here because they want to be here,” Nate said.
Despite the emergence of artists ready to share and entertain again, The Study Room is one of the few house venues open to the circuit of bands rotating. Nate said he generally focuses on heavier music such as punk. As there are few artists outside the small circle of friends and many artists moved away since the pandemic began, he said it is difficult to find artists willing to perform or start bands.
All four proprietors work on growing the music scene through networking.
“I feel like we’ve been planting seeds, networking and just sinking our claws into the weird and important parts that make this work for the past six-ish years. We would be doing this, regardless—but the vibe we’re getting, the impact and the outreach we’ve been getting it’s because of the time we put in. It’s genuine work too, ” Jake said.
Having a house venue for people from all around to gather keeps the KW punk scene growing again and thriving. They also hosted an all-ages show featuring Crywank at Shortfinger.
“It’s nice to have control over what happens. With other venues we’re at the mercy of getting bookers or stuff we don’t necessarily align with,” Nate said.
“There is something happening here, and I like what we’re getting to contribute on our side because I think it’s pushing people that don’t know, in the right direction,” Jake said.
There is an element of cynicism in punk culture, a sentiment that has only grown with the pandemic. For Jake and Nate, however, there is still much positivity and passion in the local punk scene.
“It’s cynicism for sure, there’s a cynical output. But, from my experience, being involved with this scene, there’s a lot of genuine, positive and passionate people. I think it comes innate sense that the world is really dark, there’s a lot of fucked up stuff going on in the world right now. So, let’s combat it,” Jake said.
“You don’t have to subscribe to anybody else’s vision on how to live your life, you can choose that yourself. You choose to be morally sound, whatever that means to you…Go out and make your own noise,” Nate said.