A little about ourselves...
A little press about Next to Kin and their first full length studio album, Kindergarten courtesy of Chris Kocher at the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin:
When tracing the origins of local band Next to Kin, you might say that the roots run several decades deep. After all, two of the musicians come from the same branch of the family tree.
Siblings Mallory Evans and Ryan Cirbus have shared musical experience since they were kids, and in their teens — she was a freshman in high school, he was a senior — they formed their first group together called Sibling Cirbus.
“We used a guitar amp as a mic amp and did not mic up our instruments,” Evans said in an interview last week. “We were real amateurs and played cafes around the area. We had a good run.”
Next to Kin evolved from the Thursday night “house band” sessions at Cyber Cafe West in Binghamton, where employee Mary Tewksbury would sometimes get onstage to perform and Cirbus would often play upright bass. When Evans would join them for a number or two, Cirbus would call it “kin time,” and Tewksbury would joke that she was “standing next to kin.”
The roots-rock band officially came together in November 2014 with Evans on lead vocals, rhythm guitar and percussion, Tewksbury on lead guitar and vocals, and Cirbus on upright and electric bass. The following August, they added drummer Andy Thomas after he sat in with them during a gig at Ransom Steele Tavern in Apalachin.
Since then, Next to Kin has been gaining traction on the Greater Binghamton music scene, writing original tunes and playing their own gigs as well as opening for others. On Friday night, the band will release its cleverly titled debut album “Kindergarten” with a show at Ransom Steele. (Singer/songwriter Devinne Meyers will be the opening act.)
Like many bands in the region, Next to Kin headed to NewClear Studios in West Windsor, with owner Jeff Stachyra acting as producer.
“Jeff is the one who mixed, mastered and did all the music behind the scenes,” Tewksbury said. “He was also a big influence helping us to form some of our songs into what they are. For a couple of songs — ‘Praying Hands’ and ‘M.I.A’ — we went into the studio with very basic outlines. I know that I developed guitar parts and vocals for both songs, and those are two of my favorite songs on the CD.”
Cirbus agreed about Stachyra's guiding influence on the project: “The studio is a magical place, because Jeff really refined the songs. What they sound like now versus what they sounded like before we recorded this album makes them new songs.”
“Kindergarten” includes three tunes from Cirbus, two from Evans, three from Tewksbury and two collaborations. Among the highlights are life-affirming “Sleep When We Die,” the sweet “Amelia’s Lullaby” (a song Evans wrote for her young daughter), “Crary Mills” (which includes contributions from Evans and Cirbus’ mother and grandmother) and “Shine On” (an anthem about partying good times).
Throughout the album, Evans’ bluesy vocals — inspired by Susan Tedeschi, Grace Potter, Bonnie Raitt and the Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard — offer moments of both strength and vulnerability.
She admits, though, that she didn’t always have confidence in her voice: “When Ryan and I did our little duo, I used to sing really soft and high. Once I got back into singing a few years later — I went away to college and came back — I said, ‘You know what? I’m just gonna belt it!’”
Although Next to Kin started without a drummer, other band members praised the “grooviness” that Thomas brings to the group as the “backbone” to their music. They also practice and work out new songs in his garage, where he has a home studio set up.
“I play whatever I feel at the moment,” Thomas said of his drum technique, which is at least partly inspired by U2’s Larry Mullen Jr. “Sometimes it’s the right thing the first time, sometimes it takes a while to come to you. Most of the time it comes right away. When someone brings a new song, we usually walk away from the studio with it done that night. The neighbors love it!”