Split Lip Rayfield: Fast, Rough and Loud

I was probably, well, a third generation factory worker the moment I took that job. My mother worked in a factory for 40-years, my grandfather worked in the same factory for 35-years, and then I worked in that crappy factory.

-Wayne Gottstine

Photo by Manny Moss

"That song was pretty much inspired by my youthful indulgence in role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy novels and being a super gamer nerd in high school. And I still like that kind of stuff. So, I've written several songs about that era for me. It's basically just a tongue-in-cheek kind of something I personally thought was funny," he says. "I don't know how much other people get it, but that was basically an argument that pursuing necromancy as a career is really a fool's errand. A necromancer is not very powerful; they deal with raising the dead and with curses on farmers and minor witchy stuff like that. But you have a lot of bad side effects like, cosmetic side effects. They are not very popular with the ladies [laughs]."

Split Lip Rayfield
These new tunes show both that hardnosed realism and welcome lunacy that has always snaked through the band's work. But the final, subdued track of the album, underscored by Mardis' acoustic guitar, "I'll Be Around," provides a moving, quieter moment as it draws on the emotions of the past couple years.

"That song kind of took off on its own while I was writing it," says Mardis. "I came up with the chord progression and it was kind of sad, and when the lyrics started to come out, which I finished in the studio, I didn't quite know what it was about until I went back and read it. I wasn't really setting out to write a specific song that encapsulated how I felt about losing Kirk, but that's what happened. There was a couple verses that I axed out of it, that [pauses]... I don't know, it's kind of an emotional one. That one kind of chokes me up sometimes when we play it live, kind of depending on the room that we're in and stuff. I usually write songs that are completely ludicrous like murder ballads or non-personal stuff, and that one's definitely personal. I miss him a lot. We all do."

When The Rayfields Conquer the World

"For me, I love playing with these guys," Gottstine says. "I loved playing with Kirk and I miss him, but I couldn't not play with my two favorite people. You know, no one else can play fast [like them]. I have lots of other projects but they are not as satisfying [Pauses], well maybe The Sluggos, that is one of the sexiest bands you'll ever see [everyone starts laughing]."

Split Lip is hoping to make serious tour tracks in 2009, and looking more generally towards the future, they are keeping the plans nice and simple.

Split Lip Rayfield by Ryan Hendrix
"I want to make the banjo fucking cool," Mardis laughs, as he scrawls out the setlist for the show tonight. "Write more music, make more records, conquer the world. Bring banjo to the masses. I guess I just want this to be our job. No other goal, other than that I don't want a day job. So, I don't know if it's about getting on MTV or whatever the goal is."

"If we were on MTV, we'd have to be on a show," Gottstine interjects. "Roommates or something like that. You'd only see the band and how we live together, not the music."

Until Split Lip Roommates conquers the basic cable airwaves, the blistering live shows will have to suffice as they continue to draw in a diverse fan base, a fold that will hopefully continue to grow. When asked if they think they've carved out a niche, Gottstine says flatly, "I think so."

"It's hard to say what that [niche] is though," Mardis interjects, "because you've got like the green haired punk rocker and the blue haired old lady, and they don't really fit into the same [category], you know depending on where we are and whose listening. It depends on what region you are in. In Colorado it's the sort of hippified people and you know..."

"...In L.A. it's all rockabilly," Gottstine throws out.

"It's good to have that sort of cross appeal but I don't know if it leaves us much like, these [specific groups] are our people," Mardis finishes the thought. "It's hard to say who that is."

But it's surely a sign of quality when you create an open environment. It means you are reaching towards that elusive originality most bands strive in vain for.

"We're just combining a couple of styles of music, playing what pleases us," Gottstine says. "I don't know how it stacks up to the rest of what's going on out there. I'm kind of in my own little world I guess. I think we're doing something different. We're just an aggressive acoustic band, playing our tunes."

The unrepentantly rough and rowdy band from Wichita are gonna keep it that straightforward. Amen.

You can keep up to date with the latest developments of SLR and pick up the new album, as well as share photos of Kirk and donate to his memorial cancer fund, at their website. The band is on tour now a few shows through mid-December, dates available here.

JamBase | Further On
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[Published on: 12/4/08]

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Flat5 Thu 12/4/2008 09:22PM
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thats cool that they havent replaced the guy who passed away. its kind of like one of those things that keeps a band playing together like if they decided they had to replace him maybe they wouldnt have even kept playing so thats really cool

Parsonsgoggles starstarstarstarstar Thu 12/4/2008 10:49PM
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Slit Lip makes me dance...nice article!

BungledMorphine starstarstarstarstar Fri 12/5/2008 06:26AM
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Love these guys.

Seen them as a 3 piece when Wayne lafet the band. Saw them as a 4 piece, when Wayne cameback for Kirk's "farewell" tour, and saw them without Kirk after he passed. That farewell show in Minneapolis was heart-wrenching knowing that was the last time I'd see them with Kirk onstage.

Great article about a great band that more people need to know about. See these guys live...you'll have a blast.

sitdancer starstarstarstarstar Fri 12/5/2008 07:35AM
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R.I.P. Kirk, you will not be forgotten.

But I agree it is great that the rest of the band keeps on rocking. I have 'only' seen them at Wakarusa a couple of times, never had the chance to see them in a club unfortunately. But the live DVD makes up for it somewhat. Keeping my fingers crossed for some South East tour dates ;)

Ryan Dembinsky Fri 12/5/2008 09:45AM
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Ryan Dembinsky

I love these guys. Great write up.

iAMuANDwhatIseeISme starstarstarstarstar Fri 12/5/2008 10:28AM
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AWESOME BAND.....does anyone else think that on the cover picture the banjo player looks like brian posehn, the mandolin player like lou reed, and the bass player like a guy with a weird-ass bass???

Jukebox Hero Fri 12/5/2008 11:18AM
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Jukebox Hero

This band doesn't get nearly enough credit. Never Make it Home is one of my favorite albums. I saw them on the "farewell tour" as well and it was incredible. You could tell that Kirk was in really bad shape, looked like he could go at any moment. He had to rest b/w each song and they only played for less than an hour, but each time he stepped up to the mic he gave it his fucking all and it sounded perfect. It was avery touching show. I'b be interested to see the 3-piece. Does anyone know who sings the majority of the tunes? I know that the mando player used to sing a few.

enelson starstarstarstarstar Fri 12/5/2008 12:22PM
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Wayne and Eric split the majority of the vocal duties with Jeff singing a few here and there.

Great article. This band inspired a whole lot of imitators in Kansas (I'm one of 'em) and across the Midwest, dare I say the world? Go see them!

rainydayman Sat 12/6/2008 05:11AM
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Great band. Nicely written article.

chuckus starstarstarstarstar Sat 12/6/2008 03:22PM
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Very fucking cool.

tron420 starstarstarstarstar Sun 12/7/2008 03:30PM
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Please come to the string summit! Only Split Lip, no east coasties.

Entangled Minds Clothing Wed 12/10/2008 09:34AM
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Entangled Minds Clothing

I've seen them play the front porch.

There was even an old rocking chair off to the side,

and handfull of dogs weaving between the members.

And when Jeff beat that ford gas tank about 500 heads popped!

Worth checking out.

eskay23 Wed 12/10/2008 01:31PM
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the very first time i heard SLR was at the YMSB fest in oregon in 2005. they were the late night act on saturday night. they completely and 100% blew me away. i never saw any band play so fast, and the combination of sarcastic and funny lyrics was great. i see a lot of music, lots of different and varied stuff, but i will never ever forget my first experience with SLR. What do you call this stuff? Bluegrass on Meth? ha ha. either way i loved them it was the show of the year for me. i miss kirk but i'm glad to see they are trudging on without him.

bcbishop2003 starstarstarstarstar Mon 12/15/2008 08:56AM
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I love Split Lip so much. I have been following them since like 98. Seen them I don't know how many times. This is a great article. I am glad they are getting the recognition. I moved to TN 4 years ago, I only wish they would come out this way. Jambase is doing good by writing about them.

RIP Kurt.

Keep on Rock'n Split Lip.