We’ve found headbanger heaven, and it’s at a Gnarly Davidson show. In just a little over a year, Mitch Jones, Sam Gunnerson, and Franklin Fantini have completely transformed the rock scene in Lawrence Fucking Kansas. No one growls like Jones, beats the holy hell out of drums like Fantini, or showers you with beer like Gunnerson. These three have taken the art of crotch rock to the next level. There’s no such thing as “a bad time” at a Gnarly Davidson show, and it’s easy to see why. Gnarly Davidson are true patriots, and will scream their love for all things American in the most brutal manner possible. The band almost always ditches the stage to get on the same level as their peers, playing on the floor while a crowd eagerly gathers around them and yells “Hot shit!” Yes, Gnarly Davidson, you are truly hot shit. A blessing in the form of an outlet for pent up frustrations, angst-ridden rants, and dirty jokes.
The timing of this band couldn’t have been more perfect. At the exact same moment, all three musicians found themselves without a band and desperately yearning for a musical project. Jones was working at a local pawn shop when a women came in to pawn some bike leathers. He looked right at her and thought to himself “Gnarly” right as someone in the store said “Harley.” Immediately, the term “Gnarly Davidson” popped into his head. The next day he headed out to his other job hanging flyers for the Replay. The first stop on his flyer route was Love Garden, where Fantini works. “I was talking to Franklin about it,” Jones recalls. “I was like, we’re going to start this band and he said ‘I play drums,” and I said ‘Wanna be in a band?'” A few Miller Lites later, Gunnerson signed up due to his notorious love of puns. The rest is history.
From that point on, the trio practiced religiously. They started out in a space at the old SeedCo building. That’s where their unusual manner of songwriting took shape. One riff turned into a 20 minute song (and eventually it turned into their entire set) thanks to a labyrinth of riffs and rhythms. When Gnarly Davidson started performing, they’d start by saying “We’re Gnarly Davidson and this is our last song,” but only in a half-joking manner.
Their performances, like their practices, were executed while fairly inebriated. The band even recorded their first album completely drunk. “We set it up July 3rd and 4th at Love Garden, and we actually didn’t play until midnight,” says Gunnerson of the in-store recording. If you’re familiar with Gnarly Davidson’s release, they recorded one night completely drunk, and then went back in the next day to record the exact same set of songs completely sober. “We used to get really drunk at practice,” admits Fantini. “It’s one of those things, why would we play it sober on the recording if we never played it sober for anyone ever? We did it really drunk the first night because we thought that made sense. Then we did it sober the second time.” Fantini insists there is very little difference between the drunk and sober recordings. “We wanted to do it drunk and sober. That’s kind of a cool idea, you know.”
The band agrees that taking matters into their own hands, like the drunk recording, is part of the process for punk bands. “I think we fit into that aesthetic by saying let’s go tour, let’s start calling people, let’s write songs however the fuck we want to do it,” says Fantini. “DIY is a part of it. We want to be a part of our own music.” Jones agrees “That’s what bridges the past and present of the punk attitude of things, is doing it yourself.” The band also sports strong opinions on keeping musical projects in Lawrence. “The thing is, you can always go out on the road,” says Fantini. “The scene’s not going to get better if everybody who feels like they rise to the top just moves away… I think Lawrence is really good. I want to be a part of this. If you leave a community, you’re no longer benefiting the community. You can’t help build the community if you’re gone. When you’re from a place, the music scene makes you and you make the music scene.”
It’s hard to limit Gnarly Davidson to just one genre in this music scene because they actually toe the line of several genres. They’re summoning all the badassery of hardcore, punk, and metal, but prefer to use their own term: “LFK’s Premier Beer Rock Band.” This trait garners the band a fairly diverse audience. “There’s a difference between loud bands and not loud bands,” says Fantini. “People who like metal like us, and people who like rock and roll like us, because we’re a little heavier than rock and roll and not quite as intense as metal.” Gunnerson interjects here “When you see a Gnarly Davidson show, you’re going to have a good time.”
You can have a good time with Gnarly Davidson when they play Lawrence Field Day Fest this weekend. They play the Jackpot stage on Saturday, June 27th. You can view the full lineup here.
Words and photos by Fally Afani