Who Are…Gauntlet Hair

Arye Dworken

By Arye Dworken

on 11.04.11 in Who Is...?s

File under: Warped art rock influenced equally by the Talking Heads and Amy Grant

For fans of: The Animal Collective, MGMT, and Yeasayer

From: Denver

Personae: Andy R., Craig Nice

Walk into any barbershop and ask for the Gauntlet Hair, and there’s a good chance they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. That’s because Andy R. and Craig Nice coined the term as teenagers — it comes from a private joke inspired by an old picture of the guitar legend Johnny Winter. (By the way, if your barber does accept the challenge, the duo insists that the outcome should look a lot like a really tidy bowl cut.)

Now a decade later, that nonsensical high-school humor has culminated into a reverb-heavy art-rock project. Gauntlet Hair’s debut is full of warped, echoing pop, a sound the group attributes to influences as disparate as Amy Grant, Seal and the Talking Heads. With tracks like the dementedly zigzagging standout “Top Bunk” and the cymbal-bashing “Lights Out,” the album sounds like “Baby Baby” spliced with “Crazy” playing on a radio at the bottom of a well. Craig elaborates: “With all the shit we’ve gotten for our name in the past, I think we both just wanted to stick it to those assholes.”

Consider it stuck.

On skinny jeans bringing them together:

Andy R.: We met our freshman year of high school. I first noticed Craig when I saw him walking through the halls with tight pants on, and maybe a bondage belt. I knew at that moment that we’d probably get along. Tight pants were not really being manufactured in the early 2000s, so seeing someone wearing them meant that they had sewn them. Which takes a special someone. We both did this in an entirely square, Abercrombie-esque type of school and were definitely picked on for it.

On being total opposites:

Craig Nice: Some people couldn’t understand why we were so close. Andy would mostly keep to himself. He was a pretty quiet kid back then. I was the loud, obnoxious class clown in high school — smoked weed under the bleachers during passing periods, threw parties at my house on a weekly basis, spent countless days in detention and in-school suspension. But, maybe that’s why we work so well together. I think we complete each other. Fact: Opposites do attract.

On all those press classifications labeling Gauntlet Hair “trippy” or “psychedelic”:

Craig: In describing our sound as trippy or psych, what comes to mind? Do you really think of Gauntlet Hair when those words are used? I hope not. The word “trippy” itself makes me think of bands like Pink Floyd or the Grateful Dead. There is nothing wrong with those bands, or the fact that they’re “trippy” so-to-speak, but it’s not our angle at all. If we said that we were a psych or lo-fi band, that would kind of limit our scope of listeners wouldn’t it? Maybe there are some people out there that are not so keen on psychedelic music, but would enjoy our sound. The point is that we don’t have an angle. We have no specific direction at all. The next album could be funk for all I know. In fact, it totally should be now that I think of it.

On protecting the meaning behind the lyrics:

Andy: It really comes down to it not being anyone’s business other than Craig’s and [mine] at the moment. The next album will have little-to-no reverb on it, so I’m sure you’ll have a good idea of what I am saying, and I’m sure that at that time I’ll be more comfortable discussing it.

On those disparate influences, ranging from Amy Grant to Seal:

Andy: Let’s dive into the earlier and inevitably more important influences. To start, how ’bout some Amy Grant? There was a lot of praise and worship going on in my house when I was little. That, most likely, was the first music I ever heard. I remember my mom singing to it in the kitchen. She has such a pretty voice…I wish I could sing like her.

Craig: I think the first CD I ever bought was Seal — the one where he’s naked on the cover. That was a huge influence on me. I still love Seal. Who doesn’t like a little “Crazy”?

On being former art students:

Craig: I was pretty heavy into animation in high school. When it was time to consider college, I wanted to create and design monsters for video games. Drawing wretched, disfigured creeps is my shit. I still do it from time to time. Not as much as I should though. Art will always be a part of my life: I walk around and see people in a much different light than most. I know this because when friends see my drawings, they all say the same thing: “Is this how you see people” and always respond the same: “Yes, it is.” People are ugly…and very fun to draw.

[Andy] used to do pretty well with pen and ink but it has definitely taken a back seat to music.

On their obsession with collecting Arnold Schwarzenegger tapes:

Chris: It all started when I found a copy of Commando at a thrift store. I was living in Lafayette, but Andy hadn’t quite made his way out here yet. I told him I found the most hilarious movie of all time and that he couldn’t watch it before he came out to Colorado. The day he pulled up, I threw it on. I think it’s safe to say his mind was blown. We decided we were going to get our hands on as many copies of Commando on VHS as possible. There was talk of finding a hidden box in someone’s garage full of copies but, sadly, that’s never happened.

On touring with their dog Penny:

Chris: You’d think she’d hate listening to us practice but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve never forced her to listen. In fact, I always thought she’d run up into my room during our jam sessions. For some reason she sits there with her ears back and watches us play for hours. There’s yet to be a practice where [Penny] hasn’t chimed in with her impression of Andy’s vocals. She absolutely LOVES being on tour. We shared the stage with her multiple times on this last one, and plan on doing that as often as possible in the future.