By Johnny Griffith
There is a story in ancient Greek mythology about a father, Daedelus, and his son, Icarus, imprisoned on the island of Crete. As the story goes, the father built two sets of wings for them to escape but, even after being warned of the dangers of flying too arrogantly or being too lazy, Icarus came crashing down after flying so high the Sun melted his wings. The key to success had been to fly straight, steady, and with patience and when he didn’t, a hard lesson was learned. Flash forward a few thousand years and half a world away, there is an East Texas band that, although they might share a name in common with the ill-fated Greek, are demonstrating they aren’t about to make the same mistakes when it comes to their musical journey to success.
The Kid Icarus Project (KIP) is a hard-working area band that has been around in its current form since 2013, but has origins as far back as 2006 when founding guitarists, and former members of Tyler area band The Papers, Clint Alford and Ian Chandler, decided to start a band to have fun and play some “silly covers.” After adding percussionist Mike Hill and rounding out the quartet with Klint Killion on the fiddle, The Kid Icarus Project was ready to bring its particular brand of Americana to this area, along the way leaving no doubt that these guys are 100 percent East Texan. Clint, Ian, and Klint are all products of Rusk (the town, I was informed, not the hospital) and still live in that area, while Mike, originally from Kilgore, has lived in Tyler for the past 18 years running a local ad agency and DJ business. According to Hill, the band has embraced this region and their roots in it, focusing on “building momentum into a steady stream of bookings, both with local venues and private gigs” and counts that as one of the band’s biggest accomplishments to date. Much of that momentum has been built playing small towns and even smaller venues in the area, but in no small part due to the reception they receive at those venues. “They are the most receptive. The patrons are regulars. They cheer. They dance. They tip well. They truly appreciate what we do.”
Clint Alford and Ian Chandler are the acoustic wielding front-men for the band, and much of the appeal of their live set is brought out in the dynamic they share with the rest of the members on stage, as well as the audience. The sets can range from playful acoustic covers of everything from Van Morrison, Snoop Dogg, Metallica, and everywhere in between; to soulful, original ballads penned by Alford. Killion’s artful fiddle melodies weave in and out of the guitar rhythms, creating a musical tapestry held together by the raspy bass of Hill’s percussion. They are part Tom Petty, part Dave Mathews Band, part Zac Brown Band, with a dash of Drive-By Truckers, sprinkled with some Counting Crows and served on the rocks.
A KIP show is a confluence of acoustic talent, skillful vocals, and laid-back attitudes reminiscent of coffee house jam bands of the 90’s. With a lack of over-processed effects, flashy light shows, and amp stacks turned up to eleven, these gentlemen rely on rock-steady talent combined with creative takes on a wide variety of covers and originals to keep the audiences engaged over the course of the show. It’s pretty obvious that when the band takes the stage, they are completely in their element; relaxed, care-free, and surfing the wave of the gig wherever the crowd takes it. Hill states, “We play to the audience. We don’t build a set list and shove it down their throats. We shoot from the hip with no rules and nothing rigid. It makes our shows much more loose and, from what we’re told, that’s part of the draw. We do lots of medleys combining several songs. Those are always a hit and we get lots of requests for them.”
While the shows may purposefully have an unstructured feel to them, it is certainly not an indictment of the band’s approach when it comes to their source material. The Kid Icarus Project has built an extensive catalog of over 300 cover songs and 50 originals which can work their way into the set list as the mood dictates, and they are constantly working to improve the audience’s experience with new surprises. “Not long ago we came up with our own twist on the Phil Collins classic ‘In the Air Tonight.’ The crowd seems to love it and we do, too!” muses Hill. “Clint recently wrote a new track called ‘Rusted Strings.’ It’s a winner. No doubt. I would not be surprised to see it get some radio play.” In addition to the ever-evolving stage show, the band is currently working on a double album in response to longstanding requests from fans. “Folks have been asking for far too long,” Hill states, “and we really have made an effort to get that done. We laid down scratch tracks in the studio a week or two ago, and we are very excited about what’s coming.”
Fans will be happy to know that regardless of what the future holds, The Kid Icarus Project has no intentions of changing the way they approach their craft and will let success come naturally in whatever form it takes. “I think that’s the beauty of it all,” Hill confirms. “For us, making it a mission would be a mistake. It would destroy the looseness and the fun. If it were to develop into more, we would of course be happy, but putting that on paper as a goal just doesn’t fit our personalities.” When asked what they wanted the fans to take from each show, Mike gave a parting thought. “Shows can be fun. Bands can be friendly, and bands can play covers without being labeled as ‘cover bands.’ Music is everything, so let that show through.” One can’t help but notice that it does when these guys take the stage, and perhaps if the Icarus of all those years ago had taken the same approach as his namesake, he’d have ended up on a beach sipping a beer at the end of the day.
Kid Icarus Project on the World Wide Web: