An Interview with Torrin Daniels of Kitchen Dwellers

The stars must have been in perfect alignment, when Daniels met future bandmate Shawn Swain on the first day of classes at Montana State in Bozeman.

“He sat down next to me and we started talking about bluegrass and playing music. He told me he played mandolin, and I told him that I played as well. He invited me over to his house, and that’s how we got started.”

– Torrin Daniels

Swain had been playing with Joe Funk (bass) and and Max Davies (guitar). Daniels was also a mandolin player, but Swain talked him into switching to banjo. “I became the banjo player by default, because I owned a banjo,” explains Daniels. “A lot of my influences were punk and metal. I played drums all through school, taking a lot from heavier genres.

Other band members had varied influences as well. Swain grew up in Telluride, a child of two Deadheads, but also played in metal bands. Davies is from the suburbs of Chicago and was weaned on classic rock. Joe Funk is a fan of electronic music, citing Pretty Lights as his favorite band.

Kitchen Dwellers

So how did a bunch of punk, metal, and electronic fans morph into a bluegrass band? “It turns out the punk music transfers over pretty easily to bluegrass,” explains Daniels. “Just with the kind of energy, four-on-the floor type of rhythm. It was kind of the natural evolution of things. We didn’t think about it too hard. It just kind of happened.”

Their love of music from high school and college took them to Phish shows and then the festival scene. “One of the first things we ever did as a band together my freshman year was to go see Yonder Mountain String Band in Missoula for a couple of nights. That is still probably the pinnacle of musical experiences in my life.”

They’ve been able to share the stage with fellow String Dusters, members of Greensky Bluegrass and Railroad Earth, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and some of the newer jam bands like Goose.

Kitchen Dwellers have released five albums and two EP’s, including their newest disc, Wise River. “It is the culmination of a lot of work we did over the course of the 2020 Covid quarantine,” explains Daniels. “When everyone was separated and keeping in their bubble, and there weren’t any shows going on, and people were working via streams, we all lived in the same town. We were in a unique situation during Covid, where we could maintain our bubble with each other and work together as often as we wanted to.” The band procured studio space right in Bozeman where the band could write and perform in live streaming events.

This is probably the most collaborative album that we’ve come out with yet, far as the songwriting process, as everyone being able to work together on a daily basis.

-on the making of “Wise River”

The album is full of outdoor and Western imagery inspired by activities like skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing, things common to a lot of bluegrass bands. The album was produced by Cory Wong, who brought in Nashville songwriter Elliot Blaufuss, who helped the band “hone in our our songwriting techniques. and express the ideas that were presented in each song.” One of those songs Daniels co-wrote with Blaufuss is “Sundown”. “I had a riff that I had been messing around with for a long time, a metal guitar riff that I played on banjo. It’s about being in quarantine, but it’s all about the elasticity of time when you’re confined to a physical space and your mind tends to run the more you sit still.”

Link to the Kitchen Dwellers website

Link to Wise River on Spotify

Daniels also likes one of Swain’s songs, “Their Names Are the Trees”. It’s about a small town consumed by a fire that killed a number of people in Oregon. As Swain was researching the story, he learned that the news coverage seemed to focus more on the trees that were wiped out in this fire, instead of the loss of human life, hence the song name.

You can catch Kitchen Dwellers out on tour this summer including the Jeezum Crow Festival, Jay, VT July 8; Boogiedown Music Festival, Madison, WI, July 15; Northwest String Summit, North Plains, OR, July 21; Floydfest, Floyd, VA, July 27; Four Corners Jam Festival, Aztec, NM, August 4th, and Sacred Rose, Bridgeview, IL, August 26th.

Listen to the full interview with Torrin Daniels of Kitchen Dwellers, where he also talks about their EP of Pink Floyd covers, the songwriting process, and more.