Laurelthirst Public House has been a fixture in the Portland, Ore., music scene for 34 years. And while Taylor “TK” Kingman hasn’t been a fixture at the bar there for nearly that long, he does have an abiding affection for the city’s oldest indie music venue.
“As it’s gone through all these different generations of musicians, it’s kept that same thread and spirit,” says Kingman. “We just keep passing this torch along. It’s the place I want to be, whether I’m playing or not.”
More to the point, the Thirst is the creative well from which Kingman drinks when he’s parched. He continues to host open-mic nights there, and other interactions—both onstage and off—have led to various collaborations and projects. The most viable of those so far has been TK & The Holy Know-Nothings, the ramrod-efficient bar band that launches Kingman’s brutally honest everyman narratives into the ozone hole currently hovering somewhere between Eugene and Mount Hood. There’s a story behind the band name, though it’s somewhat convoluted.
“I think it was from The Dharma Bums, but I’ve since tried to look for the phrase and can’t find it,” says Kingman. “It was a name I’d use when I wasn’t playing with my band at the time, the Hill Dogs, and I was doing some pop-up gig.”
Aside from Kingman on guitar and vocals, the Know-Nothings lineup includes drummer Tyler Thompson and multi-instrumentalists Jay Cobb Anderson (lead guitar, harmonica), Sydney Nash (keys, bass, slide guitar, cornet) and Laurelthirst co-owner Lewi Longmire (bass, guitar, pedal steel, flugelhorn, mellotron, lap steel). Their amped-up scrap-yard twang has been dubbed “psychedelic doom boogie”—even if that fails to account for a certain deranged honky-tonk grit that doesn’t necessarily scream Pacific Northwest.
“To me, it’s country, but it’s very much Northwestern country—there’s something unique to it,” says Kingman, who’s a native of St. Paul, Ore., a tiny rodeo town 40 minutes southwest of Portland. “Another description I like to use is freak country.”
The Incredible Heat Machine (Mama Bird Recording Co.) is the group’s second release in three years, not including last year’s b-sides EP, Pickled Heat. Like 2019’s Arguably OK, their latest was recorded in just a few days at the historic OK Theatre in Enterprise, Ore. Everything was done live onstage, with Thompson and band associate Bart Budwig handling the engineering. Premiering here, “The Incredible Heat Machine” is the more rambunctious b-side portion of the two-part title track.
“‘The Incredible Heat Machine (Preprise)’ was a short little thing I had for a while,” says Kingman. “I kept trying to add more to it, but it kept taking away from what was already there. So I extended it, but I still protected the little nugget of the song—and they feel really different.”
And what is an Incredible Heat Machine?
“I wanted to have a classic song about the band,” Kingman says. “I love these guys.”