On Painwaves, Seattle, WA’s Chris King & The Gutterballs have crafted a record that breathes in the spaces between Americana, Country, and Rock & Roll. King’s plaintive, near high-lonesome voice and weary swagger belie his youth, though the maturity of his songwriting does little to dispel the illusion. Sometimes life steps on the accelerator without asking permission, and Pain Waves is a snapshot of eighteen months of rapid-fire transition; a rush of reality that these days is all too relatable.
King, who began playing guitar at fifteen in his local church, headed to Seattle a few years back to find his fortune. As fate would have it, he wound up connecting with his band The Gutterballs. They released two acclaimed EP’s (Hidin’ Out in 2014, followed in 2016 by Cocktails), landed spots on the prominent local Upstream, Freakout Fest, and Bigass Boombox festivals, garnered adulation and rotation from local bastion of independent radio KEXP, and hosted a residency at the historic Blue Moon Tavern.
Then what might as well be called “The Blizzard of 2016” hit. “I got sober after a dramatic break up with the love of my life” says King. “We lost our bass player, a band members father died, and my dog passed away. Then we lost our recording studio in Shoreline as our current president was being elected.” As the pressure mounted, King fell into an emotional, existential whirlwind. “It became a pivotal point in my self-perception and my outlook on life in general. I found catharsis in songwriting.”
Once King had the arrangements where he wanted them, they rehearsed five days a week for two months before heading to the studio. All the songs on Pain Waves were recorded live and mixed with Tom Meyers (Prom Queen, Thee Emergency, Country Lips) at Ground Control Studios in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA from January-December of 2018. Jon Pontrello (The Moondoggies) lends a hand on pedal steel and vibraphone, Joe Doria plays the Hammond organ, and Jason Goessl guests on backup guitar.
“While this album was written during a trying period, I still believe this is an amazing time to be alive” King explains. “We can be real with ourselves and each other and feel true unfiltered emotion and express ourselves freely. Not a lot of people want to confront the dark side of life, but I’m proud that this record dives in head first. Yet there’s a brighter lining; signs of hope for the future, euphoria thru realism and cathartic release through pain. The last lyric of the album is “Love” and that’s what I hope the listener feels as the last notes ring away.”