Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

Fuck you: Gauntlet Hair is a great name. Leave it alone.

It may be a non-sequitur, but there is something elegant about the vignette that the name Gauntlet Hair paints. In that space where the name had no initial bearing on their music, or anything beyond the two bandmates: it makes sense. For not only does Andy R. and Craig Nice have really bountiful hair – so too does their music. Really. Listen: It’s hairy (stated as a polysemic word).

There is something anthematic about Gauntlet Hair. There is something that touches the mystical in their sound, in their constantly drenched-with-reverb ascensions and churning, chanty drum explosions. I am terrified of heights and they ratchet the ride up and up to an invisible epic apex - always aiming, frenetically for some quiet point at the end. They sing from a tunnel of time, from years behind – swirling and speaking of the future and that place where up becomes down; where the apex disappears and you’re left with a belly-full of free fall.

Gauntlet Hair is a danceable gospel. Truly, a roaring racket of delight. They are the perfect pitch of sealed glass exploding, a wooden wall imploding. Gauntlet Hair is a cathedral door to those places where I see the world only as made of temporary and decaying things, things I can wreck, things I can joyfully tear the limbs from. Gauntlet Hair makes me want to languidly, violently tear down everything around me, including the punchable air.

This is my kind of dancey destruction, destitution and desire.

For anyone hungry to wreck everything without a pulse through music, a great lesson of hardcore and punk is that: you don’t need a Ph.D. in any theory to play music. Hell, you don’t even know how to tune your guitar: just begin. Start. Now.


And where this matchstick foundation ignited the pistons of what would become Gauntlet Hair, don’t get it wrong: they are no amateurs. Theirs is a coiffured beauty, a combed sound. So, do get it right: there is a heavy something to be said about taste and ability and flat-out drive. And if Craig Nice and Andy R. have really found their sea legs, it has been upon this tripod of virtues.

Hailing from Chicago, the hirsute duo have always been a solitary pair – playing music, writing and recording on their own. When they were fifteen they spent time discovering new bands in their bedrooms, only sharing it in that safe place between one another. From the beginning it was apparent: they found each other for a reason, and music stood as that pillar of certitude.

The Wonderful Counselors was the inaugural voyage into playing music for the pair. The freak folk act never played live, but it did spawn an ethic and momentum that would carry them to this day. One of the first idiosyncrasies that they discovered was their love for big cathedrals of depth in a song. In the beginning they found the brick in mortar in laying-down sometime up to 150 tracks just for one song. From the word G-O, they knew that they wanted big. Then, Andy R. discovered the delay pedal – their staple still to this day. This monumental progression enabled two Midwest boys to sound like a rollicking, offensive depth charge of a gospel choir. In all, the breadth of delay gave them more invisible band members, a whole choir of anarchists that didn’t exist anywhere but in the sound they created between the two of them. In all, it has been the only way they wanted it: to keep the cabal private, undeterred.

But they wanted vocals and neither of them sang, so they brought-in a singer. But, she left the band and they did the only thing that made sense: they took-over, took-back, took-control of the singing roles themselves. Brave, for certain. Ballsy? Probably. Neither had ever sung. This was the extension of years of solitude, and of inside jokes – but this time: it wasn’t a joke. They wanted this.

Theirs is a non-technical intelligence. They are not guitar heroes and neither wish to be. But, in the same way that Andy is perfecting, with tonsorial precision, his presence as a musician and as a songwriter – so too is Craig driven to explore his unorthodox design in drumming. Craig plays electronic drums – they’re real drums that he beats the shit out of, they’re just not acoustic ones. And to be honest: it’s pretty taboo to play them. But he doesn’t care. In fact, he loves it that people stare and wonder and process… that nobody else is really doing what he is doing. To this end, he is more than a timekeeper in the corner – he is part of the chorus of ceiling voices, calling light, calling in to sight.

Theirs is an organic union. They aren’t talky about compositions and songs. They just play. Go. Now. They record song after song – but in accordance to their invisible cabal: they destroy much of what they write and record ever before it reaches the ears of anybody else. Theirs is a prolific production. Tracks and songs and whole albums of work laying destitute on some hard drive, somewhere away from here. Like their music, they are itchy. Certainly, they are Gauntlet Hairs.

They moved from Chicago and planted themselves in a random field, in a Colorado place called Lafayette – simply unimpressive. And, that was the point. They wanted to work and so, they did what anybody with some balls does: go find someplace close to nowhere – where there’s no temptation or friends or really, anything. And so they did: they lost their girls, wrote new material and worked and scrapped even more songs. It was a memorable time. And then there was one song, that song, the one that pushed them around the corner and into the national light. It was a big time.

“I Was Thinking” is that song. And, as you can guess, it is, at this point, a song that these two boys with beautiful hair… absolutely despise. I saw the look on their face when, once, it accidentally came on the house speakers. But eh, it is a song that they are grateful for. It set the tempo and showed them that they weren’t completely alone in what they thought was triumphant afterall.

And, they understand the song – they know why heads and ears were turned nationally. They felt their song bump up against the fist of the median, the pedestrian, the popular, middle management of understanding. They took it all as a lesson. They aren’t stupid. Nor are they deaf. They heard the bad, the banter, the bullshit, and the good. And initially, there was a healthy wealth of fear in them – for now people outside of their sanctum w/sh/could expect more. Now, this quiet, solitary vision was becoming real and expectations were being set.

But, instead of acquiring an acute case of retinal rectum disease (that’s when you have a shitty outlook), Andy and Craig shrugged it all off to do what they do best: create music that mattered to them. They created work that they wanted to listen to. They made sounds and racket that made them move… for the most part.

Afterall, this about bravery. Around every corner, the hairy twins have stood up to fisticuffs of challenge. And prevailed. Itching, clawing, reaching outward – in only the 15 shows that they’ve played-out as an act, they’ve played upwards of 50 different songs. But then, in large part because of that one song – they were faced with the challenge of being placed on a gigantic national tour, where they would play the most important shows of their lives. So, they honed it in. They decided on one set that they would perfect. In this, they exerted more courage and reached further outside of themselves picking-up two new, brave members: the Vitamins’ axe man Matt Daniels and Doran Robischon.

I wouldn’t say that Daniels and Robischon have an enviable task: fitting into something so many years in the making – with two incredibly picky human beings and musicians, is probably (Andy admittedly iterates and shrugs) impossible. But it was necessary that they pulled-in these two players: they needed to alleviate pressure from Andy R. – to give him a chance to really murder his corner of the cathedral as opposed to being forced to Frankenstein an entire choir of boys and girls with only Craig by his side, beating the crap out of all his grenade explosions.

Theirs is a wheelhouse of true emotions, not formulaic expressions of life as you want it to be. Theirs is about a life that is not always easy to handle, nor simple to understand. Gauntlet Hair is a swell storm of disappointment and rejoicing. It is repetitive, driving. It is the watercolor kaleidoscope of strange as funny as intelligent as challenging. Theirs is a sound that is predicated on a communication that is both quick and fluent.

Theirs is not about a trend. It’s not about caring what others are going appreciate in their music. Theirs is a confidence that begins in that quiet place way off any street in any town. It’s the kind of confidence that found true sprinter’s legs in the confirmations that they have been granted along the way from the national audience (right now at the writing of this, they are taking the stage in Toronto, Ontario – in front of a sold-out audience.) but also from themselves. They feel an infinite capacity to write exciting work, they feel naked below the grand ceiling of possibility, of the cosmos.

These are not Denver’s boys. They are not Chicago’s, or New York’s. These are our boys. Everybody’s. Because, afterall, this is about music: that spiritual sister, the mother of all sensation.

When I listen to Gauntlet Hair, I go to this drunk, psychotropic place: There is a pond. An amusement park. Cute girls. Birthday parties. And I am floating on a Ferris wheel, feathering above the millions of explosions of carnival light. When above, there’s this symphony of sound: this rolling release of cavernous music pulsating and echoing down below. Upon my terra approach, the sound revolts from its heavenly arches and augments into something anxious, an attacking reverb – dancey doldrums of delight. This is my Gauntlet Hair.

Own your hairy piece of the heavens too: www.gauntlethair.com or for tour dates: www.myspace.com/gauntlethair