Indy Star Feature w/ Dave Lindquist

 

Indiana pop-rock band Julia Kahn Music brings “Alice in Wonderland” out of a 19th-century rabbit hole and into the present on the group’s signature song, “Alice.” 

“If that character came up to you today, you’d say, ‘You’re mentally insane,’ definitely,” said guitarist-songwriter Danny Steinmetz. “She realizes she’s going insane, but she’s happy that way.” 

The lyrics, sung in a half-raspy, half-mellow tone by Kahn, include the line, “You must decide who you truly are inside.” 

“It’s an interesting exploration of not only sanity, but more importantly happiness,” Steinmetz said. “If you’re happy in a nontraditional way, why should somebody stop you? Don’t let society’s standards define how you live your life too much.”

Released on a 2016 EP titled “Closet Symphonium,” “Alice” has racked up more than 25,000 YouTube views in its surreal video form directed by John Moon of Carmel-based Story House Media. 

Kahn, Steinmetz, guitarist Vinny Corsaro and drummer Zane Turi will perform Feb. 11 at Casler’s Kitchen & Bar in Fishers. 

Scholastic start: The members of Julia Kahn Music launched the band when they were seniors at Cathedral High School. Kahn, Steinmetz, Corsaro and Turi convened each day in an independent study setting. "You could choose what you wanted to focus on," Corsaro said. "We decided to take 50 minutes a day and write music." The quartet came up with a new song every week, primarily in the folk-rock genre. 

Melting pot: Elements of rock, folk, blues, funk and jazz are heard on "Closet Symphonium." Kahn, Steinmetz and Corsaro are now juniors at Indiana University, but their influences aren't confined to present-day chart-toppers. "I love listening to old soul and blues stuff," Kahn said. "I think that’s where I get a lot of my voice inflections." 
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Show time: Steinmetz said it's a challenge to break through as a live act playing original songs when many nightclubs rely on EDM-focused DJs for entertainment. "People aren’t as willing to go out on a limb and see a new band they know nothing about," Steinmetz said. One of Julia Kahn Music's secret weapons: funk renditions of hip-hop songs popularized by Outkast, Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West. "We bridge together two audiences: People who only listen to rap and people who only listen to rock," Steinmetz said. 

"Blonde" ambition: Even with a repertoire of covers, Julia Kahn Music defines itself as an act that performs original music. And that makes the group an anomaly on the roster of Blonde Entertainment, the Indianapolis booking agency known for party bands the Doo! Band, Living Proof and My Yellow Rickshaw. Steinmetz said his uncle, Born Again Floozies vocalist-guitarist Joe Welch, expressed surprise when Julia Kahn Music signed with Blonde. "He said, 'You’re not going to be able to do your originals,'" Steinmetz said. "But they’ve been nothing but supportive." Kahn said Blonde Entertainment owner Lisa Sauce encourages the band to "keep our sound and push our originality." 

The future: As college students within 18 months of graduating with degrees in psychology, political science and English, Kahn, Steinmetz and Corsaro field their share of career-themed questions. "People will ask us, 'What are your plans afterward? What are you focusing on?'" Corsaro said. "I think all of us have this music as Plan A," Kahn added. "We all want to get our degrees, and that’s important to us. But I think we all are on the same page: This is absolutely what we’d like to do for a long time."

Call IndyStar reporter David Lindquist at (317) 444-6404. Follow him on Twitter: @317Lindquist.

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