White Knuckle Ridge fuse divergent styles into outlaw country

September 10, 2013

By Kristine Kim

It was an interesting turn of events that brought the group White Knuckle Ridge together.

About four months ago, Chris Hilkey had a gig to play in Snohomish, and he tried to get in contact with Luke Breider, a fellow musician and childhood friend. Earlier that day, Breider and co-worker and band mate Matt Forbes had a disagreement with a former band member, and left that group.

“I’ve known Luke since we were little kids,” Hilkey, guitarist and vocalist for White Knuckle Ridge, said. “We grew up together in North Bend.”

By Rod Gingrich White Knuckle Ridge — Matt Forbes, Luke Breider and Chris Hilkey (from left) — performed at the Hobart Flea Market Aug. 4 atop the trailer of a semi.

By Rod Gingrich
White Knuckle Ridge — Matt Forbes, Luke Breider and Chris Hilkey (from left) — performed at the Hobart Flea Market Aug. 4 atop the trailer of a semi.

“We all three got in that room on that Saturday, and it basically instantaneously sparked,” Breider, who plays drums and other percussion, said.

A band was born.

They needed a name; even though they played outlaw country, it was a little too nontraditional to go onstage nameless. They had a hard time coming up with anything that wasn’t shot down by fellow band members. It took them weeks to agree on anything.

Eventually, they landed on a name: White Knuckle Ridge.

The ridge part was self-explanatory, as Breider and Hilkey both grew up under the ridge of the Cascade Mountains.

“When you’re going down that steep hill, you’re white knucklin’ it, gripping the steering wheel so hard,” Hilkey said, referring to an incline of Mount Si. “The white knuckle part of it was, ‘Hang on. You’re going to go for a ride.’”

Now, a few years down the line, Hilkey, 35, remains in North Bend and works as a truck driver, but Breider lives in Issaquah. The third member of the band, bassist and vocalist Forbes, resides in Kirkland. Forbes and Breider, both 32, work together at Cougar Mountain Zoo.

When they perform, their sound is smooth. Breider beats out a rhythm while Forbes plays bass, and listeners begin to tap their toes. Then, the guitar comes in, and the music falls together.

“I would say our biggest influence is we all have opposing influences,” Breider said. He grew up listening to Hank Williams Sr. and Johnny Cash, music he calls “really old time country.”

“My mom listened to gospel and country music,” Hilkey said. “My dad, he wasn’t much of a music guy. I guess he listened to more rock and roll than the classics and things like that.”

Even though it’s not the type of music to which Hilkey listens much, when he plays, he said he can hear his parents’ tastes come out of his instrument.

Samantha Gingrich, Breider’s fiancée, helps the band with their promoting and marketing because “none of them are much for the computer.” Growing up on Issaquah-Hobart Road, she has been listening to country, folk music and bluegrass since she was young.

“Nobody does it like that anymore,” she said. She likes listening to White Knuckle Ridge because “it’s not common. It’s original sound.”

The band’s jive is a genre called pure American outlaw country. Breider and Hilkey describe it as something that is not quite like anything else, with a mix of country, rock, blues and a variety of other sounds — a mix of all of their influences, and then some. Gingrich calls it something people “play on their porches.”

“You want to make music that is great for yourself, first and foremost, but if everybody else likes it, that’s good, too,” Breider said.

Audience reactions have been positive, he said, which is good when one of the band’s favorite activities is playing live shows.

“It’s pretty much just playing the shows for the community,” Breider said, referring to his enjoyment in sharing music. “It’s the same thing for Matt as well.”

The band divides practice time between a couple of places, but given a choice, they would play outdoors with natural acoustics. Though they play the most at a place in Kirkland they dubbed “The Studio,” they occasionally venture to the home of Breider’s parents on Mount Si Road in North Bend.

Since the band is young, most of their performances so far have been covers of others’ songs, with three original songs they perform. But White Knuckle Ridge isn’t a cover band — one of their biggest goals is to record in a studio.

“We recorded a demo pretty much instantaneously as a group,” Breider said. “It was a quick two-song demo that’s been met with some positive feedback.”

It is positive feedback that they are trying to turn back to their audiences. While they work on recording and getting time in a studio, they will keep performing live.

“There’s always some kind of nervousness before you do it, but you can channel that and make it something positive and energetic,” Hilkey said. “To me, you’re taking your talent and putting it out there. I’m giving back what I was given.”

On the Web
Learn more about White Knuckle Ridge online at www.facebook.com/whiteknuckleridge.


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