Artists // Knot

In 2015, the beloved Boston indie-rock band Krill broke-up. Actually, hold on, broke-up may be too intense of a phrase. They did stop playing shows in the fall of 2015, but by 2016, they put out a posthumous five-song EP, and a couple years after that, Krill reunited for a one-off show supporting their friends in LVL UP. So, there was no acrimony, Krill just kind of ended. But in 2019, Knot was born, which, depending on how you look at it, is kind of Krill and also kind of not at all Krill.

In the simplest terms, Knot is effectively Krill’s final lineup with an additional musician added in, but it’s the particulars that highlight the differences between the two bands. In Knot, Krill bassist and vocalist Jonah Furman switches to guitar, Krill guitarist Aaron Ratoff handles both guitar and bass, Ian Becker is still on drums, and Joe DeManuelle-Hall, the relative newcomer, also plays guitar. In essence, Knot is a bigger, more ruminative version of Krill, but it’s also something that’s distinct unto itself. And on the band’s debut album, which is called Knot, too, it’s easy to see that Knot has a perspective all its own.

Where Krill dealt in giddy bursts of energy that explored the ugliest neuroses of twentysomethings, Knot is more restrained and deliberate. All those guitars build off one another, with each member playing their own distinct part—ones that often feel alien from the next—until they all coalesce into these big washes of melodic dissonance. “I think the apotheosis of what we’re trying to do might be a sort of blend of Don Caballero and Bill Callahan,” says Furman. “I think that gets at the principle of the thing, if it overstates both the literary-ness of the songwriting and the complexity of the music.”

To Furman’s point, these songs are capable of being more intricate and layered than anything Krill was able to achieve, and his lyrics match that growth. He’s less focused on his own internal emotions and instead tries to understand the machinations of a world that continues to spin farther away from concepts like justice, kindness, and even common sense. Or as Furman puts it: “These songs are vaguely about deciding whether or not to have kids, whereas Krill songs were vaguely about deciding what to do with your life.”

Throughout Knot, the band deals in tense, evocative moments that unfurl in unexpected ways. “Foam” has the kind of rhythmic push-and-pull of math-rock, but it’s performed in a way that backs up Furman’s lyrics, which sees him looking at a planet in the middle of a full-blown climate crisis and wishing he had been able to spend more time with the people he cared about most. And in the case of a song like “Fallow,” he even ruminates on what it means to start a new artistic project in the midst of all this. “It’s about creative productivity and its opposites, and how one goes from thinking artistic activity is useless or pointless, to seeing some worth in it again, or letting it be a part of one’s life again,” says Furman.

The result is that Knot is a record that’s the product of four friends making music because they found worth in that process, even if they weren’t all living in the same geographic area and only had a single weekend to record it. But those challenges allowed the songs to take shape naturally, making each moment more creatively considered than impulsive. “They all took a long time,” says Furman of the songs on Knot. “We weren’t all living in the same place. Actually, they came quickly when we were in the same place—there was nothing that took a lot of workshopping.”

Taken in full, Knot is both a logical continuation and a fresh start. Knot isn’t a band in the traditional sense, and that full embrace of making art on the members’ own terms is what makes the album so evocative. “In general I think the project was less masterminded than Krill, and more open to itself becoming whatever it might become,” says Furman. “I think that's felt, in some way, in the actual music, but hard to articulate.” Knot exists because the players found creative fulfillment in it, and maybe, for once, that’s enough.