The members of Wichita band Kill Vargas have been making music together for the better part of a decade. When you consider that none of the members are over 20 and that guitarist Griffin Bush is still in high school, the feat becomes more remarkable. Bush, his brother Logan, and bassist Austin Engler began writing songs before they could play instruments. They used a feature of the video game Guitar Hero to create those early pieces. Later, Engler's father showed the friends his collection of instruments and recording gear he'd kept in his basement. From there, each member chose his instrument and set about the task of becoming musicians. Logan Bush says that what was true then is true now: He, his brother and Engler have a pure love of music.
“When we first started it was literally just because we liked to write songs. We didn’t play gigs, we didn’t make records, we just wrote songs for fun for ourselves,” he says. “I feel like years of that formed who we are today because we had a real love for music. We didn’t make money. We didn’t get girls. We didn’t do any of that rock star stuff. It was just the love of music that we were interested in.”
Griffin Bush offers his memories of those early days.
“Music is an interest we’ve all had for the longest time,” he says. “We just kept writing songs for ourselves, giving them to our parents, using Austin’s dad’s instruments and his recording gear to just write little one-and-a-half-minute songs. Then we started doing shows, we started playing talent shows and playing in our garage for an audience, probably around five years ago. All of that preparation really helped us.”
A little more than three years ago Engler and the Bush brothers starting performing under the name Kill Vargas. Logan Bush can still recall the day when he decided to book the band's first show outside the confines of school or the garage at local coffee shop Mead's Corner.
“Up until that point we had been playing high school talent shows and house parties,” he says. “We wanted to book a real gig. I remember I was in the classroom at my high school, I think I was a sophomore, and I remember just sending the email to Mead’s and booking that date. Then I was looking around town for bands that would play with us. I asked Faux Reality and Japanese Game Show who, at the time, were local favorites. I had no idea about the local scene. They were just two bands whose music I liked. I remember hitting them both up on Facebook and they were nice enough to join this 15-year-old kid’s show, which is awesome to me.”
Not long after that initial Mead's gig, the band was playing on an increasing number of local bills and, along the way, found the time to book regional tours. Logan Bush recalls that it was his dad who drove the band to those early dates. He, his brother and Engler say they remain grateful to their parents for the support.
“We're really grateful for Ted for driving us around, taking time out of his work schedule,” Engler says.
“He had to take off work so he could drive us around the Midwest, playing to 10 kids a night,” Logan Bush says. “We probably wouldn’t be touring as much as we are now without the support of our parents.”
The band's brand-new release, Tunnel Vison, spotlights the power of the group's trio format. Griffin Bush says that there's something special about the power of three.
“Being in a trio really helps with the focus of each instrument itself. It’s bare and so exposed that you have to play to the best of your ability and you have to have your part right,” he says. “Everybody hears everything you do when you’re in a trio. I think that really helps with the songs and with the live performance when it’s like that. It really brings out the best possible way that you can play.”
Engler echoes his bandmate's sentiment.
“There’s not as much mud,” he notes. “If we had a rhythm guitarist it would just muddy up the sound, I feel like.”
Tunnel Vision is out now. Kill Vargas performs at Mead's Corner on Friday, March 17.
Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.
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