Kind of Like Spitting
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Kind of Like Spitting


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The best kept secret in music


You’d never know Barnett’s the man behind one of the most howlingly slash-your-wrists emo groups around. If you’ve no idea what “emo” is, fear not. A primer: extreme soft-loud dynamics, diary-entry lyrics, and a lot of seasonal references. It’s like Fugazi vs. Donovan, but with more embarrassing haircuts. If that description makes you flinch, and it probably should, don’t despair, because the thing about KOLS is that it’s really good. In fact, a few years ago, former members of seminal emo band Braid asked Barnett to front their new project, Hey Mercedes. He declined, and they went on to suck without him.
So, what makes KOLS any good? A variety of things: not only does Barnett channel a much wider range of influence than his peers, but also, he has experience. He's been releasing records under the KOLS moniker for a good part of the past 10 years (mostly on Hush Records) and, last year, released Bridges Worth Burning (Barsuk), his best record to date.

By Brian Arnot - Colorado Springs Independent

In the few short years Ben Barnett has performed and recorded as KOLS, he’s attracted a host of different players to help score his poetry. More than 10 individuals have contributed to his recorded output, but it’s Barnett’s unyielding, sometimes uncomfortably intense vocals that have come to dominate their sound. Few and far between is the KOLS number in which lyrics take the back seat—or even the passenger seat—to instrumental melody; we’re dealing with a diary-keeper to be sure.

KOLS was originally just Barnett, his acoustic guitar, and a lot of pent-up emotions. In Portland, Oregon, he had a prefabricated audience to usher his development as a songwriter. His earnest, dramatic pining was documented early, first with friends on four-track, then graduating to a local home studio with a provisional three-piece backing band and violinist. This first wave of material was compiled as You Secretly Want Me Dead on CD-R, through the combined efforts of Hush, Jealous Butcher, and Audio Dregs Records (three Portland concerns). ...

This was a true lead singer, no doubt about it, and his energy blew the crowd away. The voice he’s developed is so over the top, you’re either going to smirk knowingly or fall hard for it. In contrast to previous recording efforts, Nothing Makes Sense Without It captures this tension in full. …

Barnett’s heavy-handed songwriting is a personal choice, as opposed to some derivative imitation or opportunistic posture.

All of this is not to say that KOLS is for everyone, though. … If you’re sick to death of slow emo ballads, you may as well toss this into your resale pile after half a listen. But to my ears, Nothing Makes Sense Without It strips away the whispering, faux shyness so many emo bands pander to over-eager audiences these days.

By Chris Ott -

Bridges Worth Burning marks a new era for KOLS and in many aspects is a new beginning with elements falling in line to renew the project’s validity. I can only assume that the title of the record comes from bitter sentiments left over from Ben towards past members of the band and the short-term breakup that took place shortly after. The band was originally founded in the Portland, Ore. area by singer songwriter Ben Barnett as an outlet for the deep-rooted pain he experienced throughout his life. After a number of full length records and a slew of EPs and 7”s, the band essentially came to stand-still and departed for a short bit. This threw frontman Ben Barnett for a loop and put him into a darker period of his life where he was searching for some sort of meaning. As luck would have it, Benjamin Gibbard (frontman for Death Cab for Cutie) came to the rescue, offering to do all in his power to save the band from the verge of extinction. Slowly the band began to practice once - again with Gibbard playing drums this time - and continued to write new material. When solidfied songs were written by the band, they eventually recorded and signed a deal with Barsuk Records (home of DCFC). Things began to get substantially better for the band when new players entered such as guitarist David J. who gave the band a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

My only basis for comparison on Bridges Worth Burning is KOLS's 1999 release Nothing Makes Sense Without It. The two albums are about as different as night and day. Nothing... was for the most part a slower, cleaner sounding guitar, a violin added to the mix, intricate and much more depressing. Bridges... on the other hand is much more rocking and genuinely sounds a lot happier with just a brief touch of melancholy. I can only speculate Barnett is a much happier person these days with the current project and the current state of his life falling into line. What defines KOLS and is present throughout all of their material is Barnett’s unique vocal stylings. He is more than capable of singing some of the most depressing and miserable lyrics imaginable while the next minute belting out a terrific manic chorus. …

The two tracks on the album are my favorite by far are “Crossover Potential,” which has a really intricate guitar part along with some really nicely sung vocals, and “Untitled,” a short track featuring a duet with Barnett and Gibbard on acoustic guitars and vocals. It sounds absolutely incredible and is a fitting end to that was already a great indie pop record.

By Jeff Cooper - Delusions of Adequacy (

Love him or hate him, there is no denying that KOLS’s very own Ben Barnett is the finest singer-songwriter to call PDX a home. With a level of proliferation that would give Bob Pollard a run for his money, Bridges is KOLS’s seventh full-length, and hands-down his best work. True to form, Barnett still sings and yelps in frantic emotional outbursts, leaving the listener with a voyeuristic thrill and that awkward guilt that comes with finding out too much about someone’s sordid life. Rounded out by a proper band—bassist Brian Grant and drummer Ben Gibbard, respectively—Bridges offers up a more cohesive sound than previous recordings. Nowhere is that more evident than on “We Are Both Writers,” as Barnett fervently sings, “Our lives are deer blocking the lane, we can just sit back and watch it all go up in flames, until every note, every chord, sounds the same...”. Sure it’s ill-fated, over-the-top music for damaged people, but that’s why it’s one of the best records to see the light of day this year.

By Carmelo Martinez - Portland Mercury

[KOLS’s Ben] Barnett has always been about catharsis, whether it was simply the banging-on-an-acoustic-guitar-in-a-lonely-room kind of catharsis that his early records espouse, or the more focused, intense version that debuted with his early high-water mark Nothing Makes Sense Without It. However, [Bridges Worth Burning] sees Barnett marrying that catharsis to some of the most catchy rock ’n’ roll he’s yet produced. The result is, more often than not, quite stunning. The first three songs on the record set the bar immediately: the tense, urgent “Passionate” (“Let’s be passionate, it’s not like we get another chance to do this”) segues perfectly into the manic-depressive bounce of “We Are Both Writers”, which then careens headlong into the fiery “Born Beautiful”. From there, it’s the usual back and forth between the soft (the acoustic “Canaries”, the slow-burn “I Want Out”) and the loud (the sheer punk fury of “This Lemonade Is Terrible”, the sprightly “Following Days”), and the band proves themselves equally capable of kicking ass in either mode.

By Jeremy Schneyer - Pop Matters (


In the Red CD (to be released Winter 2006, Hush)
2004 CD (to be released Fall, 2005, Redder)
Bridges Worth Burning CD--Barsuk
Old Moon in the Arms of the New CD--Hush
You Secretly Want Me Dead CD--Jealous Butcher
Nothing Makes Sense Without It CD--New American
Hundred Dollar Room CD--Ohev
S/T CD--Hush
Blue EP--Hush
Metaphysics for Beginners Compilation--Redder


Feeling a bit camera shy


Singer and songwriter Ben Barnett is the base of Kind of Like Spitting, and such a talented and prolific individual that, while he may not have the best luck available, he certainly manages to create some of the most overwhelmingly powerful songs of love and torture imaginable—again and again and again. He seems to write songs in the way that you breathe—consistently, constantly, and as a necessity—pouring albums from his mouth, head, and hands multiple times a year, each one as essential and moving as the next.