Kind of Like Spitting's Ben Barnett takes things a little easier with Blunt Mechanic

Blunt Mechanic with Andrew Jackson Jihad, O Fidelis and P.S. Conductor
8:30 p.m. Monday
the Conservatory
8911 N. Western

If you haven't heard of Blunt Mechanic founder Ben Barnett's old band, Kind of Like Spitting, don't feel bad.

"I think we did three interviews in 10 years," Barnett said. "Nobody gave a shit about that band."

His new one, a not-so-subtle reference to one of his abiding loves, finds him combining witty wordplay, chunky guitar and an abiding affection for '90s indie rock. It's like an old-school college radio station curated by an ADHD-afflicted music nerd. The origins of Blunt Mechanic's debut, April's "World Record," were forged by his unsatisfying decade-long tenure leading Kind of Like Spitting.

The Portland-based act was a cult fave that drew accolades from Pedro the Lion and Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard, a good friend who played on some of its nine albums.

Abused physically, emotionally and sexually by his father, Barnett used his songs no so much as art, but therapy. Touring was an futile way to find a way of communicating with the world. Only when everything inevitably imploded and Barnett slowly pulled himself up from the muck, did he find the strength to create something of his own, rather than simply attempt to monetize feelings he couldn't tame.

"My music was so fucking bummed, self-aggrandizing, and I'm just very fortunate that I've lived long enough to at least begin to say different things," he said.

The more easy-going manner is the result of a journey that culminated in his taking the directorship of Seattle's School of Rock. Although inaugurated by his tortured childhood, the story begins with a pal's fatal heroin overdose.

"I truly, on the deepest of levels, had my life destroyed by perpetuating a real genuine loss of hope," he said. "My friend died in 2000, and I really never got over it."

In the wake of his broken engagement, Barnett dropped completely out. After several months of homebound self-loathing, he took a job at a coffee shop, and wound up being offered a job at Portland's School of Rock. It changed his life.

"Seeing the kids inspired me," he said. "They're not worried about work. They're not worried about insurance. They just have to play music, and there was something really nice about that. I'd forgotten getting better is what life is all about."

Barnett only hopes people will give Blunt Mechanic a chance. He readily admitted it's all over the place, and he's assembled a crack band, mostly culled from instructors from the performance music academy. The job's temporarily on hold because he would've felt like a fraud if he didn't take his shot.

"World Record" is a smart, tuneful, well-written album, but unless someone buys it, he's unsure if he'll get another chance with Seattle's beloved Barsuk Records, which released the disc. But in the end, it's just about doing something he loves.

"We're not going on tour so all these other people can enjoy our energy and we can come home exhausted. We're going on tour so we can enjoy ourselves, and if anyone gets something out of it, great," he said. "Hopefully, people will know that Kind of Like Spitting got better and it's called Blunt Mechanic now. The same spirit is there; it's just going to be a lot more listenable." "Chris Parker

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