Music News & Reviews

Lexington's Fanged Robot is in the mood for a little road trip to Bunbury fest

The Fanged Robot — Jason Clarkston, left, Joseph Drury, Robby Cosenza and Jim Earley — will play at the Bunbury Music Festival on Friday.
The Fanged Robot — Jason Clarkston, left, Joseph Drury, Robby Cosenza and Jim Earley — will play at the Bunbury Music Festival on Friday.

It's nothing for active members of any community music scene to juggle duties in multiple artistic projects. Few, however, have maintained such a balancing act longer in Lexington than Robby Cosenza.

This summer, you can catch him playing bluegrass with Small Batch, roots-driven music with local songsmith Warren Byrom and vintage R&B with the Northside Sheiks. That says nothing of special performance situations like the Led Zeppelin tribute troupe Get the Led Out or one-off guest situations, like last month's Phoenix Fridays concert, where he played drums behind Louisville-born Americana popster Dawn Landes.

But the project that Cosenza can fully call his own is also the one he performs with the least on local soil. Dubbed The Fanged Robot, the pop-infused band will resurface this weekend not on home turf, but as one of two Lexington acts taking the stage at the Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati. The veteran pop ensemble Big Fresh is the other.

"I did so much touring from '92 to about four years ago that my brain just turned into mush," Cosenza said. "I didn't have any sense of community in any of that stuff. That doesn't seem too important when you're in your 20s and early 30s. But now, it's just about the most important thing in the world to me.

"So we don't travel that much. We'll do regional stuff — Louisville, Cincinnati, Indy, stuff like that. But we don't get out much anymore. But this Bunbury show will be a nice thing for us."

To get a sense of where Cosenza's music with The Fanged Robot originates, you need to peel the calendar back 13 summers to when the drummer, guitarist and songwriter was on the cusp of national attention with the Lexington trio Pontius Co-Pilot. The band had amassed critical attention, financial backers and a touring schedule that included a fateful performance in New York City — on Sept. 10, 2001.

"Then everything went down. All our investors were a few blocks away from the (World) Trade Center and weren't giving any money out to anybody, especially an independent band from Kentucky. We had put everything we had in the world into that band. We all lost our places to live, our jobs and basically all our stuff.

"I moved to Louisville, to the Crestwood area, and just hunkered down. I co-ran a lawn and landscape company and didn't play an instrument for two years. I mean, I didn't touch anything. I quit playing drums. I quit everything. I eventually started doing four-track stuff which ended up being the Fanged Robot stuff. That threw a little bit of confidence into my own writing and guitar playing. So the project has been around for awhile. It's just been in the last couple of years that I've gotten the first wave of confident, full-time musicians (guitarist Joe Drury, drummer Jason Clarkston and bassist Jimmy Earley) that I can play with that understand where I'm at and just have a good time with the music."

The folkish Let the Countdown Count Me (from 2012's fine 10 in 20 compilation of Lexington artists) serves as the most available example of recorded work by The Fanged Robot, but a completed but still-unmastered album awaits release. But Cosenza cautioned the recording purposely differs from the band's stage sound.

"People see the live show and say, 'You've got to send your record to us.' And they hear it and go, 'This doesn't sound like anything we heard at the club. I'm like, 'Well, no. But if I wanted to do that, I'd buy a Rush record because that will sound just like their live show.'

Lexington musician and producer "Duane Lundy and I produced the record. We really went through just about every note and really, really fine-tuned all the stuff. It's very synth-heavy. It's very mood-heavy, so you don't get the Crazy Horse vibe of the live band being in the studio doing their thing. But I didn't want that.

"My songs are so basic that I really wanted them to have more of a Jeff Lynne kind of treatment. It's a very sonic record."

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