Karate Chop, Silence: profile on a local band


Shannon Galliart

The members of Karate Chop Silence studying hard in the library. The boys have been a band for just over two years, playing shows all across the midwest, and are especially popular in Iowa, according to guitarist and lead vocals Mason Smith.

Ren Gennerman, Features Editor

When most students think of Winona, Minnesota, several things may come to mind. The universities it holds, Sugarloaf, the summer Shakespeare festival and the beautiful bluffs are usually the first things people think of when reflecting on Winona.

However, many people do not know about the ever-growing music scene in Winona, especially around Winona-native bands like Karate Chop, Silence.

While most members are not from Winona originally, Karate Chop, Silence considers themselves a Winona-native band. Jake Nielsen, a recent graduate from Winona State University who majored in creative digital media and film studies, plays bass; Ryan Amble, a senior at Winona State majoring in individualized studies, plays drums; Mason Smith, a fifth-year at Winona State who is majoring in advertising, plays guitar and sings; and Dante DeGrazia, a student at Luther College majoring in English, plays piano and sings.

During Smith’s second year, he and Amble wanted to start a band. Smith asked DeGrazia, whom he went to high school with, if he wanted to be in a band, even though he went to Luther College and not Winona State. Nielsen posted on Facebook, looking for a band to join, and that is how he found the rest.

Though they are able to play music from other bands, Karate Chop, Silence favors writing and performing their own music. The band wrote most of their first album two years ago in preparation to play their first show, and only had to add a few songs to finish their first album.

“Going song by song is what we did for an entire summer. We had an opportunity to play a show on campus in August about two years ago,” Nielsen said. “We had six or seven songs, learned them all, and played.”

Many of the songs from their first album did not come out of thin air, but were inspired by music from Smith and DeGrazia’s high school years.

“Insanity,” a song from their first album, was one of the first songs they wrote, and is one that fans can listen to a demo from the two’s Soundcloud profiles. After pulling from their older ideas, the band played it together, adjusting when needed to make sure everyone was playing what they wanted, and made them into full songs.

“We really just went one song at a time,” DeGrazia said. “We would write one, learn it, write another one, and learn it, and we kept going until we had enough songs to play a show.”

Since then, the band has played in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. A few things have changed since their debut a little over two years ago.

“Over the past few years, it’s been a steady increase in the amount of shows we are playing,” Amble said. “I feel like we are more put together, overall. I also don’t get nearly as nervous.”

Though they play a lot in the Midwest, Karate Chop, Silence would love to take a tour out west. However, eventually they want to end up in Minneapolis and playing the music scene there. Until then, they are working to expand their brand in Winona and Minnesota as a whole.

“We have really expanded our reach, especially throughout the Midwest,” Nielsen said. “For some reason, we are especially popular in Iowa.”

By far, the group plays the most at Ed’s No Name Bar, a bar in Winona on Third and Franklin streets. They consider it a hidden gem in the town, as many people do not know how influential they are when it comes to music in Winona.

“I once snuck into Ed’s to see a band play when I was younger, and that’s when I found out how influential they are on the music scene in Winona,” Nielsen said. “It’s one of our favorite places to play.”

Aside from Ed’s, however, the group can be seen playing in many places around town and the state. Students at Winona State can frequently see them playing at Mugshots on West Campus, which is on Thursday nights at 8:30 pm. The group has also recently played at several local festivals, including Midwest Music Fest.

“The hard part about exposing students to the music scene here is that many bars are only 21 and up, which prevents a lot of students from seeing bands that play there,” Smith said. “Another challenge is that one of the local music festivals falls right around finals week.”

Already working on a second album, the group is excited for the next year. Fans can expect more pop-style songs from their album, rather than the longer “jam sessions” from their first one. Regardless of what is coming next, many students at Winona State are excited for what is coming next.

Amanda Caudle, a sophomore music education major at Winona State, always enjoys listening to Karate Chop, Silence and going to their shows.

“Honestly, my friends and I have gone to see them every time they play at Mugshots,” Caudle said. “I am so pumped they are playing more in local festivals, and I want to go see them every chance I get.”