Rock of ages

Flannel Fish

Black belts of rock: Scott Fritzinger, Henry King, Austin Krater and Steve Miller of Flannel Fish. Not pictured: keyboard player Kerry Berry.

Black belts of rock: Scott Fritzinger, Henry King, Austin Krater and Steve Miller of Flannel Fish. Not pictured: keyboard player Kerry Berry.

Photo/Eric Marks

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Of all the bands in all the towns—you’re better off not starting a fight at a Flannel Fish show. Not only are three of the five members of the local bluesy rock ‘n’ roll band masters of the martial arts, but their shows tend to draw a lot of their high-kicking, brick smashing friends as well.

“When you go to one of our shows it’s amazing how many black belts are out there,” says rhythm guitarist Henry King.

Included in the black belt ranks is the band’s drummer, Steve Miller, as well as lead guitarist Scott Fritzinger, who’s actually a third-degree black belt. Keyboardist Kerry Berry packs her own solid karate chop as the proud owner of a purple belt.

“We’re very safe in the parking lot,” says King.

But safety isn’t the only thing that self-defense practice has brought to the band. It’s also responsible for bringing the majority of its members together.

When Miller and King’s original garage band, Good Question, broke-up about two and a half years ago, the two musicians knew they weren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. Luckily, Miller’s second hobby came to the rescue.

“Steve said, ’Don’t worry, I know a guy,’” says King, and as it turns out, Miller knew a couple of guys—and a gal.

Fritzinger, Miller’s martial arts instructor at the time, was recruited first. Then came Berry, who attended the same martial arts studio. The fifth and freshest member to Flannel Fish joined in a slightly different matter, but once again, it was because Miller “knew a guy”—a guy who lived just across the street, to be exact.

“He’s the youngest,” Miller explains of 21-year-old bass player/neighbor Austin Krater. “He’s infusing some youth into our thought process which is pretty cool.”

With Krater added to the mix, Flannel Fish’s members now range in age from their 20s to their 50s, a gap which might pose a problem to another band, but has worked out quite well for this group, partially due to their set collection being comprised mainly of cover songs. Miller said about 30 percent of their set is original tracks by the band, while the rest are covers chosen from each member’s individual influences.

“We all bring different ideas to the band, different songs we want to cover,” Fritzinger explains. “So we’ll get songs coming in from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The White Stripes, but we’ll also get some of the stuff from the ’70s and ’80s, like Marshall Tucker Band and Traffic. We all have our different influences, but it’s really cool because there’s never been a fight about the music we play, it’s just a matter of playing it.”

Despite being a covers-heavy band, Flannel Fish still strives to put its own unique twist on the songs it plays.

“Whether it’s a cover or an original, by the time we’re done with it we sound like Flannel Fish,” King says.

As for what a flannel fish is, exactly, aside from the band itself—well, not much of anything. Which is precisely what the members were going for. But finding a meaningless name was easier said than done.

“It’s really hard to find a name that isn’t taken or has some meaning that we didn’t want to convey or couldn’t live up to—like the ass kickers or the truth tellers,” says King. “So in the age where everybody that’s ever had a band can keep that name forever, it’s tough to find one that’s meaningless. But I think we did it.”