Maxwell Mud on rocking Fort Collins’ music scene

Saruh Fenton

Though it would be hard to tell from his casual demeanor, Brian Kittrell is a bit of a rock ‘n’ roll purist. In the past two years, his band Maxwell Mud has become embedded in the local music scene as one of the budding faces of Colorado rock ‘n’ roll.

As part of the LSC Live program, you can catch the group playing from 3:15-4:15 p.m. March 9 at the Ramskellar.

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Maxwell Mud Live @ Aggie
Photo Courtesy: Anthony Cross Photography.

While Maxwell Mud is now well-known among Fort Collins music lovers, the road that brought them here, a place Kittrell calls “A Musician’s Paradise,” was fortuitous.

In the sweltering heat of summer in 2011, following his college graduation, Kittrell found himself on a cross-country motorcycle trip that stranded him in Fort Collins for five weeks. Like most, it didn’t take Kittrell long to fall in love with the town, and eight months later, he packed his bags and moved permanently.

Drummer Kevin Johnson soon joined Kittrell on the Front Range from Cincinnati. The two eventually put Maxwell Mud together with help of bassist Kevin Jones.

Both Kittrell and Johnson grew up in musically-centered homes. While Kittrell played piano from a tender age, he didn’t find rock ‘n’ roll until he became a Boy Scout. On the other hand, Johnson, whose father was a rock guitarist by trade, grew up with an intimate knowledge of the genre and initially taught Kittrell to play guitar. 

“Kevin is one of those freaks of nature,” Kittrell said. “He’s good at everything he does.”

While the friendship carried the two through more than a few different music projects, including a successful run in a hip-hop group during college, Kittrell sees Maxwell Mud as the pinnacle of their music careers thus far. His admiration for his bandmate is unmistakable.

“I wanted to put together my dream band,” Kittrell said. “I’d been playing music with Kevin and Kenny forever. They were just a natural fit.”

Although Kittrell and Johnson have a long history, Kittrell said shortly after moving here Jones became a musical fixture in his life, as the two played alongside each other in a bluegrass band.

Like Kittrell and Johnson, Jones is not a Colorado native, but moved here to pursue a master’s degree in music. Coming from playing Division 1 football, Jones explains that three years into his college career as a Badger at the University of Washington, he faced a difficult decision.

“It began to reach a point where I couldn’t keep improving with both endeavors,” Jones wrote in an email to the Collegian. “It was a very difficult decision, but I think a healthy and mature one.”

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Kittrell said they often work together to experiment as musicians, while still fulfilling their goal of playing loud, evocative rock ‘n’ roll music.

“Our philosophy as a band is to create interactive, improvisatory, blues-based music in a rock ‘n’ roll format,” Kittrell said, adding that if they can trick people into voluntarily listening to the blues from Maxwell Mud, that’s something he can live with.  

While Kittrell and the rest of Maxwell Mud look at Fort Collins as an ideal location, they work hard to avoid complacency. In November, the band released their first full-length album, fulfilling one of Kittrell’s long-term goals by putting out what he calls an heirloom album — one that will last. For Kittrell, the album reflects both their artistry as musicians as well as their ability to provide quality music in an industry that thrives on the instant gratification of substance-less music.

“Music shouldn’t be disposable,” Kittrell said. “I think that’s something not as many people invest themselves in anymore.”

In discussing Wednesday’s Skellar performance, Kittrell said, “It’s a rock ‘n’ roll show. We’re not the cocktail jazz band that’s playing in the background of your corporate event.”

Jones agreed in his email to the Collegian, stating that a Maxwell Mud show is something people won’t want to miss.

“[It’s] a visceral, raw, energetic, virtuosic spectacle,” Jones said.

Collegian Reporter Saruh Fenton can be reached at music@collegian.com.