Rock marks the spot

Ryan Ogle / Washburn Review

The last several months have seen a powerful new force rise up within the local heavy rock/metal scene. Featuring vocalist Jerry Bradley, guitarists Dennis Brown and Brandon Essman, bassist Stefanie Brown and drummer Brian Hendrix. Topeka’s Gutwretch is quickly becoming a favorite amongst the circle-pitting masses.

Through a mutual love of archery, the band’s guitarists planted the initial seeds of Gutwretch when target practice branched out into band practice. Gutwretch’s earliest material came when the pair would load up their guitars and practice amps along with their archery gear and exchange riff ideas after honing their skills at a local range.

“Dennis showed me how to kill shit in the woods and I showed him how to kill shit on stage,” said Essman of the band’s genesis.

Shortly thereafter, Brown’s wife Stefanie picked up a bass and joined the fun and drummer Brian Hendrix rounded out the core lineup.

“I thought I was just going to be a groupie,” said Stefanie Brown.

Her contribution, however, turned out to be much more than just cheering after each song. Playing the yen to Dennis’ yang, the bassist adds a welcome sense of balance and chemistry to the well-oiled machine that is Gutwretch.

“Stef is really laidback. I’m pretty uptight at times and she’s the exact opposite of that,” said Dennis Brown.

There are other benefits to her presence as well.

“A lot of chicks dig us because she’s in the band,” said  Hendrix.

In January of this year, Gutwretch introduced Bradley, a veteran of the Topeka metal and punk scene, as their new front man. His energy, charisma and blend of aggressive growls and melodic crooning, which Brown describes as “powerful and laden with emotion,” fit the band’s bottom-heavy and driving brand of metal to a tee. The band immediately started fine-tuning their existing material and penning new tunes, perfecting the style they describe as “heavy-crunchy-melodic-metal” in the process. Within a few months Gutwretch was ready for the stage. Since then, audiences in Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City have all been floored by the band’s weighty sonic pummel.

While each of their shows have been a success, the band is careful about over-exposing themselves.

“We want to be that band that only plays in Topeka three or four times a year, but when we do, you really want to come see us,” said Dennis Brown. “We don’t have designs to be anything more than a regional band.”

Along with playing to a larger audience, the band also likes to bring variety to their set.

“We like to bring somebody new to the table, either to open or headline, each time we play,” said Essman. “That way, people get to see a different show and a different band that they haven’t seen before.”

A calculated approach and quality over quantity mindset isn’t the only thing that keeps the Gutwretch gears turning so smoothly. Spend five minutes in a room with these five very different, yet extremely cohesive and complimentary personalities, and you’ll see a group of people with a genuine love for what they do.

“We just want to play out and have fun. I’ve been in bands that I thought would be successful, but now I think those bands were taken too seriously,” said Bradley. “All of us are taking a ‘just go with it’ approach with this band. Whatever happens will happen, but we’re going to have fun doing it.”