‘The Kite and the Key’ revitalizes bluegrass band Hot Buttered Rum

Bluegrass band Hot Buttered Rum will play at 6 p.m. on Sunday at Elk Creek Cafe and Aleworks.
Bluegrass band Hot Buttered Rum will play at 6 p.m. on Sunday at Elk Creek Cafe and Aleworks. Photo provided

Bluegrass band Hot Buttered Rum will play at 6 p.m. on Sunday at Elk Creek Cafe and Aleworks.

The band has been cranking out bluegrass-inspired jams since 2002.

“(Our sound is) West Coast bluegrass,” said singer/guitarist Nat Keefe. “We’re inspired a lot by bluegrass music, and if you’ve listened to our new album, we did some traditional bluegrass on that. We did some of our more hyped up music, and then we did some of our traditional bluegrass music. We do what’s real to us. We’re guys who grew up in the Bay Area on the West Coast. We have our own take on it.”

Recently, the band released three EPs. “The Kite and the Key” is spread across three volumes.

“The idea was to challenge ourselves and to give our people a lot to listen to,” Keefe said. “Also, it’s difficult to make a coherent record, a 12-song coherent record. So, we thought let’s make something that is smaller and more concentrated. I think that each of these EPs is a little work unto itself. The songs on each EP vibrate with each other, and it means something more when they’re all together. I think there’s only a handful of really great albums in this world, (laughs) Sgt. Pepper’s and a few others; it’s really hard to make something coherent in the long form. I think we’re going to go back to that format eventually, but this was a good waystation for us to try something smaller scale. But, then we did three of them and it ends up being like 75 minutes of music, almost 80 minutes of music. So, it fills up the CD completely. People are going to be getting their 10 bucks worth.”

Life on the road has brought the band closer together, and time has inevitably changed their approach to making and releasing music.

“That length, the 80-minute length is only a reflection of what a CD can hold,” Keefe said. “And before that, it was what an LP could hold. There’s nothing sacred about having a 60-minute or 45-minute album. Maybe the most important part of it is that we wanted to do three different things. We had three different producers, and each one took us in a different direction. We’ve just grown a lot this year. It’s been really challenging and fun. We’ve been doing this for 15 years. You have to keep reinventing yourselves or you get stale and boring. It’s like a shark, you’ve got to keep moving forward or you’re going to suffocate.”

Hot Buttered Rum will continue its extensive tour throughout the summer. Keefe feels the release of “The Kite and the Key” has revitalized the band.

“We’re going to do this whole summer in the spirit of the three EPs thing,” Keefe said. “We do part of the show through one microphone, kind of in the old time Stanley Brothers style. It’s a more stripped down, acoustic thing. Then, we play parts of all three EPs. We’re scheming and dreaming about what to do next. We were really energized by this, and we’re looking forward to build on that. I think what we found out this year was that we love to challenge ourselves, and we love to do things that are hard. That’s how we have fun with this. I think if it’s fun for us, it’s fun for the people listening.”

The southern California boys found their collective mojo on a wilderness retreat.

“We came together through common friends,” Keefe said. “And then we really had our vision quest moment on a backpacking trip on the High Sierra mountains in California. We brought our instruments, played music up at 12,000 feet, and we really had this group vision for the kind of music that we wanted to play.”

Keefe seemed destined to love music from birth.

“Well, both my parents were musicians,” said Keefe. “My dad is a folk musician, and my mom is a classical musician ,so it’d always been around the house. I’ve kind of gotten it form both ends. I used to nap under my mom’s harpsichord as she would practice. I would also go to my dad’s bluegrass jam sessions.”

The band is currently in a state of new growth, according to Keefe. He believes that everyone can find what they’re looking for at their upcoming live show on Sunday.

“Our banjo player is tremendously good looking,” Keefe said. “If you like men, he’s a good specimen. (laughs) If that’s not your thing, I think what you’re looking at us is a band that’s really on fire right now. I think we’re a rare combination of being a band that’s been around for a while and we’ve all played music together for 15 years, but then we’re also in a period of redefining ourselves and we’re very much ‘awake.’ That’s a hard thing to find in a band. I feel like we’re a new band this year. We have the energy of a new band that’s trying to prove ourselves to ourselves.”


  • What: Hot Buttered Rum
  • When: 6 p.m. Sunday
  • Where: Elk Creek Cafe and Aleworks
  • Info: http://www.elkcreek cafe.com/hot-buttered -rum-sun-may-8-600pm/