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Shoegaze Duo Keep is Richmond’s Best Kept Secret

“Our music is not just mashed potatoes anymore, it’s like overpriced french fries now. It’s not too soggy, it’s not burnt; Keep is like a medium-well french fry. We’re moving towards crisp Cajun fries now.”

Keep may be the new guys in town, but with seven years of experience and a sizable following, they are already (Cajun) seasoned pros.

Despite having almost no social media presence, guitarist Wes Smithers and drummer/vocalist Nick Yetka’s music was effortlessly well received online from the beginning. With their first EP, 2014’s Hypnosis For Sleep, they immediately found a home in shoegaze fanbase online across the country. The self-released EP had no promotion, yet their Bandcamp and other streaming sites show a rabid fanbase and shoegaze radio stations gushing over their raucous tunes.

This reception caught the eye of Ohio’s Mayfly Records, who released the duo’s second EP in late 2015. Psychorama stayed true to their shoegaze roots, but evolved into a darker, grungier sound from the post-hardcore foundations of Hypnosis For Sleep.

The Chesapeake natives found a home in online communities, but still had yet to settle into their new home in Richmond. Having just moved in the year before, and spending much of that time touring the east coast and Midwest, they played few shows around town but were still in the process of breaking through locally.

Keep at Strange Matter, photo by Craig Zirpolo

“We don’t really use much social media. But what we do use, like Twitter and Bandcamp, has given us a lot of great followers. We have a stronger following in California than in Richmond so far. Keep is pretty much online dating a lot of people,” jokes Yetka.

After the bustle of 2015, the two took a break from recording and playing out in 2016. They experimented with their sound, but ultimately did not keep any recordings from the time. And they struggled to find their fit for a performing bass player.

“We just stopped. We threw away a bunch of music, and we went through some member changes,” Smithers explains. “We’ve had sort of a revolving door of bass players, maybe seven or eight over three years.”

It is not hard to see why. Yetka and Smithers are a close-knit team. “Me and Nick…” Smithers begins, “we just work in a certain way” finishes Yetka.

“When you’ve been playing music together for seven years, you just become very meticulous about what you want,” says Smithers.

“We’ve got the formula down,” Yetka clarifies.

Their synergy is apparent in person and on recording. For Your Joy, their first full-length album, maintains their signature hard aesthetic with a more refined, directed feel. The atmospheric textures are both hypnotic and lucid, swirling and dizzying as Yetka and Smithers expertly maintain controlled chaos.

“As we’ve gone along, every release we’ve gotten more calculated. We’re paying a lot more attention to the minute details, like the textures and transitions. I feel like our music has gotten a little more hook oriented and polished,” explains Yetka.

“A song is finished when we had to be finished because we ran out of time,” adds Smithers. “We could keep going forever.”

If Hypnosis For Sleep’s lo-fi hardcore was mashed potatoes, then For Your Joy is definitely the crisper clean cuts of french fries.

Keep at Strange Matter, photo by Craig Zirpolo

This diligent creative process is not mechanical perfectionism though; it’s just about getting what feels right, says Yetka. “There’s nothing contrived about what we do with the music. It’s just 110% completely us.”

“We just make this music because it’s all we know,” says Smithers. “It’s just all we know. That’s it.”

Now, Keep is focused on putting down more roots in the Richmond area. Since the release of For Your Joy in June, they have played a string of shows throughout Richmond, firmly securing themselves as part of the local scene.

“We are actively trying to implant ourselves in Richmond; we’re really from here now” says Smithers.

They have also teamed up with Manny Lemus of Citrus City Records for the tape release of For Your Joy, out in November and available for preorder now. Keep heads to New York and Phili with Fat Spirit this weekend, so stay tuned for their next hometown gig!

Pre-order their new full length For Your Joy on cassette via Citrus City Records here.