In everything from retro fringes to disco-inspired anthems, 1970s trends seem to have made a mainstream resurgence nearly 50 years later. But while these may be fleeting phases to most, for the Chicago-based band The Knee Hi’s, the era is an integral part of their persona. With the release of their latest single, “Action!” and the accompanying video shot on film, The Knee Hi’s show that their vintage touch is effortless— and here to stay.
What began as friends, Devyn Crimson and Alice Strider, fooling around with their guitars in 2019, proved to be the beginnings of a sound the band now describes as combining “the explosive energy of rock and the romanticism of doo-wop to sweep you away to an atomic dreamland.”
“Alice and I had been joking for a while, ’Why don’t we start a band?’ And then we were both like, ‘Seriously, let’s just start a band,’” bassist Devyn Crimson shares with American Songwriter. From there, Crimson and Strider put out an open call on Instagram, which is when sisters Chris Luck and Ash Goeken responded and filled the last two slots.
The band soon transitioned from covers of “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “Earth Angel” to releasing their debut single “Darlin’ Darlin,’” a sleepy, prom night doo-wop. For their latest song, “Action!,” recorded on Luck and Goeken’s Chicago farm, The Knee Hi’s embraced more of their rocker side in the Suzi Quatro-esque tune. Wake up in the morning ain’t feeling so well / I want to scream and shout I want to really yell / I’m tired of this day to day it’s such a bore / I’d rather be out on the town saying give me some more, The Knee Hi’s sing in “Action!”
“I woke up one morning, and a lot of times I wake up feeling like shit. So, that’s where the first couple of words come from,” Crimson shares. “Then I wrote all the lyrics and was messing around with the bass. I made like a weird demo of me singing the guitar parts, sent it to my fiancé, Andrew (who is also a musician), and he helped push it off to what it was.”
When it came time to shoot the music video, they opted for a local dive bar and Crimson’s house as filming locations. To match their style, the band knew it would be fitting to shoot the video on film— a decision they now admit as a risky move despite the nostalgic outcome.
“When we chose to shoot this music video on film we thought, ‘Okay, we’re going to have a couple of takes, we’re going to have plenty of film and a couple of tries to pick out what looks good. If one of us looks like an idiot, we’ll just snip that part out,’” rhythm guitarist Ash Goeken says. “It wasn’t until pretty much the day before when we found out from our amazing, talented director and videographer, Adelaide Wilson, that she wasn’t going to be able to get any additional film. So, we only had the exact amount of time we needed to get the scenes that we had envisioned. It was very high stakes.”
The band’s upcoming EP Daughters of Fire, slated to release later this year, is set to bring the same atomic rocker energy exuded with their authentic vintage outfits and cool-girl personas to match. With an image as well-crafted as theirs, it’s easy to assume that The Knee Hi’s have a team of creatives backing them—but their approach is truly homegrown.
“I think a cool element to us that not that many people know is how much our whole approach is so DIY,” Goeken shares. “We record all the music in-house with Andrew and Devyn. Alice does our screen printing on all of our merch, Devyn does all of the video editing and Chris does all the graphic design.”
Although they may be the newbies of the Chicago scene, they’re confident in their approach. And to them, that’s the most important part. “You don’t need to be good to start,” drummer Chris Luck adds. “It can be total crap, and that’s totally fine. There’s always going to be room to grow.”
Listen to The Knee Hi’s latest single, “Action!” and watch the music video below.