Amongst a thick layer of cigarette smoke and excited fans, bands from around Knoxville gathered together in the Longbranch Saloon on Cumberland Ave. Saturday Jan. 25 from 8 p.m.-11:30 p.m. to test their musical mettle in the Knoxville Battle of the Bands presented by Gorilla Music.
Headlining the act was none other than The Rhinos!, a relatively new band on the local scene, having been started barely a year and a half ago by vocalist and rhythm guitarist Michael Carnes, lead guitarist Stephen Harmon, drummer Justin Wright, and bassist Tyler Axley.[quote style=”boxed”]“We started out just jamming together for a week and then we just sat down and wrote our first song,” Wright said.[/quote]
From there on, the Rhinos! have continued to enjoy moderate success in Knoxville, garnering fans through small gigs and eventually even making it into the top twenty bands in Knoxville according to Reverbnation.com.
The Rhinos! create a unique alt-punk sound that draws influences from bands such as Coldplay, Muse, and Blink-182. However, none of the four members wish to settle with merely imitating the bands that inspired them.
“We seek to inspire,” Wright said. “Not like the stuff you hear everyday on the radio. If you hear our stuff, it always has some message, whether its morbidly emo, or happy, or whatever.”
The Longbranch Saloon is the biggest stage the Rhinos! have gotten a chance to play at during their time together.
“I feel like we aren’t the typical kind of band to be playing at the Longbranch,” Carnes said.“We wanted to refrain from playing there until we got more experience.”
The Rhinos! sound differed from the rest of the competition, which included bands that covered genres such as metal, screamo and even ska. Some bands were well established groups and had been together for several years. Nonetheless, The Rhinos! were able to advance past most of the competition, moving on to the finals of the event.
“We know there are prizes for winning,” Harmon said. “But we don’t care. Ultimately, we’re content with inviting friends out to see us play.”
At the end of the day, it’s the fans that matter most to The Rhinos!
“We love you guys [fans],” Carnes said. “Without your support we wouldn’t be able to be where we are right now. It’s always a cool thing when our fans rise to the occasion and give us more support than we expect.”
Edited by Jessica Carr