BONDVILLE — Kristian Montgomery and the Winterkill Band haven’t really thought about how to categorize their music. Is it country? alt-country? Americana? Rock?
One writer recently dubbed it “Appalachian Rock,” and Montgomery seems happy to let that one stick.
But the band is not all that concerned about labels, truth be told. When they plug in at the Bondville Concert Series at 6 p.m. June 24, you’ll know why. They play Montgomery's thoughtful originals from three albums of material (and more on the way). They groove, they burn, and there’s equal parts “y’all” and “rawk” in their DNA. Recording dates and more paying gigs are in their immediate future.
Montgomery, regarded as an up-and-coming country singer-songwriter in the Boston music scene, brought his talents to the Green Mountain State about a year ago, and found a band of Bennington County brothers to share the ride: Barry Schoenwetter on lead guitar, Mike Sentner on drums, Mark Harding on bass (replacing original member Steve Weinberg), and Clarke Comollo on harmonica. Montgomery handles rhythm guitar and vocals.
The band came together when Montgomery, having recently moved to Wallingford, put up a notice on Facebook seeking musicians to play with. “Clarke and Steve were first two guys to hit me up,” he recalled. “Steve was playing with Barry and Steve knew Mike through someone. It happened real fast.”
How does it feel to have a band instead of working with studio pros, as was the case on his Boston-based albums? “It’s awesome," Montgomery said. “It’s really more about the friendships. We all get along.”
“One of the best things about being a musician and not in your 20s anymore is you don’t have to worry about being a musician in your 20s anymore,” he said. “Every one of the people I have in the band right now is a really good person.”
Since December, they’ve been honing their sound in Montgomery’s living room in Wallingford, perfecting their takes on songs from Montgomery’s three albums, “The Gravel Church,” “A Heaven for Heretics” and “Prince of Poverty." Recording sessions at Mount Hollywood Studios in Mount Holly followed.
“Now we have officially booked time with Andrew Koss at The Studio at Strawberry Fields,” Montgomery said. “We’re going to go in and do a four- or five-song EP over there.”
The band’s shakedown cruise was an acoustic show on June 4 at the Boat House in Bomaseen. “A lot of people were watching from their boats. For me, being a former Cape Cod fisherman, I thought, 'this is cool.'"
“I’ve never experienced such a warm welcome,” he added. “When you’re told you’re a breath of fresh of air … wow, thank you.”
The one thing you won’t hear Friday? Covers. They play solely originals, with lyrics inspired by Montgomery’s life experiences — some hard luck, some strange but true — and observations about the state of things.
Born to a Danish dad and American mom, Montgomery was raised in Florida and in Marshfield, a coastal town south of Boston.
“Growing up South of Boston with a large Irish and Scandinavian population, it was cool to learn Irish drinking songs. Then I could start making money and start passing the hat around," he recalled. "My dad would get back from sea and say ‘hey, here’s my son,’” he said.
But then there was that time he played a punk rock version of “The Wild Rover.” What happened? “A fistfight broke out.”
Maybe Montgomery’s diverse musical upbringing has a lot to do with the lack of easy category for the music. His first performance experience was in church choirs. His first concert was the Statler Brothers. His second concert was Ozzy Osbourne and Anthrax.
“I grew up with grunge, but I found myself lamenting having been sucked into it because it was so full of s---,” he said.
As an adult, Montgomery made his living working on fishing boats, and earned notice as a vocalist in Boston-area bands. He also served six months in a Massachusetts county jail for mouthing off at a judge during a child custody proceeding, an experience that directly influenced the songs on “The Gravel Church.”
One of Montgomery’s songs, “That Bird Won’t Fly,” is about how his wife stood behind him while he was doing time. Another, “Come Carry Weight with Me,” was inspired by a somewhat crazy boat trip he took with his late brother, who had been diagnosed with cancer.
“One of my favorite things before he passed away was when we took a 20-footer into tropical storm ... he was screaming that nothing could kill him,” Montgomery recalled, laughing at the memory.
Montgomery has previously been nominated for country awards by the Boston Music Awards and the New England Music Awards. And the band's music might fit the country genre — though that might say as much about the product coming out of Nashville, which sounds a lot like what used to pass for mainstream rock and roll if you ignore the fiddles and banjos.
But Montgomery doesn’t write “bro country” songs or indulge the genre’s clichés about pickup trucks, beers and women wearing tight jeans. If anything, he’s an outlier in what tends to be a politically conservative space: His song “American Fire,” used in Amy McGrath’s unsuccessful campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, described the former president as a “[bad word] liar.”
“Art is supposed to reflect life,” Montgomery said. “Country music tells you work till you die, to conform to our way of life, because things are gonna be harder and harder … that’s not how it’s supposed to be.”