The King and Queen of Dork Rock
Jill Knapp and Matt Casarino of Hot Breakfast, who will be performing at the Kennett Flash on Aug. 1
By Richard L. Gaw
In the online version of the Urban Dictionary, there is, currently, no definition for the term “Dork Rock.”
So it's up to the music to help fill in the blanks. Less conspicuous, far friendlier and easily more accessible than its rival Mope Rock, Dork Rock relies heavily on tongue-in-cheek wit, the effective spin of the most clever of lyrics, and the freedom of the musician to not take himself or herself too seriously. Ironically, the frequent punch line target of many Dork Rock musicians are, in fact, musicians who take themselves very seriously.
For the last four years, Hot Breakfast, featuring Matt Casarino and Jill Knapp, have served as the local definition of the genre, and in most musical circles from Philadelphia to Rehoboth. In addition to performing in Wilmington and Chester County, they've taken their act to the South by Southwest (SXSW14) in Austin, Texas, as well as to venues in Boston, California, Phoenix, and outdoor festivals in Austin, Reno, Wilmington, and the Delaware beaches. Their 2012 singles “It Only Takes Two to Rock,” “Hole In Your Pants,” and “An Idiot for Christmas” have been getting local airplay, and their self-titled EP won the 2012 WSTW Hometown Heroes Homey Award for Best EP. Knapp also took home the Homey Award for Best Lead Singer.
Hot Breakfast’s latest album, 39 Summers, features 12 original and diverse songs and was produced by the duo and Ritchie Rubini. The CD was released May 18, 2013 at World Café Live at the Queen to a sold-out house. This album was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2013 WSTW Homey Awards, and tracks from the disc have been played on Little Steven’s Underground Garage on SiriusXM, iradiophilly, Y-NOT Radio, Gashouse Radio, Graffiti Radio, and Rockers Dive Radio.
On Aug. 1, they will be bringing their penchant for hard-rocking originals and quirky theatrical cover songs to the Kennett Flash, headlining a bill with comical musician Todd Chappelle and comedienne Melissa Bernard. Cleverly entitled “Comedy! Music! Comedy Music,” the evening will be a showcase of the work that has earned them the reputation as the area's premiere dork rock power duo.
"We're the ones who claim the title of dork rockers, so we love it and we're happy about it," Knapp said. "We consider ourselves dorks, and we consider it a badge of honor. Nerds have risen to the top. We're no longer the kids who get beaten up in locker rooms. It allows us to do exceptionally great things."
To hear a Hot Breakfast song, or to see them live, is to immediately understand that although the band leans heavily toward offbeat subjects with a comical edge, that a bucketful of talent comes with it. Casarino's songwriting is a musical offshoot of his work as a playwright, where he has written several plays that have been performed in nearly every state in the country. Knapp has an extensive background in voice and musical theatre. When they first began kicking around the idea of playing together, they looked around the local musical landscape and saw a dozen variations on the same theme; folk duos were plentiful throughout Delaware, and together, Knapp and Casarino looked at ways of hitting on a unique sound and genre.
"As soon as we started playing together, neither of us wanted to be a standard folk acoustic duo," Casarino said. "There's a lot of them and they've already got that field covered. We wanted to make it okay to be goofy and have fun. Not all of our songs and playlists are dorky, but dorkiness has been a nice hook that gets people listening."
Knapp said that Hot Breakfast has often been compared to Barenaked Ladies, who are known for their brand of offbeat lyrics heard in such songs as "If I Had a Million Dollars." Yet, like Barenaked Ladies, Hot Breakfast is far more than the musical equivalent of a one-trick pony. It's not uncommon for Knapp and Casarino to slip a few non-comical original songs into their sets.
"The truth is that the Barenaked Ladies also have a lot of sincere songs that aren't considered funny," Knapp said. "We connect with a lot of the audience and so they feel included, which allows us to build up their trust, and that allows us to get serious onstage at times through our music. They give us this room to float from dorkitude to serious stuff."
For those who have seen Hot Breakfast perform before at The Kennett Flash, Casarino and Knapp said that they can expect to hear new material. For those who have yet to see them, this Friday night should be a welcome change.
"They should expect a night of comedy fun of music," Knapp said. "We're full of quirk and puns, and we're sillier as opposed to funnier. We promise that they'll laugh and have a laid back evening to kick off the weekend."
"And they'll get to experience a lot of extreme dorkininess," Casarino added.
Comedy! Music! Comedy Music!
With Hot Breakfast, Todd Chappelle and Melissa Bernard
August 1 at 8 p.m.
The Kennett Flash
102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square
For more information, visit www.kennettflash.org.