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FénixDion

“We want to be the best thing that anybody has seen in the last 10 years,” says Keston Wright. After a year of incubating in the studio with his longtime musical collaborator, the drummer Sam Bramble, his eyes smolder with the thought of unleashing their new work on stage.


True to his word, Keston and Sam’s new band, FenixDion, has already made a bold entrance onto the Twin Cities music scene. One of their first shows ever was a warm-up slot in front of thousands at the Basilica Block Party in downtown Minneapolis, followed quickly by a more intimate, well-received club gig at Icehouse. The live iteration of FenixDion includes a trio of axe slingers—Keston Wright on acoustic, Atom Lee and Mitchell Johnson on electric—radiating layers of guitar tones outward while the bassist Gavin Taylor, percussionist Nii Mensah, and drummer Sam Bramble propel the group forward with tight, funky beats. Together they create expansive, transportive, and radiant rock music that is reminiscent of greats like Lenny Kravitz, Beck, and Musicology-era Prince, but also stands on its own as a unique, exciting new addition to the kaleidoscopic Minneapolis music community. Keston has previously been celebrated for his work in the funk-pop group Static Panic. With FenixDion, he has taken a sharp turn inward to create more personal, reflective lyrics, and re-rooted himself with some of his most formative musical influences, from Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, and Funkadelic to the influential early blues guitarist Buddy Moss.


FenixDion’s debut, Sugar, is a guitar-driven album—which surprised Keston at first. He says that in recent years, he’d started to dread playing his primary instrument. That all changed when he joined an all-Black country band fronted by fellow Minnesotan Tracey Blake, which happened around the same time that he rewatched the Coen Brothers romp across the Great Depression-era South, O Brother, Where Art Thou? “That literally flipped a whole thought in my head of what true music is; what has shaped America and really where it all comes from. And it all comes from the African diaspora,” Keston says. “And I just wanted to take all of that back and put it into rock music and write music that is not going to be perceived as, like, a pro-Black record. But the content is like hella pro-Black.”


The songs on Sugar were written and recorded in the midst of a creative outpouring for Keston and Sam, who have collaborated on a number of musical projects over the past decade but never homed in on a concept as specific and inspiring as they have with FenixDion. “This is the simplest music I've ever written. And it's probably the deepest music I've ever written,” Keston reflects. “Less is more. We’ve really honed in on that,” Sam adds. “I think that applies to every single element of a song, every instrument and even the vocals—less is more. It gives space for the context of the lyrics and the content to shine through.”