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Enter The Dragon: Split Lip Rayfield Ends Hiatus

Ryan Hendrix

After nearly 10 years of non-stop touring, the members of Kansas-based band Split Lip Rayfield decided to take a break—an unbelievably long one by the trio’s standards. The hiatus spanned nearly 15 months, starting in October 2012 and ending on New Year’s Eve in Lawrence. The band’s Wayne Gottstine says it was something the members all felt they needed.

“We played a ton of shows in the last couple of years so we needed a little time off to rest up the old man, I guess," Gottstine says. "I think it’s probably one of the longer breaks in the 16 years that Split Lip’s been around.”

The members all busied themselves with other projects. Banjo player Eric Mardis did occasional gigs with his band Snakebite and spent time with his family; bassist Jeff Eaton ran his Pride of Gumbo screen printing shop. Gottstine did occasional gigs with his other bands, Scroat Belly and The Sluggos and a few other projects.

Credit Wayne Gottstine

“I made a solo record. I built a bunch of stuff," Gottstine says. "I made a dragon. I just made a metal dragon that’s about seven feet tall. The top of the wingspan… I don’t know. I had a dream about it and I just started making it with a cutting torch and a bunch of old shelving that was in a Woolworth’s downtown about 25 years ago.”

One longtime tradition that the group upheld was to ring in the New Year at The Bottleneck in Lawrence. When the offer came up to do another show there to usher in 2014, the band decided that it would be a good way to end their hiatus.

“We’d kind of been talking about dipping our feet back into the water and getting rolling and we got an offer to do that and so many requests to play," he says. "And so we decided to do it and we had a really good time and decided to examine some of these other gigs that are coming through. So it looks like we’re going to ease back into the world again.”

The band has talked about recording another album, which would be its first since 2008’s I’ll Be Around and there are new songs in the catalog, but Gottstine says he and the others are in no hurry to race to the studio.

“We’ve got some new tunes and we’ve got some stuff that you’ve probably never heard,” Gottstine says, “the next time that we play here in town. But we’re not really pushing anything. We’re just enjoying the jams when we have ‘em and just trying to have more fun with it this go-around.”

Gottstine acknowledges that there is a certain magic that happens when he takes to the stage with Mardis and Eaton. He says he’s not entirely sure how the three of them were drawn together and how they’ve maintained their musical bond for well over a decade but he does have some ideas.

“I think it was Satan. I don’t know what it was," he says. "But there definitely is a chemical reaction when the three of us get rolling that just can’t be duplicated.”

And for those who haven’t seen the band for a while or who maybe haven’t seen the band before, Gottstine offers this:

“I’d just say you should probably wear a helmet of some tight underwear,” he says,  "‘cause we’ve got a lot of aggression we’re gonna get out and rock it.”

Split Lip Rayfield plays The Cotillion Ballroom Friday evening with Maw and Carrie Nation and The Speakeasy.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.