Local singer/songwriter Kenny Luck is feeling quite fortunate. Some might even say he’s feeling … well, lucky. After toying off and on with various musical projects for the past seven years, Luck says he’s found the perfect musical partner in fellow musician Phil Yurkon and is finally working on the type of music he likes best: jazzy, pop-inspired r&b.
“This is the kind of music I always wanted to create but never really knew how,” says Luck. “The chord structures and the arrangements are much more complicated, but they’re not pretentious. It’s not like listening to acid jazz or prog rock. That stuff is fine, but a group like Steely Dan has been well-known for decades for putting out these great albums, yet the songs are still on the radio.”
Yurkon agrees. The trickier the arrangements, he says, the more likely the duo will like the music. And unlike many young twenty-somethings, they’re not big fans of modern rock or nu metal. A nice pop beat set to some clever music is what they strive for.
“It’s the feel and the sophistication that really draws us in,” says Yurkon. “We were never into harder, aggressive music. We’re not disillusioned youth in any kind of way. To us, power chords and distortion just does not register well in our ears. We like to hear a clean-channel guitar with multiple chord tones in it. That’s what really gets us going, a well as something with a good groove.”
Luck, 24, is originally from Plymouth and graduated from Wyoming Valley West High School in 2002. At the time, when most kids in his class were listening to bands like Korn, his primary influences where roots-rock acts such as Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Tom Petty and The Badlees. He first began to write his own songs while still in high school and recorded in 2001 at the locally renowned Saturation Acres recording studio. Those sessions produced the track “I’m Sorry,” which received local airplay.
Following graduation, Luck attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston where he studied for about a year. He then returned home and enrolled in Marywood University, and though that school is also known for its music program, he studied history and political science instead and took a break from music. Last year, however, he felt the musical bug and dusted off his guitar.
“I just felt it was the right time to do it again,” he says. “I’d had experiences that I wanted to write about and sort of a skeletal outline of what I wanted to do, which became the project that Phil and I are doing now.”
Luck says he met Yurkon in 2004 through a bulletin-style ad posted inside a local music store where Luck gave guitar lessons. He was intrigued by what he read.
“It caught my eye, because you don’t see too many ads for jazzy, pop and r&b stuff, which I was getting into at the time,” says Luck, adding that the two briefly connected that summer and began writing songs. He says they each felt a creative spark, and though Luck was busy with college at the time and Yurkon later moved to Philadelphia, they kept in touch, worked on some small projects, and earlier this year, following Luck’s appearance on George Graham’s “Homegrown Music” show at the WVIA studios, got together again and got serious about making music.
Today, Luck and Yurkon write and record while commuting between Wilkes-Barre and Philadelphia and list Jamiroquai, Steely Dan, Sting and Maroon 5 as favorites. Their original compositions include “Killer Groove,” “Right Now Love,” “Lucky” and “Kinda Frequently.” They were recorded at Double-A-Productions in Selinsgrove. Both musicians contribute to the lyrics.
“We pretty much draw from the same source, and that’s the frustration of young love,” says Luck. “In this age that we live in, I’m very much a romantic at heart and a romantic thinker, and that includes a lot of different things — not just romantic love. Love of nature, spontaneity, the consciousness of time, carpe diem … I draw from those sources.”
Luck says he’s grateful for having Yurkon as his musical partner. There is no Lennon/McCartney- or Simon/Garfunkel-type tension.
“With him and I, there’s an intense scrutiny that we put the songs under,” he says. “We don’t take anything at face value. We put everything under a magnifying glass and try to analyze it and see whether it works. We debate each other over certain parts, but it’s never taken personally. If I don’t like his idea, or vice versa, we live by the unspoken code of ‘Let the better idea win,’ which comes from our friendship.”
For now, Luck and Yurkon plan to release their music online only. Several songs can be heard on their MySpace page. It’s fun, breezy, soulful and melodic stuff and — lyrically — even offers a touch of Prince.
“We’re not trying to change the world with our music,” says Yurkon. “We’re not trying to push some sort of political or social statement. We just want to have a song on the radio, that after three minutes, you say, ‘That was kind of fun. That was a cool song.’”
Kenny Luck/Phil Yurkon