Big Sky trio plays The Spoke on Christmas Eve

By Sarah Gianelli EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – Every band needs a front man or woman, and in the case of The Neverland Collective it’s Kevin Pillsbury (K.P.). One’s attention naturally gravitates to the lead guitarist and vocalist not only because his or her sound takes center stage, but because charisma exudes from his pores as readily as the sweat he works up when he plays.

That being said, Pillsbury gives equals props to his bandmates, longtime friend Jake Steiner on electric bass; and drummer Carlye Luft, who recently opened a naturopathic clinic in the Big Horn Shopping Center, and where the band sometimes practices after hours.

On a Monday evening, a jammed out, jazzy version of “Frosty the Snowman” seeps out into the frosty night from Luft’s office with Pillsbury’s husky, soulful voice audible over a heartbeat-steady bass line and staccato drums.

The trio is practicing for their upcoming Christmas Eve show at The Broken Spoke where their set list will provide a fun, bouncy and catchy combination of heartfelt originals and irresistible covers—with a healthy splash of comic relief. (Prior to becoming The Neverland Collective, Pillsbury and Steiner were the Gruesome Twosome, and most memorably performed a Tenacious D album in its entirety.)

Their selections reflect Pillsbury’s love of a good lyrical story and shared influences like Sublime, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Devil Makes Three, Talking Heads, Blind Melon and Jack White.

“It’s always the story,” said Pillsbury, citing Sublime’s “Santeria” and “Carolina Drama” by The Raconteurs, both of which the band covers. “If there’s a song that really grips me it’s because I can really climb into the story.”

Two originals are sure to resonate with Big Sky locals—especially “1, 2, 3, Go!” which is about overcoming the fear of bagging a line on the mountain, and the ensuing, yet fleeting, exultation of doing so.

“One Fine Day” is a triumphant breakup song that tells the story of Pillsbury’s move from Michigan to Big Sky. One fine day, as Pillsbury tells it, he lost it all—his home, his fiancée, his dog. He had heard Big Sky was a “Neverland” of sorts—a place where you don’t have to grow up, you just grow older.

Arriving in the snowcapped mountains, “One Fine Day” describes how the magnificence of a place can transform heartache into possibility. “I’ll find my piece of heaven underneath the Big Sky,” the chorus goes; “I’ll find my slice of heaven in a piece of Big Sky.”

Both songs are passionate and sincere while avoiding the pitfalls of corniness—a tricky line to walk in original songwriting.

“That’s my drive and my passion,” Pillsbury said. “To write songs that are catchy but Jake doesn’t say are corny.”

The Neverland Collective has only been playing in their current incarnation since May of 2016 when Pillsbury and Steiner—who had been searching for a drummer—were finally connected with Luft, who had recently moved to town to open her practice. Luft seems to have completed the triangle—not only musically by providing what Pillsbury calls the “backbone” of their sound, but also by bringing a feminine component that has a balancing and grounding effect.

All three members of the band have only recently taken a more serious approach to music-making but collectively agree that playing together has exponentially improved their skills and are excited to see where it goes while, most importantly, having a good time.

You can check out The Neverland Collective starting at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 24, at The Broken Spoke in Big Sky. Their next gig is Jan. 7 from 7:30-10:30 p.m at Gallatin Riverhouse Grill, where they’ll be playing weekly throughout the winter.