Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Jamie Kilstein and The Agenda

JAMIE KILSTEIN. (Photo: Ari Scott)
JAMIE KILSTEIN. (Photo: Ari Scott)

Jamie Kilstein and The Agenda have bold, overtly political messages in their music and they’re bringing those messages to the masses starting this week with a tour of the United States.

And the band, which only started in 2015, is coming to Washington, D.C. and Arlington for back-to-back shows on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, April 29, the Jamie Kilstein and The Agenda are playing at Tropicalia and on Saturday, April 30 they are playing at Iota Club and Cafe.

The tour is kicking off ahead of the release of Jamie Kilstein and The Agenda’s debut album, A Bit Much, which is being released on July 22 by Don Giovanni Records. The album features songs like “F*** the NRA,” which opens the album and is the band’s first single, that unapologetically profess the group’s political leanings and show off their musical prowess.

Kilstein, a 33-year-old who has been playing guitar since he was a teenager, said that all of his and his group’s musical creativity came out of a “dark place,” which pushed him to leave behind a career as a stand-up comedian. He had some success of as a stand-up, appearing on “Conan” and releasing four comedy albums.

But he wasn’t happy. There was actually a period that he spoke about openly on “Citizen Radio,” a podcast that he hosts with his wife, writer Allison Kilkenny, where he decided to stop doing comedy and wasn’t quite sure what he would do next.

“I was so miserable doing stand-up and I had managers fire me for my politics,” Kilstein said. “If you watch the majority of mainstream comedy, you’ll see racist stuff, you’ll see sexist stuff, that’s okay. But [saying], ‘War is bad, women are people,’ somehow that’s too edgy. And it wasn’t a world that I felt comfortable in.

“I love humor. Humor has gotten me through depression and my childhood and high school and getting bullied and all that stuff, but, to me, I always connected so much harder with music. I was just obsessed with it and I was never obsessed with comedy.”

So last year Kilstein started writing original songs, combining his passion for radical politics with lifelong love of music and infusing all of that with equal parts fierce satire, playful absurdity and refreshing earnestness.

And then he and his band, made up of fans of Citizen Radio who are stellar musicians in their own right, created an explosion of rage, compassion, hilarity and humanity with A Bit Much. The album got its title after a line Kilstein said many people said to him in one form or another in his previous career as a comedian because of the political stances he took in his act.

“I think that the reason the album is unapologetic is just ‘cause it’s been f***ing boiling inside me for so long…I just wanted to do it for so long that I had no s**ts left to give. I didn’t care,” Kilstein said.

“I was fired by my manager, I had friends who died, I had to quit drinking, I went through a whole addiction thing, I [quit] comedy and I was like f*ck it, why not try the one thing I’ve always wanted to do…. And the reason why it’s politically unapologetic is because it’s what I believe in.”

• For more information about Jamie Kilstein and The Agenda, visit jamiekilstein.com.