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Kickback Lives!

Nearly two decades after its creation, band rocks again

June 26, 2010
By RENEE PRUSI Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - On and off for nearly 20 years, Kickback has been rocking the upper Midwest.

The band has changed members and taken hiatuses, but its current incarnation plans to keep going strong.

"I have been with Kickback since its inception in 1991 - and many excellent musicians have been involved with the band throughout the years," said Karyn Johnson, vocalist and guitar player. "It was a primary income source for several college students, who unfortunately were forced to leave the area to pursue employment in their fields of study, and a financial or musical stepping stone for several others as they pursued other interests or employment.

Article Photos

Kickback members, from the left, Dave Shuty, Shannon Kivi, Kevin Cardoni and Karyn Johnson play at Rookies Sports Bar in Negaunee recently. Missing from the photo is band member Jason Rivord. Kickback has been rocking the local music scene on and off since 1991. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)

"Kickback was 'laid to rest' in 2003 and I played with Buzz Factor on and off for about five years or so, and also with Stranded for about a year ... then with both for a bit," Johnson said.

Two years ago, though, Kickback was revived and its current lineup includes Johnson, Dave Shuty, Kevin Cardoni, Shannon Kivi and Jason Rivord.

Each of the members took a different path to Kickback.

For Johnson, music was something for which her Uncle Peter - a gifted classical pianist and musician - and her guitar-playing father set the example. Her fascination with music started at a young age.

"It goes back to the discovery of my parents' 'Meet The Beatles' album when I was 6 or 7 years old," Johnson said. "I was fascinated and obsessed. After fooling around with my Dad's guitar, my parents bought me one of my own, I think I was 9 or 10, then much to my parents' probable dismay, the 'louder' expression of my musical obsession presented itself in the form of an annoyingly loud snare drum for beginning band at Lakeview School."

Johnson attended the Negaunee Public Schools and lists two teachers as having a big effect on her.

"I was fortunate to have had (NHS band director) Mr. A (Gerald Anderson) as a primary influence and educator as well as (NHS chorus teacher) Mary Trolla."

For Cardoni, a Marquette native who now lives in Ishpeming with his wife and three children, music was not a family affair, but something that he grew up wanting to do.

"I've been involved with music for over 20 years," said Cardoni, a 1995 Marquette Senior High School graduate. "I got my start in music in grade school when I learned to play the violin and cello. I played the cello in the orchestra in middle school through college, about 12 years. In the mid 1990s, I learned bass guitar.

"After high school, I attended Alma College where I was in a band that played local gigs in the Lansing area. At that time, I also picked up the guitar as a second instrument," he said.

Returning to Marquette in 1998, Cardoni has been in bands like Syphin, Directly Vague, No Problem, Double Vision, Stranded and Head Games. That last band included Jason Rivord.

A Westwood High School graduate, Rivord also doesn't come from a musical family.

"The way that I got involved in music, other than being a huge fan of listening to it, is from one of my best friends, Ben Maki, a guitar player, had kept asking me to sing in a band with him," Rivord said. "He kept asking for about eight years until I finally broke down and said I would give it a try."

That was the start of Head Games, which was finding success until Maki had to move away from the area. Rivord was out of the band scene until Johnson invited him into Kickback.

"We have a great time playing," Rivord said of Kickback. "Jumping into a band with such talented musicians doesn't hurt, either."

Lead guitar player and keyboardist Shuty has been in a variety of bands, with this being his second stint in Kickback. His first ended when Kickback took its break in 2003.

The Negaunee native played music in a band called Premonition while living in Nevada in the late 1990s. Returning to the area in the early 2000s, he played in Kickback, then Midlife Crisis until the current incarnation of Kickback hit the stage in 2008.

For Marquette native Kivi, music was an obsession long before he had his first set of drums.

"I remember loving music at a young age," Kivi said. "When I was in first grade, my mother got me a Beatles tape and I was forever hooked on music. But I soon realized what music that I liked and it was more hard rock stuff.

"When I heard Metallica and Guns'n'Roses, it was over. That's when I knew I wanted to play drums," Kivi said. "I started beating on pillows on my mom's pots and pans. I used to take old coat hangers and take the cardboard inserts off and use them as drumsticks."

Kivi was 16 when he bought his first drumset, but got serious when his friend Zach Boyle gave him a call and Kivi became part of a new band called Syphin. When that band broke up, Kivi joined 2Fitty7, then was recruited into the current incarnation of Kickback.

"I'm having a good time playing in Kickback," Kivi said. "We play everything, which is challenging and fun."

Johnson, too, is thoroughly enjoying Kickback.

"The best part - aside from being able to do something you absolutely love to do - is the consideration and respect each member of this band has for each other," she said.

Cardoni said: "The best part of this band is the fun. Being in a band that plays such a diverse collection of songs with people that are my friends on and off stage make it a fund band instead of being work.

"We never know what we will play next or try to to next," Cardoni said. "It is also great, for me personally, to get the chance to play with such amazingly talented musicians and in a band whose name and history in this area are well known and respected.

"Besides being the opening act for Kiss at Madison Square Garden in New York, I would like to see Kickback continue to have an ever-changing set list. I want us to continue to not only play the newest songs that are popular but to play songs that have really held the test of time.

"It is always great to play a song that people haven't heard for 20 years and see how excited they get that we are playing it."

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is



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