Band member John Jamison took some time to answer a few of my questions in anticipation of their upcoming show at Nectar’s. The group hails from Brattleboro and if you have a chance to see them this weekend at Nectars, you will experience something special.
Here’s what Michael Shurtz, Billboard Magazine’s former Editorial Cartoonist had to say about Jatoba:
“This sound is evidence of their own language in the making. Guitars, one for each ear, speak clearly in voices within mystic whispers. The Double Bass brings tones from the underground, collectively creating lyrics from language’s transmitting like train rails and smoke signals, canyon echoes and signals through telegraph wires. Their poetic formations fly from Colorado to the North east.”
The interview follows:
Could you discuss your musical background?
Well we all have very different yet very eclectic musical backgrounds. Jason and I are both from Southwestern Virginia so we grew up with bluegrass in our bones. I speak for all 3 of us when I say that we are always searching out new music. We have all been in various bands before but this one is all acoustic as opposed to electric. AND NO DRUMMER! That makes load in pretty easy haha. I like to bring a little bit Eastern music into the mix and I have studied the sitar as well as guitar and mandolin. Jeff has a jazz background and a vast knowledge of theory so that helps. He plays the Double Bass in JATOBA. He also pretty much remembers every song he has ever learned, even from high school! Jason brings a very eclectic rhythmic style that is very unique and he utilizes lots of really interesting techniques, tunings and style. All three of us compose and sing as well.
What is “groovegrass” for those who may not know?
“Groovegrass” is what we have come to call our genre of music. We aren’t typical bluegrass. Brian Joy, the publisher from Cider Mag, has recently described it in a simple equation. “Bluegrass+Newgrass=Groovegrass. Although we have lots of roots in traditional bluegrass music we tend to compose songs that aren’t your average 4/4 compositions. We bring in an array of many different influences. We can very easily fall into a groove where Jason will beatbox and we get about as far away from bluegrass as possible but somehow we manage to bring it back. We like to keep people on their toes(and dancing).
Describe your approach to songwriting as a collective group.
Either Jason or I will bring a song to the table that we have been working on at home. We first go through it musically and smooth it out a bit. We tend to “Jatobify” it, taking out a part here, re-working a section there. Then we add vocal harmonies. The interesting thing is that we all bring something to the table, hold our own weight and we don’t let our egos get in the way of the writing. We all take criticisms objectively for they are usually whats best for the group and for the song. Usually if two out of the three of us are for a particular change then we go with majority rules.
What inspires you to create music?
Being able to write something that speaks in a language other than words, with each other and with the audience. The feeling of pouring your heart into a piece of music and seeing people genuinely enjoying it. There is no feeling greater, in my opinion, than the collective energy exchange and conversation that happens between a band and their audience. I’ve also been starting to dabble in a story telling approach to song writing. It’s been a growing interest of mine to delve into that style. Int’s interesting creating a “different world” and creating unique characters within that world.
JATOBA’S Influences, Andreas Kapsalis Trio, Bela Fleck, Peter Rowan, Blind Melon, Radiohead, Martin Sexton, Pink Floyd,Thievery Corp, Air, WEEN, Martin Sexton, John Mcglaughlin, Alex Gray, Frank Zappa, Thom Yorke, Kings of Convienence, TOOL, David Grisman, Victor Wooten, Greg Brown, Taarka, Thamusement, Chick Corea, Don Ross, Phish, Curtis Mayfield, Ray Lamontagne, Amos Lee, Nirvana, Grateful Dead, John Prine, Darrel Scott, John Hartford, Old Crow Medicine Show, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Simon&Garfunkle, Ali Akbar Khan, Derek Trucks, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Primus, Leo Kottke, Mike Gordon, Keller Williams, Allman Brothers, Railroad Earth, Andrew Byrd, Nickel Creek, The Beatles, Beck, Phish, Medeski Martin & Wood, John Scofield, Old and In the way, Sufjan Stevens, Susumu Yokota, Ravi Shankar, Tabla Beat Science, Yonder Mountain String Band, David Byrne, Shpongle, Dave Brubeck, The Talking Heads, The Flaming Lips, The Doors, Citizen Cope, The Wood Brothers…..And the list goes on….and…..on…..and…..on
Can you discuss the role of improvisation and your overall approach to live shows?
Improvisation plays an important part to our sound. Although we do not rely on it to get through a show. We DO NOT want to be coined as a jam bad either. When we do improvise it feels more like we are trying to be one entity with 6 arms and 6 ears! We have dynamic musical conversations that can change on a dime. We all listen intently so that we may pick up on each other’s slight nuances and overtime we have been able to predict where one another is heading. Its quite an amazing experience to be a part of when it clicks and can add a whole different dynamic to the show.
Where can people find your music?
And if you search youtube for Jatoba Music there are some videos that people have posted.
Anything you would like to add?
Jatoba will be releasing their first full length studio album, “Death, Fire and Picnic Tables” on Saturday, March 26th @ The Stone Church in Brattleboro, VT. Hope to see you there!