Unlike previous “projects,” the goal was to put together a band that would be in it for the long haul. So, 2008 meant late night Googlings, drummer auditions, and “conversations” both verbal and musiverbal. But It was really guitarist Scott Murawski and Mike together searching the nooks and crannies of this land for players to complete this outfit. Scott can rip guitar to no end, and he belts out with the kind of voice that at once sounds like your best friend and like the deep backwoods soul and grit of a true American hobo hero, too cool to talk in normal smalltalk.
Drummer Todd Isler had a certain sauciness in his playing. It’s a uniquely infectious propulsion and syncopation that seems to contour many different beats and grooves, from euroindie parlor bands to rippling creaks in the hills of Minnesota. He spent good time in India learning some of the native rhythms from that region.
There are keyboard players who know rock, ones who know jazz, ones who know New Orleans mardi-funk, and so many other kinds, and then there is Tom Cleary. Imagine the juxtaposition of a professor of college, a virtuoso madman of white keys and black, someone with such facility that Jeckyls himself into a musical monster – dripping with rock and roll passion.
Craig taught Mike the difference between African and Latin percussion approaches. It became clear that he was an ideal percussionist for the band. Whether he’s representing passion and patterns from the time he spent learning in West Africa or churning electronically enhanced pluckings of mesmerising swirlings on the N’Goni, this is the glue that ties together and three dimensionalizes the sound of a band designed to rock house while allowing some of that improvisational thing to blossom.
Mike jumps up and down a lot with this band. Maybe too much, but: a lot. There is a lot of smiling. And frowning, but more the latter.
Photograph by David Barron