Saturday, August 10, 2013
10 Questions: Andy Rosenstein Of JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound
The powerful Neo-Soul group JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound have been making some of the most groove luscious music to come out of Chicago in years. Extremely busy with the release of their latest album, Howl,earlier this year and a tour in support. The band will be swing into town to play Lola's Room this Thursday, August 15th.(See latest Triple Crown)
Andy Rosenstein, who lends keys, percussion and vocals to the band was generous in taking some time out of their busy schedule to talk to us about the band and their latest release.
BLS: It’s been about a year since By the Light of the Stereo checked in with you. How has 2013 treated you? Are there any new developments with you and the band?
AR: 2013 has been pretty wild so far. In the winter and spring we finished the new record Howl and got all of the new music ready to perform. Since May we've been on the road. We played South By Southwest again and hit up the Firefly Festival out east, which was amazing. We went to France and are heading back for a tour all around western Europe in October. It's been great.
BLS: Back in May you released your latest album Howl. With this being your third album how was the recording and promotion experience different this time around?
AR: I wasn't in the group when they recorded the last record (Want More) but I joined months before it officially came out and did the entire Want More tour as a member of the band. I can say without hesitation that we did a lot more driving last time around. This time, thankfully we've done some flying to gigs, mostly for the west coast. It has made it a lot easier to travel so much. The other big difference this time around is that we've been getting a little more radio play, which really helps.
BLS: Compared to the rollercoaster energy of your last album, Howl plays with a more sedated and even keel. What do you attribute this too?
AR: I think on this album we were looking to make music where we didn't restrict which of our influences we would include. That allowed us to think about post-60s/70s sounds that we like, but that the band had pushed aside in the past-- synths, brit-pop, disco, modern electronic sounds, etc. Somehow when we added all of that together, it might have come out a little less rock'n'roll.
Another factor might have been me joining as the band's first keyboard player who wasn't just a side-man but who worked on the songs and arrangements. Unlike Billy and Ben I don't come from Post-Punk music, so I might have softened things a little.
BLS: Emotionally this album has more prevalent themes of loss, pain and regret. What dose this reveal of your head space when writing these songs?
AR: We wrote Howl during the year and a half of touring on Want More, so we definitely had plenty of time away from people we loved, and complications associated with that. I think that's part of it.
We also recorded Howl in Montreal because we wanted to work with Howard Bilerman, a producer with both Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade albums to his name. Going away to record was also meant to keep us focused on the work, and a little isolated from everyday pressures. It definitely succeeded in making us isolated. Montreal is great, but December there is grey and cold, and I think that comes through, even though it's not a wintery or downtempo album.
BLS: In the process of creating these last three albums have you picked up any new influences along the way?
AR: Everyone in the band is always listening to music that's new to them, whether it's something that just came out or an old gem they just discovered. We also share things that we each take for granted but that other members of the band don't know. And we definitely keep up on what is happening in the music world.
For example, we wrote and recorded Before You Die months before Get Lucky was released, but both songs have Nile Rodgers and Chic as major influences. It must have just been the right time.
BLS: You’re currently on the last leg of a fairly extensive US tour with a European tour looming in the near future. How has the road been treating you this time around? Are their any new experiences waiting for you across the pond.
AR: There are always new experiences out there. This will be our biggest tour of Europe yet, and I know everyone is really excited. The road can be incredibly fun, but it can also be pretty challenging. The trick is to roll with the punches as best you can and try to have perspective and appreciation for all the strange things that happen.
BLS: You recently released a video for “Rouse Yourself” staring Aubrey Plaza (of NBC’s Park & Recreation) and Jake Johnson (of FOX’s New Girl). What was it like to have such recognizable individuals working on this project?
AR: It was very cool for both Jake and Aubrey to make time for us. Jake's an old buddy of Billy's and has come out to see us a handful of times. He also put up a JCBUS poster in his 'bedroom' set on The New Girl, which I know a lot of people saw. With a music video-- and with making an album more generally-- the goal is to get the most people possible to hear your music, and having some big names helps on that count.
BLS: Do you find the road as a source of inspiration or do you feel the studio is more conducive to your creative process? With your busy schedule have you had a chance to write any new material?
AR: For me, it's the studio all the way. I can't write on the road because there's no privacy and quiet. When I'm at home alone is when I can clear my mind. I think to varying degrees that's generally the way the other guys work, too, but I don't want to speak for everyone.
On the other hand, I saw a shouting hobo in a park in Toronto a few weeks ago and I intend to lift a few of the things he said wholesale for a song at some point. He had some really top-shelf craziness.
BLS: If you could open for any of the forbearers of Soul, alive or dead, who would it be, and why?
AR: Hard question. I think Sly Stone, but not because our music and his have a ton in common, but just because he's my favorite.
BLS: Name 5 bands you love but who few people have heard of?
Bailiff : Great chicago indie rock trio with a lot of blues influence, but done in what I think is a unique way. They're about to put out a brand new record, which they let us hear, and it's amazing.
Wild Belle: Chicago brother-sister group with a really sexy, spacey dub reggae kind of sound. They may be famous already-- hard to say what counts these days-- but they're really excellent.
Escort: killer disco band from New York. Think we're going to playing some gigs with them sometime soon.
Rubblebucket: horn-section lead indie rock band from New York with tons of character and humor. Fronted by a super bad-ass gal who plays baritone sax. Every member of the group is an insanely talented and tasteful player.
Hudson Branch: Another indie group from Chicago. Beautiful, expansive tunes, interesting orchestration, and a lead singer who sounds a lot like Paul Simon. Think these guys could be massive if they get a break.