'Water' EP Album Review and Artist Spotlight for Surprise Attack
Up-and-coming Jam-Funk act from Washington DC, Surprise Attack, have recently reached out and we are happy to reveal and announce our Full EP Review, Interview and Artist Spotlight here at www.jambandpurist.com
Surprise Attacks most recent EP release entitled, 'Water' is an elemental achievement and coincides with their previous releases, 'Earth' and 'Fire.' This album concept is highly original and represents the level of awareness this band has as a collective. Dubbing themselves, "Mountain Funk," their influences range from improvisational, Appalachian-Folk and Funk music, which coagulates to form Surprise Attack.
'Water' begins with “M.D.M.A.” a song that highlights this bands lyrical qualities, and even includes a barbershop quartet style vocal harmony and a great Jam melody. This song expresses creative and unique songwriting structures and transitions. As an opening track, this song is well selected and while most of us think of ecstasy or some other illicit experience, after reflecting, this song has nothing to do with that at all. It's something far beyond the acronym.
Recording 'Water' in their home studio, Surprise Attack, uses what they have to produce a listenable album with a solid sound. While, I would love to hear what these guys could do in a professional studio, 'Water' is a great platform to release musical ideas, expand their repertoire and work on their band style. Danny Durazo, Ian Frye, Jay Rowe, Jeremy Begun and Tom Casey all have a unique blend of musical styles and collaborate as a cohesive unit.
"J.N.S." opens up with a strong Latin rhythm structure and great guitar licks. The vocal melody itself can be heard prevalently and the disco sound is undeniably danceable. This one could be jammed out live and with the right amount of improvisation, this song could be taken to the next level. The feeling that "J.N.S." brings forth is something greater than I think is on this recording and while this recording doesn’t capture all the intricate qualities, it does show the creative talents of this band.
"Down And Out" takes this band on a different route down I-495 using the easy pass to get out of traffic. This song is much more the "mountain" side of their sound and has a country-folk feel. The initial reaction is calm, collective and juxtaposes with the story itself of being down and out without cash in the city. This song is very relatable and at times funny and could be commercially viable if the band decided to use it in that capacity.
"Train Of Thought" is by far my favorite track from this album and comes with a high recommendation. This songs structure itself is very Zappa-esque and takes the progressive development of improvisation jam music to the forefront of this album. "Train Of Thought" caught my attention initially for its transitions, reminiscent of moe. Phish and Zappa all combined but still original. Surprise Attack should work towards making all their songs this quality and level of conceptuality.
Altogether and combined with its counterparts, 'Fire' and 'Earth,' 'Water' EP stands out as a great beginning for any up-and-coming band to promote themselves off of. D.C.’s budding music scene is expanding and many great jam acts are growing within this community. I look for Surprise Attack to attack the scene with the same intensity that they have brought to 'Water.' Check out the EP here: https://surpriseattackdc.bandcamp.com/album/water-ep and follow Surprise Attack on all social media platforms for more. Is ‘Wind’ on the way?
Interview with Surprise Attack
(JBP) What made you form Surprise Attack and start playing music together?
Surprise Attack is actually the band that we formed back in high school. We were together for about a year before moving to different towns, going to college, and more or less, going on a permanent hiatus. We’ve all been close friends for quite some time now and as our musical taste expanded, we were going to shows together, and collectively starting analyzing the music we were listening to on a much deeper level than ever before. After we graduated, we started organizing “jams in the cabin” where we’d rent out a cabin for a weekend, set up a temporary studio, and create improvised music together. It wasn’t long after starting those meet-ups that we realized just how essential music was and is, in all of our lives. We moved back to Northern Virginia, where we grew up and where Surprise Attack was originally formed and have been pushing our development as hard as we can ever since.
(JBP) What are your goals in the music industry?
Our goal is to become full time musicians and to take Surprise Attack wherever in the world we can. Granted how much the music industry has been changing, we do our best to keep up with the technology and methodologies that will enable us to be competitive with the bands that are several years ahead of us. We embrace the free content model in hopes of recreating the taper vibe that surrounded The Dead and other Jam bands. As a band that revolves around the live experience and performing a unique set every night, we put a ton effort into conveying that through our content distribution.
(JBP) Do you guys have any experiences opening up for bigger bands? Or any bands you hope to share the stage with one day?
It was a really cool experience to play with Midnight North. Watching Grahame Lesh (the band’s front man and son of Phil Lesh) on stage with The Terrapin Family Band at Lockn ‘17 after opening up for his project at Jammin' Java in Vienna, VA was beyond surreal. We, and every other jam band, pretty much owe our existence to the Dead, so rubbing elbows with someone who continues the Dead’s tradition of improvisational music just deepened our desire to become a part of that tradition as well.
(JBP) I have also met with Grahame; he is a treasure to this community. Where else do you take influence musically?
All of us have always been fans of older bands, as well as more contemporary music, and take tons of influences from Funk groups, Jazz artists, Rock bands, etc, but our first experiences with the Jam bands The String Cheese Incident, Phish, and The Grateful Dead iterations were extremely eye-opening. It wasn't until seeing these Jam veterans operate live, that we realized the potential for creating an exciting performance that incorporates elements from Funk, Rock, Jazz, Bluegrass, Latin, and Dance music. Eclectic is definitely the word that comes to mind when thinking of Surprise Attack’s taste in music and we owe that to the inspiration we've drawn from the Jam music community.
(JBP) How do you think your sound and band can evolve to become something greater and bring something fresh and original to the music scene?
The biggest focus for our music and Surprise Attack as an entity is to be as genuine and authentic as possible. We love all types of music and feel like we don't ever compromise putting out a sound that is truly us. There is also an element of eccentricity to our sound that is just different; partially because we go for so many styles, which makes it hard to pin us down as an “x” band when in comes to our catalog, but also because we're just a bit odd ourselves. I think our personality really shines through in our music, which could be refreshing in a music scene that can be pretty self-serious.
(JBP) Who is the main songwriter or is it more of a collective musical environment?
We definitely view our original works, as well as covers, as the product of a collective musical environment. A lot of the time, a member will come with a certain number of parts or ideas to a song and we will have brainstorming sessions in which the final project is envisioned. We very much so operate as a democracy and welcome all ideas and criticism towards developing the most cohesive music that we possibly can put out. Refining the songs is always an ongoing process and we use our home studio to take scratch recordings as songs are coming into being and revisit the recordings to make changes on sections as a whole, transitions, and individual parts. If someone has an idea for a certain part of a song, even if we thought it was completed a while ago, we’ll try it out and see if it fits. We're still making refinements to songs we wrote years ago.
(JBP) This album was self-produced, was this recorded in a home studio and if so, can you can you share what programs you used or experiences you had recording?
This album was indeed recorded in our home studio! For our most recent EP, Water, we used Logic on our Mac Mini after transitioning away from Ableton Live. Developing our home studio has been an adventure and a half with moving in to our first band house, acoustically treating our main room, and constantly upgrading our set up. Over the past 2 years we’ve continuously invested every bit of money we’ve made into upgrading to new, better technology and methodologies that enable us to share solid self-produced studio and live recordings with the musical community for free. The recording experience has always been extremely fulfilling for us too because we get the opportunity to come back to material we’ve been performing live and really put the polishing touches on the songs to make them whole. We are all about the live environment, but recording allows us to take things we normally experience from one perspective and dissect it from a million different ones. Then we use those new perspectives to form a new and better version of the song that we can play live.
(JBP) Have you had any wild band experiences yet?
One time, when we were supposed to play an afternoon gig for a Brewery’s anniversary party we had an extremely unfortunate series of technical difficulties. We had our PA and the stage entirely set up and were preparing for sound check when our bass player realized his electric bass wasn’t producing any sound at all. We tested a bunch of different cables and inputs devices to see if we could get any signal, but alas nothing. Fortunately our drummer lived nearby and was able to quickly grab his old beat up bass. Mind you this was like a first instrument you’ve ever had kind of bass and we were extremely unsure how it was going to sound but were VERY desperate. We plugged it in and the darn thing wasn’t producing any sound either! In a frenzy, our guitar player and bass player ran to the nearest music store to buy a bass and we were able to get our set moving just after the anticipated start time. We ended up having a great time and overcoming the stress, but we still joke about all the completely unexpected technical challenges that can kick you in the butt like having 2 basses fail on you in one day!
Thanks to Surprise Attack for taking the time to reach out and letting us interview them! If you are interested in having your album reviewed by www.jambandpurist.com contact us and we will work out an option that suites your bands needs. Who else do you want to see on JBP? Let us know.
Jam Band Purist
Editor and Chief: Robert RA Fadley
Chris Eves and The New Normal ‘Find Your Way’ Album Review and Interview
Chris Eves and The New Normal are a Syracuse, New York based Rock-Jam act. I recently reviewed their debut album ‘Find Your Way.’ I was immediately impressed with this unique blend of Alternative-Rock, Jam and Pop and wanted to share with my readers. While most of Chris Eves and The New Normal fans are from the northeast, they are looking to broaden their audience. If you haven't heard of Chris Eves and The New Normal yet, check them out on Spotify or #1 on the Reverbnation International Jam Charts. https://open.spotify.com/artist/5cJA9GZa8d5yduDZ0dCxtu?autoplay=true&v=A
From the opening song “Remember To Forget,” I was intrigued at the depth and quality of this album and the band that recorded it. “Remember To Forget” has powerful vocal qualities from Chris Eves and a hard progressive riff that takes this song into Jam territory. I will say that this song is my favorite out of the entire album and makes for a great first track. This song captivates its listeners and draws them, inviting further exploration.
“Walking On Wire” keeps the great vocal qualities going; something that can be severely lacking, specifically in the Jam world. This songs approach is more alternative-rock based but is fun and catchy with lyrics like, "maybe you and me are always walking on a wire, and with every step it seems we are only getting higher.” This sentiment is heartfelt and a great example of the writing techniques used on this album. I could see this song being used in a larger capacity and it also has some viable commercial value.
Another song that caught my attention was the title track of this album ‘Find Your Way” that begins with a clear and precise guitar intro from Jay Lock, solo guitarist for The New Normal. This song would be a great live track and could allow for some extreme improvisation on stage; in the interview below we discuss walking the line between improv and structure. "You got to be just a little bit crazy to make it through another normal day," are some of the most poignant lyrics within this album and shows the open-minded feeling that this band represents.
Again, Chris Eves and The New Normal take a different approach to their sonic sound with “The Chains You Wear” and go more alt-country with a heavy slide riff laid over the track. The lyrical qualities remain remarkable, compared to today’s pop country landscape and make this song original and different than a lot of the Southern Rock-Country bands but still very reminiscent of the Black Crowes or even, The Zac Brown Band.
“Fall” is another song that gets stuck in my head and the driving guitar makes me want to hear an exploratory and long solo, the only thing I think is missing from this recording. Drummer Sean Benz, highlights this track with impressive musicianship and keyboardist Mike D’Ambrosia plays a pivotal role in not only this song but the entire album adding rousing piano licks wherever he can. “Fall” uses Classic Rock chord structures and melodies to make the sound relatable but still remains original and imaginative.
“The New Normal” and “Flown Away” accentuate the final tracks on this album and stay steady and slow throughout. They are both good choices and well recorded, something that stands out when listening to this album in my headphones. Mike Spadaro holds it down on bass throughout the entire length of this recording but can really be felt in the backbeat at the end of this album.
While the album ‘Find Your Way’ doesn't necessarily break any rules, it does find new and interesting ways to combine song structures and heartfelt lyrical connections. This album is very relatable to many musical listeners and Chris Eves and The New Normal seamlessly integrate many genres of music from Jam to Alt-Rock. I believe ‘Find Your Way’ is a great platform for this band to build upon and grow exponentially. Below is a short interview with Chris Eves himself where we discuss this latest album and the future evolution of The New Normal.
Interview with Chris Eves From Chris Eves and The New Normal:
JBP-Can you describe your sound, or what genres have influenced you as you wrote and recorded ‘Find Your Way’?
CE-Our sound is the sum total of the influences and personal style each member brings to the table. We all have very diverse influences and approach the music from unique vantage points. Everything from: Grateful Dead, Nine Inch Nails to Jazz greats like, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, have shaped our collective sound. One unifying band we all grew up listening to and seeing live is Phish. They were definitely the catalyst for us wanting to play improvised music. I think the five of us though, strive to go beyond our influences and are always trying to cultivate our own unique voice individually and collectively. Jay, for example, is a very different guitarist than I am and certainly has a very unique voice that’s all his own. A lot of times he’ll play something that inspires me to do something completely different than I would have otherwise. Especially in improvised music, each band member’s voice really comes through and steers the direction of the sound.
JBP-The transitions and song structures in songs like, “Remember To Forget” sounds very jammy, much like moe. or some of the other progressive Jam bands from the North East. Has this musical landscape shaped your musical evolution?
CE-Absolutely. I grew up in Central New York where moe. is from and we listened to them a lot. Chuck from moe.’s sister was our high school Spanish teacher. I’ve always been a fan of progressive music that has written out sections and jam sections, and that’s able to weave it all together into a story. The Dead tunes like, Terrapin or Help/Slipknot/Franklins, were always my favorite. moe. also inspired me to write in that direction for sure. It’s pretty cool to now be in the band Floodwood with Vinnie from moe. after listening to them for so many years.
JBP-What does the New Normal mean to you?
CE- I think it’s just a mantra to be yourself. It’s for anyone who’s ever felt like they don’t fit in or been a little left of center. Normal is just a point of view and just because you might be weird according to someone else, that shouldn’t stop you from being authentic and living the life that makes you happy. Weirdos are always welcome with us!
JBP-What have been some of your greatest musical accomplishments to date?
CE-I’ve been lucky to have a lot of musical accomplishments in my career. Some of the personal highlights are sitting in with the Zac Brown Band at SPAC and jamming with Jon Fishman live.
JBP-Any plans for summer festivals or tours?
CE-We are working on both right now and are looking forward to announcing some soon
JBP-While it is hard to add layers of improvisation to studio albums, does your band stick to the song structures or improvise live?
CE-We try to strike a balance between playing the song and jamming. In the studio, for this record, I was happy that we were able to capture a lot of our jams. “Remember to Forget”, “Find your Way”, and “Fall” were all one take. When we’re live every night is different and we’re still evolving in the way we improvise. Some nights we want to play “Green and Blue” completely structured as a stand-alone song, and some nights it turns into a 20 minute funk jam. I think we’ve just started scratching the surface of where our jams can go and that’s exciting.
JBP-Can you explain your lyrical process? Who writes the songs or is it a collective environment?
CE-For this record, I wrote all the Lyrics and it’s the toughest part for me. I just try to write down thoughts on a particular subject independently of the music so I’m not locked into a specific structure at first. When I’ve got a good amount of material, I start trying to play music that fits the ideas and hopefully get the puzzle pieces to fit. I try to be open to lyric ideas all the time so, I keep a bunch of notes in my phone just in case I think of something while I’m out for a run or grocery shopping or, whatever.
JBP-Many bands that relate themselves with Jam music walk the line between different genres. How do you see yourselves adding a unique aspect to the Jam world?
CE- I hope that even though we extend our songs live, that they are still relatable to everyone. The song always comes first for us and it should stand alone as catchy and meaningful. We also try to put a lot of attention into the vocals and harmonies. I think that emphasis on songwriting and vocals gives us a unique aspect.
JBP-What are your future goals and how do you think you will evolve to get there?
CE-Our short-term goals are to keep writing, recording, and evolving our live show. Playing for more people and extending our touring are also a priority. I think it just takes a lot of hard work and a high level of commitment. We live music 24/7 so it’s more a journey than a single goal we set for ourselves that’s off in the distance.
JBP-Any crazy band/road stories you would like to share with us? (Anything goes)
CE-Honestly we’re pretty chill and not too crazy. Our drummer Sean usually finds a casino after the show and we hear about how much money he won the next day. We never hear about how much money he loses though…
Thanks Again to Chris Eves and The New Normal,
Jam Band Purist
Carey Frank, interim keyboardist for Tedeschi Trucks Band and other various projects has released his album 'Something To Remember Him By.' I was recently sent a copy to review and was introduced to Carey's musical style and got to ask him some questions. From Tedeschi Trucks Band to playing at Disney, Carey is a rising talent not only in the Jam world but the music business, as a whole.
I had no idea what to expect when I put on 'Something To Remember Him By' and was surprised to hear Jazz standards and exceptionally skilled keyboard and guitar work. With guitarist Bruce Forman, Carey lays down, not only the melody but also the bass lines on the Hammond Organ. I had to think twice when I heard it at first to make sure that there wasn't a bassist sitting in.
Carey and Bruce work seamlessly together as a symbiotic team. Carey, much like an octopus behind the keys, leads the way while Bruce, sprinkles a mix of Jazz and Rock progressions with exceptional phrasing. This album is extremely listenable and expresses the eclectic style that Carey produces. We talked about improvisation, studio vs. live performance and various other experiences in the interview below.
JBP-What have been some of your most thrilling experiences working as a musician?
CF-Of course my work with Tedeschi Trucks Band has been one of the most thrilling experiences. I’ve been listening to Derek Trucks for years. One of the first albums I stole from my mom’s collection was actually a Derek Trucks Band album. Also getting to hang a lot with Dr. Lonnie Smith is pretty thrilling. Living in LA, I'm always running into musical idols. And before I moved to LA, I lived in Orlando, FL and worked at Walt Disney World theme parks and that was its own thrilling experience. I’m a huge Disney nut so I was in heaven.
JBP-In your personal music style, do you use a lot of improvisation?
CF-Totally! If I really need to, I can play specific parts the exact same way every time, like I did when I worked at Walt Disney World and the few other pop gigs I've done, but it's really hard for me to play the same thing twice. Even a familiar song/melody is played a bit different and improvised every time. It's like telling a story to someone...you never say it the same way. Even if you say the exact same words and sentences, you may phrase it differently, emphasize different words, use different dynamics...I love working off the audience. That always really influences the way I improvise from night to night.
JBP-What's it like working with some of the jam band world’s biggest acts? (TTB-Hot Tuna)
CF-Once you get over the star struck feeling, it's like playing with any other great band. It's so fun to play in bands that allow each member to do their own thing and take musical chances. And I really love the audiences! There is so much positive energy and all they want to do is hear good music and feel good energy which really makes any musician play his or her best.
JBP-I can tell from your album ‘Something To Remember Him By’ that you are influenced by jazz, but what other music has inspired you in your career?
CF-I grew up listening to jazz, of course, but also have always loved rock, movie soundtracks, classical music...I specifically listened to a lot of Billy Joel, Beatles, Disney movie soundtracks, John Williams, Queen, John Mayer, Debussy...
JBP-The album is just you and Bruce Forman on guitar, but it feels like there is a lot more going on. Did you play the bass lines and melody?
CF-I played bass using the Hammond organ. It's a mix of using foot pedals and my left hand. That's the great thing about that instrument. It can be so soft and subtle and fill in those nice spaces or it can be the big powerhouse showoff instrument taking the place of a full 12-piece horn section in addition to taking over the bassist’s spot. One of the many goals of this album was to fool the listener into forgetting there was no drummer or bassist.
JBP-Do you prefer studio work vs. live performances? How has each furthered your career as a musician?
CF-I'd love to do more studio work. Both are really different mindsets and I love both but, right now, the majority of my work is playing live which means a lot of late nights and hauling a lot of heavy organs and keyboards and amps all over town. A big thing that helped my career was when I started bringing a GoPro to a handful of my gigs and posting my solos on social media. That's how I've become more well known and how I've gotten some bigger gigs.
JBP-Any recent projects that you would like to promote besides the album? What's next?
CF-My band, Strangers On a Saturday Night, has a new album coming out on February 14th and we’re doing a show that night at The Blue Whale in Downtown LA. It's an organ trio featuring me, Will Brahm and Jamey Tate, and vocalist Jane Monheit sang on a few tracks. Another organ trio I'm in, The White Blinds, just got signed to F Spot Records and we will be in the studio next month and releasing our album over the summer. I'm part of many different groups around town and always posting about where I'm playing and any new music I'm releasing on my Website and Facebook!
JBP-Is there a story behind the album’s title?
CF-As you know, the album is dedicated to my grandfather and singer, Don Cornell. Bruce played his 1938 Gibson L5 on the album and all of the tracks (except for one original composition I dedicated to my grandmother Iris) were songs my grandfather used to sing and record regularly. Don had an album entitled "Something To Remember Me By" so I thought it best to title mine "Something To Remember Him By."
JBP-Being on the road, I'm sure you have seen some pretty wild stuff; any crazy experiences you’ve been dying to share?
CF-Honestly, I haven’t seen many crazy things on the road. It’s not usually what it’s like in the movies. There were a few times when I lived in Orlando that I played at a nudist colony, which was pretty crazy and what you might expect. Also, one time I was touring with Lucy Woodward and we had a night off so the band went to see a movie. At some point during the movie, I put my popcorn on the empty seat next to me then, 10 minutes later, the guy sitting on the next seat over started eating my popcorn. Lucy and I couldn’t stop laughing during the rest of the movie. Other than that, the crazy experiences are getting to perform with some of my longtime idols.
-Thanks to Carey for letting me into his musical world for a little bit and chatting about some of his experiences. You can check out Carey's newest album "Something To Remember Him By" at http://www.careyfrank.com/ and https://soundcloud.com/carey-frank/sets/something-to-remember-him-by/s-lOwHm or Spotify.
Jam Band Purist
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.