Jabbawaukee

Jabbawaukee 

Providence psychedelic progressive funk act Jabbawaukee are going to be very busy over the next few months. Their “Family Tree Tour”, named after their debut LP that came out last fall, started a few weeks ago and this run of shows is going to be lasting all the way until Labor Day weekend. Their next stop is on May 20 at The Met located within the Hope Artiste Village on 1005 Main Street in Pawtucket. It’s a pre-party for the Strange Creek Campout, which is a music festival happening at Camp Keewanee in Greenfield, Massachusetts from May 26 to the 29. They’re going to be performing two sets, one consisting of originals and another featuring renditions of music from the funky alt-rock icons Primus, with Boston shredders Leon Trout opening up the show.

I had a talk with bassist & co-vocalist Brendon Bjorness-Murano ahead of the show about covering Primus’ material, booking shows for the band, having a crazy few years and plans for releasing new music soon.

Rob Duguay: When it comes to doing renditions of another band's songs, how hard is it to nail down Primus' material?

Brendon Bjorness-Murano: I’m really into Les Claypool, I’ve listened to Primus and his other projects pretty religiously for the past 25 years on a weekly basis. A lot of his songs require nailing an individual technique that’s very difficult to learn, but once you learn the song that utilizes that technique it isn’t that hard to play that way. The way he slaps, the way he flamenco strums, the way he taps and all the dead notes and the rhythmic notes are part of the palate that he uses. I’ve studied his music a lot and I’ve played it a bunch throughout my life, so long story short, once you learn all of the extremely hard techniques that Les utilizes it isn’t that hard to learn Primus songs. It’s just all about using those techniques, which takes a long time.

RD: I can totally imagine that. The Strange Creek Campout is happening the following weekend and you guys are going to be performing two sets there as well. From a musician's point of view, how would you describe the experience of playing the festival?

BBM: Between Strange Creek and Wormtown, which both take place in Greenfield, this is my 24th time being at either festival. I’m an old dude (laughs) and I’ve been playing there since the early 2000s when I was in Funk Nugget and The Law. There’s times where I’ve played four sets and I’m kind of done with that so two sets is my limit I’d say. The first set we’re playing is at two in the morning until about five in the morning on Saturday night into Sunday. We’re going to start off with an original set, then we’ll go into another Primus set, which is different from the one we’ll be doing at The Met, and then we’ll come out of that with some more original material. Sunday on the River Worm Stage we’ll be playing during the afternoon for about an hour and a half and it’ll be mostly original material as well.

RD: You also handle the booking for Jabbawaukee, right?

BBM: Yeah.

RD: You guys have a busy summer happening after the festival with a ton of dates all over the East Coast. How stressful can it get booking a ton of shows over a four month period?

BBM: Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I booked a 35 show tour which was primarily around the northeast down to Maryland. That took a lot of energy, phone calls, emails and notes concerning which day of the week and what time a certain booking agent answers their email and I would have to nail them at that time. Then the pandemic happened and the trajectory I feel that Jabbawaukee was on, along with the trajectory everyone was on in life, got smashed. Speaking about ourselves, it definitely knocked a lot of the wind out of our sails including myself on a personal level. The loss of friends over the past three years has made it more difficult than it’s ever been before to be honest with you. I think a lot of people I’ve met after COVID-19 have had more trouble interacting with people as a whole.

RD: That’s understandable.

BBM: Not that I’m antisocial by any means, but the past three years have really thrown me for a loop mentally, physically, emotionally and healthwise. It can be very stressful, for sure. This year I booked 27 shows from Maine down to North Carolina and that was stressful too but I’m really just trying to pace myself. We just got a new drummer not too long ago, Stu Taylor, and he’s amazing and this will be his third show at The Met. The very next night after The Met, we’re playing in New Jersey at the Germination Festival as well.

I can’t wait, Stu’s amazing, he really is. I basically mix in my bookings for Jabbawaukee with my bookings at Pump House Music Works in Wakefield, I’m booking seven days a week there too as well. It’s kind of like one big booking thing, I’m always answering emails, calling people and sometimes it’s the same people for both Jabbawaukee and the Pump House. It’s very much intertwined into my life.

RD: It makes it simpler that way, easier to handle. Speaking of Stu, over the years Jabbawaukee has gone through a few different incarnations when it comes to the lineup. With Stu on drums, you’re on bass, Jack Skiffington is on the keys and Dave Hobson is on guitar. What do you think makes this current edition of Jabbawaukee different from prior editions? Do you feel like you’re more cohesive with these members than ones who were in the band previously?

BBM: Dave is the original member of Jabbawaukee. He started the band but the group didn’t, as he will attest, take form until I joined up. There were a couple other bass players before me as well, Adam Smith from Daddie Long Legs and one other. Adam was actually filling in for me around five years ago but Dave and I really clicked. We had a number of keyboardists before Jack came in and this is the most musical version of the band.

The current lineup has pretty much been the lineup for most of Jabbawaukee’s existence, we had our buddy Jason Laplume as the original drummer and we love him to death. His departure was completely amicable, basically he’s one of those freaks of nature who never really learned drums. He just picked up the sticks, got behind the kit and rolled with it. Then all of a sudden he was in a band that was doing pretty well and he got better. He’s not the kind of person who’s been playing the drums ever since he was a kid and learning technique where everyone in the group now was that person. Each of us went to school for music so everyone is really serious about it.

I'd say this group can master harder material that past iterations couldn’t do. Stu will hear something and just replicate it and that can be said for each of us. It’s amazing being in a group that gets music theory and we can speak music language to each other.

RD: Have you guys been working on new material for either another EP or another LP to follow up Family Tree?

BBM: We have easily a whole album’s worth of music already written, so I think we’re going to put out a number of EPs instead of another massive album at once. It’s just a little easier to break off a bunch of EPs and we want to have a quicker turnaround time with future releases. We as a band have talked about that so we’re definitely going to do a number of EPs along with some live stuff, I’m sure eventually we’ll put out another full-length in a couple years or so.

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