Interview: John Brown’s Body (2013)

bill bodkin gets irie …

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That sweet smell of summer is in the air and that means two things — outdoor music festivals will be coming back into style and the sounds of reggae music will be the soundtrack to your every move.

The common denominator here (besides music) is the “future roots” reggae outfit John Brown’s Body. The band, who’s one of the crown jewels of the renowned reggae Easy Star record label, will be performing at a plethora of open air festivals this year. And with the release of their amazing new album, Kings & Queens, the band should be in heavy rotation in your ear buds, it just that good of a record.

Pop-Break caught up with JBB’s saxophonist Drew Sayers to talk about their new record, festivals and their unique sound.

John Brown's Body

Pop-Break: Your sound is described as “future roots” — in your own words can you describe this unique sound? And can you talk about why you decided to craft your sound this way instead of performing a more traditional style of reggae music?

Drew Sayers: I think JBB is similar to a lot of other modern american music because we have been influenced by so different musicians and styles. We use Reggae as a foundation because the seeds of the group — which is the songwriting of Kevin [Kinsella] and Elliot [Martin] — grew out of a deep love and respect for Jamaican music, and ultimately our own unique set of influences and personalities came out of those beginnings.

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PB: Kings & Queens is your first album in five years — can you talk about how you feel the band has grown since your last record, Amplify? Also why the extended time between albums?

DS: I believe there is a depth and originality to Elliot’s songwriting that has grown since Amplify and I think that is well represented on the record. In terms of the space between full-lengths- that’s because we have done a lot of touring in the states and overseas, and we also released 2 different EP’s with original music as well.

PB: In the same vein, how do you think this record stands out from the rest of your catalog?

DS: I personally feel these are the most original and unique songs Elliot has written. The band has a unity and ease to it- everyone is speaking to each other musically. I also think this album is the most successful in bringing together both old and new JBB family on the music/recording side of things and with the fans as well.

PB: If you had to recommend one track for a new listener to JBB to check out on Kings & Queens, one you think that really captures the essence of John Brown’s Body?

DS: The song “Step Inside,” which contains the lyrics that the album title was derived from, displays the direction of our new music really well.

PB: Can you talk about working with Easy Star Records and how much of an impact this label has on the career path of John Brown’s Body?

DS: We wouldn’t be where we are today without them … they truly believe in our music and its message and they support us like a family would. We are incredibly grateful to have been on their roster for this long.

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PB: When you guys aren’t onstage what bands are you listening to? In particular what current bands in your scene or any scene are inspiring you, making you excited about music:

DS: music we have been listening to lately: Rail Band, Thomas Mapfumo, Flying Lotus, Pole, Pete Rock, MF Doom, Dennis Bovell, Johnny Osborne.

Current bands in our scene we like: Toubab Krewe, Galactic, The Black Seeds, Debo Band, Dub Trio, Easy Star All-Stars

PB: With the summer music festival season rolling into town — what fests can we see JBB a part of?

Among Others:

Dark Star Jubilee: May 24-26 at Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio featuring: Dark Star Orchestra, Mickey Hart, The Wailers, more.

Summer Camp: May 24-27, Chillicothe, IL featuring: moe., Umphrey’s McGee, Trey Anastasio Band, The Avett Brothers, more.

GrassRoots Festival: July 18-21 at Trumansburg Fairgrounds in Trumansburg, NY featuring: Rusted Root, Emmylou Harris, Rubblebucket, more.

String Cheese Incident’s Horning’s Hideout: August 1-4 in North Plains, Oregon featuring: The String Cheese Incident, Eoto, Steve Kimock, more.

Uncle Uncanny’s Festival: August 9-11, River’s Edge at Deer Park, Heber City, Utah featuring: DJ Logic, Stonefed and more.

PB: By Christmas of this year where do you want to see John Brown’s Body — from a creative and success standpoint?

DS: I am really happy and grateful for where we are right now … we have new music to play and I feel that everyone in the band is inspired and energized. it feels good to bring new songs to an audience.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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