Having just returned from a two week tour, I spoke last week with JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound frontman Jayson Brooks about his feelings on a huge year for the band that continues with an appearance at noon this Saturday on the Sony stage in Hutchinson Field at Lollapalooza…
Since 2005, Lollapalooza has made its home in Chicago’s Grant Park, a continually expanding process that has seen the destination festival quickly become arguably the biggest and most influential festival in the country.
One of the annual highlights of Lollapalooza for me is the inclusion of a number of talented local artists. In year’s past, the Lollapalooza stage has been home to acts like Flosstradamus, Company of Thieves and Smoking Popes and this year continues that talented trend with the inclusion of local artists like American Idol alum Haley Reinhart, rock band Empires, and teenage, all female, indie pop quartet Purple Apple. But the band I’m most excited about seeing for the first time is JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound.
In a year chock full of dates that has seen the band play everywhere from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Inauguration to South by Southwest, the proverbial cherry on top comes as the band graces the Sony stage at noon on Saturday, part of Lollapalooza 2012.
Like myself, JC attended Lollapalooza in the traveling hey day of the festival’s mid nineties era. “I remember being very excited about seeing Hole. Yeah, that was the last time I was at Lolla.” As for the 2012 festival? “This year has got an awesome lineup. I am very much looking forward to two artists: tUnE-yArDs and Frank Ocean.” says Brooks.
As was the case when Hole last graced the Lolla stage in 1995, the festival remains on the cutting edge of not just alternative music but also rap and especially electronic dance music.
“Have you listened to [Frank Ocean’s] Channel Orange at all? We just got back from being out for about two weeks but that whole two weeks I’ve been listening to that album. So now that I’ve been seing my friends these past few nights, I’m like, ‘Oh my God. Here’s what you need in your life: Channel Orange. It’ll save ya.’ It’s one of my favorite albums since [Outkast’s] The Love Below.” adds Brooks. (Editor’s Note: OFWGKTA’s Frank
Ocean performs Saturday at 8:45PM on the Google Play stage while tUnE-yArDs performs Saturday at 5PM on the Sony stage)
JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound generally get lumped in with soul revival artists like Fitz & The Tantrums and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. But the band, who had their first hit earlier this year with a cover of Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” is capable of much more with a guitar driven sound that touches on everything from blues to old rock ‘n’ roll to punk.
“It’s got its ups and its downs.” says Brooks about the “soul-revivalist” tag. “I like being mentioned with more recognizable bands, definitely! But I also don’t feel that we are soul revivalists, traditionalists, recreationists or whatever. It was a foot in the door but we are playing with a lot more variety than that. It’s just really weird because I LOVE soul… but there’s just a point where ‘revivalist’ kind of becomes like a four letter word, you know?”
And make no mistake, that guitar combined with Brooks passionate vocals does make for a soulful sound. But it isn’t the usual suspects that have influenced Brooks as a vocalist. “My two biggest influences are two people that no one ever guesses when they write about us. Everyone is always
talking about James Brown and Otis Redding. And while I love those guys and would aspire to be halfway as good as either, my two biggest performance influences are Patti Labelle and Tina Turner.”
So as the band begins work on the their followup to 2011’s Want More, they continue to push the envelope, trying to break away from the “soul” tag that can at times pigeonhole a band clearly influenced by so much. “Some of the tunes that we are demoing and starting to play out live now for the next album definitely take a different direction. They’re more inspired by The Cure and Morrissey and a little bit of new wave.”
And music that lasts and makes a difference almost always comes from a band determined to follow their own path without acquiescing to a label, fanbase or anything else. If the internet has taught us nothing else, it’s that quality matters again when it comes to music. A band willing to take a chance is a band worthy of notice. It’s a concept Brooks seems to get.
“A lot of people know us for being like this punk-soul band… But what happens when you go into this very rhythmic, half Kraut-rock, half new wave, slightly minimalist but fleshed out song territory? I really like where it’s going.” he says of the new album.
As for Lollapalooza? “As it gets closer it feels like it’s building a lot more anxiety in me. I was flattered and very impressed that we were invited to play at Lollapalooza and now I am becoming more and more anxious about it because possibly this is a way bigger thing than I initially imagined. But we’ll put on at least the same show that we tend to do if not better.”
Saturday, August 4, 2012
(In the northeast corner of Hutchinson Field near the corner of Balbo and Lake Shore Drive)