Friday, January 13, 2012

INTERVIEW: JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound

Another of the casualties of me being sick right before the holidays was this interview with JC Brooks of Bloodshot recording artists JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound.

I spoke with Brooks before their December gig at Off Broadway, but ended up being unable to air it. As fate would have it, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound are back in St. Louis tonight (Friday, January 13), opening for JJ Grey & Mofro at the Pageant.

A perfect excuse to roll the interview back out again!


RYAN MIFFLIN: Go ahead and introduce yourself to start us off.

JC BROOKS: I’m JC Brooks and I am the frontman for JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound. We do a bit of retro soul mixed with post punk and a little bit of indie rock.

I read an article the other day that described your sound as “The MC5 meets Otis Redding”, how do you feel about that comparison?

I feel great about that comparison! There have been a lot of mash-up descriptions like that for what we do. They all tend to mention Otis Redding. “Otis Redding fronting the Stooges”. One of them said, “If Otis Redding had ripped the Velvet Underground off heroin” [laughs].

Yeah, yeah…that’s absolutely fine by me. There are far, far worse people to be compared to.

There aren’t many groups doing the kind of stuff you do, but there are a few folks doing similar things, all with their own unique twist. Audiences are really responding to the people and groups doing this kind of thing.

Well, I think that it’s about going back to a time when “pop” wasn’t a four letter word and when there was a lot more good stuff floating out there, and not because it was necessarily complex or anything like that. Actually, probably because it was simple, and coming from a more direct place.

I think a lot of other groups now are starting with that sound and they just try to move forward and layer on whatever else they’ve liked, musically, since then and are making a bunch of interesting new hybrid sounds.

How did you guys get together and arrive at your sound?

In 2007 our guitarist, Bill, put out an ad on Craigslist and he was looking to make progressive danceable music because he was tired of going out to venues in the city and seeing great bands that people enjoyed kind of with a head bob instead of music that really let people be free or that people would let themselves go to.

He was really into soul at the time. I’d been singing with a group out of Pittsburgh called The Hi-Frequencies that did a little bit more of a retro thing. It was more like Chuck Berry, Hank Ballard, rock and roll, early R&B, and surf rock. So there was definitely a pulling to a more historical music. But there were also lots of rock influences that couldn’t really be denied and we didn’t just want to be a one-trick pony or that one note sort of band.

This was a great place to start. It’s a really likeable, accessible place, but you have to build from there. I don’t even know that we necessarily have “a sound” yet…like, one particular sound…but I think the overarching theme is that we just want to make grooveable, danceable music.

With all that stuff you throw into the pot, I can only imagine what a live show with JC Brooks and Uptown Sound is like.

It’s a lot of me jumping around and screaming and sweating at you. If you didn’t pay to see it, you’d probably think you were in an institution.

That’s the name of the game on this radio show, man!

Yeah, you can go see the same exact thing down at some mental home and it won’t cost you ten bucks, but you can dance to this and not so much that, lest you be incarcerated yourself!


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Hosted by Ryan Mifflin, Dirty Roots Radio is a Quentin Tarantino-ization of a spaghetti western style old-school record show featuring renegade country, vintage gospel, raw blues, greasy soul, punk, and funk. Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.


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