Ben Taylor, bassist for Chicago’s JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, has a warning for everyone showing up at the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg for their Friday night show: you will be expected to dance.
“That has been the goal from the beginning, to have people dance,” said Taylor. “We all used to go see shows, and imagine seeing this great show, they’re really groovin’ and funky, and people are just standing there, maybe nodding their heads. Friends of mine, the Dismemberment Plan, actually had a song called ‘Do The Standing Still.’ And we were tired of that, so it was always about getting people to move, and once (vocalist) JC (Brooks) started really developing the call and response, the TV talks back to you. It didn’t have to be people staring at their shoes playing songs to other people staring at their shoes. And that got really exciting, where you can start feeling what the audience is giving back to you.”
Luckily - even for the folded arm folks - the music of JCBUS makes it impossible to stand still, and with their third album Howl showing them in better than ever form thanks to their familiar yet fresh mix of R&B, soul, and rock, there’s no better time to catch them, especially in a more intimate spot like the Brooklyn Bowl, because by the time the next album and tour rolls around, the venues are likely to be a lot bigger. A lot of that has to do with Brooks, a charismatic performer who has the rare mix of talent and personality that makes you peg him as a star the moment you see him on stage. Taylor wouldn’t disagree with that statement either.
“We both showed up the same night at our guitar player Billy (Bungeroth)’s house, and Jay came in and was just a very, very nice guy, very low-key,” said Taylor of their first meeting. “And we noticed as soon as he opened his mouth, ‘whoa, what a voice.’ And then we realized pretty early on that Jay didn’t really need much prompting. You see this a lot; people give it all on stage, and off stage they’re fairly low-key people. And once it really came time to rock, it was like ‘oh wow.’ There are moments in your life when you realize something has taken a turn for the better.”
JCBUS didn’t fall out of the sky and into your iPod in 2013 though. The band, which currently consists of Brooks, Taylor, Bungeroth, Kevin Marks, and Andy Rosenstein, has been plugging away for a while now, most recently celebrating the sixth anniversary of their first gig on August 7, 2007. Yet even six years and three albums later, there are some folks who come across their single “Rouse Yourself” and get on board with this “new” band they’ve discovered.
“We’re glad that anybody is paying attention or that they’ve found something that they really like,” said Taylor. “But we’ve constantly been moving forward and trying to do our own thing, so if someone comes along and really loves the Wilco song (“I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”) or likes this kind of Motown thing that they think we’re doing, great, but we are always about where we are right now, and what we’re interested in next. And we’ve been pleased at how the new album and the new songs have gone over live. No one has ever stopped and said ‘this isn’t Otis Redding’s soul.’ The dance party keeps going, so it’s been a great reaction and it doesn’t matter where people came in.”
As long as they keep dancing. And if that’s the case, Taylor and company are more than satisfied.
“We’re watching the music business change around us on a daily basis, so for us, making it means making the music that we wanted to hear, and making music that’s us. We were never trying to recreate anything. I think people sometimes get the misconception that we’re just trying to recreate the glory days of Motown or Stax or JC is just this guy doing an Otis Redding act. And that was never the case. The goal was to make something very personal and to make people dance. And from there, as far as making it, I feel like we have.”
JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound plays the Brooklyn Bowl on Friday, August 23. For tickets, click here