In this EDM-soaked world, mostly filled with producers or bands that keep things heavily produced with usually slim to no vocals (unless sampled), it's very rare to find a group making electronic music that takes time to really craft their songs and lyrics. Jimkata are able to keep the room dancing with extended jams while maintaining an indie feel.
Hailing from Ithaca, New York, Jimkata is Evan Friedell (vocals/guitar), Aaron Gorsch (guitar/keys), Dave Rossi (bass), and Packy Lunn (drums). Three out of the four grew up and jammed together for a huge chunk of their lives, which makes for a vibe that's cohesive and organic.
Fresh on the heels of a new EP Feel In Light, released in March, they've been touring extensively, both on the club and festival circuit, spreading their infectious Talking Heads-meets-the Disco Biscuits kind of sound across the country. Right now, they're in Florida in the middle of a 5-day run with Stokeswood that ends at Culture Room on April 26. We spoke with Friedell on the legends of Jimkata.
New Times: First a little background information, where did you guys first meet and what was the birth of Jimkata?
Evan Friedell: Well, my brother and manager, Russ (Friedell) and three of us in the band (Gorsch and Lunn) have known each other going back to middle school. We used to play in an alternative-punk kind of thing, covering bands like NOFX, Bad Religion, Sublime, Rage Against the Machine, Primus, that kind of thing.
We casually jammed throughout high school then went our own musical direction. Then around in our college years, we got back together, realizing we kind of liked what we were doing before (laughs). Then we relocated to Ithaca, where we met our bass player, Dave Rossi. He was originally a performance major, but like the rest of us, he wanted to do rock and roll, something less formal. So we played a bunch of college parties and the like, it wasn't until a bit afterwards that we really started touring. And in the past few years is when we really started touring and forming our own sound.
Who or what would you say has been a big influence on you and the band?
This is always a tough question for me. It feels like every time I get asked this question I say stuff, then afterwards I'm like, "Oh, I forgot about X-Y-Z", you know? I would say that while we're in the studio, a lot of references come up, like specific guitar sounds or the such that just remind you of something else.
We're mostly into a lot of 90's hip-hop stuff, like Dr.Dre, Jay Z, things like that. Some more recent bands I've gotten into are Phoenix and My Morning Jacket, the first Passenger album. One band we all agree on is LCD Soundsystem, we all love that sound. We're big into early electronic music, Chemical Brothers is a big one for me, I pretty much love all their albums. Our whole thing for our last two albums was to take those elements that were synthetic, like hip-hop or electronic, and bring them to an organic, natural sound.
On your last two albums (Die Digital and The Feel in the Light) you've used producer Jacko Randall. I noticed a big difference in sound from your other releases. It sounds more slick, but not too syrupy slick. Has he been important in this musical direction you guys have been taking?
Extremely important, you kind of said it. Starting with Die Digital, we've always had the idea, like I just described, of being able to include our hip-hop and electronic influences without sounding cheesy or contrived. Trying to make everything sound organic and mesh as one band. He understood that. We were all on the exact same page during the recording of Die Digital.
He also understands what makes a good song, he has a good ear for that. We're all pretty obsessed with the idea of song-craft and what is the best way for people to feel that idea, which he's great at. Plus his background is really cool. His two main influences are, like, heavy metal and dub reggae.
You guys have been touring the festival circuit a lot lately, playing festivals like Gathering of the Vibes, Pretty Lights' Snowball, Aura, Camp Bisco, and many more. Any specific great moments that stick out?
There's definitely good moments, and bad moments you remember too. Those are very comical. At like real small festivals that aren't run right, and it rains with no tarp over the stage and shit like that. In terms of good ones, our set at Summer Camp last year was a good one, it did rain, which sucked for being there later that night. But during our set, we played under a big tent, and we had a giant crowd underneath it. We were playing our new material, off of Feel the Light. It was definitely memorable, great crowd, great response. Summer Camp has always been good to us.
That's great. You guys had the tent, and pretty much everyone to yourselves.
That's the challenge of playing a bigger festival, you're always competing. Its two-fold: One, it's fun. You get to see the other bands, meet them, and hang out with fellow musicians. On the other hand, you hope your not up against some other band or whatever, that everyone gets great exposure.
You guys released Feel in the Light on Bandcamp, instead of iTunes or Amazon. Is this model going to be one you stick to?
I'm not sure. I think we're just kind of feeling it out. Traditionally, we always, and if you're a band releasing music today you should be doing this, we've always experimented with releasing our albums, because things change every 6 months.
The first couple albums we did were free or pay what you will. That was to just get our name and music out there. I feel like it was the right move. Die Digital was a fan-funded album on Indiegogo. We offered them prizes for donating and stuff like that. This one (Feel in the Light) we paid for all ourselves, but we figured to start in on Bandcamp, because we have a loyal fan base who would love to help us out. We didn't release it on iTunes or Spotify right away because there's a barrier between us and the fans, some kind of percentage being taken out, iTunes sets the pricing. Also, on Bandcamp you can get it in better quality.
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