Upward Climb | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


Upward Climb

Out of the countless towns he's played during his band's national tours, Sammy Gonzalez, bassist for local trio Jacob's Ladder, still prefers tiny Frankenmuth, Michigan. An obscure, German-themed tourist destination billed as "Michigan's Little Bavaria," Frankenmuth is home to one "amazing promoter," Jacobs says. "He throws shows at a place called Fisher Hall, and there are always 200 to 300 people there."

It's just one of the many pleasant surprises for the band in recent months, during which its profile locally and elsewhere has suddenly increased. Jacob's Ladder — rounded out by Oren Maisner on guitar and vocals and Brian Hernandez on drums — has no booking agent and only an indie recording deal, with the Coral Springs-based JMB Records. Instead, Gonzalez has taken the DIY ideals of the classic handbook Book Your Own Fucking Life and adapted them to the digital age. "I just use MySpace and contact bands, venues, and promoters," he says.

Jacob's Ladder's last show at Churchill's drew a crowd upwards of 200 people — no small feat for a local act at that venue — and Friday's gig there marks the kickoff of the band's second national tour in the past two months. All told, the band has embarked on some seven tours in the past couple of years completely on its own.

Besides boasting the tireless energy of rock musicians in their early 20s, it helps that the guys' sound is also fresh. True, they may be relatively young, prefer bright colors, and smile and juggle fruit in their promo photos. The image is deceptive — the threesome is not a pop-punk band. Maisner's vocals and riffs are propulsive and sometimes hooky, but the Jacob's Ladder sound is ultimately spaced-out, wandering into funky, reverb-drenched workouts that bely a jazz-band fondness for noodling and experimentation. Indeed, the bandmates met as teenagers, playing together in various school ensembles at Miami Beach High.

The current tour will take them through New England and back through southern mountain states like Kentucky and Tennessee. And when they return, Gonzalez, Maisner, and Hernandez will head into the studio with New Found Glory drummer Cyrus Bolooki to record a new EP to shop to labels and booking agents. "We want to show the CD to people to show we're a hard-working band," says Gonzalez. "We're showing everyone, 'Hey, look what we can do on our own — imagine what we could do with a little help.' "