Jeff Rose has been an integral part of the South Florida music scene for many years, having spent time behind the drum kit for Léger, Stonefox, Young Circles, Goolsby, Lavola, and Civilian. However, with his latest project, Great Aunts, perhaps for the first time ever, Rose is ready to claim the personal stake the longtime musician has craved.
Having already released three efforts since September of 2014, including an EP (In Love With the Sun), a single (“Not What You Say”), and his latest, the Great Aunts full length debut, Deep Breaths, Rose has clearly established the band's sound and it's a damn good one: sprawling, cathartic, and visceral indie rock.
Despite Rose citing seminal acts such as Wilco and Spoon as influences, there's a grungy, shoegaze quality to a lot of these songs that's reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr. and Yuck. Also inherent is an earnestness and warmth akin to Nada Surf and Eels evident even through the all the glorious guitar fuzz and crashing cymbals.
We spoke to Rose about all things Great Aunts, his rock and rollin' career, and one of the more tragic moments of South Florida's recent music history.
When and how did Great Aunts first develop?
I first started writing my own songs a few years ago and eventually got my own recording setup. I was determined to have a project where I pretty much did everything myself. Three albums later, here we are. I'm happy to be in the full-band version with some really good friends of mine and have a stake in the SoFla music scene.
You essentially sing all the vocals and perform all the instruments on all three Great Aunt records (and the upcoming fourth EP), so why form a band instead of just going by Jeff Rose?
For a while I called the project the Jeff Rose Band, but that was really just a placeholder. I typically think it's a waste of a good band name when people use their names as the title of a project, and it can also bring a certain connotation that it might be a jam band. I'm not really about that. Also, it's not so unusual to have one person mastermind a band these days and then have other members for live shows. Think of Tame Imapala or Mac Demarco. Those guys are super talented on their own, but it's usually a lot more fun once you get to physically realize the sound of an album with multiple friends sharing the stage with you. Additionally, I wanted there to be no preconceived notion about what the band might sound like, based on what people know my previous bands have sounded like. It's more exciting for me when I hear a cool band name and later find out that someone I already know is in it...maybe that's just me?
Who's the adorable little guy on the cover of the Deep Breaths LP?
That would be our guitarist Dave Barnard's cat Bella. We were doing a photo shoot one night and she was in the window. Some of the shots came out unexpectedly cool. We were actually shooting in the dark with an iPhone as the only source of light. I thought there was something special about the shot, as it has a somewhat painterly quality to it.
You've been in a number of bands throughout your career. What's different or perhaps special about this one?
It's the first time I've had full creative control over the music I play. And it's my first time being the lead vocalist of a band! Starting a new band also provides a kind of clean slate, for better or for worse. It's exciting to see how people react.
What's the wildest/weirdest show you've been a part of?
Man, I've got plenty of stories...Lavola played in a Best Buy one time and we almost got shut down after a minute of playing. There was also a time Young Circles played in a radio station and we had literally no room to move with all our gear and after we played it turned out that none of the performance had been heard because of technical difficulties. As far as wild/surreal, that would have to be opening up for and touring with Further Seems Forever during my time in Civilian. Sharing the stage with your high school heroes is definitely wild in my book!
On a sadder note, you mentioned when we first spoke that the day New Times writer Alex Rendon passed, he was going to do a piece on Great Aunts and that he was a good friend and supporter of yours. What does his loss mean to you?
Yeah, I had just moved back home from Nashville and we were catching up. We had a back and forth and I was basically waiting for the piece to get published until I realized what had happened. I wasn't super close with Alex but I knew him for years and he was always interested in what my bands had going on.
Alex made it a point to come out to events and participate in things. He was a really sweet guy, and when I heard of his passing it really made me stop and think 'we just lost one of the only people I can think of truly involved in documenting and supporting the South Florida music and arts scene.' He was one of the good ones - a casual acquaintance who always seemed like an old friend after only a couple sentences deep into a conversation. Rest in peace.
Great Aunts brief discography is available to purchase and enjoy on their Bandcamp page. Catch their headlining show at Resectable's next Thursday.